Tonight is the Burbage Skyline Fell Race, second fixture in this year’s Gritstone Series. For me it’s the first time taking part in a fully fledged Fell Race. I’ve visited the Burbage Valley a lot over the years, but never as part of an event, and never at the kind of pace I’m expecting tonight. I’ve trained and competed in Ultra Marathons, across similar areas of the Peak District, but along very clear, substantial paths, and steadily enough that I can maintain a run for hours at a time. When the race starts this evening, it’ll be a case of ‘where’s the fire?’.
I’ve been looking forward to the Sheffield Half Marathon, which I take part in every year, but this is totally different. The constant rhythm of that type of running doesn’t prepare you for the destabilising effect that rough ground has, the way steep hills, and obstructions sap your strength as you leap over them again and again and again. I’m in for a shock.
Aside from the pace, it’s the start position that has me scratching my head a little. A large portion of the race is single file, through heather and woodland areas, which means that if you set off at the front and try to slow down, you’ve got hundreds of runners literally nipping at your heels. Too far back, and suddenly you can count yourself as one of those runners, frustrated with the slow progress. Aaargghh!
Lucky for me then, that I fully intend to start in the middle somewhere, with no desire to go any faster than I can maintain, and enjoy at the same time. Probably wishful thinking. I tend to settle into autopilot when running, as if I have no control over how quickly I move my feet. That means if I haven’t done enough appropriate training, in the right environment, I tend to reveal my ‘happy face’, as I did when a friend pulled out from the Half Marathon a few days ahead of time, and I foolishly took his place after many months of LAZINESS.
Still, I can’t see how a 5.75mile run can do too much harm, even if I end up slowing/walking at any point. I’m far from complacent. If I measure my approach, and attack it late, when the flats and downhills arrive, I should have a good time. Unless of course, we have a miserable wet, windy evening……
Once the race is over, and I can speak from experience, I shall offer my account of the event, sharing the highs and lows. I hope to finish in around 45mins, and remain enthusiastic about the next fixture on the list. Time will tell.