The Gritstone Grind

An unexpected 35 mile scenic trail route, running from Kidsgrove up to Disley; and my second ever ultra-marathon.

Summit of the Bosley Cloud.

Summit of the Bosley Cloud.

This is an existing trail called the ‘Gritstone Trail’ surprisingly enough; available for anyone to do any time (lots of people will walk it over 2 or 3 days) and I highly recommend it, as it really shows off the area in picturesque fashion.

I call it “unexpected”, as you run through and over villages and towns not renowned for their scenic qualities. The key word here is “over”; there are a LOT of hills and the views are spectacular on a clear day. Areas like Mow Cop castle, the Bosley Cloud, Teggs Nose and White Nancy being the notable high up bits.

I love running hills; I’m not very good going down them due to cowardice, but I pride myself on my ability to run up them where others walk. With that in mind this seemed like a really good race for me.

Gathering at the train station for the start.

Gathering at the train station for the start.

I tried to think what would be a good goal for this race? I did want to do well, but didn’t want to be unrealistic at the same time. I determined early on that there were a couple of runners there that were VERY good and I heard stories of success in the big European races… Maybe I won’t win this race then, I thought.

This was a conclusion that I solidified after the first CP; I got confused at the electronic stamp thing there, before finally noticing the rudimental stamp for the peasants like me that didn’t have electronic chips.. In my haste to catch up with the ‘leader group’, I then missed a turn off with a few of the other runners. The result was a 3-4 mile detour to CP2.

Time to re-evaluate my race goals quickly.. I was now near the back, and had to work my way up the field again. I made a conscious decision to not get too frustrated; after all, there was the best part of 30 miles to make amends.

2 hours later I was still making amends; overtaking people for fun on the ascents, then labouring to keep up on the descents. I couldn’t shake the notion that I was probably still miles from the leading group now…

I reached the foot of Teggs Nose hill at midday; this is half a mile at least of steep hill and my biggest nemeses since taking up trail running. I decided that walking it would be the ‘sensible’ option here to conserve energy for the following 15 miles… But then my brain reminded me that I wasn’t going to win anyway, so I might as well give my nemesis something to think about by running all the way up it. A small, but silly victory within the race and I stand by my decision.

I don’t know if it was something I ate the day before, or some cosmic anomaly that shook the universe up a bit, but I ran an absolute stormer from there on.. One of the guys I passed told me afterwards that he assumed that I wasn’t in the race because I was “running so fast up the hills”. I think that’s probably up there with one of the best compliments I’ve ever got.

I got to Disley in around 6 hours; the final stretch went through Lyme Park and finished in the community centre. I was very happy to get there, but startled and VERY happy to hear that I had managed 4th!! How on Earth did that happen? Oh well, I’ll take it!!

The organisers (as they always tend to do) did a fantastic job at the finish and put on a great spread. The winner I found out was a whole hour ahead of me, which is a good indicator of the hard work I’m going to have to put in from here. Nevertheless I went home happy and satisfied with a good race and another great event to look forward to next year.

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