I think I'm possibly getting a bit blase about this ultra-running lark. When I entered this event I'd asked myself: "56 miles around the Peak District; how hard can it be?" The answer is: "Fucking hard." I'd told myself that the course really suited me, especially as the last ten miles are downhill. Heh heh heh I thought, I'll show that Chris Davies a clean pair of heels on the run in from Walker Barn. And I'm sure I would have done too - except he was about four miles in front of me by the time I got there. The last ten miles are largely downhill - but unfortunately the preceding 46 are largely uphill; or at least it seemed that way.
I've never experienced a start where everyone bomb-bursts off in different directions - a very novel experience. I took the main road and found myself alongside Helen Skelton. No slouch herself, she commented about the front group who were already pulling away: "Do you think these guys know that this race is the best part of sixty miles?" I chortled along but was thinking unfortunately they do...
Even before the first checkpoint there were a lot of long climbs which had looked innocuous on the map. On the long drag up to CP1 the chap I'd been running alongside said that I'd made him set off a bit fast as he had been chasing me. Funny, I thought I'd been chasing him....
Much of the rest went like many ultra distance runs - lots and lots and lots of up and the occasional down, though a nice delectation of selected breastilicious eye candy was an all too brief distraction over Edale Cross, through Castleton and as far as you can totter up Cave Dale in slingbacks.
And then normal service was resumed: the climb out of Millers Dale up the road seemed particularly endless and brutal. And when it finally did come to an end it crossed the main road and carried on across a couple of fields. And after the fields it carried on climbing for a bit longer... phew.
I went through a bad patch around Earl Sterndale when the lads I'd been trying to follow pulled away. A bloke all in white passed me next and my geriatric shuffle must have worried him as he all but stopped and gave me the kiss of life. He was the last runner I saw for absolutely ages. I kept trying not to look back - I don't know why, having someone to pull me along might be just what I needed.
It seemed darker than I expected and my head was going down and I got into a steady shuffle trying not to demoralise myself by looking at my watch. Then it actually became quite pleasant just tootling along in the dark on my own. My tummy had been a bit off and so I had to have a couple of "natural breaks" at the side of the road which seemed to lift my spirits a little bit.
I took a last look back before I turned off the disused railway - the long dark tunnel to nowhere. And there were a couple of headtorches! There was no way these bastards were going to take two places off me in the last three miles and so I turned myself inside out trying to stay in front. They came in just behind me commenting that they'd run the last section a bit hard and I thought not as hard as you made me run it!
I think Chris came in first and got maximum Runfurther points, blowing my pretensions to Runfurther glory out of the water. Mille pointes.
Anyone who knows me in the slightest will know that I'm not a kiss-arse sycophantic hero-worshipper in the least, but I take my hat off to Chris in a big way. Chapeau, my man, chapeau.