By Mike Bullock
Susan and I set ourselves what felt like an impossible and painful challenge for October … to run seven Ultra Marathons and four 10ks between us. As trail races were easier to safely stage, we had decided to show our support to the trail-running community and particularly the guys who work so hard to stage these races.
Yesterday we completed it at the Spire Ultra ...my October tally is 4 Ultras and 2 10k's, Susan's is 3 Ultras and 2 10k's. I managed a 1st place and two 4th places, and Susan clocked up a 5th and a 10th place.
Yesterday's 53km race was the hardest of the lot, yet the most rewarding, even with 1452m of climbing
I grew up in Chesterfield in the Peak District as an 18 stone youth with no interest in the hills and forests around me. It has always rankled me to have missed running in such a beautiful part of the country, and when I saw there was an Ultra going round my hometown, I arranged for us to run it with a guy I've not seen since school in 1988, but he started running a year ago and is now hooked.
The race was postponed twice due to COVID, but finally went ahead yesterday, and I am totally humbled once again by race organisers that work so hard to get races going throughout this difficult year. I can’t imagine they make any money, with all the extra precautions they put on, but they are runners like us, who want to give something back to the sport they love. Also, I'm blown away by the marshalls that stand for 12 hours in awful conditions, and are always cheerful and selfless. They are like angels when your body is just screaming at you to stop running.
Once upon a time, a race organiser trekking us to the start line in a field in freezing rain, then announcing he had forgotten his stopwatch would have caused an uproar of disgruntled runners, but yesterday it was fantastic to see every single runner see the funny side that after negotiating all the way through COVID our race was hijacked by a missing stopwatch.....after he sprinted 20 minutes back to his car to get the watch, we could start, but it was a great opportunity to chat to other runners and make more running-friends.
When we eventually got underway in small groups, we missed our start time as Susan was chatting!! So we were allowed to start in the next group
Within the first two miles there were two river crossings (FREEZING AND DEEP) and more mud and slippery rocks than I've ever seen, and a course that just went up..down..up...down etc . All very treacherous, as proven when Susan face-planted in some particularly stinky mud, and bum-slid down a big hill.
A man with a tuba entertained us at mile 6 (although he refused to play me Xmas Carols) and so happy was I that I promptly fell in the mud on a treacherous downhill. According to Susan, it was a mid-air 360 followed by a very funny squelch!
Lovely lakes and reservoirs throughout meant too many selfies and not enough running! And Susan seemed to attract the attention of every cute puppy we encountered … She says it's her magnetism but I've a suspicion she just smells!!!
The remainder of the race was windy (40mph gusts), horizontal sheeting rain, endless stiles (I think I counted 65), and deep deep mud. Both my trainers disintegrated by mile 15, so stones, sticks and small animals spent their day sticking in the soles of my feet.
There was an awesome atmosphere throughout. Every runner was smiling and even though the weather was atrocious, everyone battled through to the end with no complaints … just happy to be running in beautiful scenery.
The race finished with a one mile hill at 30% gradient. Now I love a good joke but this was just not funny.
So a thoroughly enjoyable race, even though 2 toenails said a permanent farewell to me, but I can't wait to do it again (hopefully) next Spring!
News, Notifications and Race Results