The Bradfield Boundary Run 2017

What is the Bradfield Boundary Run?
Starting in Loxley, Sheffield the route follows the perimeter of the Bradfield Parish Boundary anti-clockwise via Warncliffe Woods, Broomhead reservoir, Langsett Reservoir, Featherbed Moss, Derwent Reservoir, Back Tor, Stanage Edge and the Rivelin Valley. Dave Holmes and Dark Peak Fell Runners have organised the run between Christmas and New Year since the first in 1994.
The aim is generally to get round the full 48 mile route in under 12 hours and everyone tends to stick together as a group, with people dropping in and out for sections of the route if they don’t fancy the whole thing.Originally the route was run in 10 hours but this hasn’t been done since 1995, so this was my aim. My plan was to set off 2 hours later than the main group, catch them near Derwent dam wall (Fairholmes), and run with the group from there to the finish.

How do you prepare for it?
As with most long runs you need to be fit going in to it, but you also need to think about equipment, fuel, navigation and pacing. I knew I could do the distance having completed the run twice before, once in 12hrs 30min in 2010 and once in 11hrs 55min in 2015. However, running the whole route in 10hrs was not going to be easy.
Firstly, I would have to navigate myself which for the most part I was fairly confident about, but the bit I wasn’t so sure about was the first part of the route through the fields up to Warncliffe woods and getting the right paths through the woods themselves. I didn’t get a chance to recce any of the route but printed off some maps and did some Google satellite viewing/virtual reccying of the route instead.
Secondly was pacing and fueling. As I was planning to be sociable and run the second half with the group by catching them at Fairholmes I was effectively on an 8 hour schedule until I caught the others then I would run with them at 12 hour pace and finish with them. This would mean if they finished in twelve hours I would have made it in 10 and if i was off the pace I could potentially still make time up in the second half. Another bonus of this fast start pacing is that the sooner i caught the group up the sooner I would get a cup and tea and some snacks from the support van.

Finally, I would also have to carry all of my food and equipment for the day from the start. Usually runners will carry the essential waterproofs, food and drink for each leg and top up or swap kit at the support van stops, but with setting off 2hrs behind I wouldn’t have this luxury and so loaded my rucksack with everything I needed for the day, including a head torch for the last few hours of the route.
Apart from that my final preparation involved persuading some friends that trying a 10hr boundary run was a good idea and to join me…

How was it on the day?
Tough.
David Hakes, John Bottomley  and myself all set off from the gates of Loxley Primary School at 08:00 on the 30th of December 2017, along with Duncan Coombs who was joining us for just the first section. Initially we were moving well and were bang on schedule at the top of Jawbone Hill. We ran at a fair pace through the woods but lost a bit of time exiting the woods near More Hall meaning we had now slipped to being 3 minutes down on schedule. My dad had kindly stashed some Reese’s Cups and some flat Pepsi here for us, which went down great. Up and over Whitwell Moor was grim with icy rain and a horrible headwind but we still managed to get to the dam wall in Stocksbridge without losing anymore time. From here up to Langsett was straight forwards, just eat and run. We got to Langsett car park just about on schedule with all three of us feeling ok. David’s Brother had also kindly driven out to offer us some hot Ribena, a bacon butty and some moral support which we definitely needed heading towards Bleaklow! Although the bacon butty didn’t go down very well the hot Ribena did and with minimal faffing we soon set off again.Just at the end of Langsett reservoir crossing a few rivers we hit a bit of a snag, the rivers where very swollen. The first couple of crossings had bridges but that then left us on the wrong side of the river. The right side of the river, which we later found out the main group stayed on, had a lovely trod that slowly rose up the valley. However, the wrong side of the river meant running through rough heather and running into and out of steep sided valleys. Slowing us even more was the challenge of crossing the swollen streams of the smaller side valleys. We eventually picked our way up the valley, put on our waterproof trousers and headed off South up onto the Moor where we were expecting some horrible conditions.

The wrong side of the river…

As we headed up we topped our selves up wth more food (We were not stopping to faff with getting food out of bags or anything on the tops as the wind was going to be numbing.) and picked up the snowy foot prints of the main group. This was ideal as the meant we had to do little if any navigating. The top was grim, but not as grim as we quite expected, apart from the slushy snow and the strong headwind it was alright. It was slow moving but as we could follow footprints we were still gaining back on the group again, and just approaching the 1894 stone we could just about make out some black dots against the snow on the other side of the valley. The race was on!
We ploughed on following the footprints through the snow down and up under Barrow Stones. By now we where definitely down on schedule, and once of the tops and in the valley the three of us split up in an attempt to make the catch by Fairholmes. John and myself managed to just get to West End before the support van left. Too late for a cup of tea as they were packing away the last of the mugs, but we now knew we would definitely get a hot drink at the next support stop at Moscar. Dave informed us we where about 5 minutes behind the others but everyone was now about one and a half hours behind schedule. The best chance of us getting sub 10 or any of the other getting sub 12 was to push on through the main group, pick up the stronger runners at the front and run our way back on to schedule… This was easier said than done.

Picture courtesy of David Bocking.

We settled into a decent pace down the road catching the front runners just at the dam wall, finally took off our waterproof trousers, and headed off towards Lost Lad. This is where the legs started to feel it. Tim Rutter, my dad and me pulled away over Back Tor despite the icy flagstones and dropped in to Moscar where the support van was ready to serve up cups of tea with a selection of biscuits. We ddin’t stop for long, downed a cuppa,  grabbed some Jaffa Cakes and headed off towards Stanage Edge. From here we gained time but it was going to be tight if we wanted to get sub 10/12 respectively. We overshot Crow Chin by about 100m and stopped to put our head torches on before taking a sharp left across the moor to follow the boundary. Now we are on home soil, and could maybe just about make it. Past the Haunted House and The Headstone and onto the final van stop at Rivelin Dams. This is where we split up. We had just under an hour to get down Rivelin Valley and up to Loxley school. I poured a cup of tea into my bottle to drink on the move and headed off across the dam wall, over taking my dad, who had set off just ahead of me and I think had kind of given up on the idea of sub 12.
Up through the woods and then down the valley, sub 5 min/km felt like light speed after a day of slogging through marshes and mud, but it still didn’t feel quick enough to get back to Loxley in time. It was pretty touch and go and constantly looking at the time on my watch didn’t help. At one point I was considering ditching my bag in a bush or allotment somewhere so I could maybe run a bit quicker. This didn’t happen. I lost a bit of time getting confused at the lower end of the valley when I had to cross some stepping stones that were submerged. Once I’d run round in a circle and figured out which way to go it was full steam ahead up to the finish. One last push, up the last short steep hill to the school and boom done!

9:55.

Turns out I could have run a bit easier in  the last mile or so instead of killing myself but I felt quite relieved to have got in under 10. All in all a tough but great day out. Unfortunately no one quite got under 12. Tim got round in about 12:10 and my dad was just behind in 12:15. I’m unsure about anyone else but 7 of us got round in total which in the weather conditions wasn’t too shabby. Looking forward to a nicer round next year. Maybe I’ll do a few more longer runs in the meantime though.

A big thank you to David Holmes for organising and the absolutely class support team who’s cups of tea and Jaffa Cakes were responsible for getting me round.

Also the run made the local paper and the full article by David Bocking can be found at
https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/braving-the-weather-for-athletic-start-to-new-year-1-8939465

And my Strava trace: https://www.strava.com/activities/1333535584

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