Running through my typical pre-race routine the morning of Edale Skyline, it occurred to me it’s been a while since I’ve done a fell race. Surprisingly, in the lead up to the event I had been more relaxed than ever, not getting too nervous or stressed about the undulating 21 miles ahead of me. Whether this was because I’ve been busy with work or because I am more comfortable competing I’m not sure (although I suspect it was the former of the two).
Initially I’d entered with a big group of friends, however in the weeks approaching the race injury struck and one by one our numbers fell – it was not good! I was also conscious I’d not had time to recce the route, and despite being familiar with all the sections, I had not had the opportunity to piece it all together, and trial cut off times.
On a more positive note, the forecast for the day was looking surprisingly good, especially for Edale Skyline! To give you some context – this race has had some notoriously bad years weather wise and true to its reputation, it had lived up to expectations the last time I ran around Edale with conditions so bad I’d had to wear ski goggles!
As a result, every possible required item was laid out on the kitchen table – thick gloves, an extra top, suncream, a spare bottle of water. Looking at the options I had enough food to stop midway round for a picnic, but not wanting to be too cold, too hot, hungry or thirsty I opted for everything. Fast and light has never been my thing!
The only way is up:
Stood on the start line, the familiar nerves were beginning to creep in. I’d forgotten that mixed feeling of excitement, slight dread and apprehension. I knew I was undertrained having not had the chance to get out running as much as I would like but kept reminding myself my overall fitness should be good, especially having just spent a week in the Alps ski touring. Plus it was a stunning day with bluebird skies – more than anything I was just looking forward to giving the race my best shot.
After a casual briefing, we were off and straight up the steep climb to Ringing Roger. Caught up in the initial dash I was instantly regretting wearing an extra layer and made the call to try and ditch it on the move – a tricky but successful decision. Legs burning and the first hill over, it was time for one my favourite trogs around to Hope Cross via Jaggers Clough. Looking across the valley there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I marvelled at the skyline for a moment then was quickly brought back to reality when I realised I would soon be running up the hills I could see on the horizon.
Ups and downs – physically and emotionally!
Dropping down towards Ladybower Reservoir I checked my watch – time was flying. After a quick bit of mental maths, I realised the cut-offs were indeed pretty tight (for me!). Win Hill ahead, I needed to get a wiggle on. Huffing and puffing towards the trig point I felt sluggish. For a moment, a cloud of negative thoughts came over me – I was too slow, behind on time and conscious my feet were sore and rubbing already. ‘You’re no good at this running lark’ a little voice said in my head.
Luckily, my mid-race personal crisis was sharply interrupted with shouts and whoops from Corin and Ruth cheering from the top of the hill. It was fab to see familiar faces, and I found myself grinning at the stupidity of my previous thoughts. Highs and lows are typically all part of any hard race; I had just temporarily forgotten.
The descent down to Hope was fast, steep and fun. Still slightly muddy underfoot, I was right of the limit of being in control, occasionally losing my footing and sliding a few extra meters. I reached the valley far too quickly, and before I knew it, it was time for the next climb up Lose Hill. I had under an hour to get from here to the trig point then across to Mam Tor and down to Mam Nick to make the cut-off. In theory, this was do-able however my legs were already feeling pretty heavy.
Head down, I focused on keeping my rhythm until I spotted Sarah, Steve and Nadia cheering me on. Again it was perfect timing and gave me that extra boost to keep pushing to the top of the hill. Reaching the trig point, I felt relieved; I now knew if I kept my pace I should be able to make the cut-off with about 10 minutes to spare.
Happy to see my guestimation was right, I was soon through the Mam Nick checkpoint, so turned my attention to the second part of the race. The next section was a gentle but persistent climb along Rushup Edge, then a slog across the monotonous paving slabs to Brown Knoll, before reaching Edale Cross. Finally settling into the race I was determined to keep running, knowing that if I dropped into a walk, I would find it hard to get running again with no real climbs or descents in this section as markers. Somewhere along the way, I’d stopped worrying about being slow (or last) and was just really enjoying being out. I was tired but allowing myself not to be as competitive was relaxing! I knew I was pushing as hard as I could, and that was plenty good enough.
Approaching Edale Cross (the second cut off for the race) I glanced at my watch, once again I was 10 minutes ahead of the time limit. Double checking with the marshal I was told ‘Now you have to finish I’m afraid!’ – I was thrilled.
Getting closer to the finish (and cake):
Edale Head to Ringing Roger was further than I remembered – or rather, I was slower than normal! Beginning to struggle with my feet and fatigue I was pretty relieved to be on the home straight. I was flagging, I could see the path down to the finish, but it annoyingly didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. Weaving in and out of the boulders, I started daydreaming of dinner and somehow before I knew it, found myself at the last checkpoint.
Filled with adrenaline, I picked up the pace. I love the descent down The Nab and was now approaching the finish with the grace and coordination of a baby elephant. The 246th runner to cross the finish line, completing the race in 4 hours 57 minutes, I was just under my 5-hour target and absolutely delighted. Back at the village hall, my day got even better. The organisers were dishing out pie and cake – the perfect recovery food! Then to top it off, despite being one of the slowest runners taking part, I won a prize! Admittedly it was the spot prize picked randomly and not for any demonstration of sporting prowess, but it goes to show anyone can be a winner!
Fancy giving it a go?
Whether you are local to the Peak District or fancy a weekend away, it is well worth putting an entry into Edale Skyline. To me, it epitomises everything a fell race should be – a brilliant route, unpredictable weather, mud, cake and excellent support. I love that so many equally mad, but friendly individuals chose to spend their weekend running up and down the hills of the beautiful Peak District. It was a tough race, but I really enjoyed myself. Thanks again to all the marshals and organisers for all the hard work and everyone that came out to support the race. My legs still hurt three days later, but it was totally worth it!