Hathersage Hurtle – 18th May 2024

Race Report by Laura Rangeley


Hathersage Hurtle is a popular 20 mile mixed terrain race in the Hope Valley with 2,800 feet of ascent. So popular that it filled up really quickly, before I realised I wanted to do it! It was the perfect last long training run opportunity for me before my upcoming first ever ultra, which has a relatively similar ratio of climb across the 32 mile route, so I’d been eagerly on the lookout for places opening back up since early in the year. Three weeks before Hurtle Day, I finally managed to book on, which suddenly then didn’t feel like quite enough time to prepare! Deep down though I knew I was ready for a race of this distance and was really looking forward to a great day out in the hills. My plan was to take it nice and steady, practising my fuelling and with the ultimate aim of getting to the end thinking “I’d absolutely LOVE to run almost another half marathon right now!”.
…and then the car park flooded, race logistics were thrown into disarray and the start was delayed, meaning I didn’t have the time to take it nice and steady before my pre-booked dinner reservation later that evening. I could have set off earlier with the walkers, but would then be forever recorded on the internet as “a walker”, which didn’t feel testament to the amount of effort I’d be putting in to run at least some of it! The extra half hour before the mass start for runners gave me ample opportunity to gently panic about my kit, outfit choice, if I needed another wee and if I had enough suncream on (it was a MUCH hotter and clearer day than had been forecast), which I’m sure fellow Striders Laura M and Colin – on his long off-road race debut – and my pal Sam from HRRC really enjoyed being witness to (their company was a big help regardless!).
Eventually we were ushered to the start – a sort-of oval loop around a field to spread us all out a bit before a bottleneck climb about 300m in. I’d been warned about this, and given my new time constraints set off in a very ambitious position indeed, which I reckon saved me a good few minutes but isn’t the sort of race etiquette I’d generally employ! The first few miles are a relatively gentle but very long climb across Offerton Moor and up to Shatton Mast – I ran well over this section, in hindsight I’d set off a bit too fast especially given the heat of the day, but the views were excellent and despite the additional time pressure I’d put on myself I quite liked this part. A steep-ish descent followed on country roads (I reckon there’s too much tarmac to call the Hurtle a trail race), with the pretty village of Brough and a checkpoint at the bottom of the hill. Coming to an abrupt stop for the checkpoint did something a bit funny to me and the next section was a struggle, I felt a little dizzy and got a stitch which I never really got rid of. It felt like a slog to reach the next checkpoint at the bottom of the Thornhill Trail, which was the first opportunity to top up water. As it was so warm, it took a few minutes to get through the checkpoint as we were all queuing to fill up our soft flasks, but the volunteers were fab and got us moving as quickly as possible.
An unexpected boost got me through the next few miles due to the arrival of my husband Jim, who was having his first go with running poles on the hills around Bamford as part of his recovery from a recent nasty fall, which had sadly scuppered his chances of taking part in the Lake District’s Old County Tops the same weekend. I was so pleased to see him as I was feeling pretty grumpy to be honest and knew the worst part of the route was still to come. So a chat and a run-walk in very welcome shade meant the Thornhill Trail passed quickly, and in no time at all we reached the bottom of New Road and almost the half way point of the race. Jim fed me a few sweets and some much needed words of encouragement on the first part of the hill before skipping off down the fields to Bamford and the pub. My plan was to walk this part, refuel, take on fluid and get to the top feeling refreshed and ready to go again.
If you’ve never climbed from Yorkshire Bridge to Stanage via New Road before, my advice would be to simply not. This section was horrid. A seemingly never-ending climb, on tarmac, in full sun. After a couple of miles of relentless “urgh”, I received a photo from Jim of a pint of shandy which I still don’t think I’ve forgiven him for and the road started to level slightly, so I attempted a jog. I immediately got cramp in both my quads, which has never happened before and I’m still a little puzzled as to why as I felt I was well hydrated and fuelled. I still had almost half the race to go, and Stanage Edge was looming in front of me. Another feed station provided an opportunity to get half a banana, which I took one nibble of and decided I didn’t want (but knew I needed to eat), which pushed me over the edge (metaphorically only, I hasten to add). I had a little cry and took a photo of the view to remind me of my baby emo moment later on. Seeing the woman directly in front of me also gently weeping actually somehow made me feel a bit better that I wasn’t the only one and I got a bit of a stomp on to get to the top. Taking stock, I looked at my watch and realised that even if I walked the entirety of the rest of the race (a strong possibility given the state my quads were in) I’d still probably be under my five hour goal which also helped. The rock hopping of Stanage is really hard when your legs don’t want to work, so I was more tentative than usual but cheered up due to at least feeling like I was properly off road! I’d also started to catch up with some of the walkers by this point so there was more chance to chat to those around me and get back into something resembling enjoying the day. I also saw a parrot! I briefly wondered if it was possible to start hallucinating at such an early stage in my new life as a fledgling ultra runner before being reassured by others around me exclaiming “A PARROT!”.
Anyway, Stanage Edge is also Really Very Long (apparently the longest gritstone edge in England) but eventually the trig point was in sight and the descent to Burbage Bridge commenced. The terrain remained pretty technical here but I managed to actually start running again, which I was able to sustain for the last 10k of the race. This final third was by far my favourite – a lovely gentle trail across Burbage before reaching the Longshaw Estate (an incredibly polite young lad at the last checkpoint gave me some squash here, which was one of the best things I’ve ever drunk) and a fun, blissfully cool pelt down Padley Gorge where I possibly even managed something resembling a hurtle. The final few miles followed the banks of the River Derwent through some nice fields, and as my watch ticked towards 20 miles I just had long enough to wonder where the hell the finish line was when a final small stretch of road returned me back to the football fields we’d registered in. My relief was shortlived thanks to a very cheery marshal who merrily exclaimed “just a lap round the field and you’re done!”. Now a lap of the field is tough at the best of times but frankly after 20 miles I think it’s unnecessary and bordering on cruel. I plodded my way round like a very hot potato in flamingo shorts, and was cheered over the finish line by Josie, who’d been part of the fantastic volunteer team for the day. I was amazed to finish in my ‘A’ goal of sub 4:30 (just!). Reader, I did not want to run a further half marathon.
There was no medal, but there was an absolutely gigantic piece of very delicious orange cake and I treated myself to an event t-shirt, emblazoned on the back with “Show Us Your Grit”, which felt pretty apt to me. Whilst I didn’t really get what I wanted out of the race on this occasion, I did feel really proud of myself for keeping going (at no point did I actually feel like I needed to, or wanted to stop) and ultimately exceeding my own expectations of what I could achieve. I’m not a person to whom running comes naturally, so attitude is important, and I learned a lot about myself during this race. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I’m taking plenty of positivity (and a shiny new 20 mile PB!) from it regardless.
Striders results: 
Position Name Time Age Category
26 Alex Shepherd 3.05.53 M50
33 David Naisbitt 3.11.32 M55
147 Laura Mella 3.58.13 F40
148 Colin Hardy 3.58.15 M45
185 John Rawlinson 4.11.28 M55
217 David Bocking 4.24.48 M60
228 Laura Rangeley 4.27.13 F35
The race was won by Samuel Hirschmann (no club listed) in 2.30.21 and Suzanne McGill of Penistone Footpath Runners in 2.49.09. There were 463 finishers.
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