Red Bull Steeplechase

Last Sunday I ran the inaugural Red Bull Steeplechase, a fell race with a difference! It was a knockout race, so of the 125 blokes who started from Castleton, 90 would make it through the first checkpoint at Bamford (8 miles), 55 through the second at Hope (12 miles), and 30 through Edale (18 miles) to race to the finish back in Castleton (21 miles).

After racing quite a lot recently I was feeling pretty knackered after a bit of running during the week since the Hardmoors. By Sunday morning I did feel OK though and was looking forward to the race. Lorna and Dolly came with me to the start and my brother Ed biked out to see me at a couple of points, which was really cool.

The race was spectacularly well organised - there were loads of toilets, the course was well marked, water was provided, and there were loads of marshals (this side of things was sorted by Open Adventure). We left Castleton straight uphill, and it was apparent that this was not just a fell race, there were some faces I recognised but lots of vests from all over the country, and a fair few pairs of road shoes. As we climbed, the view behind us was absolutely spectacular...


I wasn't sure how to tackle the race in the early stages, either sit back and be in top 30 but potentially too far down to challenge the leaders, or just race it like a race. I went for somewhere in between and took it at maybe 90% for the first leg, having a little chat with Lewis Bantock and Ian Winterburn who was marshalling. The course really was fantastic, we got to use a few areas which are normally private, but it was mainly the weather - I nearly tripped a few times as I just couldn't stop looking at the mist hanging in the valleys!

I went through Bamford in about 13th, then made up a few places to go through Hope in about 7th. From there it felt a lot harder as I realised it was probably now just a race. We weren't too strung out so as I pushed on a bit I started to see three guys in front of me, quite close together. I caught them gradually and ended up about 4th. One of the guys I recognised, it was Neil Barton, an old Sheffield Uni Orienteer / Fell runner. We spoke quickly as I passed him just before Jacob's Ladder, but didn't realise we knew each other till the finish!

Just before Edale I was passed by someone going strongly in a Serpentine vest. We went through Edale pretty much together, with just 3 miles to go (via Hollins Cross!) to Castleton. We ran most of the climb up through the crappy farm and onto the rocky ascent to Hollins, this was really tough and I definitely wouldn't have done it on my own. I didn't realise at the time, but this chap had made a small navigational mistake and I had passed him without realising, so we were racing for 3rd place. Near the top of the climb I got maybe 10m on him and pushed on to the marshal at the top of the hill, then set off on the final descent. Shortly after this he came past me... I'm not a great descender, but for a Londoner I was impressed with Mr. Serpentine, I tried to stick with him but I was about 20m behind when we hit the road. It looked unlikely, I gurned by way after him but it wasn't working and by the time we hit the village I couldn't see him through the twisty bits. I ran up towards the finish, tried to high 5 Karen McDonald who looked very confused, then crossed the line 31 seconds behind Mr. Serpentine.

Shaun Flannery - shaunflanneryphotography.wordpress.com
I crossed the line and saw Lorna and Dolly, and after a frantic race round the road Ed was there again (as he had been in Hope and Edale). I was surprised to be 4th, only realising when I saw the guy in front of me being thrust in front of a camera!

Red Bull did very well, everything was good. We got a Hoody, medal and gym bag, amazing food at the Castle pub in Castleton, and Red Bull and beer to drink. It was £25 to enter, I don't want every fell race to be like this but as an occasional one it was brilliant!

Thank you Lorna, Dolly, Red Bull and Open Adventure. Also cheers to Julia for very enthusiastic cheering!

One tiny comment - the water at checkpoints was only available in bottles - this leads to a lot of wastage when you only want a mouthful, maybe ready-filled plastic cups next time too?

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