Race date: 14th March 2020
Report by Paul Middlemas
There was a feeling of surrealness, perhaps an air of defiance, about the staging of the Grindleford Gallop this year, held as it was, in that short period of time where we were beyond what was, but not quite yet at what was coming. It was during those brief, inbetween days; slightly after the time of the chuckly, innocent, elbow bump handshake replacement; but before the toilet-roll-panic-purchasing-curve had fully flattened. Definitely when ‘zooming’ might still be a synonym for ‘running really fast’ rather than something we did to keep in touch with folk, stay fit, work etc…
A couple of days before race day an email was sent informing us that the race would be going ahead. But it would definitely be different. Antibacterial hand gels were to be prioritised over energy gels. There would be no pre-race briefing. The pavilion would be closed. There’d be no prize giving. Food and drink would be served, but outside. Defiance may be the wrong word – races were going ahead everywhere this weekend, including the Dronfield 10km – but there was a certainly a feeling that we were reaching the racing end-game, for a while at least. I checked my email late Friday night, still not sure whether it’d be called off at the last minute.
Race day. Personally speaking, I was both relaxed, and also very nervous about the race.Relaxed, because my marathon (all our marathons!) was already cancelled, and it actually didn’t matter anymore, if I turned my ankle or picked up another injury. The race was there to enjoy in isolation (bad choice of word?) rather than part of any bigger plan. Nervous though, because I had some shit memories from the 2019 Gallop. In the forest. On the golf course. At the café.
Despite the weird build-up (the pandemic) it was great that the day itself was reassuringly normal in so many familiar ways. There was a strong Strider turnout; friendly and good-humoured people; kind, thoughtful race organisers; delicious post-race tomato soup; classic, changeable mid-March weather made for fell running; brilliant support; a dominant Caroline Brock victory. The only thing that didn’t seem quite right, was Hal Roberts sporting a Dark Peak vest.
I won’t attempt to describe the wonder of the Grindleford Gallop and the scenery covered, but a little bit of information, shamelessly stolen from previous race reports: It’s a 21 mile race covering 3000 feet of ascent taking in Eyam, Longstone Moor, the Monsal Trail, and Chatsworth Park estate, before the finish along Baslow and Frogatt Edges. Even considering present state Peak-withdrawal and hazy nostalgia, it can be said that it’s consistently one of the most enjoyable, well-organised, challenging and satisfying races on the calendar. It’s a beast of a run, but it’s a lovely beast.
Memories of the race itself are pretty vague and have become even more faded the past weeks. But my own personal highlights include the brilliant support throughout, and in particular seeing a cheering Fran C and Mark P amongst others, numerous times along the course.
A memory of descending through the fields down towards Chatsworth and having one of those heavenly moments where the sun is glistening through the clouds, and the shade and sunlight are battling for territory on the ground below and everything feels pretty much perfect.
Then the end, the wonderful descent back down to the finish and feeling a bit emotional, partly from those running chemicals we get in our heads – the reason we run, the reason we race – partly from just being knackered and in pain with bloody knees, and partly, perhaps, because this seemed like it might be the last time we’d get to do this for a while.
Sage Pearce-Higgins of Thames Valley Harriers won the race in 2:28:29, as did our very own Caroline Brock – coming in at 2:47:16 and adding to her surely weighty silverware collection. 32 Striders ran and finished the race, well done to all – some speedy times.
Full race results available here