Dovedale Dash 2023

Do you ever see races and think – ‘that’s a terrible idea, I have to do it’? This is one of them.

Whilst trying to get back on the running bandwagon after burning out slightly after ultras in the summer, I saw a video of a race where most of the contestants lined up across a field, barreled down it into a narrow gully before flinging themselves into a river – and it was the Dovedale Dash.

Situated about an hour’s drive from Sheffield near Ashbourne, the race is based at a small village called Thorpe, nestled just beneath Dovedale Tor – and once a year, 1200-1500 people descend on the village for a race, first run in 1953 and still going strong. It’s roughly 4 3/4 miles (7.5km, ish) long, starts by flying down a hill, and inevitably finishes going back up it again. Fancy dress is encouraged, dogs are welcome, and parking is provided in a field next to the start line – all in all a great setup.

I got there a touch early suspecting that the sheer volume of entrants might cause some interesting traffic challenges and wasn’t disappointed – I saw the queue to the main car park and chose one of the marked alternatives a kilometre away then jogged in along the traffic jam – registration was quick and easy, and there was an intersting array of everything from road runners who were looking at the mud with trepidation through to the serious runners planning to try and win the event.

The race itself was great – if you plan to go for a good time, line up in the field at least 5-10 minutes early (everyone is in a line across a field – the start is chaos as you funnel into narrow valley Lin Dale, then plough straight through a river (a select few took the stepping stones, but I suspect the river itself was actually safer. After that, it’s a run down parts of the manifold valley, some occasionally ups and downs, a lot of mud, a bridge, then more mud – I’ve not seen that many people falling over for a while, and not just due to being out of breath (I definitely was!).

Yes, that’s a man dressed as a chicken. Yes, he faceplanted into the river.

The finish is the joker in the pack – running back up the hill to the start – having started with tired legs I was pleasantly surprised to not need to walk up it (which possibly means I wasn’t going fast enough) – but a merry 43 minutes after the start, I finished. Don’t expect to run at your fastest with all the mud, terrain and the volume of people – give it your best and have fun! I reckon if I’d been nearer the front at the start, I’d have gained a couple of minutes.

If you’re anywhere nearby, give this race a try – it’s great fun, raises money for the local village, and takes in a wide range of abilities in beautiful scenery.

Location – Thorpe, near Ashborne

Website –

Strava link –

Cost – Relatively cheap

Distance – short (7.5km)

Terrain – varied trails – occasionally challenging in a crowd

Facilities – decent – toilets, coffee van, free parking, water station at the end of the race – note there’s no bag drop,

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