“What’s all this commotion about !? 10 miles 450 metres of ascent, fell and moor, gritstone and peat, flapjack and two pints of Chatsworth Gold. Curbar Commotion 2016, we b*****y love the peaks”
John Houghton – 2016
Truly an epic day for John Houghton, Lou Houghton, Stuart Shaw, Clive Kent, Simon Bottrill and Katie Hateley, inspired by the fells over the village of Curbar, a small, but busy hamlet sat on the river Derwent in the Peak District. A snip at £6 on the day, the race was well organised with plenty of marshalls, a spirited Master of Ceremonies and tea or coffee on tap, if required.
The weather is beautiful and the runners gathered behind the start near to the school where the race funds go towards sports facilities so that future generations can find their own feet on the road of sport and confidence. A surprising move of the crowd mean that the race has started. Runners begin to surge, gradually finding their pace before the first left into the short ascent of tarmac, where they can warm up their climbing legs. Then a queue for the stile, which serves as a gateway for the trails over the fells.
A steady climb takes the runners onto a trail through some trees. It’s a choice to run near, or slightly further behind runners ahead in order to spot rocks, slippery roots, or shoe squelching mud bowls. These mud bowls aren’t deep enough to suck shoes today, but they take more effort to move through as the feet slip just enough to steal a small amount of forward momentum.
A slight right takes the course up a steep climb. The trail gets slightly tougher as runners pick through small rocks, lifting their knees to hop up small grassy steps and over rocks, all the while scanning the trail for the next obstacle. Turn right past the marshalls; we are happy to receive a bit of respite after this short sharp section with an craggy undulating flat. Decisions; do we stretch out on this easier bit or conserve ourselves for the summit ascent about 900 metres ahead? So different strategies occur as the fell-runners tit-for-tat each other on different sections. Some show their prowess on the climbs, while others launch past you on slight ramps down.
Once over the summit, it’s a flying descent of 1.5 miles. Feet fly and runners criss-cross the trails as they pick their preferred racing line through, round, or over the main feature of these fells; gritstone. It’s lovely stuff, grippy, yet forgiving with it’s weathered rounded corners. There are a few loose fist-sized rocks to tippy-toe, but these sit nicely in the middle of eroded paths and are easy to run beside.
Another up, then a good mile of descent. The springy gates test trail etiquette. How far should a runner be behind you that you don’t need to hold the springy trap-gate open for them?
False summit? Another climb! 0.8 miles really gets the heart ticking. But at this point the racers know the end is not far, so we can choose to keep the effort high before the steep descent to the finish where the marshalls pen our numbers down for the results.
What does the conscientous runner need at the end of a good race? Cake – good cake and tea or coffee. And it’s here where we share our tales of the fell.
A slight change in course from previous years took the final mileage up to 9.7(ish) miles. In some conditions, that sounds like a daunting prospect, but with eyes on the obstacles of the fell ahead, it felt much less; more like a jaunt down the lane. The miles fly by like the gritstone under the soles of the Stilton Striders.
Results: Stuart Shaw – 35th 1:14:57, Clive Kent – 87th 1:25:00, Katie Hateley – 98th 1:26:18, John Houghton – 111th 1:28:54, Simon Bottrill – 129th 1:32:03, Lou Houghton – 184th 1:45:03