High Peak Marathon race report

Friday 3rd of March 2017, HPM race day had finally come. We set off at 11:13 pm from Edale to run 42 miles throughout the night over the boggiest and hilliest bits of the Peak District. Night time racing was new to us, so we were all a little nervous about what was lying ahead.

Lisa:  I have wanted to do this race for years – having checkpointed it during my time at university. I remember watching the runners appear from the mist with their bright headtorches, plodding over the pathless bog, seemingly having a great time. After injuries, a few failed entries and then the big disappointment of 2016 this week I could barely believe it was actually happening. The week leading up the race was filled with excitement and pre-race anxiety – mostly weather forecast based!

Bodil: Before the race I was nervous about running through the night, the distance and potentially the cold. The event centre before the race was buzzing, with lots of familiar (and even famous!) faces around us. HPM being a team event, the race is very different from other ultras I have done. It gives a sense of security being in a team, navigating together and pulling each other out of the bogs.

When we started at 11:13pm our worries soon disappeared and we focused on the task ahead of us. I found it easier than during a solo race to keep my mood up – with a happy Lisa skipping around me – and we all reminded each other to eat timely and keep warm.

CorinThe first section of the race includes the most ascent of the whole route, making it a tough start to a long race.  In addition to this, it was so rainy the week prior to the race the ground was sodden and therefore made it tricky to stay upright on the descents, each of us falling over multiple times.

Between the Outer Edge check point and Swains head is a hard 6km off piste section, where you are only following your compass bearing. It was in this section of the race where we sang show tunes to entertain ourselves while bog hopping and got to take in the first gleam of morning rays as the night transitioned into day. The assurance that came from the morning light really boosted our moral! We were now able to see parts of the route which we’ve never seen in daylight before, how exciting to see Bleaklow Stones only having previously been seen by headtorch or surrounded by clag.

Libby:  After a quick stop at the Snake Top feed station (i.e. 30 miles into the race) to grab some malt loaf, it was off across the slippery paving slabs on the moor to Mill Hill with Kinder looming ominously above us. I normally find the paving slabs quite frustrating, the hard surface is tough on fell-shoe clad feet and the slabs wind in a seemingly never ending wiggly line across the featureless moor. However, on race day we reached Mill Hill much quicker than expected and in higher spirits.

The climb up on to Kinder is never as bad as it appears from a distance and the visibility was amazing; it is often foggy up that high but today we could see to Manchester. We’d been on our feet for over 9 hours by this time and eyelids were starting to feel heavy, but we’d come prepared and we got out our secret weapon… chocolate covered coffee beans! A few mouthfuls later (or many handfuls later in Lisa’s case) and we were awake and Lisa was bouncing around like a mountain hare on a trampoline. In your face tiredness!!

Lisa: We glanced at our watches and we were well ahead of the slightly conservative 14hr schedule we had set for ourselves. We decided to push it and try and get down for midday. Although we were tiring and Corin was suffering with blisters and a chaffing rucksack this gave us the motivation to keep moving. It was such a beautiful day, there were lots of walkers/runners out for the day congratulating us and with paragliders soaring overhead it was a really enjoyable finish.

We finished with muddy feet, messy hair and happy hearts in a time of 12:44.

What an awesome race!

Thanks to all of the organisers and checkpointers for a fantastic race, and to Mike Watson for the photos.

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