Location: The bit of road outside The Lathkil Hotel in Over Haddon.
Overnight, mist had settled over Sheffield. An ambient, but chilly, blanket informing us that the day would indeed be a wee bit frigid, but lacking confirmation of the mountain forecasts threats of rain during the race. After stopping off in Hillsborough to fill up the car with other individuals whose idea of an enjoyable Sunday is to run up and down hills in the rain, we made our way out of the city and began winding our way down into the Dales of the White Peak.
As we came to the edge of Over Haddon, we deposited the car in the usual field, chucked some shrapnel into the charity bucket at the gate and made our way down into the village proper. The weather continued to threaten rain, speckling us with tiny freezing droplets, but neglecting to commit fully. At The Lathkil Hotel we each parted with a whole entire six pounds for the privilege of getting wet and muddy and I managed to bully my friend Harriet into doing some semblance of a warm up when she absolutely wanted to stay inside with the huddle of people endeavoring to hide from the cold. Once my extensive and (in my very unbiased opinion) incredibly optimal warm up was completed, I had about ten minutes to join the collection of bodies jostling together around the start line and get in position for the beginning of the race.
Leg it Round Lathkil is certainly not what we would describe as a hardcore fell race. It is an enjoyable outing with no navigation ability required, a couple of good climbs and a generous helping of mud. It is an ideal race for people new to fell running, people looking for a fast course to blast their way around, or anyone looking to run a fun race in a very pretty part of the world. The course is 11.4km with approximately 290m of elevation gain. Course records stand at 00:43:32 for the male record (new record set during this years race) and 00:50:11 for the female record. Both grotesquely quick. Needless to say, I was not going to be coming within miles of either time.
After a little bit of preamble and some warnings about the state of the path down along the Lathkill after the recent flooding, the air horn was sounded and we were away!
We began by charging down through the village, being careful not to flatten (or be flattened by!) any children participating in the fun run. At about 800m in, we were directed onto the trail beside the river and so began the total wipeout inspired section of the race.
Initially, it seemed as though the post floods situation might not actually be too bad, but it wasn’t long before we encountered what the race organisers had described as ‘an abundance of water’ along the path. A few brave(?) souls elected to plough on through the flooded sections of path while the vast majority of us took the obstacle course option, weaving and clambering through fallen tree branches to make our way along the river. Understandably, this slowed things down a little, regardless of the route taken, but it certainly added a new element to the route compared to last year and some great entertainment for any walkers as they watched a smattering of hardy souls plunge through the water.
After branch dodging and coaxing something that could arguably be described as speed out of my legs for the more ‘complete’ sections of the river path, the first climb of the race lay before me at the 4km mark. Having run this race last year I knew that the climb wouldn’t present many opportunities to overtake, so I did my best to give the Dark Peak vest a reasonable showing and engaged my above average climbing ability (counter balanced by my below average flat and downhill ability) to move a handful of places up the queue before the path became too narrow to pass anyone else. The climb continues until about 5km in, at which point the terrain changes significantly.
From 5km until about 9km, the running is mostly through fields with a dash of road. While not necessarily the most exciting terrain, the net downhill undulations and soft ground underfoot, does make for some enjoyable running. While I remain relatively weak on the downhills, I have begun to become noticeably less bad at it, so it felt lovely here to put some of that improvement into practice and cruise across the grass. Safe in the knowledge that I would not be the last Dark Peaker across the finish line (a position I am oft able to claim), I settled into a comfortable rhythm and generally had a grand ol’ time here. This was in stark contrast to last year where I had been treated to a debilitating stitch somewhere around the half way mark and spent this entire downhill section hobbling and trying my very best not to cry in front of a load of strangers.
There is one element of the race that is not for the faint of heart. This nice, fast, grassy section is briefly interrupted by a farmyard. The smell gives warning of what awaits the approaching adventurer. Any who wish to pass this way must be prepared to do at least a little wading through liquid cow shit and be in possession of a reasonably strong stomach. With the weather as it has been in recent weeks, there was certainly enough mud and other matter to go around. The rain had continued to be non-committal and indecisive, so at least the liquidity of the situation had not been too greatly exacerbated.
Wiggling back down to the river there is about 1km of flat path to zip along before the final climb back up to the village. The start of the climb is very steep and a complete momentum killer, particularly for those not prepared for it, but it flattens out a little bit to allow for a strong finish if you’ve got the legs left to power up it.
A good turnout with 248 people starting the race and it was excellent to see that around 75 female runners entered!
My own race was an improvement on last years effort, mostly due to the lack of excruciating pain in my abdomen. It’s amazing how much of a difference not feeling like red hot pokers are being jabbed into your side makes to ones race result! The earlier section of the race was slower, most likely due to the obstacles present along the river path and some of my uphills were slower than they perhaps should have been. It’s been a strange year after having to take some significant downtime from running in the spring due to an unfortunately severe bout of depression, but the build back up has gone very smoothly and it was good to round off my fell racing for the year with a solid outing, getting round the course in 01:11:29. Securely in the back half of the field overall but comfortably sitting well above halfway up the female field.
A lovely event and one I’d recommend for anyones fell running CV. Even if your preference is for the hardcore stuff, sometimes it’s nice to whip round more gentle terrain.
This years winners were Daniel Haworth of Matlock AC in the male field with his new course record of 43:32, and Abbie Pearce of Steel City Striders in the female field with a time of 51:56, a little shy of her course record from last year.
The race costs £6 for FRA members and £7 for non members. The kids Fun Run is £3.
Car Parking in the designated field is encouraged as to not obstruct any remembrance day activities in the village, but the fee is only £1 per car and all the money goes to Children in Need.
Catch you in the next one!