“I’ve just got the opportunity to go to Glastonbury… would it be okay if I missed the Round Sheffield Run?” asked Mum on the phone, 3 weeks ago. Hm, should I make her miss the most iconic festival in the world to run around South Yorkshire with me – it would have seemed churlish to, wouldn’t it?
I will confess I didn’t really ‘get’ the concept of the race before I started. The total running distance is about a half marathon, but split up into 11 stages, varying from 2.5km to just 800m. In between each of the stages, you get a walking break to catch you breath before the next stage appears. You bip yourself in and out of each stage with a fob, which you exchange at the end for a printout of your times. If you run as a pair, both of you need to start and finish each stage together. If I’m honest, I thought it sounded either a bit too easy, or else slightly disjointed, not like a ‘proper’ race.
Slight reservations aside, we sent Mum away in a camper van with her wellies, and our friend Isabell agreed to take her place and be my partner for the race. And what a race it turned out to be.
Things looked up when me & my companions arrived at the race village wearing matching awesome outfits (well, Isabell, Chrissy and I did… our friend and race mate Matt churlishly neglected to wear hot pink short shorts. Next time Matt, we got you.) There was a relaxed, party atmosphere at the start line, as each pair or individual gets sent out separately, which means there isn’t a nervous congregation at 9am – some people are still grabbing coffee, taking pictures of their outfits or having last wees while others are setting off.
Matt and Chrissy bolted off from the second we started at 9:45, while the first two stages of the race made Isabell and I reconsider that the race may be “too easy” just because it had breaks in it. LOOK AT THE DAMN THING.
The first two stages took us up that cliff face, and having not spent time reading the website beforehand, for all we knew, the rest of the race was going to keep going at the same elevation until our eyeballs popped. Thankfully, everybody is super chatty in Yorkshire and in the walk between stage 2 and 3, a local woman assured us that things were about to look a lot better and that the next two stages were completely downhill.
Isabell and I soon realised that we both really liked running downhill so agreed to just absolutely go for it on those sections, keeping close enough to dib in at the end. And go for it we certainly did – we absolutely FLEW down the hills, passing people as we went with cheery a “sorry, to your right” as we hammered down the trails, our arms reeling as our feet pounded down in front of us. It was truly exhilarating, especially stages 3 and 4 which just went directly down that hill from 2 miles to 6, and stage 9 which was another massive downhill section. We dibbed in at the end of each stage and gave each other mad grins and pats on the back. We honestly felt like the fastest people in the world.
The stages were well balanced – one 800m section was so difficult that it felt about 2 miles, while others flew by without notice. As is to be expected, our fellow racers were lovely – even the race guidelines sent out beforehand remind competitors to use the walk breaks to have a chat and meet people. We were very chuffed to meet an old-er man giving out water from his garden along the route who turned out to be one of the founder members of Steel City Striders – a true running visionary.
Sadly, although the race does offer free race photos for a donation to charity, just as we passed the photographer, he put his camera down for a fiddle with the buttons! And given the great speed at which we were running, there was no time for a mid-race selfie. You’ll just have to imagine Paula Radcliffe in pink shorts barrelling down forest trails, leaping over tree roots – you won’t be far off. I’ve now completely ruined my Strava PB’s by essentially falling down a hill for a mile (to put into context, my previous best mile was 7:19), and will never be able to replicate them. I really should remove them from my leaderboard but a) I don’t know how and b) look how good it looks!
The last section of the race is a 400m sprint directly back into the race village, where our friends were waiting – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Here I saw fellow run blogger Sarah from crandonruns, and blabbered at her about how ace the race was for 5 minutes before she had to say to me “You know we’ve never actually met before?” Ah well, if anyone would understand being off your head on running endorphins, it would be her for sure. I was as happy as anything from a thrilling just-hard-enough race with my friend, there was beer, there were deckchairs and there was a really good DJ blasting tunes in the sunshine – it might not quite be Glastonbury, but I’d say it was a pretty close second.