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]