Back for another crack at the classic Edale Skyline fell race after a less than satisfactory attempt last year (twisted ankle, limped round, slow time etc). This race is very popular and it filled up in about 4 days so I was lucky just to get on the start line. Pre-race most of the talk was about the weather, and in a good way! The forecast was for a warm, sunny, still day and that turned out to be exactly what we got.It was a very relaxed start to the race with everyone milling around in the field underneath Ringing Roger enjoying the sunshine. After a few words from the Race Director we were off with the usual cavalry charge up the hill towards the zig zags. This lasted about 90 seconds by my watch until it was steep enough to justify walking, I’m not that fast going uphill so was middle of the 330 strong field at this point. It’s almost exactly a mile uphill before a scramble over the top of Ringing Roger leads to the edge of the Kinder plateau and it’s possible to actually start running. This section along to Win Hill is good running and the views were spectacular. Over Win Hill summit before the steep descent into the Hope Valley and a drink station where I stopped briefly for a couple of cups of water. Along the road briefly before starting the long, hard slog up Lose Hill, a real killer but at the top a young lad told me I was in 65th position which was better than I’d thought. The line for the descent off Lose Hill had changed since last year sticking to the ridge-line taking quite a techy descent down to Back Tor, definitely a touch slower than the old route through the field. Mam Tor provides another tough climb which goes on a bit and is that tricky gradient where running is hard but it’s not _quite_ steep enough to warrant too much walking! Mam Nick at getting on for 11.5 miles – over half way – provides the second and last drink station and is also where those in the know suggest that the race really starts! That’s because the terrain is much harder from this point. My feet had been hurting for a few miles so I stopped for a minute or so to tighten my laces but to be honest it made little difference so I just had to man up and live with a blistered left heel and sore balls of both feet. The going was pretty good over Brown Knoll, not as dry as last year but not too boggy, and I was making decent progress taking a few places. The line they had flagged off Brown Knoll was horrible and I turned my ankle a couple of times, luckily with no lasting consequences, and I was glad to reach the flagstones heading to Jacob’s Ladder.
From here it’s only about 6 miles to go, but the 6 hardest miles of the race with a lot of rough ground and also a couple of “racing lines” to find to cut off loops in the normal path. For the first of these round the back of the Woolpacks I was lucky enough to catch up with a group of local Dark Peak runners who knew where they were going and I tagged along for the ride – result! So with 4 miles to go and heading for Grindslow Knoll all was going well when – BANG – coming down a moderate descent I must have tripped over a rock and before I knew what was happening I slammed into the rock-covered path taking most of the impact on my left elbow. The Steel City Strider I was following turned and asked if I was OK and I was already back up and running trying to assess the damage, which was a lot of blood from my elbow, a bit from my right hand, but otherwise I seemed to be OK. For the next few minutes I had blood running down my left arm and dripping off my fingers but it did eventually clot up which was a relief.From the top of Grindslow Knoll the elite have the choice of the “down and up” straight across Grindsbrook Clough, but for the majority it’s the long (and it feels even longer than it is) run round, eventually Ringing Roger is clearly in your sights and then just a mile downhill remains back the way we’d started. Not a nice descent really, especially not when you’re still a bit stunned from a fall! But finally a lefthand turn takes you back into the field and a grassy run in to the finish line. I finished in 3hrs 23 for 39th place so I had paced it reasonably well and made up 25 places in the back half of the race, even with my little incident (which I don’t think made a great deal of difference to be honest). After a few cups of water and some jelly babies it was down to the stream to wash off some blood and assess the damage, which included a rip to my bumbag in roughly the place where my car keys were, which luckily were still inside (now that would have been a bad way to end the race!). Back at the race HQ the St. John’s Ambulance guys did a great job at patching me up and making me look a bit more presentable! They did recommend getting the elbow looked at again though so as soon as I got home it was straight off to Altrincham Minor Injuries clinic to get it cleaned and dressed again, with another trip two days later and I’m back again tomorrow morning. I’ve also got a big patch of road (fell?) rash on the left side of my chest and my left arm isn’t working too well, but is improving slowly. So two years, two accidents – I might give this race a miss next year!