A hilly 20 mile trail race in the beautiful Peak District - how else would you choose to spend a sunny Saturday in May?
2022 was the fifth time the event has been organised and my second time completing this epic race. The Hathersage Hurtle is the race that has everything - 2,800m of ascent with stunning views, varied terrain and plenty of cheery support.
This event is open to walkers as well as hard-core runners, there are many local club runners and those who do a combination of both running and walking - I'm not afraid to admit that there was definitely a lot of walking on those incredible uphill sections!
The race starts and finishes in the buzzing village of Hathersage which is easily accessible by train from Manchester and Sheffield. There is plenty of accommodation in and around the village for those wanting to make a weekend of it and car sharing is encouraged.
The 20 mile route certainly is challenging, and you should be prepared for one of the race photographers who considerately place themselves at the top of very steep hills to keep you on your toes!
The race begins in a field at Leadmill Bridge leading to a long, steady drag up High Low Hill and towards the open space of Offerton Moor and Shatton Moor. The views are stunning towards Hope and Castleton - terrain here is a mixture of single- track road and fields before heading down into the hamlets of Brough and Shatton and towards the first food stop and check-in point 3.
The checking -in is by GPS wristband which logs your progress and allows the race organisers to keep tabs on numbers in case of any problems. There is always someone on hand at these points to help should you need it.
The first food stop is on the outskirts of Bamford, after being escorted across the A6187 by marshals; the stalls of home-made cakes greets you along with the friendly faces of some of the local volunteers. You are encouraged to bring your own vessels to re-fill water, no plastic bottles or cups are provided to help reduce the race footprint.
After this check point, the terrain changes once more as you head out on the disused railway which is now the Thornhill trail. Here the path is fairly flat and you can get into a bit of a rhythm whilst bracing yourself for the climb to come!
At the end of the trail you cross the River Derwent at the Yorkshire Bridge, this is where the real challenge starts. The ascent is long, long, long... and steep. Oh, did I mention it was long?!!! It's good to try and focus on the views of Bamford Edge and over the Hope Valley - but my word, it's long! This is the section of the race where the thighs really let you know that they're working hard, as do many of the other competitors around you - but you muddle through the pain together, with tired motivational speeches to encourage each other along the way!
But then, as you come down the road after trying to blank the last 20 minutes from your memory, there is the magnificent gritstone that is Stanage Edge in front of you, and all is forgiven. The route takes you up and along parts of the edge and again the terrain changes to keep you on your toes. This part is really tricky to run and you find yourself focusing on your feet as you manoeuvre around, or on top of the huge boulders as you go. The views here are amazing - Stanage Edge is one of the most famous places for climbers and you'll see various groups with their hard hats and ropes sharing the space with you.
Recovery from bounding over the rocks comes in the form of a gentle, downhill trail to Burbage Bridge and the final food station. After crossing the main road, you then turn into the Longshaw National Trust Estate, hopping past the picnicking tourists and making your way down to Padley Gorge. Here the woodland path is uneven with tree roots, but it's so worth it to see the incredible twisted, almost magical formations of the trees. Keep an eye out for the money tree on your left as you continue your descent.
Emerging from the woodland, you'll reach your final check point as the route opens up to fields and trails for the last couple of miles. Turning into the football field, the finish line is there, as you make your victory lap, around the competitors who have finished before you, the cheers and well- wishes greet you like a warm hug as you cross the line.
This is one of those races where you have that instant relief, followed immediately by the disappointment that it's over! The cups of tea and the smell of the barbeque lull you into the community as prizes are drawn for 'the funkiest outfit' as well as interviews with the winners.
The Hathersage Hurtle really is a race for all - the walkers finish at a similar time to the runners after their staggered start. The local community pull together to volunteer their time and baking skills! Funds are raised for the local village school, prizes are donated by various local businesses and the photographers, Kate and Phil who kindly pass on their pictures, asking only for recognition of their skills.
Places are limited in this race, and you do have to be quick off the mark to get one. Keeping tabs on their social platforms, as well as on the website is the the easiest way to get reminders to enter.
I'd highly recommend this race, you do need to put in the training, but I'm already excited for next year. Maybe there may be more hurtling and less staggering next time!
Thank you to the Hurtle crew - hope to see you next year.