The Sheffield Round Walk is a picturesque 14 mile walk situated in the South West of the City. In 2014, by coincidence, a couple of different event organisers developed the idea to use the route for a running race. One was Trail Rush by Ourea Events (of Dragon’s Back fame), the other was Round Sheffield Run (RSR), from the more locally based Kandoo Events, headed by a Mr. Doug Banks.
There was one main difference between the two. ‘Trail Rush’ had runners competing over the 14 mile route in its entirety, non-stop. RSR offered a format ‘borrowed’ from cycling endure events, where participants would complete the route in sections, resting in between, with parts of the course reserved for walking or resting only. Something of a novelty.
By 2016, Trail Rush had closed shop, with Ourea’s slate pretty much crammed full of much tougher, longer, more adventurous races. Leaving RSR to establish itself as Sheffield’s premier trail running event for those ‘dipping their toe’ into off-road competition, along with some very capable club runners from the local area.
2017 was my first time taking part in the RSR, having raced in both of the Trail Rush races previously.
For those who don’t know, the route follows a roughly circular route from Endcliffe Park, via Forge Dam and Porter Clough into Ringinglow, then down the Limb Valley, on through Ecclesall Wood, before crossing Abbeydale Rd and heading up through Beauchief Golf Course, Chancet Woods, Graves Park, Lees Hall Golf Course, Meersbrook Park, Brincliffe Edge and into Endcliffe once more.
I’d previously completed the route starting and finishing at Graves Park (as was Trail Rush HQ), during recce, then race and subsequent training runs from Endcliffe Park. All completed in one go, without stops. How would it be to keep pausing throughout? Would the rest stops enable me to go quicker during the timed sections? Would it become more and more difficult to will myself into a sprint, when I’d gotten used to resting along the way? Would I become over confident and run too hard – too soon for the illusion of recovery up ahead…?
All would become clear.
June 25th (race day) and I arrived for registration, 7.30am sharp. I found an ideal parking space, strolled through the park and wondered briefly whether or not the race was still going ahead. That was short lived, as I reached the race HQ and found a veritable race village in situ. Registered, I liaised with runners and marshals alike. I spoke with some of our customers, also taking part. One by one several friends of mine made an appearance, as they too were having a go. It seemed that as long as you were from Sheffield, you were in Endcliffe Park that Sunday.
Come the start, I was anxious. Too anxious. I hadn’t raced anything since September ’16 and my nerves were causing me doubts about my ability to complete the route, let alone perform at my best.
The race began for me at 8:30am – with the Elite runners away first. Myself amongst them, simply because I’d entered late and it was the only slot left. Gulp.
In what qualifies as a stupid build up to any race, I’d already run every day that same week. Twice on Monday and Tuesday, then the once on Wednesday. Twice more on Thursday and Friday, with Friday’s second run being a recce up and over Wincobank Hill. Saturday was Wincobank yet again, leading the group run already recced. Not what you’d call a ‘Taper’.
So off we all went, from Endcliffe Park – running the first of 11 timed stages. I set off gently, but trying to maintain form and a pace that didn’t seem too timid for my part in the ‘Elite’ pack. I was cheered by a friend in the crowd as we left the race HQ and we slowly left the park all together. It felt as if I ought to be moving a little quicker, but my mindset was very much that of an ultra runner. I was happy to plod and see who slowed down on the sections to come. It seems that I might have missed the point entirely of this event however, as most of the people racing away from me, were still stood still when I reached the road crossings and checkpoints along the way.
The trick it seems with this event, is to bust a gut running at a near sprint for as far as you can manage, but shy of a blow up. Then stop as soon as you have the opportunity, whether it be a road crossing or a fully stocked aid station with food and drink. People were exploiting the rest at every stage. I just kept on jogging for a few of the recovery sections and began to run a lot sooner than necessary, but I didn’t feel it made sense to just keep stopping in the middle of the race.
About half way round the course and after the same guy had blasted past me over and over, I finally decided to make conversation. It turns out that he was the record holder and that he was indeed looking for a new personal best this time around.
From that point onward, I started walking and talking with people every time there was a walk. There were plenty to go at. We’d run just over half a Kilometer and get a 10 minute rest! It was insane. But I enjoyed it a great deal. I came to the conclusion along the way, that if I’d been a little more strategic, I might have finished a tad quicker, but I really didn’t embarrass myself in the end. I held form. I felt strong throughout. I managed to hold a sprint for the final stage of 400m through the park and into the finish funnel. It was actually a load of fun.
I got a great looking retro t-shirt and a very fancy medal (which doubles as a bottle opener), plus an immediate print out of my race stats. There were stalls and seating to enjoy as you watched the runners coming in and there was music being played for all to enjoy. The weather held up too, with a sunny warm atmosphere, but not as roasting as it had been the entire week leading in. That was probably what made me feel so much better than expected, given the 7 day running streak and my biggest mileage for any week since September 2016. I’d run throughout a record breaking heatwave and come out smiling, with a respectable 90min time for 13 miles worth of trail race.
I clapped a great many runners in before leaving for home and have been riding high ever since. Final result was 169th overall, 64th in my MV40 age category. The best part was finding out that I was running well again, so I’m looking forward to regaining the stamina for some ultra distance as soon as possible.
In case you’d like to read about the exact route and all its points of interest, here are my previous race reports from Trail Rush:
No point explaining all of the above yet again, but you can assume the difference of setting off uphill, rather than down, moving at a slightly harder pace, but bearing in mind a tough week and return from injury, posed a distinctly different challenge when pacing it out.
One mention I’d like to include is the photography by Ben Lumley Photography and Matthew King JS Collective, who have presented some stunning pictures at no charge, but have requested that people donate what they can to Western Park Cancer Charity
So that’s that then. First race since September ’16 and now I have a decisions to make about the calendar for the remainder of 2017. With a second baby on the way…..
What’s the worst that could happen…?