Race date: Sunday, 30 June 2019
Race report by Matt Broadhead
There weren’t many Steel City Striders at this year’s Penistone race, as most of them seemed to be doing the Round Sheffield Run. Until I spotted Simon Gleadhall before the start, I thought I was the only one to have made the 12-mile drive up the Don to Penistone Church FC. I hadn’t done this race before, and Simon’s initial description (steep hill at 5k, then no more climbing and the last two miles are on the Transpennine Trail) filled me with optimism. “So if the last part’s all flat, this is a fast course?” “No. You’re knackered by then.” He’s not daft, that Simon.
Back to the report. Registration was in the football clubhouse, where the PA was blasting out 80s classics. Then it was round the back, past various bits of construction material, to the start.
The race is a clockwise loop to the west of Penistone. It’s mostly on open roads, so earphones are banned, but we saw very few cars and the marshals were very good at managing what traffic there was.
Broadly speaking, the course breaks down as 5k of undulating ascent, a steep but short hill, and then a gradual descent to the finish, with one sharp downhill. That would have been fine if yesterday hadn’t been the hottest day of the year. Today was cooler, but the humidity was sapping.
I set off, as always, with a sub-45 in my mind. I have never run a sub-45 10k although I once broke 46 and I haven’t shut up about it since. That target was out of the window by 3km as I struggled up the deceptively gradienty gradients, so I set myself a target of 50 minutes and gritted my teeth. The scenery was nice, and there were swallows darting around over the fields, and sometimes there was even a breeze. I was happy enough.
I actually stopped at the drinks station at 5k, partly because I was really thirsty and didn’t want to spill any, and partly because the extra weight of the cup might have slowed me down on the hill I was looking at. It’s about 300m of 11% gradient, which might not sound a lot to my fell-running alter ego, but in road races I always feel I should actually run the hills, rather than I’ll-just-walk-this-bit-maybe-ing them.
Simon was right. I was knackered by the top. Thankfully we turned off before the actual summit, on to a lovely, straight, gentle downhill where I could finish coughing up the dust from the previous day’s “spring” cleaning and try to find some spring in my step.
And this was where I spotted my nemesis, who would proceed during the remainder of the race both to bruise my ego and to reveal me to be a bad person. A Penistone runner a few places ahead of me was walking. “Hope he’s ok,” I thought. “I’ll check when I pass him, see if he needs help.”
A few seconds later, he was running again and pulling away from me. Good on him.
Then he was walking again. Hope he is okay.
Before long though we came to a lovely big downhill and I forgot about everything except just seeing how fast my legs would go and resisting the temptation to pretend to be an aeroplane. At the bottom, we turned on to the old railway track that’s now part of the Transpennine Trail. The engineers who built it knew what they were doing – the gradient looks like it could have been drawn with a ruler on my Garmin trace, for a good two miles. The ground is nice and springy, and this felt good, my legs were tired but I could probably get decently below five-minute kilometres for the rest of the race.
In the distance ahead of me, I saw someone walking. In a Penistone vest.
I began to close in. He started running, faster than me. Then he walked again. Until I started to catch him, when he suddenly leapt into life. I was getting annoyed now. I had to catch the bugger. But no, he kept just out of reach. Was he a ghost? Was he trolling me on purpose? How come I no longer cared if he was okay? Why couldn’t I bloody catch him?!
By the time we left the TPT for the last 400m through a housing estate, he was just yards ahead of me. Surely I could do this. But no, he put on a late spurt and pulled away to finish one place, but 12 seconds, ahead of me. I puffed and panted up the car park and across the line, a broken and gibbering shadow of myself. I collected my goodie bag (There was a choice! I got one with a towel and some socks), and wandered down to cheer in Simon.
By that stage, the DJ had run out of decent music and resorted to Shaddap You Face. That was my cue to head home, and begin my battle with the great Garmin-Strava outage of 2019. I enjoyed this race. I felt like I’d managed to do myself a bit more credit than I did at Hope Fell Race earlier in the week, when I just didn’t have the mental energy to push myself. Onwards and upwards!
It’s a well-organised event run by a local club, with lots of friendly marshals, decent toilets, very little traffic and a good challenging route that’s not horrendous. Recommended.
I really do hope the Penistone runner’s okay.
The race was won by Scott Hinchcliffe of Penistone Footpath Runners in 33:25 (chip). First woman and 11th overall was Fiona Davies of Rotherham Harriers, with a chip time of 39:09. 189 finished.