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The Ladybower 50 Ultra Series : A Virtual Recce


Year on year I have hosted a recce of The Ladybower 50 Ultra Series.

It has always been a fun little run, but this year life has conspired to keep us all very busy at Accelerate and there simply isn’t time.

So, not to be out-done, I’ve elected to provide you with a ‘virtual recce’ of sorts.

A little guide to the event, the course and a few hints at tackling this event with confidence.

Ladybower 50 is a number of things.  It’s a picturesque event in the Peak District, right outside Sheffield and based around the Derwent Valley – packed with local history and featuring some interesting remains from the village which used to exist under the reservoir itself.  Derwent & Howden Dams are lovely to look at and provide a landmark upon which to focus as you circle the water’s edge.

I gained my 50 mile personal best during the Ladybower 50 in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, the route.

From the lay-by near to Fairholmes Visitor Centre on race day – we would normally set off from outside the Centre itself on the recce, as the parking (pay and display) makes it a more sociably convenient start/finish.  The course lies within the Derwent Valley, home to Derwent Dam, used as practice for the famous ‘Dambusters’ Bouncing Bomb campaign and home to a museum all about the missions during WWII.

First thing to consider – all races (20, 35 and 50 mile distances) travel in an anti-clockwise direction and feature the same start loop of 5 miles (red dots).  Through the back of the lay-by into a wooded trail (my favourite section) and down to the A57 (Manchester Rd).  Across the bridge and back on yourself as you once again pick up the path at the water’s edge.  The soft, undulating trail turns to grassy fields just before the bridge and then after a spell on pavement, turns into a tarmac/hard concrete section, before becoming more of a hard packed trail all the way to the 4 mile mark or so…

Final stretch of road, back to where you were and you return to race HQ for a second loop on race day.  5 miles complete and back where you started already!

For the recce of course, we only bother to complete this section the once.

This is normally where I ask the group how they feel.  Last minute kit swap or toilet visit before we head off to complete the 10 mile section at the top of the valley.

From here you need to have stocked up at least enough drink to last for a further 5 miles and food for the entire 10 mile loop.  You’ll also have to bear in mind that from this point things get more and more cut off and there’s every chance a change in weather will leave you without any easy way out of the valley.

For this reason, I ask folk to bring waterproof cover, hat/gloves, food/drink and suitable footwear for uneven and often wet ground.



Terrain wise, there really isn’t much in it.  You can complete this course entirely in road shoes for the sake of comfort.  The need for traction is next to none, but there are a few variations under foot.  The colour coded map shoes how the majority of the course is road, with a bus route between Fairholmes and the outer reaches (top of the highest grey section).

The early wooded trail is softer and wetter than a lot of the other areas depending upon recent weather conditions and run off from surrounding hills, but is still fairly firm and easy to navigate.  There are some winding single track sections for a bit of fun and one set of steps in/out of an inlet with a narrow bridge WARNING:  Unless doing the 20 miler or at elite level, this is a good place to walk, rather than bounding down and back up the over sized steps, since you’ll regret wasting effort when you finally return to the same section on the second or third lap!

Once you’ve managed the uneven grassy section just before the A57, you’ll find the surface becomes firmer and faster.  Watch your pace and don’t get carried away.  This is where I catch myself re-writing my race plan and moving at a deceptively easy pace, only to regret it hours and hours later when I’m on fumes and the wheels have come off.

Firm ground all the way to Derwent Dam itself, where just prior, there’s a drink station set up in time for everyone’s second time around (10 miles).

NOTE:  It might be worth considering the need to carry drink for the first 5 miles, since you return to HQ on that first short lap.  Hydrate well an move at an easy pace and you could enjoy travelling light until filling bottles at the 5 mile mark before motoring on.

Once you head past the Dam (right fork, sign posted and marshalled) – it’s around we go.

At this point I’ll repeat what Race Organiser Steve King explains pre-race – “Navigation is a doddle.  The water’s on your left”.

It’s not until you reach the furthest part of the course at the very top of the valley that you encounter some very uneven stony ground and some wet, almost slippery sections here or there.  Still firm and mainly level (except for one steep descent, which again ought to be taken gently to protect the quads).

We usually plan to stop for a moment at the very northerly tip of the reservoir (a place called slippery stones) for a brief breather and chance to eat/drink at a relaxed rate while taking in the scenery.

Then it’s road all the way back to HQ, but with ups and downs along the way.  Climbs and descents take turns, while the water cuts into the surround hills and you’re forced to endure the long winded out and back sections you see branching out to the west.  They can cause a little frustration when you lock sight on the runner ahead, almost in reach across the narrow stretch of water, but by the time you round the car end of that tributary, they turn out to have been half a mile in front!  Though you’ll snigger to yourself when you look back and see someone else feeling as if they might have caught you and you leave them in your wake.

Completing the full lap provides people with a 15 mile taste of what these individual races offer.  20, 35 or 50, the deal is the same – one checkpoint/HQ at which to feed from a buffet of race snacks.  Water stations are located at 5 mile intervals, with the first two being manned and the final station being a water butt positioned for self service a the top end of the aforementioned bus route(easy to spot, next to a wide gate right before you arrive at the bus turning circle).

So having run anti-clockwise from start, onto the A57 and back onto water’s edge, reaching your start position at 5 miles and heading around the top loop for a further 10 miles, you’ve covered the course in its entirety.  Depending upon the distance you’ve opted for, you’ll then add a second or third lap for good measure.

And that’s what’s so convenient about the set up.  One checkpoint, which doubles as an aid station at 5, 10, 20, 35 and 50 miles.  Psychologically (on the full 50 miler) I found this to be more motivating than tedious.  I’d assumed that doing laps would become torture, but actually deduced the water didn’t need carrying for the first 5 miles (though I was carrying water all the same).

I realised that at the 20 mile mark I was already more than a third of the way into my ultra.  At 35 miles, the very next time I entered the HQ, I was feeling as if I’d almost finished, so there was a really positive reaction every time I happened into this same location.  On other races of upto 50 miles, there can be as many as 10 or more aid stations/checkpoints, which while very supportive, can leave you feeling as if you’re only making slow progress.

So Ladybower 50 is a great event for the first timer or navigational novice, as it’s childs play to stay on the course and the interaction with the same familiar faces creates a sense of amusement in the face of such a physical challenge.

I heartily recommend this event and have been happy to be involved from the side lines.  Currently supported by Raidlight with some very attractive prizes provided from their extensive trail running range –

Ladybower 50 – 2016

I might very well take another stab at beating my 8hrs and 50 minutes in years to come, but as a single lap, 15 miles has rarely been more rewarding than it is around this beautiful part of the world.

Perhaps that’s why so many people with no intention of ever entering the race itself used to attend the recce.  If you find yourself at a loose end and have 15 miles in you, it’s well worth a go.

So that’s it.  Simple.  Good luck if you’re racing this year.  Don’t forget that the event is officially ‘cupless’ this time and you’ll need to have at least a drink bottle upon your person, if not a lightweight cup for hot/cold drinks, such as the one from our co-sponsor this year, Raidlight.

That’s me at 2:45min in this snazzy video of the 2016 race by Martin James.

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Gritstone Fixtures: Round Seven – Longshaw* Fell Race


Okay, it’s the last ‘Short’ race of the series.  Last chance to qualify if you’d so far only done 3 of the 4 mandatory short events.

After this, it’s on to the ‘Long’ stuff.  More about that later in the year.

For now, the race is Longshaw.  *Or to give it the full name, Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race.  So named because (as you might have deduced) it’s part of a larger event which takes place throughout the same weekend – the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials.


The blurb:

Round 7 (Short): Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race, Saturday 31st August, 10:30am
Start from Longshaw Lodge on Sheffield-Hathersage road GR 265 800
Distance: 9.7km / 6m
Climb: 305m / 1001ft
Route map: here
On the Day £5 to enter field and the race is free!
£5 on the day
Records: Lloyd Taggart (2010) – 38:07 and L Lacon (2006) – 46:27
Organised in association with members from Dark Peak Fell Runners


The details:

Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race

The race will be held on 31st August 2019, starting at 10.30am from the Trials field at Longshaw Lodge.

Distance = 8.6km (5.3miles) with 320m (1050ft) of climb.

Minimum age limit is 16 on day of race (U18s please see additional note below)

Part of the world’s oldest sheepdog trials. Pay £5 admission fee to access the trials field, then run for nowt! Entry on the day only using standard FRA Senior Race Entry Form. Parking will be adjacent to the trials field as usual, unless the ground is wet, in which case the National Trust Longshaw car park will be used (check the race Facebook Page for status on the day)

Registration and Race HQ in the beer tent, which is adjacent to the start/finish in front of Longshaw Lodge

A counter in Accelerate Gritstone Series.The race is generously supported by both Accelerate and The National Trust. Learn about the NT’s work to protect the Peak District woodlands and their wildlife here ( .

Please note that in line with Dark Peak Fell Runners environmental policy, no plastic cups will be made available at this race. You are encouraged to bring your own drink, which can be left at race HQ. There is also a bar.

Minor revision for 2019 with CP9 moved to access gates adjacent to milepost on Hathersage Rd:


The race is a fixed anti-clockwise route following a mixture of well-defined paths and trods plus open fields near the start/finish. Marshals will be stationed at key sections, whilst certain areas will be flagged with tape.

This race is held under FRA Rules and runners must familiarize themselves with and comply with the FRA Requirements for Runners 2018 (the “Runners’ Rules”).

Race Kit

The kit runners are required to carry is at the discretion of the Race Organiser, depending on the weather conditions. It is always advisable that runners should bring FRA Best Practice kit with them to a fell race. A decision will be made on the day – if the weather is good, there will be no mandatory kit requirement.

FRA Best Practice Kit is waterproof whole body cover (taped seams and attached hood) + hat + gloves + map + compass + whistle + emergency food.

If there is a kit requirement then mandatory kit inspections may be performed on race day and you will not be admitted to start the race unless you have passed this inspection. A further check may be undertaken on completion of the race – anyone completing the race without the required kit will be disqualified and reported to the FRA.

Your race number must not be folded or cut down and must be clearly visible on your chest at the start, all checkpoints and the finish.

This is a fell race over rough and potentially boggy terrain and so fell or trail shoes are mandatory. Competitors with road shoes will not be allowed to run.

Retirement procedure

Runners wishing to retire from the race MUST inform Race Control (at the race HQ marquee) and not just a marshal. They should either:

  • Report to a checkpoint and then return directly to Race Control
  • Report directly to Race Control when retiring between checkpoints

Under 18 years old?

If you are aged 16 or 17 you are classed as a junior runner (those aged under 18 on the day of the race). You must therefore have the consent of your parent or legal guardian before entering and taking part in an FRA Fell Race. This consent may be obtained either by your parent/guardian signing Junior Race Entry Form on your behalf, or by the use of this Parental Consent Form.

Additional information

Race entry personal data – Race Privacy Statement

For what it’s worth, in my view, having never been round this course – it looks like another one for dry conditions if you want to move at a pace.  With the amount of rain we’ve encountered lately (as of 31/07/19) it looks like the muddy puddles will be in evidence.  The ground will be a mixture of gravel, dirt, rock and occasional bouts of wet grass, road sections and MUD.  Something for everyone.  And as is clearly stated in the official notes from the organiser, “Competitors with road shoes will not be allowed to run”.  Good shout!

Note:  I did do the Burbage Skyline a few years back, which shares a few sections with this course and believe me, Higger Tor is STEEP.  This is a taxing run for those trying to run non-stop and make good time.  If in doubt, take it slow/steady and try to at least maintain a pace which is doable, quicker than a walk, but not so hard that you have to stop to recover at every summit.  You’ll cover the course more quickly than if you busted a gut and gradually slowed down between walk/stops.  Just sayin’.


The history:

A Step Back In Time…

The Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials claim to be the oldest continuous trials in the country. They have been run from 1898 to the present day, interrupted only by the two world wars. Accounts of the trials’ origin vary, but the most interesting one is as follows:

The head shepherd and head keeper to the Duke of Rutland had a competition to see who could shoot the most pigeons and the shepherd won. The keeper was furious, and challenged the shepherd to a return match. The shepherd had no gun licence and guessed that the keeper knew this, and intended to inform the Police of the competition. He told the keeper he had neither gun nor licence, and as he did not wish to borrow a gun again suggested that instead they should see whose dog could round up sheep the best, and donated a sheep as the first prize. This first unofficial trial was held around 1894 or 1895.

The first official trial was held on 24th March 1898. It attracted 16 competitors in the Open Class and five in the Local Class. A total of £19 was offered in prize money. The first day’s events were abandoned due to a snow storm but resumed the following day. A second trial was held in September 1898 when ‘the growing popularity of Sheep-dog Trials in North Derbyshire was evidenced by a large crowd on the Longshaw Pastures grounds’. A special train was run from Manchester for the event and 700 spectators paid to see the trials.

By 1901 the number of spectators had risen to 3,000, mostly from Sheffield, with prize money amounting to £33. In 1902 prize money totalled £40 and for the first time there was a competition for a brace of dogs. One report of the trials stated ‘The best dog on the field was not the winner – it was Mr Barcroft’s two year old Sep, but it was not the animal’s fault that the sheep were so stupid’.

The trials became an established fixture in the country calendar and grew in popularity with both competitors and spectators. The Duke of Rutland supported the trials from the outset. There were no trials held during the First World War and when they resumed in 1919 it was reported that ‘a really good dog that knows his worth will cost £30 or £40’. In 1925 8,000 people attended and it was announced that since the start of the trials over £1,000 had been donated to local hospitals and other charities.

Ladies were first allowed to enter the trials as competitors in 1927, but this was not repeated the following year, when a sheep shearing competition was held instead.

A microphone was introduced in 1936 to give a commentary of the events. Prior to this the spectators did not know which were the winning dogs. The following year saw the introduction of a 10 minute bus service from Sheffield, such was the popularity of the trials.

War once again intervened, and when they recommenced in 1945 the BBC were present to record the events. Two day trials were introduced in 1947, on a Thursday and a Saturday, to give more members of the public chance to come and see them, and in 1951 they were extended to the three days that they are today.

The Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials continue to be held every year in early September, providing enjoyment for many and still raising money for charities.

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When PMA needs a little help… – by Caroline French

Caroline French runs for and represents the Accelerate ‘Community’.  As part of Team Accelerate, she not only blogs, but also attends events, group runs (well, coffee & cake afterwards) and sessions in the Accelerate store.

Earlier this year (2019) Caroline suffered an injury which forced her to miss an ultra distance event she’d trained avidly for.  since then, try as she might, she’s ridden a very bumpy road.

But she has remained focused and determined.  Positive beyond all expectation.

Her attention now rests on another ultra event…







When PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) needs a little help…

Me and PMA, we’re like proper buddies. Injuries happen, deal with them, rehab, crack on….

This ankle stress fracture though, grrr. It happened ages ago and only just doing what I’d call training again. I’ll be honest, it has been tough!. A week or so after the ‘incident’ I knew something wasn’t right, but thought I could plough on. WRONG! Even running alternate days and after steady runs, my ankle was sore. It ballooned and even an easy run, I was shattered!

I nervously booked an appointment with Colin (Accelerate Performance Centre’s Podiatrist) and crossed fingers, toes and anything else I could, hoping he could fix it. Turns out that PMA thing wasn’t quite enough.

Stress fracture??????

In the cold light of day, that diagnosis made perfect sense, but being told to rest? Yeah, I know – me! No running. Not much of anything actually. The prospect of this was awful, but got to be done. PMA. PMA. PMA!

Colin Papworth, APC Podiatrist.

So what does a podiatrist do? Most of us dash off to physio with an injury, but don’t think many people get podiatry. It’s basically anything below the knee, especially the foot. If you think about it, the foot is an amazing thing and in the case of us runners, takes a heck of a lot of abuse. No wonder my entire body hurt after trying to run with my stress fractured ankle!

Initial treatment was gentle release and manipulation, gradually increasing mobility. After a couple of weeks of rest (shudder), treatment progressed, releasing the tight muscles and knots and slowly introducing exercises and easy running. Since then its been manipulation, strength exercises, rehab running schedule and a guiding ear as the weeks have progressed. I’m not fully fixed yet – need to continue the sensible progression and listen to my body. The Accelerate Dig Deep 30 has my name on it and I’m taking the guiding advice of Coach Stu and Ankle Hero Colin to get me there.

Side note to Colin: you have been ace. You’ve been a proper rock through this, physically and mentally and a heart-felt thank you!

Shameless plug from the editor:

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‘The Basics’ – Hydration

‘The Basics’ – a regular look at the simple elements which make running gear useful to the runner. Explanations for those who don’t yet know, along with some facts to cut through the marketing nonsense out there, of which there is plenty!

Part one was Midsoles

Part two was Outsoles


This one’s quick, but very important.

In a nutshell:

Hydration is the process of consuming and storing water.

It is vital for the efficient running of all our bodily functions and maintaining a healthy/safe temperature.

Drinking water is good for you, especially when exercising.  Very especially on hot days, or during intense/extended bouts of exercise.

But there’s more to consider than just taking on water.

Your body requires salt, or more precisely ‘electrolytes’ within your body in order to function.  It’s more complicated than that, but trust me it’s important.  If you’re brave enough/or insomniac – click here to read about it.

So – when you sweat, you sweat out a lot of the electrolytes contained within the sweat itself.  Just look at people’s faces all streaked with lines of dried up salt next time you’ve finished a lengthy run/race.

To illustrate the importance of electrolyte replacement when drinking for exercise:

Imagine a glass of cola (hmmm cola).  The glass is your body, the cola – your blood stream/hydration level.

 Run Run Run – Sweat Sweat Sweat

– suddenly that glass is half empty.

So you guzzle down water.  Brilliant yes?  NO!

Now that glass of cola looks a little thinner than it did before, but on you go….

Run Run Run – Sweat Sweat Sweat

Same thing again, half empty, so you drink more water to top up.  Perhaps you drink for the entire time that you exercise…?

You don’t want to dehydrate, cause you’ve heard nothing but bad things about dehydration.  So you’re rather pleased with your healthy little run routine.  Then you begin to feel tired, nauseous, crampy, headachey, all kinds of not very good.

The reason….. you’ve lost a lot of electrolytes, before effectively diluting what remained to the point of failure.  You’ve got to restore the salt as well as the water if you’re going to keep working hard and sweating.  And not fall apart.


It isn’t pleasant, but the kids who kill themselves on ecstasy do so because it makes them very hot (that and dancing for hours on end), so they drink water until they overhydrate and they fail.  Same with a few runners who’ve done likewise on great north run or similar, dropping dead at the finish line.



There are plenty of options when it comes to product with electrolyte included.  Sachets, sweets, drinks or gels.  Just look around and try things until you find something which appeals to your taste buds and leaves you feeling good during and after your runs.

I used to eat a Snickers bar or two during long runs, they contain plenty of energy, with both nuts and some salt, along with some caramel and chocolate, so all bases covered for fast/slow energy release and salt enough to stave off over-hydration when drinking.  though for drinks, I used to use dihoralyte for the blackcurrant flavour, combined with plenty of the right minerals.  They provide the basis for remaining comfortably hydrated on long events as well as acting as intended as a remedy against diarrhea.  That’s a win-win in my book.

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Gritstone Fixtures: Round Six – Salt Cellar Fell Race


Another day, another fell race….

And another incredible fixture in the 2019 Gritstone Series – supported once again by inov-8 All Terrain Running!

Without further ado…

Salt Cellar Fell Race:



Official stats:

Round 6 (Short): Salt Cellar Fell Race, Friday 2nd August, 7:00pm
Start under Dam at north end of Ladybower Reservoir, register at Fairholmes, GR SK 173893
Distance: 10.9km / 6.8m
Climb: 486m / 1594ft
£6 pre entry or £9 on day
Records: Tom Saville (2015) – 49:34 and Judith Jepson (2013) – 62:08
Race Organisers:
Proceeds to Edale Mountain Rescue


The course:

  • LK – Local Knowledge an advantage
  • PM – Course Partially Marked

Map –

and that relief map (it’ll be a relief when it’s over, chuckle chuckle) –

Doesn’t look too bad, but that’s a 300 meter climb (Hollin Clough to Bradfield Gate) inside the first 4km!  Straight back down (which will be over all too quickly), then it’s another 150 meters up, for a short (sharp) descent.  And that sharp section toward the end, grassy, with a view of the final section dead ahead – begging for you to cut straight across to the finish…. well, on a wet day, can be a slip ‘n’ slide.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The History:

Sheffield running club, Steel City Striders introduced this off-road event in 2012.  It took until 2014 for the course to reveal its true potential, as this was the first year in which the race took place in wet weather conditions.  While accessible from the picturesque Fairholmes visitor centre/car park, the route takes people up and over the Derwent Edge and past the ‘Salt Cellar’ rock formation, so named because of its distinct shape.

Race records have come and gone, with many runners establishing great times, looking hard to beat in fact….  but the wet weather provides a very difficult course to master.  Occasional dry weather can occur, particularly at this time of year – and if you’re the right calibre with the right conditions under foot….

Tom Saville of Dark Peak Fell Runners currently holds the men’s record (2015) – 49:34.  He managed that during a dry spell, the ground a lot firmer and more responsive, less likely to lose traction or take a fall.  Judith Jepson, also of Dark Peak (2013) – 62:08 is a record which was again established in dry conditions, before the race had ever been attempted in the wet, before the course had revealed its hidden horrors.

With this year providing some of the driest conditions on record, with record temperatures in fact, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of performance can be mustered by the fell running elite, given that we’ve tipped into overwhelming heat, threatening to hamper even the swiftest runner’s progress across such hilly terrain.  Keep ’em peeled come August 2nd for what might be a new course record, or just some very sweaty looking race pics for all concerned….

Should you enter….?

The basic fact is, that for a race with very little entry criteria – good light, warm weather, easy access, low cost (£6 pre-entry/£9 on the day), this one features tough climbs, not for the faint hearted and those descents, which will be hard earned and tempting at top speed, but which have and will provide a few slips, trips and tumbles for anyone not entirely on their game.  And that’s in the dry.

If you’re a keen runner, fell enthusiast, or you love a challenge, then yeah – have a go.

There’s promise of post finish cake for all who take part.  Something of a tradition and more reason to be enormously grateful to the many marshalls and organisers for the effort they put into this race.


Proceeds go to Edale Mountain Rescue, who coincidentally host their own event, the Nine Edges Endurance race (20miles) every year, from the same start location and what a worthy bunch they are.  If like us, you enjoy the beauty of the Peak National Park and frequent the Derwent/Edale area on a regular basis, they’re invaluable, so please do support them if you can.

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