Race Report by Ian Sapsford
Date: Sunday 05th February 2022
I first heard about this event sometime in November when it was plugged in the Facebook Club feed by our very own Fell Race Officer, Ben Clithero. I’m more of a road racer but enjoy the trails as well and I am usually up for trying anything. However people who know me will know I don’t like to commit to too many Sunday morning events as my son plays football then and I love to support him and his team as much as I can. So the attraction for me with this event was the fact it was a late afternoon race with a 4.00pm start time, hence the name of the event - Snow Moon - and a chance to see the Snow Moon at sunset in all its glory during and after the race.
I thought 'this sounds interesting and won’t clash with the football'. The race is organised by First Light Active, (the Spire Ultra Organisers).
It turned out as is Sod’s Law that my sons kickoff time was 2.00pm so it was a case of watch as much of his match as I could before setting off to Sutton Scarsdale as I had to register before 3.45pm. I did so at about 3.15 to the soundtrack of Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. Listening to the likes of Hurricane, Isis, Sara and One More Cup of Coffee to get me fired up for the race.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but in terms of Dronfield Running Club I was aware Sue Atkinson was running and Andy Naylor who I had only met briefly at The ARSE (April Running and Spring Events) group. I was also aware Andrew Ellwood had taken a place for the event although I hadn’t met him before. I had got the minimum kit together that I thought I could get away with which was drink, headtorch, phone, trail shoes and waterproofs. With the weather forecast being good I was hoping to leave the waterproofs in the car but the organisers insisted everyone took them so that was it, waterproof went in the bag. I had planned to run the race at a decent pace without bursting a gut and although the race would be well marshalled it was a trail half marathon so it wasn’t possible to have Marshall’s at every single turning and crossroads. I knew Sue had got the route downloaded to her phone and bearing in mind she beat me comfortably at the Big Dipper I thought if I can keep up with Sue I will be alright.
We were told just before the race that 52 out of 76 entrants had turned up to run the race. I set off with Sue and Andrew and in the early stages there was a group of 5 of us that broke away a bit from the rest of the pack including myself Sue and Andrew. The other two were a bloke from Steel City Striders and a bloke from Redhill, I think.
The conditions were absolutely fantastic, cool but fine and very solid underfoot on the trails. Of course we were setting off in daylight but expecting to finish in the dark. There was a bit of welcome support on the fivepits trail, late afternoon walkers and dog walkers. The marshalls were great at the turnings and the few road crossings that there were. At approximately the 6k (4mile) mark myself and Andrew started to pull away from the other 3 and I starting thinking 'eh up, if I’m not careful I might get a podium place here'. Andrew also had the directions on his phone so I was happy keeping pace with him although I knew Sue and the others wouldn’t be far behind. This was realised at the halfway checkpoint where we looped round to start the return leg of the run and me and Andrew noticed Sue passing the checkpoint in her illuminous yellow top, probably less than a minute behind us.
Me and Andrew continued to rejoin the path we came out on and set off going back towards the start/finish point at Sutton Scarsdale. We passed the rest of the runners who were on their way out and they were very encouraging and supportive as I hope they thought we were back to them. Being unfamiliar with podium places (a couple of Parkrun 2nds and 3rds) it was becoming more apparent that me and Andrew were looking good for a DRC 1-2 and my mind started to think about how the race would conclude. 'It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there' I thought to myself as we were approaching the last quarter of the race. Now should we cross the line together? Or should we fight it out to win the race, I was wondering. By this stage head torches were on and I started to pull away from Andrew. I glanced round a couple of times and was pulling further and further away and just kept going. The Snow Moon was big and bright and it was just a case of me completing the distance to win the race!
Then about 2k (a mile) from home I followed an arrow turning me right. Shortly after this turn the main part of the path bent to the left but there was another narrower path going straight on. Which was the correct way? It was dark and I couldn’t see an arrow and I couldn’t remember the way we came out. I turned around and no sign of Andrew, no head torch light I could see shining behind me. In hindsight I should’ve waited but felt I had to make a decision and continue. I followed the wider path for about 300metres before seeing a Private Property sign and deciding I had gone the wrong way. So I back tracked to where I had gone wrong fully expecting to have been passed. I was just hopeful I could get back and finish the race before losing another place. I knew Sue wouldn’t be far away.
As it happened I crossed the line in 2nd place with the dim light of the fire pit in my sights next to which Andrew was standing and just getting a coffee and a shortcake from the wonderful spread that was put on for all runners. At which stage it became apparent he was unaware he was the race winner as he asked me if I had only just finished. I explained to him what had happened and got a coffee and shortcake for myself. As expected it wasn’t long before Sue crossed the line in 4th place and First Lady just behind the striders bloke who said he was on mine and Andrews coat tails until he was held up by a road crossing towards the end. Andy Naylor wasn’t far away. We had a coffee and a bit of cake a quick photo and a chat before Andrew and Sue were presented with their prize a bottle each of homemade cider. That was apparently quite strong. Good job I didn’t win then as I’m off the drink at the moment! Anyway it was certainly a celebratory time for Dronfield Running Club as we claimed 3 out of the first 4 overall places.
All in all it was a fantastic event and thoroughly enjoyable race. I would certainly recommend it. It certainly helped with the conditions being fine. As sunset approached but for the cool air it could’ve been mistaken as a summer evening. As I left the event I blasted out a bit more of One More Cup of Coffee for the road. Got home and had another coffee. It’s a great song if you’re not into Bob Dylan, why not?! But the song has also been covered by Tom Jones, Robert Plant and White Stripes!!
That starts and probably ends my reporting career. I think Oli Constable’s job is safe with reporters like me about haha!
Thanks everyone for reading! Up the DRC!