Dark Peaks 14

When I first saw this race I spent far to long debating if I should enter the 14 mile race or the marathon race. I knew I could cover both distances, but I also know how random the weather can be in this part of the country so I decided to play it safe and go for the 14 mile race. I wish I hadn't. I so wish I had booked the marathon, but that was the risk I took.

It wasn't because the race was bad, but more because I enjoyed it so much. I didn't want to stop at 14 mile, I wanted to continue on for a bit longer. I wanted to soak in that winter sun, that fresh air and that gorgeous scenery. I wanted to be out there for as long as possible, and not simply finish at 14 miles. As it was those 14 miles were quite simply, epic!

We had got to registration with plenty of time to spare, and passed kit check with a 'better to take too much than too little' approach which meant we had enough time for some cake and chance to study the map one final time. The downside however is that when you recall the race starting at 9.30 and then the starting horn sounds at 9.15, whilst you are still eating your cake and studying the map, not the best start to a race. A rather quick scramble to secure bags, stuff cake in face and attempt to catch up with the back runners who are some distance in front.

The rushed start seemed to help as it gave a good starting point for the laughs that followed. A nice steady pace running out of Langsett and up into the peaks. Beautiful. We began over taking the back runners, falling naturally into a comfy talking pace, stopping to take photos and admire the view. Realising that 5km had already gone in the blink of an eye, and that suddenly everyone had disappeared from view.

The terrain rocky underfoot, frozen mud and for the majority of the route lots of ice. It made for a good slip, run, walk routine up until the down hill where all caution was thrown and gravity took over. Fast running, brain working over time working out where to place feet, jump, leap, scramble over the rocks. Avoiding frozen puddles, and deep mud. A pure adrenaline descent with sharp turns as to not fall off the edge, a complete worry about it later attitude has to be taken, phenomenal views at every turn.

Tracks and paths to follow, the gps on the watch working well to guide and a compass as back up just in case. Rivers to leap across, boggy mud to navigate over and a rather easy path to run on on the approach to half way. Laughing at the signs which say 'Caution, steep descent' before realising actually how accurate. Half way point.

Up through the forest. Narrow forest path, feeling slightly enclosed. Spongy ground underfoot, the kind you either get a spring from or it zaps you completely. Upwards and onward. Out onto the top, looking for the marker to turn right. Not knowing what the marker looked like but hazarding a guess based on the gpx file on the watch. 

In front lies a beast of a hill covered in mist. Up we go one step at a time. Now one crawl at a time. The incline gets steeper and steeper. The wind picking up and blowing the cold mist. Colder the further up. The wind stronger. Hands are now needed to aid with the climbing, a real scramble up to the top. Off path slightly, try to correct with navigation. Back on track on the tops. The wind blowing strong. The air freezing, bitterly cold. Face frozen.

The wind drops in places creating a false sense of warmth before rapidly picking up again. Onward. Waiting for the point in the route which rejoins where we have already been. The map says it is straight ahead but there appears to be no obvious path. Out of nowhere it appears. A quick compass bearing to check and the journey continues over the frozen path. Watching the ice and rocks, slippy underfoot. Jumping the bogs and the mud. Getting stuck. Laughing hard.

Right turn ahead for the last part of the course, past the sheep who look on with bemusement. Up again and the reservoir slowly creeps into view in front. A marathon runner whizzes past, a friendly marshal directs us up through the trees. Ahead lies a decorated Christmas tree.

Looking for the road, the only part of the run on road. The monotony of tarmac approaches. Winding road up the hill and back down, the reservoir in front. Over the bridge and a turn left back into the park.

Final stretch ahead. Through the trees before a right turn. One steep climb remains to the finish. 

The finish  approached too fast, can we do it again please?

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