Race Date: Sunday 10th September 2023
Race Report by Laura Mella
The Big Dipper is Dronfield RC’s flagship event, and it has a fearsome reputation for being very hard. This reputation is well deserved. The race takes place on closed roads and takes runners out of Dronfield along pretty country lanes with many ups and downs, including a couple of very long climbs, followed by long descents, and then more of the same, repeated until the end, including a brutal uphill finish. Of course. I knew most of the route from previous bike rides, so knew what was coming. I’m not sure if that made it better or worse…
Race HQ was well organised with a nice atmosphere, including bag drop, music, coffee, pizza, doughnuts, and kit suppliers. Runners assembled in the field, and there was a good contingent of Striders, probably largely due to the race’s inclusion in the club Road Championships.
In the days before the race, we experienced some unseasonably hot weather (including the day before which reached 30 degrees), which increased the pre-race nerves considerably. Cue much discussion about fueling, how much water to carry, and identifying the optimum shorts, which need to be both very thin and cool, but also with plenty of pockets (if anyone has found this holy grail of racing attire, I welcome recommendations). Sunday was another warm day, but luckily a bit cooler than Saturday. It was still significantly warmer than ideal, so we were all relieved when it clouded over and there were a few drops of rain as we assembled on the start line.
The race begins with a fairly long downhill section, lulling you into a false sense of security before the real work begins. The first big hill hit hard, and went on forever. The climb was broken up with the first water stop, for which I was massively grateful. I walked while I drank to ensure I actually managed to swallow the water and not just pour it down my front, but then struggled to get going again as the hill continued. It was a huge relief to reach the top and briefly enjoy the view before starting the downhill, but as is often the case, this is where people started passing me, and I also got a very unpleasant stitch that wouldn’t leave me. What comes down must go up, and after catching my breath on the descent, we began to go climb back up another long hill with no end in sight. This hill was made slightly more bearable by the arrival of some light drizzle which provided some much needed refreshment. Once at the top again, we joined the return leg of the route and ran down the previous climb, where I promptly got another stitch and got overtaken by Harry Brown, who had been on my tail since the first climb. I never managed to catch him! The route has a real sting in the tail, finishing on a substantial climb. At this point our wonderful club Chair Helen Smith and Coach Colin Hardy were there providing some much needed encouragement to get us through that last section. Thank you!
Special mention must go to the incredible volunteers on the course. I’ve never seen so many smiley, supportive people on a race before. They were a real credit to the club.
This half marathon felt different to others I have done as I was mentally ticking off climbs, rather than miles. It was nice not to think about my pace and just focus on getting round and keeping going, and I was pretty pleased with the time I managed. At the end, Striders congregated to share war stories, and feedback ranged from “I’m never doing that ever again!” (Emily Green) to “I really enjoyed that!” (Cara Hanson). Something for everyone!
Everyone who completed this race deserves a medal, and luckily we all got a lovely bit of bling and an excellent t-shirt. Hats off to Dronfield RC for organising such a great event. Turnout was sadly quite small (202 finishers) and it probably suffered for clashing with the Great North Run, Vale of York Half, Dig Deep and Nine Edges. It really does deserve support, and I hope it continues to grow in popularity. If you’re thinking of giving it a go next year, do it! They’re only hills, after all. 🙂
The women’s race was won by Striders’ own Abbie Pearse, who not only won but set a massive new course record. Well done Abbie!
Many Striders won prizes for their age categories, with 1st in category receiving a lovely little glass trophy and cash, and 2nd place winning prizes including bobble hats. Well done to Robert Dawson, Jacqui Herring, Paul Bland, Nick Booker, Hannah Holliday and Jo Gleig.
38 Striders were among the 202 finishers who lined up for the Dipper. The men’s race was won by Daniel Haworth of Hallamshire Harriers in a time of 01:15:39. Abbie’s new course record stands at 01:28:27.
Full results can be found on Google Docs via the Dronfield RC website.