By: Cara Hanson.
Race Date: 3rd February 2024.
Venue: Hardwick, Derbyshire.
The Hardwick Hobble is a 6 hour endurance event organised by Rasselbock Running. It’s held in the grounds of the Hardwick Estate, they also have a spring and autumn version of the event. The aim is to run as many 6.5 km loops as you can in 6 hours.
I entered this for a bit of fun and to just use it as a training run for future events, so I didn’t taper properly like I normally would. My aim was to do 8 loops totaling 50k.
I woke up on the morning of race with the symptoms of a cold, and stiff legs. Maybe I should have tapered after all. Luckily coffee and paracetamol made me feel human again. I travelled down with fellow strider and loop enthusiast Brian Jenkins.
The race village consisted of a feed station, drink station, a bag drop and a few Portaloos. The loop would start and end here so we had everything we could need. The feed station was pretty generous with loads of sweets, savouries, cakes and fruit, but Brian and I agreed it wasn’t a patch on the Dusk ‘till Dawn feed station, I mean where were the potatoes?
After bumping into more striders Darren and Karen we were off on loop 1.
Why is breathing hard? Why is everything aching? Why is there so much mud? The route was really lovely, a nice mix of woodland, fields, tracks and a little bit of tarmac (for Brian), we even got a hill “included for free on every loop”. My favourite bit was the grassy downhill with lots of sheep on it, it had the potential to be fast and fun. But why hadn’t I considered that the route would be so muddy? Finishing the loop in about 42 minutes, and knowing the mud would get worse, and we were more likely to get slower rather than faster, I decided 8 loops probably wouldn’t be possible so Brian and I both agreed 7 would be more achievable.
Breathing was no longer hard and it was only my left foot that was aching a bit. I’d learnt from loop 1 where to walk and where to run like a penguin in the mud. As we got to the hill we got overtaken by someone who looked like he was gliding up with ease, yes we’d been lapped already! At the top we were greeted by a herd of cows and a marshal telling us to walk so they didn’t chase us. Obviously we obliged, it wouldn’t be much fun getting hunted down by a cow.
My left foot had stopped aching but my right foot had started, but this was short lived. The mud was already getting worse and there were slip marks scattered around along with a few muddy bums. There was a section so bad that runners opted to climb along a gate, I just thought “sod it I’ll get muddy socks”. At least the cows had now gone, in hot pursuit of a tractor.
Brian and I had separated now and I found myself running this one alone, bar getting lapped. I was feeling good and was run/walking in the same places. The muddy sections had got slower but that meant the other sections were faster and I finished in the same time.
Now I was feeling a sweaty horrible mess and was aching again, but somehow maintaining the pace. I was longing for my Mudclaws to get through the mud easier. At the end of this loop, I changed my top, took more paracetamol and put my music on whilst stuffing my face with sausage rolls.
Now I felt amazing, the change of top made me feel so much fresher and the countdown was on. The big muddy uphill section was getting muddier-and-muddier and slower-and-slower but the downhills and flats had got faster. On the last section I came across a runner who was bending over on the side of the road, I stopped to help him. He was on his 9th lap and had crashed-and-burned, I gave him some water and sweets and another runner walked him back to the start. It makes you realise how hard some people push.
I got back at 1.45pm, 75 minutes to do 2, 42 minute loops to get to 50k, the maths didn’t add up. So I was definitely stopping at 7.
The last lap! Hooray! I was tired but had last lap energy and did this one the fastest, it especially helped seeing Nada and Neil at the top of the last hill. I had 1k to go and they were following me in the car, normally this might be creepy but it really spurred me on to the finish.
I completed 27.5 miles, is this technically an ultra or just a long marathon? [that’ll be an Ultra. Ed.]
Would I have managed 8 loops in Mudclaws? Maybe, but I wasn’t wearing Mudclaws, so I’ll never know, unless I do it again.
I probably would do it again. It really is a beautiful quiet pace and a brilliantly organised small event.