The Edale Skyline is one of those iconic races in the Peak District, one that is on the hit list of many local fell runners. Renowned for being tough at 21 miles with around 4500ft of ascent over heath, bog, rocky outcrops, grassy paths and woodland trails. Being held in March weather conditions are notoriously challenging. Rain, fog and freezing conditions often lead to many dnf’s and tales of hypothermia from a couple of years ago were now infamous. Henceforth after entering this year’s race I was feeling somewhat apprehensive.
Upon waking on the morning of the race, weather conditions couldn’t have been better. Clear blue skies and sunshine graced our drive over to Edale and race HQ. We parked up and collected our numbers and chips and walked up to the start field and the other assembled Harriers and runners. As with every fell race, the atmosphere was relaxed and as cheerful as the skies ahead. I was nervous, my training hadn’t been great and this would be my furthest race to date. I am a pretty average runner but wondered if perhaps I would find some hidden talent for longer distances.
After a few minutes we were off, a quick run up the field and then immediately walking up the first incline to Ringing Roger in a steady procession of people. Myself and my partner Matt had decided to run the race together as this was my first long distance that may have required some navigation. However, conditions were such on the day that luckily the compass was never needed. Our main aim was getting to first cut-off at Mam Nick in time. The first half of the race felt very hot, with little breeze on this part of the route. Sheltered paths along fields edges eventually led to the comfort of the shaded woodlands which was welcome relief. We managed to gain a few places and some time on the downhills here but then got delayed on a shortcut that ended up being blocked by a fence. However, we soon realised that gaining a few places was pretty meaningless at this stage and it soon became a battle just to get around.
We reached the first cut-off with about half an hour to spare. The footpaths were busy with walkers making the most of such a fine day, there were lots of words of encouragement passed onto us which was heartening to hear. Matt spent most of this half of the race a little ahead but was soon struggling with the heat and tired legs. I began to pull away slightly as we made our way to Rushup Edge and eventually to the new flagged section of Brown Knoll. At one time this part of the race was hard going trudging through thick bog and heather. However, this year the new pathway was complete so the going was easier. Despite this, my legs were tired and every slight undulation felt difficult. I tried to eat a bit of food as my energy levels dipped but slowed to a walk a couple of times. Matt was quite a way behind at this stage and I was worried there was something wrong. We made it to the next check-point and once passed Jacob’s Ladder knew then that all we had to do was push on to the finish.
By now I was shattered, everything was an effort. I’d heard a chap running next to me had just dropped out. The terrain was rocky and undulating. Matt had caught up with me by this stage and we spent the last 5 miles running the flats and downhills but walking at every slight incline. I’ve never felt quite so lack lustre in a race. Eating was tough and I was feeling dehydrated despite having drank a fair bit going around. The heat had sapped up a lot of energy so that what we gained in amazing views and dry ground we lost in sweat and sunburn. Soon enough Matt had pointed out Ringing Roger again in the distance which marked the homeward stretch back to the field we started at. I really could have cried at this point. Just put one leg in front of the other was all I could think. Ladies and gents I had passed a few miles previously started to pass me by. I am a competitive runner but by this point I couldn’t have fended them off if I’d tried. That hidden skill for distance running I thought I might have? Nah.
I soon found myself tentatively running down the same rocky path I had been trudging up about 4 hours earlier. And then the finish line came into view. I caught back up with Matt whilst he waited for me and we crossed the finish line together and promptly collapsed in a heap on the grass. Soon enough we had regained our composure and found a fellow Harrier and neighbour Pete had just finished and his family were there to spectate. We all agreed what an amazing day it had been but that perhaps we might not do it again next year!
We met up with Ed and Helen back at the village hall. Ed had a great race and finished 11th overall but Helen was feeling really disappointed after being struck with serious cramps halfway round the route. Saul had finished well and already headed off to get back home in time for the rest of Mothering Sunday. Pie and cakes were laid on for all competitors, perfect fuel after all that exertion. Heading off on the drive home with sun and wind burnt faces chatting about the various parts of our body that hurt and stories overheard on the route. I was particularly impressed by the chap who had 8 pints the night before, I wonder if he finished? Catastrophe struck when driving over a pothole at speed caused my engine to cut-out and not restart. Thank goodness for a mechanic aka knight in shining armour whose partner had been running stopped and quickly sorted the problem and had us on our way in no time.
A great day for which my legs will be feeling the effects of for a few days to come yet.
Happy running x