The weather forecast was grim, and the day before saw downpours and thunderstorms. Welcome to midsummer, the course had been murdered. A 51 mile circular route around Derby, http://www.fetcheveryone.com/route-395780 , that had been hard and dry last year was now covered in vegetation weighed down by the recent rain, covering paths and snagging ankles. Stiles were hidden under abnormal undergrowth or surrounded by swamps. The cult for rapeseed left its mark as paths disappeared from sight in a tangle of oil pods and leaves.
Illness and work led to 14 runners withdrawing, leaving 26 to tackle the course in a blustery wind and intermittent drizzle. This was meant to be the good weather window, but the first stage is mainly canal and cycle path and not too troublesome as the runners headed out into the wind. The staggered start meant that it was not clear to see who was making the early running, but stage two started to sort out the field. Several runners inadvertently missed the point to leave the canal, following a lady who was trying to find a convenient secluded spot; she was thinking that they would know to go over the bridge and not accompany her under it. A runner got lost in a field and couldn’t find the way out, another discovered how slippery old railway sleepers could be as he plunged off the makeshift bridge into the brook.
At this point the course turned so the wind was largely behind the runners as they sampled the undulating agricultural countryside around Dalburry and Radbourne. Over 130 stiles are to be encountered en route, adding some 500 feet of climbing to the 2,500 that nature provides, and there are a few gates as well. A disruption to your rhythm or a welcome pause, I suppose it depends on your physical wellbeing at that point?
By now it was clear that the Ultra would be contested by two people in each of the gender groups. Tom Adams had a 3 minute lead over Pete Stockdale, but the latter had the advantage of having run the course last year and this could be worth a lot of time in avoiding navigation errors. For the ladies Sal Chaffey had about 5 minutes on Heather Pike, but she was running unaccompanied whereas Heather was in a pair. In the relay Holme Pierrepont A had an early lead, which they never lost throughout the day although Redhill closed the gap in the later stages.
The course now skirts the fringes of Keddleston Park as it swings around the northern fringes of Derby, passing the glorious view from the Toposcope on Bunkers Hill. The runners then make their way to Duffield at the 37 mile mark where they meet the welcoming sight of check point 4 and their spare kit that had been brought across in the start drop box. Much changing of socks occurred, but the bad weather was surprisingly holding off and the forecast thunderstorms had yet to arrive. Such was the amount and variety of food provided at the check points that one runner swore at the end that he had put on weight during the run.
Out of Duffield is a very steep bridlepath consisting of 18” steps as the hill climbs 200’ up from the river. The thought of meeting a horse coming down there as you ascend is quite frightening, but I was told by one of the runners that he mountain bike’s down their because “you have to, or the rest think you are wimp”. The biggest hazard is a rider falling off in front of you apparently. A pleasant run across the top is followed by a swift descent, a passage through forest and then more farmland, a mixture of cows, corn and cor it ain’t half soggy.
On the approaches to Dale Abbey one unfortunate Long Eaton lady stumbled into a bog, to find out on emerging that the entire sole of her left shoe was still in the morass. She somehow managed to make the two miles into Dale with one studded trail shoe and what now resembled a bowling shoe on the other foot. Fortunately her size 7 feet had swollen to size 8’s and she was able to borrow a pair to fit from the check point 5 marshal to complete her run.
The last stage is a lovely 5.3 miles, past the delightfully named Potato Pit Lane, two clay field, two dogs wall and finally up the 150 feet from Stanton-by-Dale to No Man’s Lane. The view across the Trent Valley to Charnwood Forest is outstanding, but I doubt that few appreciated it as they tumbled down the golf course to the last miles and the finish.
Despite Tom Adams, Unattached, pegging back 5 minutes on the last leg, Pete Stockdale, UKNetRunners, held on to take the Men’s race in 8 hr 43 min with Tom 3 minutes adrift. For the ladies Heather Pike, Sutton-in–Ashfield Harriers, ran out the winner in 10 hr 38 min, some 25 minutes ahead of Sal Chaffey, Derwent Valley Orienteers. Three Long Eaton Running club ladies, Rachel Argent, Cheryl Brown and Vicky Yeomans all completed their first 50 miler, and though Rachel had a separate start time they amazingly all completed it in the same time of 12 hr 36 min.
Other notable performances came from Jon Kinder, Rolls Royce Harriers, who told his wife that he was just nipping out for a run, in 9 hr 22 min and Tim Earl, Waveney Valley AC, in 9 hr 43 mins. Special mention to two V60’s, Harry Sloan and John Thornton of Shelton Striders, who were disappointed to record 10 hr 01 min and to Fredelina Wong of Reading Roadrunners who ran with Rachel Argent and finished looking like she had run the anticlockwise 60 yards from start to finish rather than the clockwise 51 miles.
The thunder clouds never did arrive, all in all a good day for running. The finishers retired to the Navigation Inn for their soup and a welcoming pint.
Chris Robson, Race Director for Long Eaton Running Club
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