The High Peak Marathon is an over-night mountain marathon for teams of four. It takes the Peaks longest, toughest route ,following a route based on the Derwent Watershed, it is a classic 40 mile bog-trot around the wildest part of the Peak District . Funny then that the race is always oversubscribed !!
For this event I teamed up with other members of our Camracers adventure racing club ; Russ Ladkin (excellent navigator), Jason Wray (impressive in his rookie year) and Andy Rankin (a lot of you will know is an excellent ultra runner). We started at 11:34pm friday night expecting to have a good event, the weather was going to be kind (low wind, no snow or sleet, temperatures above freezing) we were all up for it and had travelled up early so we were rested and prepared.
It's a great start to a race, from the village hall at Edale teams set off at one minute intervals and after a short run along a road there is a 3km /300m climb passed Hollins Cross and up to Lose Hill. There is a procession of white headtorches stretching right along the top of the ridge - quite a sight.
The next few hours is spent 'valley hopping' Win Hill onto High Neb and then comes a welcome refreshment stop at Moscar. Tea, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits - a welcome energy boost before the hardest leg.
It will be 5 1/2 hours before our next refreshment stop so at 2am we started the long slog up Derwent Edge towards the dreaded Howden Moors. The terrain here changes dramatically, it starts nicley enough - some runnable mountain singletrack through bleak & windswept moorland but then as the mist descends you enter the bog trotting moorlands of Howden, Bleaklow and Coldharbour moors. Navigation here is very tricky as you move through deep rutted moorland and on through deep, mudsucking bogs where every step could be an 'ankle breaker'. It is here in the early hours of the morning, before the sun comes up, that you really have to dig deep. This is always where teams are at their lowest, and we were no exception, this is a hard race.
There is a huge sense of relief when you navigate to (or stumble across in our case !) the path that exits the moorland and leaves the bogs behind. Firstly, you know nothing in front of you is as hard as it was behind you, second, the sun is just about coming up (a new day always gives you a big psychological boost) and finally you can smell the sandwiches, tea and cake waiting for you at Snake Pass. A big shout out to all the volunteers here who man the refreshments for some 15 hours during the event - brilliant.
Its only 3 hours from here home (only !!), the sun is up, the terrain is runnable, you've had your breakfast, the scenery is fantastic - life is very good at this point. There is a great scenic route that runs to the west of Kinder Scout over the Cluther Rocks, then its back to Edale via Brown Knoll and Mam Tor.
What I liked about this event is that you get to experience every bit of terrain the peaks has to offer, it is without doubt a tough race but all the teams have so much fun doing it. It is long enough to experience real highs and lows and teamwork plays a big part in keeping going. We came 7th out of 43 that finished, with only one complete team not finishing and 4 other incomplete teams finishing.(a testiment to the level of experience and tenacity shown by everyone who enters)
My advice - if you get the chance, don't think about it just do it !!