|Looking fresher than I felt with just 4 miles left!|
I ran the HP40 a couple of years ago and (like everyone seems to be) was put off by a fair bit of road. The route is generally really scenic though and I hear that the dreaded road section was necessary to make up the 40 miles when the route was originally conceived as a 40th celebration of Otter Controls Ltd's. I'll let them off in that case... Anyway, the usual crowd of runners had gathered at Buxton Community School early on a Saturday morning as the rain bucketed down. I deliberated with Tim Whittaker for a while about what to wear - long sleeve or short, windproof or waterproof? I opted for a long sleeve not knowing that bar the odd downpour the day would be generally pretty hot! The 'smelly Helly' would be made even smellier. I couldn't hear the pre-race instructions and before I knew it we were off towards the reservoirs of the Goyt Valley. I jogged along initially with the ever-present Nick Ham before settling in alongside Charlie Johnson, Ed Melbourne and Tim. The first few miles are flat and fast but the White Peak scenery is decent and I was enjoying the opportunity to be out. Some people ask why we do these long races - for me, today was perfect example. It had been a long week at work with late nights, an overnight and all the usual stresses so the chance to spend the day focused on something so simple as putting one foot in front of the other with like-minded lunatics is pretty appealing. By the time I had returned to the school with 40 miles under my belt I was physically knackered but mentally refreshed.
Back to the run and we were moving at a fair clip as we approached Rushop Edge just after CP5. I was running with the machine-like Karen Nash as I let Charlie, Ed and Tim go (I've learnt my lesson following that lot for too long) and we were on the High Peak Marathon route, one of my favourite places in the Peak District to run. Over Mam Tor and then gingerly down the steed path from Hollins Cross before the road section into the centre of Castleton. I was feeling reasonable and was looking forward to the climb up through Cave Dale and a chance to power hike! I spotted Tim up ahead (he'd been stung by Charlie and Ed's pace) and we made our way up to the Limestone Way together. He was struggling a bit so I motored on ahead only to take a wrong turn on the way down towards Tideswell and had to re-trace my steps. I didn't let it get to me and focused on maintaining a good pace on the road section down in to the village. There were lots of day-trippers out, probably wondering what the smell was as I sweated past looking a little overdressed for what was now a lovely day. I necked a few biscuits at the Tideswell Dale CP and was relieved to be offered some Vaseline by Jonathan Seaton (photographer of the pic above) having started to suffer with some serious chaffing! The flat Monsall Trail was a low point and I wasn't moving particularly quickly, knowing that my target of 7hrs was probably ambitious given my conservative approach so far. I ran for a while with Stephen Dunbar and his friend who was struggling a bit with dehydration. I offered an endurolyte tablet which he necked and promptly seemed to perk up. He did drop back a bit later though and I settled into the last few miles with Karen who had come through a bad patch and was back up with the pace and Stephen. Karen was having a nightmare with the route and made numerous false turns only for me to whistle/shout her back - she must have run about 45miles in the end! Her tribulations kept me on my toes and I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the funny 'canyon' (is this Deep Dale No.2?) before the final CP. I enjoyed an opportunity not to be running on the flat but was soon back at it as I grabbed a final cup of juice from the ever-friendly CP staff and got my head down for the final few miles.
I had forgotten the route at the end and promptly made a hash as I approached Buxton adding a few more minutes on but eventually arrived back at the school in 7hrs 25mins (although the HP40 website has changed my name to Simon Webb!) An enjoyable day out and fitting conclusion to another enjoyable runfurther year. Well done to my Saddleworth sidekick Chris Davies who seems to get better with age, finishing 2nd in 6hrs flat! Thanks to the HP40 organisers for a really well organised event and my free mug - Mrs Webb has been enjoying her morning tea in it...