Saddleworth 10 Res Fell Marathon (plus a bit) – 2nd March 2024

Race report by Darrel Porter

In the final months of 2023 someone (looking at you Cara Hanson) suggested that this little fell race know as the Saddleworth 10 Res might be fun. Later that night I’d signed up and after a few discussions in the pub so had a few more striders, 1200m ascent, 27 miles over Saddleworth Moors in early March, how hard could it be…

Fast-forward to the morning of the 2nd March 2024, Cara, Steve, Rob, Regan, Pippa the dog and I are stuffed in Cara and Regan’s car on our way to Saddleworth Rangers Rugby club in Greenfields. The weather was ominous, reports had suggested snow on the high ground and it looked like there might be low cloud. Driving over we passed checkpoint 2 of the race and yep, there was snow… a lot of snow.

We arrived at the club early as Regan and Pippa were setting off with the walkers (they set off at 8, the runners at 9), but the carpark was full, we had no problem finding on street parking nearby though. Once at the club we had a brief kit check where they asked for you to present 2 items from the kit list, I got compass and waterproof trousers, and then registration. Here we met Josie and John Rawlinson (also setting off with the walkers).

The pre-race atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation, but very friendly, tea and toast were freely available and made for a great pre-race snack. Shortly before the race was due to start we had a 5 min walk to the start line where they gave us a pre-race talk, apparently there had been a few small changes to the route due to some of the stream crossings being a bit more perilous than anticipated. Then with minimal fanfare we were off.

We quickly passed through the village where we got a view of where we were headed, those fells looked high! Before long we’d left the roads and hit trails, I’d left the other striders at this point settling into a comfortable pace of about 5.30-6 min kms. On easy trails we quickly rounded the first three reservoirs of Dove Stones, Yeoman Hay and Greenfields. It was here that we left the easy trails and found ourselves scrambling over boulders up between crags, it was pretty much a bottleneck here with few opportunities to pass, which was a bit of a shame as I love this type of terrain, the drop in pace was probably for the best though considering what was to come. The stream led to checkpoint 1 were we dibbed in and then followed the flagged round further through the boulder field and then up. This hill was almost climbing, I knew it was going to be steep, but it was a proper hands and feet scramble, great fun! At the top of the hill we entered another climate zone, suddenly it was cold and snowy where below it had been quite mild and wet. The route crossed a flat-ish section of moorland with our first taste of bogs and plenty of snow and then to checkpoint 2 and the first aid station.

I didn’t linger at the aid station, just grabbed some fruit pastles and a couple of jaffa cakes to eat on the move. The jaffa cakes were okay, but not really what my stomach wanted and sadly the fruit pastles were frozen solid which made eating them a bit of a challenge! The route over White Moss, largely followed a stone flagged path and made for some fast running, even in the snow, but here I discovered the first hidden surprise. Up here there puddles are not just puddles. Running with a small group we all ran through a smallish puddle, but one woman chose a path just slightly to the right of me and disappeared up to her chest in icy water and mud. I stopped and pulled her out, with this new hazard noted. After this there was quite a boggy few kilometres before we hit the Pennine Way again. As we slowly gained height the snow and cloud got thicker and the temperature dropped, I think at some point here I passed Regan and Pippa . After a long steady climb we finally made it to the Wessenden Head and a much needed aid station. I topped up my water here and ate jam sandwiches, I also took a moment to put on my waterproof jacket over the top of my windbreaker as it was really getting cold. Now for the climb to Black hill.

After some bog dodging and trotting we hit the black hill climb, a very steep climb in total white-out conditions! Each step forward slipped a few inches back, exhausting!  There was a bit of a plateau where we turned off the Pennine Way again, it was very boggy, I got stuck in one up to my knees and waved the runners from the Calder Valley Fell Runners who I’d been chatting with around a different way. I dragged myself out of the bog, but the sudden stop and drop into freezing mud cramped up both my calves, ouch! A brief stretch and I was good to go again. This section proved to be pretty relentless bogs, but it slowly trended downhill and I had great fun careening down the rocky, muddy descents down through Hey Moss. Eventually we reached the old disused quarry at the bottom of Hey Edge, we skirted the edge of the quarry and then down a very steep decent, that was way too steep to run. From here it was a short downhill run to heaven (Aid station 3)!

What a place, aid station 3 or checkpoint 8 or heaven… I was feeling a little destroyed by now, bogs, cold, snow, massive climbs and steep descents. The volunteers here were super friendly and they had whiskey, a selection of two single malts they even had beer and a great selection of snacks. I spent a few minutes here to collect myself and enjoy the whiskey. I don’t think I will ever visit a better aid station. Turns out quite a lot of people dnf’d here and I don’t blame them, because what came next was the real challenge!

After a bit of a climb out of Cowden we reached the climb to Laddow Rocks. The biggest climb of the day, about 300m of very steep rocky path, I slowed a lot on this section, my legs barely had it in them. At the top a few of us took a slight wrong turn and followed the trail over Laddow Rocks instead of Laddow Moss, but I quickly spotted that we’d gone off route and we were able to cut across a section off moorland back to the intended trail. Here began bog-pocalypse! A section of open moorland to Chew Reservoir that was one solid peat bog. This was that toughest running I’ve ever done, every step was into thick mud, every puddle was ready to swallow you to your waist, happened to me at least once. It was tough physically and mentally, but everyone was laughing and giggling like loons, pulling each other out of bogs, falling over and having a great time! Eventually it came to and end, we passed Chew Reservoir and the trail became road for a fast, steep downhill and then back to trail towards the finish. It was here that I had a real energy crash, I just had to walk for a bit even though it was flat, easy trails. One runner that I’d been running with since the Cowden caught me up and gave me a Mountain Fuel gel, we chatted for a few minutes before he ran off (shame I didn’t catch his name for a shout out!). Anyway the gel was like rocket fuel, after about five minutes I was running again, and had a great final few kilometres to the finish!

Back at the Rangers club, there was free Pie and Peas, tea and a bar as well as showers! It was great chatting with all the runners I’d met on the way and one thing was unanimous, it was brutally tough, but absolutely awesome! After a while John arrive then Steve Cara, Rob and Josie came in. We all agreed that it was fantastic. Well done to all the runners (and walkers) who completed, just getting to the end was a huge achievement and a massive thanks to Craggrunner and all the volunteers for putting on such a well organised event I’ll definitely be checking out their other races and will re-visit this next year I think!

Striders results

Name Position Time Age Category
Darrel Porter 68 05.40:49 M40
John Rawlinson (walker) 198 07.23:39 M55
Josie Hill 201 07.25:53 F40
Cara Hanson 202 07.25:56 F40
Steve Blake 205 07.26:24 M45
Mark Warriner (walker) 298 12.00:33 M45


Full results:here

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