Date: 11th September 2022
Report by Lisa Williams
On Sunday 11th September I took part in the Big Dipper Half Marathon, Dronfield Running
Clubs’ first ever organized race event. The Big Dipper is a 13.1 mile closed road course which takes in Dronfield’s surrounding countryside and of course, given the name, some of the many hills around Dronfield too.
After months of saying I wasn’t going to run it and I wouldn’t be able to conquer the hills
involved, I finally decided to take the plunge just a week before the actual event.
I didn’t really give myself much time to properly train for the event and having only done two flat half marathons and a couple of 10k races before, I arrived at the event feeling very anxious and without any hope of getting a good time, I just wanted to finish it without collapsing half way through. Being local to Dronfield I was also very aware of the challenge that lay ahead.
The morning of the race was like pea soup but gradually cleared and we were left with perfect race conditions really, dry and not too sunny and hardly any wind.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I turned up to the event, but as I arrived at the event
village the atmosphere was fantastic. The sign on was very efficient and everyone was
extremely friendly. There were a number of stalls at the event and plenty of refreshments
available. We even had a fitness instructor to give us a warm up workout. There were many
family, friends and locals there to cheer us all on at the start.
After the initial race briefing we set off and were immediately met with a lovely downhill section with gorgeous views (which at the beginning of the race you could actually appreciate) and the first of many of the best marshalls I have ever seen at a race.
I then reached Far Lane, I was dreading it and had prepared myself for walking but it was
nowhere near as bad as I thought it and managed to run all the way up to Shillito woods and
believe me it was a long stretch up, but again the marshalls were amazing and really gave you the push to carry on.
I especially liked the welcome you got on reaching the top by some amazing dancing marshalls and then it was a lovely long downhill to recover before tackling Unthank another uphill section.
Lovely to see a man and his son parked half way up the hill handing sweets out to runners.
I reached the top of unthank with a big smile on my face at the sight of the disco dancing
marshalls again and of course I knew I was on the homeward stretch then and the majority of it was downhill, phew.
The worst bit of the race for me I think was the sting in the tail ‘Cowley hill’ . Just when you
think you’ve done it, only a mile to go, you hit Cowley hill. But again it really wasn’t that bad and with the help of other amazing runners and supporters giving encouragement I made it up and the finish line was in sight. I can’t describe how relieved I felt to know the finish line was earlier than I thought as I’d initially thought we had to run back over the bridge and into the event village.
I finished with a time of 1 hour 54 which I was absolutely over the moon with for something so hilly as I had in my head 2 hours 30. I honestly couldn’t have done it without everyones support along the way and the welcome over the finish line was the best welcome back I’ve had.
This has to be one of the best marshalled, supportive and organised running events I have
experienced. There was a real sense of community and Dronfield Running Club thought of
everything from providing sweets, water and support throughout to fruit and water at the finish line and of course the runners goodie bag which included a T Shirt, hat, chocolate and a Big Dipper personalised bottle of beer which went down a treat, the bottle even had its own mini Dronfield Running Club bobble hat.
The attention to detail was great and I immediately signed up for the event next year. Don’t be put off by the hills; this is a running experience you wouldn’t want to miss.