High Peak Marathon 2017

Friday night, effectively the weekend, freedom before the struggle of Monday morning bites again. What do normal people do on Friday nights? Relax, wind down, watch TV, go out for drinks with the lads or the girls? Or run the toughest overnight fell race in the Peak District? Wait… What?!

On Friday the 3rd of March 2017 at 11:00pm team ‘Children of the Kev-olution’ departed Edale village hall at the start of the High Peak Marathon. The 42 mile route takes in  some of the roughest and toughest terrain in the Peak District including Lose Hill, Win Hill, Back Tor, Outer Edge, Bleaklow, Kinder, Brown Knoll, and Mam Tor (nearly). A mix of fast road and flag stone sections with a lot of boggy mush in between makes for an interesting route, even more so when most of it is navigated at night!

The High Peak Marathon Route (run anti-clockwise)

My Dad (Kevin Saville) can probably quite safely be classed as a HPM veteran having completed the event about 16 times now. His team this year was a bit different though, in that apart from himself it was completely replaced. About a month or two prior to the event one of my dads team dropped out and so after being asked a few times I stepped in. Soon after this another member dropped out so we were now on the hunt for another member. Luckily for us Stuart Walker was keen and not in any other team, YES! We have a team again. Even better, Stu is a pretty awesomely quick international ultra runner!
But then another member drops, out of fear of not being able to keep up. Frantically asking around again I message a very good Orienteering friend of mine, Jonny Malley (A Dark Peak spy currently running for Ambleside, or a double agent?), and after some persuading eventually he sad he would run. Great, now thats my dad, Me, an international ultra runner and an international Orienteer! Think my dad was a bit worried.

I thought selling it would be harder than that

In the few days running up to the start the weather was taking a turn with snow on high ground and a lot of rain everywhere else. The rain persisted throughout Friday, not the best conditions but it’s the same for everyone, and it could have been a lot worse like last year when it was cancelled completely. Running teams started from 11:00pm onwards with a few walking teams starting a bit earlier at 10. By 11 it was still raining and I don’t thing any of our team were looking forward to leaving the comfort of the village hall. But anyway, we all signed on, got our kit together, had a chat with some other teams, watched some teams set off and then started the count down to our own departure.

Before we knew it, quick team photo, 3, 2, 1, and… out the door and across the carpark we went!

Children of the Kev-olution (Photo: Jen Scotney)

Trying not to set off too quick after the short road section we headed straight into a power walk up to Hollins Cross. In fear of Nick Barbers team (Long Distance Mud Affair) catching 2 minutes on us we may have still been a bit too quick off the mark and ended up with the second fastest split time from the start to Hollins. The fastest was Nic’s team consisting of Jim Mann, Adam Perry, Shane Ohly and Nic Barber, who did manage to gain that 2 minutes on us before the top of the first climb. I knew they would pass us but not that early on!  From there on we paced ourselves a bit better and slowly started to pick off the many teams in front of us. Descending Lose Hill we seemed to catch a few teams at once but there was no problem spotting our team members; Jonny and Stu spent a lot of time sliding down on their arse. On to Win Hill and looking back on the climb was quite a spectacle with a line of lights snaking down the hillside. However, the steep climb didn’t leave much time for admiring the views, we were soon summiting and en route to the Ladybower Reservoir wall. I may have laughed too soon at Jonny and Stu as on this descent I also ended up doing a cheeky seated slide. Not much interesting happened for a while after that. We picked up some Pepsi my dad stashed,  slogged up a long road, over took some people, got overtaken by some people, went to some checkpoints, got some more Pepsi and some gels, and went to some more checkpoints.

All is good and moving along the flag stones to Back Tor we were seeing far fewer teams. From Cartledge Flat the route started to get interesting. Teams to the right and to the left but our navigation up Cartledge Brook and on to the edge was spot on. So far so good. On to Cut gate!

Hmmm…?

Errr…. well, so we took a bit of a wonky route to Cut Gate (entirely my fault) but didn’t lose that much time, maybe a minute or two. I think this is when we saw Nicky Spinks’ team for the first time, which must have spurred us on as we some how managed to get the fastest split from Cut Gate to Outer Edge Trig!

We then went on along the roughest part of the course over Howden Moors toing and froing with Nicky’s team. Nav went pretty well across to swains head, just stayed on the boggy trod. We just had to keep moving and keep eating, simples. The next bit from Swains Head was the navigation I was worrying about. I had done a bit of recceing but still couldn’t be 100%. Swains Head to Bleaklow Stones, went pretty well with Nicky’s team and Glen Borrell’s team (who over took us near Stanage) just getting there before us. We were moving well still but across Bleaklow can be a game changer. I had recced this plenty and knew the exact line, even to the point where I blatantly ignored a proper orienteer (a straying Jonny Malley, who was too far right). The secret route we took got us to Bleaklow Head spot on. However, the checkpoint was at Wain Stones, only about 200 metre away, eeaaasssy.

Nope. Nicky’s team was to our right and despite me thinking ‘They are too far right” we still drifted with them. After a while we realised we were too low and doubled back. Luckily dawn was just breaking and as I topped out of a grough I spotted a Wain Stones looking silhouette. Again not too much time wasted but could have done with just following the compass bearing right in the first place. But anyway, on to Snake Summit via Hern Stones unintentionally, but a better line than planned so I’m not complaining (Note: following foot prints in patches of snow isn’t the most reliable method of navigating). More Pepsi was acquired at Snake and I think we all grabbed a coffee. Although not in a relaxed sort of way, more of a down it and run coffee. Nicky’s team arrived just when we were leaving.

The coffee must have worked as we flew along the flags to Mill Hill and bagged another fastest split! On to Kinder and a mixture of running and walking as we overtook a couple more teams, still with Nicky’s team chasing and Glen’s team just a head. By Kinder Downfall we nearly had Glen’s team but soon after took a funny line and Jonny went through a bad patch. Nothing a bit of Pepsi couldn’t fix and he soon caught up. At Edale cross we were then told we were in 4th, which gave us another caffeine like boost along the flags over Brown Knoll. I was quite surprised by how well we were still moving and how my dad was still running (being an old man and all). But then near disaster as my dad got twinges of cramp! Luckily it’s nothing a bit of Pepsi couldn’t fix and we were soon bimbling along again in team time trial formation.

Sub 10 was now in sight but my dad was now at a run/walk stage and having to dig deep. As we rounded Mam Tor Nicky’s team had closed the gap and nearly caught us (again). Despite them setting off 5 minutes behind us we were determined not to let them finish ahead and pushed on to Hollins Cross and down to Edale. We were neck and neck on the descent, with us just about pulling away again at the bottom. I ran ahead to open a gate, let the team through and shut it again whilst Stu ran ahead to open the next gate. I then caught up and gave Jonny and my dad  a bit of a push up a slight incline on to the final road section. Stu shut the gate as we now had a gap and we all gunned it down the road. Stu and me were physically pushing Jonny and my dad and we managed to hold Nicky’s team, just. although they had already got 4+ minutes on us but never mind. After the slowest sprint ever we entered the village hall with a mixture of maybe confusion, relief, and all round knackeredness.

09:36:34 and 5th. We are all pretty chuffed with that.

Not in the prizes but, the most knackered award goes to…

Nicky’s team arrived just after, looking equally as tired. Turns out they had just broken the women’s record though, so we didn’t feel too bad about them beating us. Well run!
Nic’s team also had a storming run to put an end to Flippers Gang’s winning streak. Full results here: http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2017/HighPeakMarathon/

Also a rather interesting Strava Flyby here: High Peak Marathon 2017 – Strava Flyby

After a long sit down we got sorted, got some food, watched some teams finish, watched the prize presentation and then went to the pub (of course).

An amazing race with an awesome team. Thank you to Jonny and Stu for stepping in and putting up with my dad for 42 miles. and also Richard Bradbury and the University of Sheffield Mountaineering Club for organising the whole thing.

Thank you to Jen Scotney for the photos. More can be found here: High Peak Marathon 2017 – Photo Album

There was talk in the pub after of us doing it again next year, if we get through the strict vetting process…

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