A Journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step

Report on the High Peak Marathon for Headway - March 2005 High Peak Marathon

SM Club team: Bob Sanders, Martin Newman, Colin Watts, Phil Carlisle.

It had been snowing and there were rumours of it lying up to 6' in some of the gullies on Bleaklow moor. I was not feeling nervous but maybe I should have as I was starting to think this was probably a bigger undertaking than I had imagined.
With our Headway running vests we did at least look like a team. It was a cold but clear night with a steady, chilling wind. The temperature was estimated at minus 2 plus a 5 degree wind chill.

Teams were leaving at one minute intervals from 11:00 pm and as we headed to the first checkpoint, we were overtaken by several teams who had taken a more direct route. The going was quite good and our plan of walking up the hills and running the flats and down hills, taking extra care on muddy downs, was working well. A longish road section took us to High Neb, where the marshals told us there were only about 8 teams behind us. We had been over taken by 22 but we were not put off and pushed on.

We were greeted at the next major checkpoint, Moscar, with hot orange drinks and food. It was 2:35 am and still cold, clear and windy. Heading to the checkpoint at Derwent Edge, we made another mistake in our route finding costing us yet more time. Then disaster struck.

On the run down to the Lost Lad checkpoint Phil took a hard fall. Shakily we walked him the short distance to the checkpoint to inspect his injuries. He had two big bumps on his head and had badly gashed his knee; there was no way we could continue as a team and disappointingly our chances of officially completing the race were over. We waited for daylight for a very cold hour in the marshal's tent and then together walked slowly down to where Phil could be evacuated by road. Although we had officially retired from the race I and the other two team members agreed to carry on as far as we could.

Leaving Phil in the safe hands of the evacuation team we ran back alongside the reservoirs and regained the route at Cut Gate, the next but one checkpoint. We met several teams coming down as they too had missed the cut off time at the checkpoints but undeterred we carried on, walking to Outer Edge and then Swains Head checkpoints, the breaking crusts of snow making the going very hard and impossible to run.

At Swains Head we were told that the checkpoints at Snake Pass were closing shortly as the last teams had gone through, and with reports of driving snow and hail on the moor we took the advice of the marshals and opted to go back down alongside the Derwent to Slippery Stones to where a pickup vehicle awaited us.

Although we did not complete the route the distance run was almost as far.

HPM route to Phil's fall - 26.2km
Evacuation to the valley - 4.0km
Continuation to our pick up - 23.0km
Total - 53.2km
The HPM planned distance - 64km

The distance covered was only about 10km less than the HPM route so although we had not run the actual route we had almost run the full distance. It proved to us all that we had been fit enough.

The checkpoint at Snake Pass looking north towards Bleaklow
View north from the check point at Snake Pass the direction we would have come from had we had not retired. We arrived back at the village hall HQ at Edale at around 3:30 and with dozens of other tired folk drank tea and ate the wonderful spread provided. It wasn't long before we had revived sufficiently to start talking about the route, where we could improve and most importantly how much better we would do next year.

Despite not completing the race, all our sponsors have been generous and have contributed the funds they committed to. Only half of the 50 teams who entered completed the course, so we were not the only ones to retire.