Race Date: Saturday 13th May 2023
Race Distance 32.6 miles
This is my first longer event of the year and I had been looking forward to it for a while.
The Spire Ultra route largely follows the Chesterfield Round Walk – a waymarked route that circles the town famous for its Crooked Spire. The route surprised me in that I have only really ever seen Chesterfield as that place you drive through to get to the M1 quicker!
I did do an event run by First Light earlier in the year call Snow Moon which was in Chesterfield, (and this route uses about 5% of that one) but half of that was at dusk and in the dark so I never appreciated what Chesterfield could offer!
This route introduced me to an undiscovered trail that was on my doorstep, from the high moorland, ancient woodland, and reservoirs on the western edges to the rolling farmland and restored former mining areas of the eastern fringes. To say there is a lot of variety for its 33 miles is putting it mildly.
The morning was cold and everyone shivered as we went through the morning instructions. The route has some signage, some of it was arrows planted by the race team, most of it you rely on GPS devices, a map, race notes, or in my case (and many others) a few friendly runners who had done the route before and went your pace! (Oh and I did also need a few friendly locals to guide me in the right direction when I was running on my own).
We walked for 5 minutes to the start, waiting in a snicket wondering what was happening and what we were queuing for. Suddenly we heard up ahead (maybe 50 yards) ‘READY, SET, GO’ we look around not moving as we’re still queuing. ‘Do we start out watches now or as we run past the starter?’ I went for the 3rd option, waited until we moved then pressed!
The route followed some great winding paths, through fields of cows (and a lot of cow divots to turn an ankle as well as pats to slide in). There was some great undulating and sometimes steep rises (almost 4000 feet of ascent in total). There were great forest trails, some really well hidden from the sun so were absolute mud bogs. We even ran through backroad gennels and housing estates! It was a real mystery tour of parts of Chesterfield. Also, as you ran across rolling hills you often caught glimpses of ‘The Spire’.
There were 6 aid stations generally placed about every 6 miles, they got better the further you got. Water at all, sweets at all, 3 had what could only be described as a ‘buffet of food choices’ for the hungry ultra runner. The best was at Hundall near the Miners Arms pub. Loads of choice as you reached the table (pizza, potatoes, bhajis, strawberries to name a few) and the marshals had a few pints on the go too. One of the marshals says to me as I get there ‘Have whatever you want!’
Cheeky me replied with ‘I could do with a pint (I actually really wanted one, it had got hot and I had just run up a particularly steep climb)’
The reply was perfect, ‘Knock yourself out mate!’ (I was good and only had a gulp), but what an aid station!
The day had got hot and the last few miles were a good challenge of undulating terrain across lovely fields of yellow.
As the finish came in sight you were met with smiles and cheers from fellow runners and supporters of runners, a wonderful lasting memory to finish to, that.
Summing up, for a small ultra it felt much, much bigger. It was so well organised, marshals were everywhere and brilliant. It was cheap and it was fun. I am definately doing it again!
Fastest male – Michael Kenyon, DRC, (4hour 12 mins) a new course record
Fastest female – Samantha Sanders (5hours 49 mins)
Daniel Abbott finish time 5hours 39 mins – overall position 13
Chris Brown finish time 6hours 23 mins – overall position 35
Total runners at start 89
Full results: https://firstlightadventure.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Spire-Ultra-Results-2023.pdf