Dark and White Events
12km (short course)
After missing a year due to the pandemic, the Dark Peak Trail run returned for 2021 with a slightly altered format. Despite the additional challenges placed on the race organisers this year, the event was very well organised, taking into account the necessary Covid-19 safety measures and allowing everyone to experience a great run. The now very familiar rolling start windows were in action as well as numerous other measures to ensure optimum safety at the registration, start and finish.
This event features a short course (12km) and a long course (25km). The long course is the more popular of the two with 107 participants on the day this year. The short course had a much smaller pool of runners with 39 people taking part. I took part in the short course.
The short course featured 280m elevation according to the course profile on the website. It began and ended along the same section of the Sett Valley Trail and a little section linking the Sett Valley Trail to the Hayfield Scout Hut. This part of the route was about 1.6km, which meant that just over 3km of the route was very flat and well maintained trail. After the first 1.6km there was a road crossing and then began the long and gruelling ascent up above and away from Hayfield.
Looking off towards Manchester the views were stunning, although a little difficult to fully appreciate with the full sun beating down on you on the way up the climb. nearly all the elevation on the course was contain within this one, long ascent. It began with a very quiet road section that became trail after not too long on the hill. There were short segments of it where the trail dipped down or flattened out slightly to offer a little reprieve, but it was definitely a tough climb. The top of the climb came at about 8km in and there began the descent back down to Hayfield.
Beginning the descent, the trail was primarily dirt and grass with beautiful views looking towards the town. After about 1.5km of the descent the trail became gravel road which was fairly uncomfortable to run on and turned to paved road not too long before crossing back over the main road and re-joining the Sett Valley Trail to come into the finish.
This event was my first race in just over two years and my first ever trail race. Before the race I had no real idea how it would go and I wasn’t expecting anything incredible from myself. The primary goals were to complete the course and hopefully duck under 01:30:00.
My training leading up to the race was a mess. A minor calf issue that just hadn’t been getting any better had led me to take a full two weeks off running just over a month before the race. This break sorted the calf issue out but then I started a new job. The job is quite physical and unfortunately, I misjudged the amount of exertion to put into my first couple of shifts and had DOMs in my calves severe enough to prevent me from getting any quality movement in for a five day stretch. Thankfully during this month of terrible running, I had been walking as much as possible and keeping up with regular strength training. This seemed to have kept the endurance in my legs. A 12km training run a few days before the race confirmed that I could cover the distance comfortably so I felt happy that I could definitely get round, even if I didn’t do it in a great time.
The race itself was tough for me. It was warm that morning. I do not cope well in heat, but managed to keep my pace up the hill pretty steady and dialled it in enough that the uncomfortable nausea accompanying me up the hill never turned into actual vomiting. Keeping hydrated definitely helped on the long ascent.
As I came round to begin the descent back down to Hayfield, I was hit by a stitch in my right hand side. Stitches have been a common issue for me throughout my running life and unfortunately become a lot more prevalent at certain points in the biological cycle. There is not a massive amount I can do about this other than dial back my training during certain points of the month, but it was just unfortunate that the race happened to clash with the wrong point of the cycle this month. I was slowed right down due to the pain, but managed to maintain enough speed that I knew I would get back under my goal time.
It was frustrating that I had to slow right down on what would otherwise have been a very fast portion of the race for me, but I still found myself coming into the finish in 01:22:19, which I was personally very pleased with.
A great learning experience for me. Plenty to takeaway.