Dusk ’till Dawn ultramarathon – October 2013


My knee hurts.

A bizarre looking outfit

For years I’ve been able to happily (and probably smugly) reply in the negative to the stock non-runner question of “oh no, I couldn’t do that, don’t your knees hurt”.

Not today. My left one really flippin hurts. Walking downstairs is a major expedition.

I’m sure it’s completely related to spraining my ankle recently, which in turn meant that I hadn’t really done any training for this race over the past two months. I also hadn’t really thought that much about it until a couple of days before, when I started to get a decent case of “I’m about to run quite far, up hills, in the dark, and rain” nerves.

The day itself started quite nicely, taking my daughter trampolining first thing followed by a large breakfast.  Hopping on the train to Sheffield laden with food was also a breeze.

The next few hours were mostly fraught however, the train batteries were apparently flat (full marks for a new excuse), I missed my connection and made it to Losehill Hall just in time to get kit checked, fill my water bottle up and get to the start line.

The start line

The start line

Once we were off I felt thankfully relaxed, and enjoyed the last bit of daylight as we headed up to the first checkpoint.
From here to Cave Dale is all a bit of a mystery, and the GPS wasn’t helping (it’s a pure maze of tiny paths, more stiles than you’ve ever seen, a railway line, a main road, some fields and a river).

The rain didn’t really start till after CP3, but when it did it properly meant it, as did the wind. At this point I was keeping pace with a friendly chap and we wisely decided to put everything on, waterproofs, hat, gloves – the lot.

We later heard that someone had succumbed to hypothermia around this time, and I’m not surprised, it was really rather nasty.

A quick stop at CP4 (Earl Sterndale) for a cup of tea and rice pudding, then straight up a hill (through someone’s rockery) and onwards.

My plan for this race was to not obsess about splits or projected finish time, spend very little time at checkpoints, run briskly,
avoid coke (to see if that helped sleeping afterwards), and to enjoy myself.

I barely looked at my watch, and only registered the milage when passing a CP and noticing the mile marker on the map.

Arriving at the cat and fiddle tested the resolve, last year it snowed here, and I started to freeze over as I filled my water at the outside station. This year however everything was indoors, we burst into a toasty room, were plied with all manner of treats and I spotted a few pints lined up on the bar. Sadly we moved on after a snatched tea and flapjack. No sitting down.

From here on the weather improved (apart from the mandatory fog over shining tor) and it was a steady run all the way down to Taxal where the encouraging and always smiling Wendy was handing out jelly babies and taking numbers.

A few soggy fields and some steep (but paved) hills took us to the final manned checkpoint at Cracken Edge, and burgers. This was the only hot food CP and had been the matter of some debate for several hours. The idea was great, but I just didn’t have nearly enough saliva. Everyone else seemed very happy with the setup, but I made do with a flapjack and water.

A mere half marathon to go, and by far the most technical part of the course; lots of hills, tracks, mud, rocks (and a river). I’d remembered this from last year, which helped hugely. I’d kept plenty in reserve so was very happy trundling along and trying to stay upright.

On a particularly slippery descent we came round a corner to find someone on their back looking very unhappy. He sat up and said he’d fallen and hit his head. We stayed with him until he was ok to carry on, though did suggest several times that he go back up the course to the manned CP.

The grim sweeper

The grim sweeper

Made it back to base in a whisker over 12 hours and in joint 16th (of 95 starters). Bit slower than last year but I put that down to the mud and general slipperiness.

Cracking night out, had lots of interesting chats, the volunteers were spot on (filling water bottles, plying food, friendly banter), and of course Richard and Wendy being on top of, and thinking of, everything made the whole thing feel very slick and well organised.

My knee still hurts, I hope no one asks about it, perhaps I’ll deny being a runner until it’s better.

Race website