Last year I did the 26 mile version of this race. After being a bit frustrated by the amount of gates to open, and my poor finish, I decided to have a go at the half marathon race this time. The courses share the same start and finish with the Trail 13 effectively short cutting the 26 mile race by cutting down off the Calf via Cautley spout, to pick the route back up and circle back to the start finish area.
I had travelled up with my good friend Mark, we both watched the Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp led out of the field closely followed by the first lady. I said to Mark that I doubted she would end up in 2nd overall. Well Charlie (3.37.16) held on to a comfortable win, and Helen Bonsor emphatically proved me wrong, by comfortably holding 2nd position overall (3:49:24). That had to be the run of the day.
The Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp, and Helen Bonsor leading it out.
Most of the 3,200 feet of climbing and descending is in the first half of the race. Then its an undulating trail run with a few gates to open. This year the route near the end was changed to bring the course back to the fell side, rather than out away form the fells to follow the river Rawthey. This included a bit of a sting in the tail in the form of an ever steepening climb. I hadn't recced that part of the course so it was to be a surprise.
Soon enough we were on our way out of the field and up the steep road. Jonathan, and Richard Smith (sponsored athlete) led followed by the other young lad "not to try to keep up with" (Jamie Ankle). So I tried to keep in touch with Jamie as we started climbing up Winder. He maybe had a 50 meter gap at first. But as the climb got steeper near the top I had closed him down and then overtook him. The lead 2 were now fairly distant, maybe 300 meters ahead. When I passed Jamie I thought that we would run together, but we never ran more than a stride together.
Without pushing too hard I pressed on, and by the climb around Arant haw I and the lead 2 caught the back end of the Trail 26. This made it difficult to see where I was in the field. So I decided that it was very likely that 3rd would be the best I could do today. Even the encouragement of some of the Trail 26 guys wasn't likely to improve that. But I decided to reassess when the routes split, and could see only our race. On the last part of the big climbs up the Calf, a spectator warned me that some were catching (or at least I think thats what he said). I did wonder how he could tell. But maybe the differential in pace gave it away to a stationary observer.
As the routes split I couldn't see the first 2. I descended for 200 meters then allowed myself a look back. I figured that I had a 90 second gap to 4th. I took it easy-ish on the steep descent down Cautley. Just before the (only) CP there is a 500 meter out and back to it. just as I started this, on the now rolling trails, Jonathan went the other way with Richard a minute or so behind. Looking at their cadence and feeling a bit of leg fatigue. It confirmed that they were gone.
7 miles in, getting back to tempo paced running
The black circle (black line) is me rejoining the route, Just as 4th and 5th go straight down to the road! and Jonathan is about to win.
Back on course I was fairly sure that they wouldn't have passed me. But still had a niggling doubt. On the last bit of fell before entering the same bit of road we ran up, I asked the Marshall's and they confirmed 3rd. I needn't have worried as the now 4th place guy (Mark Tiptrot) finished over 8 minutes later (2.08.32).
As I ran the last bit of the road, I felt a tinge of disappointment that I was going to just miss sub 2 hours. But I was happy with 3rd overall out of 163. I felt that without the mistake my time would have been more like 1.56 instead of my finish time of 2.00.48.
The Route change makes this a much better course. I really enjoyed it. Jonathan Cox won for the 3rd time in a row in 1.49.33, and Richard Smith was 2nd in 1.52.19.