On 13th July, in the picturesque town of Bakewell, all was still and calm as 1,000 runners slept soundly in their tents and campervans. That was until, at 5am sharp, the Public Address System sounded. “Wakey wakey runners! Today is the day. It’s the Peak District Ultra Marathon. Breakfast will be served in 15 minutes and the run will begin at 6am”.
I emerged from my beloved 1987 VW campervan, ‘Roger’ to see my running team mates, Josh, Joe and Will, brushing their teeth by the previous night’s camp fire. They seemed wide-awake and ready for the run. They were excited and chirpy – I did not feel quite so energetic!
We made our preparations, packed our bags with food and water and went for breakfast. I had a bacon
sandwich and a coffee which, as the warm up and stretching began, I instantly regretted!
As we lined up on the start line, with the other 1,000 runners, we discussed strategy. The first stage was a steep incline out of Bakewell towards the stunning grounds of Chatsworth House. The plan went straight out of the window as the adrenalin and competition started; we set off like a rocket up the hill, but unfortunately, Joe picked up a knee injury at just 5km and we had to stop to strap it up and pump him full of Ibuprofen. As we entered the Chatsworth estate, our support team were waiting with some snacks. At this point, we were in really good spirits – singing, chatting and running with control and energy.
After one and a half hours of running on smooth, undulating roads, we were making good time and
reached the first of the ‘rest stops’ at just 10km into the race. Here we changed wet socks, took on fluid and had some more snacks. We didn’t stay long as we knew that we had a difficult second stint!
Stint number 2 took us to the halfway point, from Stony Middleton to Tideswell. This was 15km of
tough off-road, rocky and hilly trails. It was seriously tough terrain, over fields, through high grass and through rivers, but we were still feeling good and continued to make good progress. We had begun to make friends with other runners by this point and we spurred each other on.
When we finally reached Tideswell, our support team were waiting with lunch and energy drinks. We spent 30 minutes recovering and eating before setting off for the second half of the race.
Next, we took to the hills of the Peak District and into the secluded town of Taddington. This is where we started to struggle. There was absolutely no flat running at this point – it felt more like a mountain
climb and abseil than a run! At roughly 32km, the worst happened. Joe took a big tumble as he tripped on a rock, fell some way down a steep hill and really hurt himself. It took some time to pick him up and get him going again and by this point, it had been a few hours since we had seen any sign of civilization. Will and I were becoming de-hydrated and I had started to get flashing images and tunnel vision. We were all fatigued – the laughing, jokes and singing had stopped and we were all looking rather serious.
By the time we hit the final stop, running had reduced to a slow, heavy jog. To say that we were relieved to see the last stop is an understatement! We took on lots of water, rested and ate some more food. Afterwards, we re-grouped, gave each other a motivational speech and set off on the final 17km run back to Bakewell.
We had brought with us a Bluetooth speaker for the final stint and had prepared a playlist to get us
through. The power of music and the energy that it brought was amazing – the music really helped to
motivate and keep our spirits up. The final stint, thankfully, was much flatter along the beautiful rivers of Ashford in the Water. We ran for 10 minutes then walked for 2, then stretched for 2 minutes as our legs cramped and seized up. The last stint was really slow going!
As we reached the 48km mark, determination and our pace began to quicken again. As we hit the 50km signpost, I could barely move my legs. Through gritted teeth, I had given everything to get through the final 2km. BUT, as we went past the sign, Will shouted, “I thought this was a 50k race?” just as a steward informed us, “GO ON LADS – JUST TWO MORE KILOMETRES TO GO”. I was absolutely devastated. I didn’t think I was going to make it – I could barely stand up, never mind run for 2 more kilometres!!!
It was at this point that I was reminded of all of the donations that I’d received. I got my head down and cracked on. The last 2km were by far the hardest, but we crossed the line together after 7 hours and 57 minutes, placed 46th out of the 1,000 runners, having run 52km.
Thank you so much for your donations. Over £1,140 was raised for FERYO which will be used to support the young musicians in the East Riding.