Peak Rail 7 – Runner vs Steam race 2023 report

Race date: Monday 10th April 2023

Race report by Laura Rangeley

Peak Rail Runner vs Steam is a 7-mile race organised by Matlock AC, ran mainly on flattish trail-ish sort of terrain from Rowsley to Matlock and back. As well as racing your fellow runners, as the name may suggest there’s also a train involved for an extra challenge!

The race is always held on Easter Monday, which this year happened to fall on our wedding anniversary… and what more romantic way to celebrate 11 years of marriage than by belting round the Derbyshire rail network?!

We had a lovely drive taking in the sights of the Chatsworth estate (including a herd of deer!) and wondering if the rain would hold off (spoiler alert, it didn’t). A well organised start area greeted us with plenty of parking and a speedy number collection point, and we did a bit of slightly soggy mingling with our Strider pals whilst we waited to set off.

There was much excitement at the arrival of the train – a proper choo choo affair (I heard there was some diesel engine based disappointment last year), which was quickly filled up with spectators.

We were ushered over to the start area just in time for the light rain to turn into a deluge (the type that’s so heavy all you can do is look at each other and laugh heartily). Then we were off! I think we were supposed to get a little bit of a head start over the train, but I started near the back of the field and it was really congested, so I only managed to get 200m before being overtaken the first time. The train chugged off into the distance and we followed the side of the tracks for a while before meandering down a very muddy single track path with high fences, which somewhat scuppered keeping an eye on that pesky train (although I could still hear its somewhat haunting whistle). We popped out by a station where it had briefly stopped (I think this may have been Darley Dale), so I was able to catch it back up before the first flight of steps took us to a small out and back section, where it went past me again. This was to be a theme of the race for me.

Running in rain and glasses is a combination that is not my favourite, so visibility was vastly reduced – not ideal on a course that has a couple of sets of steps and a few bits of tricky terrain to navigate. Fortunately I managed to stay upright and this only resulted in a Personal Worst (but incredibly hilarious) race photo where I was captured just as I took a moment to blink the wet out of my eyes. (Note this is not the photo I’m sending in to accompany this report!!)

More trackside gravel path was next, before a level crossing took us briefly onto the road to loop round Matlock station – the leaders were already starting to return by this point so it was nice to do a spot of cheering and take my mind off the rain and the effort! The train kindly waited at Matlock for enough time for me to get a better headstart on it for the return leg of the race. I made it to 4.5 miles before it caught me again which was a nice opportunity for passenger and fellow Strider Pete Brash to get a much better photo of me than the rainy one.

The way back followed the same route, but the added volume of water (and feet) over certain sections added an extra level of mud that my road shoes weren’t quite capable of dealing with, so there was plenty of slip-sliding over the last mile or so.

I knew I wouldn’t beat the train, which was smugly back at the station as I crossed the finish line, but I was very pleased to beat my own goal of 1 hour and Jim beat the train on behalf of Team Rangeley, so we’d earned our lazy afternoon of sherry and tapas to celebrate the rest of our anniversary.

I was very impressed by the choice of race mementos – everyone got a couple of choccy bars and a bottle of water, and then we could pick from a fluorescent yellow race belt (which I went for), a cap (Jim’s choice) or a rather apt umbrella.

222 runners completed the race, which was won by Thomas Shaw of Worksop Harriers in 38.41 and Collette Gains from Dronfield Running Club (46.15). Striders results are below:

Pos Name Time
27 Lee Kenton 48.55
38 Seth Kirby 50.12
39 Malcolm Baggaley 50.17
42 Jim Rangeley 50.27
47 Paddy Treehowes 51.11
TRAIN 53 minutes*
90 John Liddle 55.13
114 Karen Clark 57.59
129 Laura Rangeley 59.25
148 Christine Booth 1.01.57
194 Caroline Brash 1.08.33
204 Rosie Smith 1.11.23
206 Eleanor Bull 1.11.57

*53 minutes (3 minutes quicker than expected, well done train on your PB)

Lee, Seth and Malcolm were also awarded a team prize of a buff and a beer each.

Overall a great friendly race with an extra element of fun/jeopardy – entries are already open for next year if anyone’s a particularly keen bean!

Full results here.


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