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The 40 Year old Bleaklow virgin



It’s a month since my last blog and in that time I’ve turned 40 years of age.  I don’t feel it, but it’s there.  Next time I fill in a race registration form it’ll be the next box along that I tick.  The one that says ‘Vet’.  Great.

"Feel just the same".

“Feel just the same”.

Despite with the age creeping up and despite the steady base I’ve maintained throughout the last few weeks/months, running to work and back (7.5 miles per day total) I’m suddenly faced with what is sure to be a fairly challenging start to 2015 and my fourtieth year.

I’ve been invited to take part in the High Peak Marathon this year.  This February to be precise.  I’ll join three others (two of whom I’ve never met) for the 42 mile ultra that involves navigating around a circular route from Edale in Derbyshire, around to the Bleaklow Stones and back again.  In the winter.  In the dark.

And I’ve never been on Bleaklow.

At least it's local.

At least it’s local.

I’m confident all the same.  I’m doing okay at the moment.  Left leg niggles aside, I rather like my chances on the first section – up the ridge to Lose Hill, over to Stanage via Win Hill, then back to Moscar and up onto Derwent Edge, which – though ‘hilly’, is familiar enough to complete without map/compass.

Similarly, the final section from Snake Pass onto the Kinder Edge path, past the Downfall and over to Brown Knoll before heading off the same Ridge into the Edale finish – not too intimidating.  Tired legs and the possibility of thick fog or deep snow causing only minor concern.

What troubles me is the 14 mile mystery tour through exposed open wilderness that is Bleaklow.  I just haven’t a clue what I’m in for.  So like all good ultra runners, I’m gonna recce it first.  Walking rather than running.

It won’t be quick.  I’ll load up with everything I might need and head out for the enormous task of completing that middle section, then the necessary bit where I plod back to the car along the Snake Pass (surely not the safest).  Unless that is, I get one of the others to join me, but it looks unlikely so far.  We all have different commitments.

Further to this ridiculous undertaking, I’m then heading up Ben Nevis in March, as friends have kindly forked out to treat me to a long weekend on ‘The Ben’, like we used to when we were all free and single.  It’ll be tempting to run up to the top, or at the very least all the way down – just once while I’m there.

That then leads me to the Sheffield Half Marathon (which I am also yet to recce) in April (on the 12th).  That should be enough activity for this ‘Vet’ to get his teeth into.

If I come out of that little lot with all my teeth, I should be on my way to some exciting events later on in 2015.  There’s the possibility of beating my 2014 Trail Rush result.  I like the idea of completing the Long Tour of Bradwell after the dismal DNF last time around and I might try my luck at the 9 Edges again, with the High Peak 40 miler usually only a week later to temp fate.

Finally, there’s the Rowbotham Round Rotherham 50 miler to PB, since my first attempt in 2012 was a very up and down affair.  Having walked so much of it that year, I finished safe in the knowledge that I could at least shave an hour.  That was before I shaved an hour from my 40 miler PB, so hey………let’s prune 2 hours shall we?

And that’s me right now.  Plodding to work every day.  Slowly building as much as I can.

The exception this week was my first proper run in ages, testing out my newly acquired Inov-8 Bare Grip 200s.  Fan – tastic!  I played it safe for a short dash up Rivelin Valley, trying out some trails I’ve never used before.  I loved it.  I’ve spent the last couple of months doing the same sorry trip from Hillsborough to the store and back again, or acting as back marker for our Head Torch groups (which can turn out to be more of a walk when the group moves in single file), so this was a chance to really run again.

The 'gnarly' X-Talon 200.  Grrr!

The ‘gnarly’ X-Talon 200. Grrr!

I probably took more of a hit than I’d anticipated, but the partially frozen mud, the rocky plummet next to Hagg Hill, the wooded trails above the A57 and the craggy top path near Lodge Moor were eerily silent as I ran through sleet and snow by Head Torch.  I passed two runners near the Rivelin Valley Cafe and somebody reflective caught me off guard beneath Hagg Lane (just when you think you’re the only soul in the woods), but otherwise – I really felt like I could have been out in the Peaks (such is the beauty of Rivelin Valley and right on my doorstep!!).  The traction afforded by those deep lugs meant I could confidently hurl myself down the descents and could claw my way up the climbs with no slips or slides.  What a joy.  I shall be doing more of the same, that’s for sure.

If you get chance – try the new X-Talon 200, which effectively takes over where the Bare Grip (now discontinued) left off.  Incredible grip, being a combination of inov-8’s sticky rubber, deep lugs and new ‘Standard’ fit, which is wide and makes for a comfy, stable foot plant on all surfaces.  The tough upper is so good, they’ve angled this shoe toward those taking part in obstacle races/events, but don’t overlook the way this shoe will handle the Fells.  The quick drain mesh is ideal for keeping the weight down and the squelch to a minimum.  Plus, the 3mm drop from heel to toe and minimum of 6mm midsole (9mm at the heel) is slightly less hard work than the Bare Grip’s zero off-set/barefoot deal.  The cherry on top is the newly fashioned square toe box, that offers plenty of clearance for your foot to spread and work without danger of friction or impact on those challenging downhills.  A definite play thing and then some.  I’ll have to hurry up and trash my Bare Grips in order to snap up the X-Talon 200 A.S.A.P…

So, in short – I’m running fast for a change (comparatively) just when I need to fall back on my slow n steady.


Check out the X-talon 200 here.

Join us on a friendly Head Torch Run in and around the Rivelin and Loxley valleys on the 23rd January – details here.


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Special Guests who love to run and have something to say. Running, kit and gear, racing and adventures... anything goes, thank goodness!

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