A View From The Back: Whitehall Wiggle

by Pete Fotheringham

Sometimes being wrong is OK – misreading a map, ignorance, and not doing a recce can sometimes be blessings in disguise. But more of that later…

The Whitehall Wiggle is my first real race in this year’s club championship: Lyme Parkrun and the Pavilion Gardens 5k are timed runs rather than races (and being a road event, the latter has no place in any civilised club championship 🙂 At least it’s the only one I have to do this year). It’s the first time this year that my running mantra – “You’re doing this to enjoy yourself, no need to rush, it’s not a race!” – doesn’t quite work. Still, it’s only a mantra – I don’t think there’s any legal requirement for running mantras to be strictly correct, so we’ll let it go.

An athlete prepares…

There’s a good turnout of Striders, and fifty-odd other runners, milling about in the centre, pinning on numbers, chatting about race tactics and split times, and eyeing up the impressive display of cakes waiting to be consumed after the race. As the clock nears 11:00, we head away from the cakes, outside for the start. The race starts at the back of the Whitehall Centre, runs along Old Road for a while until it heads off-road for an anti-clockwise lap of Ladder Hill, taking in the track of Long Lane and a bit more of Old Road, then a lovely long down hill into Combs village, before heading back up to the finish at Whitehall (and the cakes).

Not long till the cakes…

Soon after the start, I’m in my customary position, getting on first name terms with the tail runner – hello Nigel – and plodding along happily. There’s a friendly Strider face in sight though, and Melanie Watts and I swap places a few times, with me slightly faster on the downhills, but Mel faster on the flat and the uphills. The running is grand on the tour of Ladder Hill, with not too much walking on the uphills. And the downhill into Combs is great, except for the big dark cloud on the horizon (a metaphorical one, the actual weather is lovely).

A view from the back, of Ladder Hill

As most Striders will know, looking across to Combs and Chapel from Ladder Hill, the view is dominated by the sight of Combs Edge, looming intimidatingly from Castle Naze all the way round to somewhere above the Whitehall Centre. I didn’t do a recce for the Wiggle, because I know the area quite well, from running, and from staying with friends who lived just down the road from Whitehall when we moved up from London many years ago. I did spend some time studying the route map though, working out where the race went as it lapped Ladder Hill, and noting the long descent into Combs. I didn’t look too closely at the rest of the route – obviously it’s going to be uphill, because we’ve got to get back to Whitehall, but I don’t want to know the details. I’ll probably be walking, and with luck the marshals won’t have given up and gone home by the time I get there. Mostly though, I didn’t want to think about it because – for no good reason that I can think of looking back on it – I’ve convinced myself that the route must go up onto Combs Edge, and that does look like a horribly long climb, and I hope all the cake won’t have gone by the time I finish.

So as I’m flying (poetic licence) down the road into Combs, I’m trying – and failing – to stop myself looking over at the Alpine Himalayan-scale climb to Combs Edge, thinking (and swearing to myself) about how hard and unpleasant it’s going to be, wondering how long it’s going to take to get all the way up there, and whether there will be any cakes left if I do.

I’m not looking forward to going up there… Luckily, I don’t have to

Imagine my surprise and delight when a friendly marshal (is there any other kind?) smilingly directs me up a track that leads away from Combs Edge, and climbs at a pleasantly runnable – even for me – gradient, through a couple of farms to a flattish stretch, and possibly even some downhill, before the final steep – not runnable – pull up the hill back to the centre. It’s a long enough uphill for Mel to overtake me again, and build a lead too big for me to pull back on the last short downhill to the finish (and the cakes), but nowhere near as tough as the climb to Combs Edge would have been. Sometimes being wrong is OK…

The cakes were worth the effort too, especially that flapjack which contained just enough oats to hold the huge amounts of syrup and sugar into a vaguely solid cuboid: my best sugar buzz of the year so far!

There were some great performances by the participating Striders, with Nathan Porter in 11th place, beating Aidan Grant in 12th by just 2 seconds. That would have been fun to watch, but I was a little too far back to have a good view. Special mentions for Rebecca Sullivan – 1st Lady Of A Certain Age – and Mike Hudson – 1st Gent Significantly Older Than The Ladies Of A Certain Age. I hope they both enjoyed the bottles of wine they won (although as Mike had to leave before prize giving and Helen Parry offered to take Mike’s bottle for him, he may not have seen it). Due to an oversight, there was again no prize for 1st Gent With A Coronary Stent And A Couple Of Screws In His Leg, so I went away happy, but empty-handed (apart from another piece of that flapjack).

Thanks to the Thomas Theyer Foundation and the Whitehall Centre for putting on a great race. Thanks too to all the volunteers and marshals who made the event run so smoothly. And special thanks to whoever made that flapjack. Whether or not the race is in next year’s championship (I’m sure it will be), I’d recommend everyone to turn up. If you don’t fancy running, I’m sure they’d welcome some help marshalling. Or just turn up to support and cheer the runners on. Did I mention that the cakes are very good? See you there next year.

Facts, figures and links
– Distance: 10.75km / 6.72 mile
– Elevation gain: 433m / 1,429 ft
The route
On Relive
Race results
The Thomas Theyer Foundation

The Four Inns 2019 – Team 5

By Chris Tetley

Late in 2018 an idea was formed to have a run for 40 miles or so, to celebrate Sarah’s 40th Birthday. And so the idea became a reality.

The Four Inns is a 40 mile race organised by Derbyshire Scouts and has been running each year since 1957. The route starts at Holmbridge and takes in the high moors of the Dark Peak, passing Black Hill, Crowden, Bleaklow, Kinder, Edale, Rushup, Chapel, Stakeside and Buxton.

So who were Team 5? Chris Bowen was the team leader, with myself, Shaun Hall and Matt Walker; our team name was the Extra Stooges. In Sarah Fanthorpe-Smith’s team were Roy Whittle, James Hobson and Neilio Colquhoun; team name was Mrs P and the Stooges. Arriving at the start venue on the Friday evening we were soon erecting our tents in the field next to the church hall. As it was fairly mild, we decided that camping might be the best option. We thought it would be quieter than on the floor of the hall. Once our tents were up we booked ourselves in and collected our tally cards for the next day. As we had opted for an early start we were allocated our breakfast time slot which was at 4:15am. At this point were were beginning to question the merits of the early start, but it was OK – an early night and good night’s sleep and we would be fine. So, tent up and what to do next? Oh yes, pub! There was a quite nice one over the road which brews its own beer. We were really good and only had one drink so we could get to bed in good time and so have an early start.

Soon after getting into bed we sort of realised that the night might not go according to plan … “ding dong” ! At this point the penny dropped as to why there might be only a few tents outside. The church hall was next to the church, which had a clock tower. Yes, every 15 minutes it chimed, and no, it didnt stop at 12, or any other hour, it chimed every 15 mins all night long. Fantastic! I can do a 40 mile race with no sleep – honest!

Early morning breakfast approx 4:30am

At 4am my alarm goes off, time to get up. Well I was awake already! So, get dressed and into the hall for breakfast. People were by now beginning to get ready and the breakfast room was busy. Suitably nourished, it was off to the kit checking tables at 5am. There was a big sigh of relief that the man was happy with our kit, then off to pull our tents down. Once all packed away it was back into the hall to wait for the start, which for us was 6:04am. Sarah and her team (No. 4) set off two minutes before us, but as agreed we soon caught each other up and as it was just about daylight, timing was perfect to make the most of the light.

Out of Holmbridge is a longish slog up a fairly steep hill, so it was worth saving our energy at this point. However, it soon flattened out and we began to make good progress. The weather was fine but quite cold as we climbed, but higher up to we noticed the clag was beginning to get thicker. Once we had handed in our tally at the Isle of Skye checkpoint it was off once again, this time along the Pennine Way up to Black Hill Trig. The route so far was fairly easy going as much of it was paved with the usual slabs. These continued along the Pennine way past Black Hill but we weren’t going that way, instead a glance to the left revealed the boggy path we were going to take. The path from here is, shall we say, at best, intermittent! We were dodging the worst of the boggy sections as we passed over Tooleyshaw Moss. I think we spent nearly as much time going sideways as forwards. After a while things began to improve and the path became more defined and progress improved. From Tooleyshaw Moor we dropped down and then up White Low. The path here is very wet and crosses over some small groughs. It was while crossing these that Shaun won the prize for sinking into the deepest bog, basically up to the top of his thigh. However only one leg bizarrely: he soon managed to extricate himself and, luckily, didn’t lose a shoe. Apparently it was a close thing! So after a bit of amusement we pressed on heading towards the second checkpoint at Hey Edge. There is an unused trig pillar here but not much else. We handed in our tally cards and headed off again. At this point Sarah and her team, as expected, had got a minute or two ahead of us – no surprises though as they are all faster runners than we are.

As we descended steeply down towards Crowden, we were greeted by the friendly face of Pete Ambrose. He was supposed to be a member of Sarah’s team but sadly had to pull out due to injury. It’s really nice to see friendly faces along the route and it’s always nice to have the support of fellow club members on these events. Soon the third checkpoint at Crowden was reached. Here was an opportunity to fill our water bottles and take in some of the food that was on offer. After a short while we were under way again. The weather by now was beginning to warm up nicely and the sun was coming out. The next section is along the valley bottom, then across the road and on to Torside Dam. Over the dam and up to the fourth checkpoint. Here it was a case of hand in our tallies and have a slice of Jam Roly-Poly to give us a burst of energy to get us up the long climb up to Bleaklow. This is a hard climb, rocky in places, but as we have now re-joined the Pennine Way the path is well defined. We did make a slight error veering off slightly, but soon corrected this though and we weren’t making life easy for ourselves. Onwards and upwards, the path soon begins to level out, but as it’s along an edge with a fairly steep drop to the left I was taking things easy. Chris, Matt and Shaun were making better time along here but soon I caught up. We then had a choice of routes: either go over the moors of Bleaklow, or go off to the left and follow the Pennine Way. A team passed us and went over the top. We decided to follow the Pennine Way, the logic being that the path would be easier going than the boggy and rougher terrain over the top of Bleaklow. As we passed Bleaklow Head we began to follow a grough on the way down. This became easier going and we started to run faster on this stretch as we approach the Doctor’s Gate Path turn off. Appearing on the right was the team who passed us earlier on, so they hadn’t gained much by going the shorter route. At the end of Doctor’s Gate, we reached checkpoint number five. Here there was more food and water to replace what’s needed. Meat and veggie hot dogs available but for some reason I decided not to have one which was probably a mistake. Pete had joined us again and informed us that Sarah’s team was by now about 40 minutes ahead of us. We knew they were going to gain more ground over us. Next was a short section of road down to the Snake Inn and the sixth checkpoint.

On leaving the Snake we headed over the road and begin the climb up Kinder. When we did a reccy, we realised there was an easier way up: determined to find it we kept climbing and missed it again. So, best get on hands and knees again and drag ourselves up to the top by the Seal Stones. Once up there we saw the better path again below, too late now! The weather was now beginning to get quite warm, even on the top of Kinder, in fact probably too warm for yours truly who was still well wrapped from the cold morning. I think around this time I was beginning to get way too warm, but continued on and over the short crossing before descending steeply into Grindsbrook Clough. Passing the Nags Head, Edale checkpoint seven was soon upon us, so tally card handed in, and water and food obtained – a cheese butty for me. After a bit of a pause, we were off again towards Barber Booth and the next ascent, that of Chapel Gate Path. By now, here in Edale, it was really hot and I was beginning to suffer. Chris, Shaun and Matt were doing better than me in the heat. At the top of Chapel Gate I had to adjust my layers as I was beginning to overheat and this was making my progress very slow. Yes I was going through a bad patch. It happens, but you know when you are part of a team you will not get left behind. Pete was with us again at the end of Chapel Gate as was Shaun’s family. After a few hellos we were soon heading down towards Chapel again. Helen Parry was waiting for us on the track here along the way.

As we ran down the road, Nathan & Charlotte passed us in the car, though they caught us walking a bit as they drove past. Not long and we were entering the township of Chapel. After a quick hello from Lesley and Mike Hudson, we were soon at the eighth checkpoint in Chapel. Tally handed in and food eaten, a cup of tea for me, and a longer pause while Shaun said hello to his family. Sarah’s team were by now just over an hour ahead of us. The organisers put the times on boards as each team passes through. Off again along the track to Combs. It was now a gorgeous afternoon and people were sat outside the Beehive pub – I remember thinking how a pint would go down well at that point, but we had a few more miles still to do. The climb up to the White Hall centre was no easy feat this far into the challenge. Passing a few others we made it to the centre which is the penultimate checkpoint. Here the rice pudding went down a treat. It was busy with people coming in and out. Having got here, we were beginning to feel that perhaps we were now nearer to the end of the challenge, but we had one more punishing climb to do. After descending down to Errwood, we had Stakeside next – a long drag when you have already done 30-plus hilly miles. Slow, but once at the top a bit of a trot on to the final checkpoint at the Cat ‘n’ Fiddle. Final tally handed in, and it was seemingly a quicker in and out, as we headed down to Derbyshire Bridge before the final and much shorter hill over the top towards Burbage. Final visit from Helen and Pete, complete with cow bells, as we descended Macclesfield Old Road. From the lights at Burbage, it was up Green Lane to the community school, and we were finished.

Always good to see a friendly face…with cowbells!

At the end we were greeted by Sarah with cake and prosecco, not sure my stomach was happy about that, but it was really nice to see some of the members of Team 4 again. Total time for us was 13 hrs and 11 minutes. My original plan was just about 12 something or other. We were a bit outside that but were not necessarily in a rush to break any records. I had my bad patch but picked up towards the end and Shaun too had to keep stopping due to chafing issues – I’m not saying where! It’s now a few days after, would I do it again? Probably, but I might do it differently by picking better lines over the moors and better nutrition along the way. Team 5 finished 27th .Sarah’s Team were 22nd (out of 79 finishers) – Job done!

Running Away – Rainow

By Pete Fotheringham

It’s the second Tuesday of the month, around 7pm, the clocks have gone forward, so it must be time for an away run. Twenty-odd Striders are hanging around in the car park of the Robin Hood in Rainow, wondering whether to put on that extra layer, because there is a bit of a nip in that wind.

Yoga Paul might have something to say about this

On the dot of 7:15, we set off. A bit of downhill to start with, through the village, and down the fields to the brook below Kerridge Hill. The haul uphill to the ridge was steep enough to walk wth a clear conscience, unless you are going to be challenging for the club championships, in which case it was an opportunity for hill sprints. The ridge itself was very runnable, up to the trig point for the obligatory nearly-yoga photo, then some lovely downhill back to the Macc road at Kerridge End.

Are we there yet Mum?

The next 3k of fairly gentle uphill on minor roads, tracks and paths across fields, afforded some great views of a fantastic sunset, which was much more impressive that it looks in the pictures. At the high point near Windyway House, the light was beginning to go, and views of lights going on in Macc, over the Cheshire Plain, and north to Manchester and beyond.

The sunset was more impressive than this…
… but you had to be there!

Headtorches on, as we dropped down over fields, across the Cat and Fiddle road, and into the valley of the young River Dane. Another walk uphill in the dark, an impromptu extra lap of a field for the championship contenders, and back onto the Macc road and a final gentle jog to the pub. All twenty or so starters made it back, which is good for the club’s mortality statistics, and most made it into the bar for beverages – alcoholic and otherwise – and cheesy, salty snacks.

The spectators were impressed!

All in all, a grand run: not a lot of road, not a lot of walking, some great, fast fields, and plenty of gates and stiles for catching up, getting your breath back, chatting about the wind and the views. Thanks Sal for organising and leading. If you’ve not tried a GVS away run, look out for the next one, probably on Tuesday May 14th, at a venue to be decided. Or if you fancy leading an away way run, please contact Sal. See you there!

Facts, figures and links
Distance: 8.75km / 5.44 mile
Elevation gain: 363m / 1,191 ft
Route: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/3197003/GVS-Away-Run-Rainow-20190409
On Relive: https://www.relive.cc/view/g32805759269