I'm Simon Walkden!

You join me in a quandry... It's Sunday evening and I have a little spare time to start a blog about yesterday's High Peak 40 while I watch Sebastian Vettel win the Singapore Grand Prix (thanks BBC for telling us the result before showing the race! Hmm...). However, there are as yet no official HP40 results or, crucially, photos. We all know blogs without photos are pretty boring, so what to do??

I will use random pictures! This one is a dog called Troy.
With an 8am start time, the High Peak 40 requires an early alarm. I left home by 6 and arrived at registration in Buxton school sports hall - unfortunately the organisers appeared to have no record of my entry, my number apparently belonged to a man called Simon Walkden. I was reassured by the lady that Bill would sort it out, which he of course did and before I knew it I was standing in the park ready for the off.

On the startline I was surrounded by talented runners, Duncan Harris was favourite for the race, Charlie Sharpe (I think) who has recently had some fantastic results, and guys like Kevin Hoult would all be quick. We blasted off the line, the pace was fast as expected, and soon it was Duncan, Charlie and I at the front. As we ran out of Buxton and towards CP1 Charlie dropped back a little, and as we went down the steep tarmac descent to the reservoir Duncan pushed on and got a gap of maybe 50m on me. Having had a sore knee for the last week or so I was trying to be careful so I told myself there was a long way to go and pootled along behind.

This time, a mountain refuge in the Pyrenees
Soon I was at CP2 and turned east, through the slightly fiddly navigation of the newly re-directed section around Cadster house and up and over Eccles Pike. Again I told myself I was just at the beginning and should be sensible, so I jogged gently over the top and down to CP3. After the clip here I trotted on down the road feeling pretty good. When the terrain allowed a good view back I tried to check for Charlie, who I assumed must be behind me. I couldn't see anyone, but I was convinced I would be caught at some point! As I climbed up towards Beet Farm and CP4 the weather got a little worse. After extensive post-race discussion the consensus is that either "Mizzle" or "Dreich" best sum up the foggy, drizzly conditions during the morning.

Despite the race being marked with little arrows, I was pleased to be on the section I had recced as I climbed up to Beet Farm, and started enjoying myself. The pain in my knee had gone away due to the start of general running-a-long-way pain and I was happy in a familiar world.

...a delicious nut roast...
CP4 soon arrived, I filled up my bottle and took a piece of chocolate flapjack for the rest of the climb. It was tasty and before I knew it I was on the long Rushup Edge path. Pace was hard to judge along here, particularly as the weather meant I couldn't see anyone in front or behind. I just plodded on in a world of my own. I passed a couple of mountain bikers just before CP5 then pressed on, glad to be on a section I was unlikely to get lost on!

Ah, Mam Tor. I was looking forward to the climb for some reason and again jogged gently up the slope, trying not to raise the heart rate too much. Unfortunately my HR monitor belt thingy had been falling off earlier in the race, so I gave up and took it off within the first couple of miles. Mam Tor is always busy and sure enough it was covered in people. I gave a couple a shock when I ran towards them to touch the cairn, then headed for Hollins Cross. More people were encountered on the descent to the Hollowford Road... The top of which I really enjoyed, the road not so much!

...and Sunset over Back Tor
It was great to have some support as I ran through Castleton and started the climb up Cavedale. It feels like I've spent all summer running or racing up or down Cavedale, good job I like the place! I gradually made my way to the top and out across Old and Bradwell moors. The weather had now improved and it was starting to get warm. I was a bit unsure of the route between the top of Cavedale and the road into Tideswell but managed to negotiate the moor sucessfully (thanks largely to the massive pink signs!) and soon hit the road to descend into the village. At CP8 I checked my watch as this is marathon distance and have always wondered how long a marathon would take me - 3:33 on this course is the answer!

The tarmac run through Tideswell hurt my legs, my knee felt tired but mainly my quads were starting to scream. I was grateful for the relief of running along the riverside but knew that the dreaded 3 mile road leg into Chelmorton was not far away... As I ran though Litton I was told that Duncan had 6 minutes 40 seconds on me, but that he didn't look very strong. This was a much smaller gap than I'd expected and for a while I stopped wondering when I would be overtaken and started to ask whether I could catch the leader. ...

A French zebra.
I ran hard along the riverside path. It was muddy and slippery in places but hearing the gap had given me a boost and I felt like I was running well along here, I was also concious of getting towards the end and really not wanting to get caught! I remember the last time I ran this race that this was a particularly nice section and so it proved this year, but it did not last forever and soon it was time to leave the riverbank and join the Monsal Trail. It was busy and I tried to keep pace with a dad towing his son on a bike by focusing on the little flag on the back of his bike. Then the dreaded road section arrived! This leg has a reputation for being horrible. The road undulates up and down, but stays in a pretty straight line, making it feel like very slow progress. This year it took me just under half an hour to run the approx 6km to the road crossing in Chelmorton, where I ate a large jelly crocodile that Lorna had given me to celebrate. I'm now thinking of giving up on energy gels in preference to these!

After Chelmorton there's one last difficult bit before the run in to Buxton - the second crossing of Deep Dale. CP11 (the last one!) can be seen from a while away, but it's not until you get closer that you see the ravine between you and it... This was the first time since the reservoir at the start that I'd seen Duncan. I saw him look back as he climbed up towards the checkpoint while I descended, the distance may not have been much in a straight line but I knew I wouldn't catch him now. A bit defeatist perhaps, but I still ran hard for the rest of the race!

Top wedding vehicle for Maria and Gareth
The climb up to the checkpoint wasn't as bad as it could've been and I was soon on my way, through the tiny village of Cowdale and in towards Buxton. I hadn't seen anyone behind me but tried to imagine I was being caught to keep my pace up as I ran under the viaduct then down onto the main road, past the hospital and across the school fields, then up the drive to finish in front of the school.

It had been tough! Duncan had a gap of 7 or 8 minutes on me at the end, having finished about five minutes outside his record in around 5:25. I was quite pleased with 5:33. I think I had reduced the gap by a few minutes through Monsal Dale, but lost time again on the road section. I'm not sure of the time gap to the third place runner, but he came in looking strong after sprinting away from Kevin Hoult near the end.

My fellow sponsoree Chris "Houghboy" Hough took an hour of his PB (!), coming home in 6:45 for 14th place, nice one Chris. Massive respect must also go to the slightly mad Nick Ham, who ran the race to Tideswell, then ran the Lantern Pike 5 mile fell race, then re-joined the HP40 to run round to the finish. Bonkers. And as always, thanks to the race organisers, marshals, those who encouraged me on the way round, and to Accelerate for supporting me.

If anyone's interested I wore NB Leadville 1210 shoes and Injinji socks, both of which were excellent.

Winter is on the way!
So that's probably it for my Runfurther series this year... Unfortunately my rubbish score at Haworth Hobble means I won't get a decent position in the series, but the target for this season was mainly to win a race. That's not to say I have finished running for the year though, there are still plenty of challenges to come!



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