Millennium Way – There and Back Again – A Strider’s Tale

5th March 2017, Millennium Way Ultra

It is a horrible, cold day in April and it is chucking it down for Shane and Ben’s first foray into ultra running. A last minute trip to the toilet means Shane misses the race briefing and the official start! The first 10 miles is along a cycle path and the camaraderie between the runners is fantastic. The checkpoint comes and goes quickly and after a quick snack we are off again. Checkpoint 2, 21 miles in, and we are greeted by Emma Stevens and Luke Eggleston which proves to be a real boost for us, although that may have just been because Emma bought me a Snickers! 3 miles later we are met by Laura Pickard and a bag of sandwiches. Turns out this is just an eating day with some jogging involved. The next 10 miles, which included checkpoint 3, is across farm fields and was a complete mud bath (it was not all runnable!!). 10k to go and I am struggling. We try running every other mile but without Shane’s relentless encouragement I may never have got there. We crossed the line together in a time of 9 hours 53 minutes, smashing our target of 11 hours. After a little cry and a biscuit or 12, we reflected that an event like this is easier with company and running the whole event together really helped us get through the mood swings. With this in mind I decided to enter the Millennium Way Back 6 weeks later so Shane would not have to face that challenge alone…………

15th April 2017, Millennium Way Back Ultra

Why have just one medal when you can have 2 that lock together?! 6 weeks since the Millennium Way, and the day of the Millennium Way Back dawns. Shane got me through the last one and I was confident we would help each other through this one too. Unfortunately he had to pull out the night before due to injury so I am flying solo this time! Stood on the start line, all alone, I was wishing that could just do a parkrun like Shane, Emma and Luke were going to. The first 10 miles across farm fields went by in a flash and I quickly went through checkpoint 1. In traditional Ben style, I got slightly lost over the next 10 miles which added a couple of miles onto the run but you have to get your money’s worth! I met Shane, Luke and Emma at checkpoint 2 and they all looked pretty tired after their parkrun exploits. I left them with my sympathies and met Laura a couple of miles on. Like a good wife, she decided to run the next 8 miles with me. At this point I was struggling mentally and wanted nothing more than to quit, but her inane yabbering got me to checkpoint 3 for a refuel stop. The last 10 miles to the finish were a blur and was as high for 5 miles as I was low before, even breaking into random song! Arriving into Newport with a quarter of a mile left, adrenaline and emotion took over and I sprinted for the finish line. I finished in 9 hours 40 minutes, taking 13 minutes off the Millennium Way time which I was absolutely chuffed about (considering I spent 20 minutes going the wrong way). It is the support that got me through and knowing that people were waiting at checkpoints really helped. I swear I will never do anything like this again…………..

Ben Pickard

21 Oct 2016 – Yorkshire Three Peaks Ultra

It was 8am on a bright and clear day at Hawes (Wensleydale Cheese land) where myself and 17 fellow runners headed out on the first Yorkshire Three Peaks Ultra Marathon organised by Ranger Ultras. The race consists of the Yorkshire Three Peaks sandwiched by two very boggy Fells with a total of 70km and 3200mt of ascent.

The runners took a natural split into two groups and after our first checkpoint I fell into a great pace with a fellow runner who helped me giggle and chat throughout the rest of the race. Each Peak- Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent- all varied in its terrain which added to the challenge of the race. We were blessed with a beautifully clear day which provided us all with stunning views and helped ease any niggles that showed themselves.

The support throughout the day was faultless with food, drinks and giggles a plenty. On the final leg we were presented with a stunning sunset over the Dales. The last boggy fell leading back to the village of Hawes was via head torch, even my shadow was running in a hobbling manner at this point, but the warm welcome and sense of achievement made me realise once again how much I love the world of running.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Ultra has to be my toughest running challenge to date I would highly recommend it for the stunning views and support.  [Katie]

17/18 Sep 2016 – Equinox24 

Last weekend saw the 4th annual Equinox24 race – a 24 hour event held over a hilly off road 10k course in the grounds of Belvoir Castle. Starting at midday on Saturday runners compete either in teams, pairs or solo – all looking to get as many laps in as possible before midday Sunday. Around 250 teams and a similar number of solo runners meant around 500 runners out on course at all times of day and night, lit only by their headtorches through the hours of darkness.

With six teams, five solo runners and one 10k entrant from Stilton Striders and friends and family from MRC and Melton Mowbray parkrun, there was a great spirit in camp all weekend. Many runners clocked up their furthest distance ever, some also whilst pushing for their fastest 10k, or just enjoying a weekend camping with friends. Everyone pushed the boat out and baked enormous scones, lemon cake, apple, rum and raisin cake, flapjacks, brownies, cheesecakes and Marie brought a huge chocolate cake to celebrate her birthday. With the kettle on almost permanently, a couple of gazebos and some bunting, you just need to imagine the GBBO (Bake Off) with a bit of running on the side and you’re more or less there.

The course led runners around tracks and across undulating fields, then past cheering marshals and up “Not That Hill”, a 2-3k gradual climb to the water stop half-way. In the hours of darkness, glo-sticks lit the course and the marshals handed out jelly babies to keep everyone going. With spectacular views across the Vale of Belvoir, there was a challenging off-camber descent to the beginning of “That Hill”. Strategies varied to ascend this short-sharp, much maligned bank of fear and loathing. Only, it wasn’t as bad as all that! Once over this, it was a smoother descent back to and down the road, over the bubbling river to the lake. The mists on the lake at dawn set a spectacular scene with quacking ducks, swan and the sound of rubber on tarmac. John Houghton was one notable casualty of “Houghty’s Muddy Corner”, which took runners into the circuit of the camping field. The course went right past the Strider/MRC Basecamp, with cheering and Elaine’s chocolate distribution going down well with the solos on course. Then eventually to the final straight, where slap-bands were handed to the next runner in teams, or soloist could sign-off and recalibrate before doing #onemorelap.

Stilton Striders A team pushed the pace from the beginning and after 22 hours were neck and neck with the second placed team. There was still time for the lead to change hands at least twice in the last three laps before the Striders emerged victorious for the second time in four years! A wonderful result for the team and the club, which led to enthusiastic celebrations in front of the double-decker bar bus and high morale as we cheered in the final (last but by no means least) solo runner – an awesome guy who did the whole thing in hiking boots whilst carrying a heavy bergen!Once again a highlight of the running calendar and next year’s event (23/24 September 2017) is sure to sell out in record time again.  [Jenny]

Solo runners:

Ben Pickard and Richard Gray 83rd/84th with 110k each,

Shane Sharkey and Dan Moult 174th and 185th with 70k each, and

Marie Gray 208th with 50k.


Stilton Striders A (Matt Atterbury, Jason Barton, Mike Bryan, Luke Eggleston, Matt Gayton, Jim Hatherley, Stuart Shaw, Natalie Teece) 1st with 340k,

Wolfpac (Mick Atton, Simon Bottrill, Katie Hateley, John Houghton, Clive Kent, Greg Pettingill, Dan Valencia, Jon Wilson, managed by Matt Chalmers) 8th with 290k,

Stilton Striders zzz (Mike Brighty, Wayne Hackett, Iain Howe, Ian Mason, Andy Nicholls, Sarah Procter, Brian Walkling) 42nd with 260k,

The Hateful Eight (Joe Cliff, Alex Dulewicz, Clare Marlow, Kate Morris, Tom Peacock, Calum Walker, Seb Walker, Ray Walker) 55th with 250k,

MRC Wonder Women (Elaine Bottrill, Sarah Lawrence, Jenny Kent, Kaye Mead, Sue Pettingill, Jacqui Riley, Debs Wilson) and MRC Wonder Women Too (Celia Bown, Nicky Durrance, Liz Parkinson, Laura Peacock, Laura Pickard, May Øvstegaard, Vanessa Walker) 210k each for 127th/128th.

Matt White 41st.

29 Jul 2016 – GrimReaper Ultramarathon

Friday 29th July saw this year’s GrimReaper Ultramarathon take place at Grimsthorpe Castle, just over the border into Lincolnshire.  A laid back event, with options to run either 40, 70 or 100 miles on the marked 10 lap traffic free loop – with team options available and camping for those that want to make the most of the 26 hour cut off for all distances.

Rich Gray represented the club in the 40 mile solo race – after a solid first lap of 10 miles in 1.38, the sun came out, the pace gradually slowed and the gently rolling hills ended up feeling like much bigger inclines!  14th place, 7hrs 52mins.  [Rich]

2 Jul 2016 – Beacon24

We were actually in Charnwood on an outrun last year when we saw the initial Beacon24 hosted by Poplar Running Club, little did we know we`d be doing it a year later! The Beacon24 is a fundraising based event based on doing 10k laps around Beacon Hill, Leicestershire`s 2nd highest hill with all proceeds to the Falcon centre which is a charity that deals with helping and supporting the local homeless.

Pretty much I`d been pushing this from the start as I thought would be excellent training for those doing Snowdon trail/Equinox as it’s a totally non-competitive event and would be superb training (even head torch!).

On the day itself we got myself (Rob), Rich Gray, Clive and Jenny Kent, Sarah Procter , Simon Proctor (no relation!) and Katie Hateley, the weather was very mixed going from heavy showers and winds to scorching summer day in two minutes. Can you believe for the mere £20 entry as solo we all got a T-shirt, medal and plenty of nutrition/hydration that was actually much better than many corporate events. Poplar did a great job of organising the whole event, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated and creating a great ambience.

Knowing I had an outrun at Rutland water the next day I clocked four laps which to be honest was hard enough, similarly did Rich and Katie. Sarah did her longest ever run distance doing three laps and Simon Proctor who did parkrun also that morning(!) did two.

Our two day `team` running a relay Clive and Jenny did superbly also, with Clive doing 42 miles (7 laps) and Jenny 24 miles (4 laps).

I really hope this event grows, it really makes great training and believe me the ascent of climbing the Beacon a few times soon makes it become very tough. If you would like to know more about the Falcon Centre homeless charity please click on the following link, and do look out for this one next year.


25 Jun 2016 – Nomad 50k

The sixth year of this popular ultra distance event put on by the very friendly lot at Long Eaton Running Club. You may remember quite a few of us did it last year and for most our first ultra distance, can you believe this is my third ultra Marathon of this year?

Just myself and Katie Hateley running today for Striders, this being Katie’s first 30+miler after doing 27.5 miles at Baslow two weeks ago, if it goes wrong it’s my fault for talking her into this! The race starts at 9:00am and at a nice social pace we quickly get onto the canal towpath towards Shardlow and before we know it we hit our first checkpoint at 10.5 miles where the rain absolutely hammers it down.

The rain continues as we pass Shelton and head into Derby, although it clears up its still ominous and showery throughout the day. The cycle route we are on through Derby isn’t the most interesting but I tend to find that working through it is actually a part which helps an ultra runners mind; it’s not too bad as we meet a great guy called Andy from Draycott who ran with us the entire race.

The second checkpoint is at 18 miles, very nice to see our Club Chairman Rich Gray out supporting us here, checkpoint 3 and the race finish. I really felt like I’d ran 3 miles which Rich said “Who’d have thought training makes you better?”, many a true word!

Next couple of miles along the trail path are followed by more serious offroad stuff as we hit Morley; this is very much the ‘second half’ of the race with far more offroad and undulation. Still happily we make it to the 3rd checkpoint at 26 miles and my only worries are being a little dry throated, although the team has spread out on occasion we pretty much ran together.

The hilliest part of the root is the long pull over Stanton on the Wolds before a long downhill over the golf course, a few fields and for me the hardest part of the race the seemingly never-ending half mile of tarmac along Longmoor Lane to the race finish.

The Nomad is pretty brilliantly put on by LERC, very friendly team, the signage was a lot better this year on what is a cracking route through South Derbyshire, how many races give you a pint of hand pulled beer and a large filled jacket potato on finishing amongst many other goodies? I cannot rate it high enough and so glad we have now had six Striders do this event who can testify how worthy it is.

The Nomad is a great step up for those looking at moving up from Marathon distance,

I guess I have to mention our lovely Katie Hateley who came 1st lady in her first 30+ miler! Not only did she run a great race (bit of a natural here if I’m honest), but she got a superb lot of prizes for doing so!

Katie is running this as part of her ‘Gambia Trilogy’, with Beacon24 next week and Snowdonia Trail Marathon at the end of next month. Katie is raising funds for Humanity first medical to raise money for things like defibrillators for disaster relief in countries less fortunate than our own. If you would like to sponsor this remarkable lady the link is below:


5 Jun 2016 – Northants Ultra ‘Shires and Spires’ 35

The `Northants 35` is a multi-terrain ultra starting and finishing at Lamport Hall, The Stilton ultra crew today are myself (Rob Beers), Richard Gray, Simon Bottrill and Dan Valencia.

It’s quite a cool morning with the cloud not yet burned off and we are all vested today (Although Valencia insists on his mohair base layer!), we are all in good spirits for the day ahead. 8:30am we start off and typically like many other long races its a few offroad fields that are as memorable as nothing, myself and Simon have pushed slightly ahead of Dan/Rich although it’s an easy pace. We hit the village of Cottesbrook and a bit alarmed to find the first checkpoint/feed station at a mere 4.5 miles in! 10k or 10 miles would’ve been far better. This is followed by a lot of country road towards Naseby (same route as `Battlefield Run`) which has a couple of quite `Kibworth-ish` hills, hitting historic Naseby on about 8.5 miles comes the second and far too soon checkpoint/feed station. We are doing ok, happily chatting and making observation and before we know it we are at Silsworth at 17 miles, now joined by Mr Valencia who must’ve gone some to catch up with us.

From here on there was a lot more offroad and a couple of miles later I start to move ahead of Dan/Simon, let me tell you there are some nasty climbs throughout this race, flat it never will be. The next checkpoint is Althorp Park at 25 miles and by now the sun is starting to wake up and the thought of 10 more miles seems a hell of a lot. The next few miles aren’t pretty I’m sitting in quite a big group of `fellow sufferers` and drink 3 cups of water after the climb to the final checkpoint at Teeton even taking a bottle with me. The next hill at 30 miles I’m that dehydrated and fatigued I’m forced to finally walk a bit, having lost the group ahead and not knowing which way I`m stood at the top for a couple of minutes waiting for the next person.

The last 2 and a half miles go on forever, the sun is now baking me and it’s a case of run/walk although I still manage to pass someone! Finally make it home in 5:58:02 and 16th place overall with a lovely medal and rather camp long sleeve. Over 2,600 foot of ascent and yet it felt much more! It`s not an easy ultra if anyone fancies this as dipping their toes.

The Pros: Well organised company putting the event on, wrist band usage at checkpoints, number of feed stations, very scenic and some beautiful villages, gels at every feed station, nice medal.

The Cons: Too much road – yes Northants is gorgeous but could’ve made use of the offroad more, an awful lot of navigation and we saw lots of people go wrong, how the feed stations were spaced out, yellow and purple long sleeve! Lack of marshals and signage. [Rob]

Rob Beers 5.58.02, 44th, 16th MV40
Rich Gray 6.20.16, 60th, 20th MOpen
Simon Bottrill 6.23.31, 66th, 29th MV40
Dan Valencia 6.38.18, 82nd, 36th MV40

14 May 2016 – Dukeries 30

How could one resist the offer of a run around Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park even if it was 30 miles?

A very early start saw Rob Beers and Rich Gray head over to the Dukeries area of north Nottinghamshire for good initial tester for the ultra season. A mixed and varied lot of runners here today to do both the 30 and 40 mile courses put on by Hobo events and definitely the most entertaining race briefing I’ve ever heard!

7:30am the race starts, it’s cool early on but the clouds soon shift to a quite lovely day, the one real XC bit is in the first mile where drainage problems see us shin deep in water for 100 yards, this is the only `OMG` moment throughout. Very soon it appears we are running in the garden of Eden or at least some of Mercia`s finest scenery, there are just so many picturesque places throughout the race it would be hard to pin point just one, stunning.

Race splits at 6.5 miles with the 40 milers (including our mate Zoe from Hermitage Harriers) going via the Major Oak. Poor Rich has to listen to me blabber on about all kinds of things as we hit a selection of quaint villages and some prehistoric caves known as Creswell crags, before we know it we are upon the next checkpoint.

Rich tells me to go on at 20 miles he either thinks I’m running exceedingly well or has earache, the marshal up ahead says the next checkpoint is 1.5 miles in reality it was about 4 miles. Having not worn a watch or anything, I’m quite happy to find out that I’ve “ Two Park run’s left” to go as I run off doing the maths in my head.

Going very well and still passing people, quite a few walking from 20 miles, the terrain has been a good mix of everything without being hard going, certainly even Rich quoted it as `all runnable`. The mix of everything kept it interesting, it wasn’t just field after field , the navigation was spot on also-if I didn’t get lost anyone can do it!

Knee started ceasing up about 28 miles and by 29 miles I was forced to have the odd cheeky walk due to it becoming painful.

Sprint finish had more in common with `the Hunchback of Notre Dame` than Usain Bolt but I made it and loved the event, would recommend this highly for anyone looking at a longer than Marathon event or enjoying an off-road jaunt.

Really good Technical vest and medal with a buffet after, very good value for money , and a real credit to the organisers for putting this excellent event on. Rob Beers (4:48:11) and Rich Gray (5:00:36). [Rob]

20 Sep 2015 – Ladybower 50

You could be forgiven for thinking that all of the Stilton Striders were gathered in a field near Belvoir Castle for this year’s Equinox 24, however for John Houghton, Dan Valencia and Simon Bottrill it was off to Bamford, Derbyshire for Ladybower 50.

On what was a dry but chilly Sunday morning, with an eerie mist still hanging over the reservoir 53 runners gathered in a layby near the Derwent Dam, the Start/Finish line for this year’s race. As 8 O’clock struck and with Dan still pondering his kit choice (you’re wearing those trainers are you?) we were set on our way for an initial 5 mile loop of the upper part of the Ladybower Reservoir. Opting to stay together throughout we adopted a nice slow steady pace and within the hour were looping back past the Start/Finish. A quick stop to collect hydration packs and food and we headed off again for the longer 15 mile loop. The first part took us back along the same route but then added an additional 10 miles around the picturesque Derwent & Howden Reservoirs and taking in the two Dams that divide the three bodies of water.

Sense of humours intact and still looking quite fresh we completed the first 15 mile loop in just under 3 hours, had a quick lunch stop then headed out again for a second full lap. Though we were covering the same course, the second 15 mile loop was a much tougher and quieter affair with the increasing mileage starting to require a bit more effort. Pure stubbornness (none of us would quit unless one of the others did it first) and the steady pace carried us on to complete it in just round three hours again. With another stop for food and all important cup of tea for Mr Houghton, we prepared (with no doubt in our minds) for the final loop. With the welcome addition of a support runner in the form of Lou Houghton (joining us after having run in the nearby Stanage Struggle) and with the end now in sight we pressed on.

The last lap was in much better spirits becoming a bit of a tick off list as we passed all the familiar landmarks from the earlier laps and none more welcome than the sight of the Derwent Dam as we approached the finish. With the light starting to fade and the pace quickening we all crossed the finish line in 11 hours and 26 minutes, a mere 5 hours and 7 minutes after the events winner but still enormously proud of our achievement.

A WORD OF WARNING (just incase you fancy it next year): For what was my first Ultra this was a very back to basics event. The Facebook site boasted three water stops and food at the race HQ the reality however was one manned water stop, which ran out of water before the last lap and one unmanned stop with water but no cups. Food at the race HQ only consisted of a few pretzels and a bit of flapjack (fb promised chips and sandwiches) and marshals sadly were bit too few and far between. [Simon]

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15/16 August 2015 – Dig Deep Peak District

Stuart Gregory was the only Strider to head north for the peak district running festival otherwise know as the dig deep weekend.  Having put in a fairly slow time last year, a plan had been formulated to ensure a much faster time and with 134 competitors starting the race there was all to play for. A run/walk approach from Stuart up to check points 1 and 2 and put him 8 minutes up after just over 9 miles, unfortunately due to a wrong turn, at the check point it took 45 minutes to get back on to the right route having ran 2 miles in the wrong direction this had already added 4 unexpected miles.

From there on it was mainly smooth sailing as by check point three Stuart had been joined by two other runners and began to make up time, non the less he was still an hour behind his target at the bottom of win hill, which marks the completion of a third of the route. This section of the course can only be walked due to it’s steep nature at an average of 32% with some section at 50%. From the top of Win Hill check point 4 after a brief stop to look at the cracking views, we started to make our way down towards Hope village and the cement works, such a nice feeling to walk fast down a hill ”too rocky to run” and not use one’s legs.

A little bit of indecision at check point five saw more time lost, as we arrived at check point 6 in around 6hr 30m 15.5 miles, just over an hour behind last year. As check point six marks the half way point this also acts as one of the main emergency contact points and provides food, water, a rest stop and medical attention if required. 20 minutes later we were off again, overshooting the turn for Bradwell Edge of over half a mile added further distance as we reached check point 7 after another hard climb and most stunning view.

At this stage Stuart had given up on a PB, and had slowed the pace reaching check point eight 45 minutes later than planned after having to walk a further 2.5 miles, due to coming out at the wrong bridge. Things began to run smoother again and it looked as if we were making a lot of time up as we easily found check point 9, and headed off towards check point ten in high sprits, as it looked like I would at least match my time from 2014. Unfortunately this did not last long as it conspired that we had got lost, it later emerged that we were only around 500 to 600 metres from where we should have been and after trying to find a route down to the valley for around 45 minutes a decision was taken after a few calls to race HQ to walk to the nearby car park around a mile away.

At this point we had already completed the required 31 miles with around 5 miles still to go a decision was taken to avoid the final two check points and take a two hour penalty to finish in a time of 14hr 44m 52s once a two hour time penalty was added for missing the two check points. A number of other competitors had also lost their way in the same location but had managed to find their way back in better light conditions.  A good day all round but a little ticker tape required here and there…

DIG DEEP 12.12…

After the previous day, the 12.12 route made for lighter work being fully marked and sign posted and with only one check point.  Having completed 31 miles the day before Stuart pace walked much of the route and duly found out where he should have been the day before, confirming his thinking that he was only 500 metres from where he should have been. As Stuart reached check point one he was slightly down on his time from last year, but after picking the pace up on the second half of the course finish in a time of 3hrs 49m 11s, shockingly 16m 41s quicker than 2014. All in all a good weekend was had by all even if we did get lost from time to time… ah well will hopefully do better next year.  [Stuart]