Race date: Sunday, 19 January, 2020; race distances: 10.6km and 25.6km
Race report by Jennie Stevens
Wildest Peaks is a high level/moorland winter trail running event with a choice of long (25.6 km) and short (10.6 km) routes starting and finishing at the Longshaw Estate. It’s run by Dark & White Events, and is now in its 4th year.
Last year I did the short route – it was my very first trail race and the start of my move away from road and onto the fells. It snowed last year, and the because of this the second part of the long route was closed and instead the long route runners had to do two laps of the short course. Not a fan of laps, I was dreading that it might happen again this year. Fortunately this was not to be. The forecast was perfect and the Peak District at its winter best – sunny, blue skies, a frost on the ground.
As is the case with all Dark & White events, the race had staggered start times and I had chosen the last start window of 09:30. On the morning of the race I still hadn’t decided whether to run in my trail shoes or Mudclaws so had taken both along with me, but thinking trail was probably the way to go. A quick check with Ollie, one of the organisers, cemented this decision so I laced up my trail shoes and headed down the road to the start.
The route initially heads from Longshaw to Burbage car park and then up onto Higger Tor. As usual, my goal was to meet the gold challenge timing which meant I needed to finish within 02:40 at a pace of 10 minute miles. That seemed well within my capabilities, but this was the longest race I’d ever done bar one, so I decided just to run at a comfortable pace and only check my watch in the latter half of the race.
I passed a good few people in the first few miles but I wasn’t pushing hard. I settled in behind a seasoned-looking pair and ran with them for a while, before passing them on the descent of Higger Tor. It was cold, and the ground was still frozen at this point.
Further down towards Grindleford I came across a man who seemed to be having difficulties and asked him if he was ok. Turned out he had Mudclaws on and was regretting his decision, ‘I’ve worn the wrong shoes’ he said. Running smugly on in my trail shoes, it was only about a mile later when out of nowhere I did a face-plant and ended up with a mouthful of dirt, a bloody knee, a bleeding elbow and a hole in my brand new Inov-8 top! ‘That’s karma for feeling smug’, I thought, and vowed to feel more sympathetic next time!
The race continued up to and along Froggatt and Curbar Edge. The winter sun was low and I had to concentrate really hard on the ground as it was hard to see the rocks in the sun. By the time we were descending to the feed station at about 7 miles, it had really warmed up and the ground was becoming soft. I was out on my own now, no-one else in sight except for a man about 30m behind me. I was having to keep alert for course arrows as I am terrible for getting in the zone and going the wrong way! I kept checking behind me to see if the man was still following. Fortunately I got it right.
I was suddenly in familiar territory as I was following a route I’d taken the week previous during Peak Raid. It was a very boggy track off Big Moor and I passed a fair few runners who seemed not to want to get their feet wet! Up onto Totley Moor and the bog and wet became the norm. The frozen ground of earlier that day was gone and the last slog made for hard, wet running.
I was going at a steady pace at this point but I was tired. It was the last couple of miles and I knew I was well within the gold timing window so didn’t think I needed to push harder. But I heard someone coming up fast behind me, and after first stumbling into a bog, she and another runner overtook me. It was the aforementioned ‘seasoned pair’ who I overtook in the early stages of the race, and I found out shortly after the finish that this was our own Amy Duck’s sister! I followed her down the last stretch towards Longshaw, unable to catch her but finishing well within time at 02:24:57.
All in all this was a very enjoyable race and a lovely route, one which I’ll do again. It fills quickly (they had a waiting list of 100+), so best to book early if you fancy it yourself.
The long race was won by Marcin Zaleski of Matlock Athletics Club in 01:59:16. First lady was Lucy Wassage in 02:20:16. 194 runners finished the course, including 5 Striders. The short race was won by Andy Tarry of North Derbyshire, in 51:31. First lady was Jessica Fawcett in 1:00:06. 82 finished, including two Striders.