Race report by Dave Boothroyd
Sandstone Trail Challenge – Another Tale from the Darker Side
So the SST was where my ultra career started in 2012, soon after the London Marathon, and as build up for the Lakeland 50 later in the year. That year the challenge, as it’s formally called, started off like a road race with the leaders haring off at marathon pace, which was OK at first but I suffered for this bravado in the latter stages being reduced to lengthy bouts of walking from Delamere onwards.
I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. This time the plan was (to be honest there wasn’t a plan last time !) to let everyone dash off at the start, whilst I would run on a heart rate and hopefully catch (some of) them later.
The route winds its way from Whitchurch to Frodsham for 33 or 34 miles, depending upon whose GPS you believe. We all parked at the finish in Frodsham & then were bussed to start. After a lengthy bus journey everyone wanted to go to the toilet before the off – the people in Tesco were quite bemused by all these people in shorts, wearing rucsacs, queuing to use their toilet … and some of them were taking a long time ! As a result there was an enforced warm up run to get to the start on time – no worries about getting my heart rate up for the start !
Following a short speech from the Mayor of Whitchurch we were off. Delamere Spartans had 20 runners in the race & it looked like they had taken the first 20 places – seemed like there was a lot of club pride at stake for being first home. I was somewhere in the next batch of runners, making our way along the canal side, much to the bemusement of the people chugging along in their barges.
After a couple of miles we turned off & headed across the first of many fields. Not long after I caught up with some runners edging their way past a group of cows – at first I thought the cows were just being curious, but then it became clear that one of the runners was running with a dog, and the cows were clearly after the dog !. This can be quite a dangerous situation, dogs & people protecting their dogs, have been killed by charging cows, so we were pretty glad when we got over the fence & away from them.
I managed to get ahead of the group & was happily making my way to the next stile to get out of a field when I heard a “hurry up” – it was the man with his dog being chased again by a different group of cows. Enough was enough, I put a bit of space between me & the dog, I didn’t fancy being trampled by some blood-crazy cows.
In the middle part of the trail you hit some hillier sections as you go over/round Bickerton, Peckforton & Beeston hills – you get some fantastic views, but I did have a few navigational moments ! I didn’t lose too much time though & it was soon back to the fields again. About this time I caught up with one of the Spartans who was struggling a bit – his legs were cramping up, and we both agreed that the problem was that the course was too runnable, it’s much easier when there are hills that make you walk as you can recover while you do it.
There were 5 checkpoints on the way, and as I got near to number 4 I started to catch up with people – maybe the plan was working ? and so it proved – over the final 2 & a bit legs I managed to pass a number of runners to drag myself up to 28th position in just under 6 hours.
Needless to say I was (literally) miles behind the winner, Charlie Sharpe, who finished in 4 hours 30 mins – he was clearly running much faster than the rest of us, he had to take his top off to stop himself from overheating !
So the SST is a great race, really well organised by Helsby Running Club – it’s only a small upgrade for you marathon runners, you really must try it J