Kev Edwards has been quietly championing this race for years. However, I must confess that I had no real desire to run a 14 mile race (why not make it a half?), let alone in a place I ashamedly hadn’t heard of. Waddy and Jacqui are also great supporters of the event, though Jacqui’s tale of a flooded course, serious hills and near hypothermia hadn’t really sold it to me either. With the remaining weeks to Manchester marathon ticking down (no, we haven’t entered yet), I was scouting about for a suitable half marathon when I had the brilliant idea to enter the Dentdale run. Well actually, Jayne didn’t use the word “brilliant” but I’ve convinced her that tough build up races are the secret to a good marathon.
After previous weeks’ pre-race dramas of the strained back (Standish) and dodgy stomach (Haweswater), I wondered what Jayne was going to come up with this time. As usual, she didn’t disappoint, and on this occasion even got in an early strike. A few days before the race, she tripped over the hoover (Dyson, but sill a hoover to me), head-butted the record player (yes, it plays vinyls) to break her fall, and then pulled it over on herself. This while juggling with a hair drier and straighteners! The resulting cut and bruised eye, swollen toe and sore wrist didn’t stop her from running though and so Dent was on.
So for those of you who don’t know where it is, it is slightly to the south east of Sedbergh – junction 37 of the M6 and turn right. The weather had turned cold on the Friday before the race and the news had mentioned snow on the Pennines. Here we go again I thought, as we drove up to the Lakes on the Saturday morning. Thankfully by now it was dry though and the wind was nowhere near as strong as at Haweswater, but it was certainly cold. The race start time was a highly civilised 1 o’clock, allowing the previous night’s wine to get through the system, and giving plenty of scope for the now obligatory coffee stop. Heading beyond Sedbergh, there was a worrying layer of snow on the surrounding peaks, and the road started to undulate even more. I had no sooner commented that I hoped not to see any “Caution Runners” signs, than we passed a warning of 1 in 7 gradient, and one appeared! At this point Jayne decided that she didn’t like “these kind of hills”.
There was a lot of traffic for such a quiet road and it became obvious that most of it involved runners heading for the race; including a coach with about 50 Royton Road runners. Kev was certainly right in praising this race. It had a very similar feel to the Haweswater half, with the local community turning out in force to support and help with its running. The local council had waived parking fees for the day (although Waddy and Jacqui paid), while one of the camping sites had provided additional parking and toilet and shower facilities. The entry fee was another bargain £13, and I was more than impressed when they actually didn’t ask for the extra £2 for entering on the day. Also included was a ticket for a post-race hot drink and refreshments. This is what un-commercialised club racing is all about!
I’d been disconcerted in the previous week to discover that the race was actually longer than its name suggested, at 14miles, 331.5yards! I hadn’t managed to find an elevation profile though, but close to registration there was a big screen with a slideshow, and we managed to glance up at just the wrong moment and catch a glimpse of what appeared to be a rather hilly contour. We had a bit of a mooch about, checked the finish line, looked at the local pubs, had a good chat with a few runners who we knew and eventually braved a warm-up. I managed to restrict Jayne to 2 miles, and this was enough for us to realise that we would have a cold easterly head wind for about miles 4 to 10; which from mile 6 had also looked like a climb on the elevation.
The course loop
The course starts in the village centre and heads north west, back towards Sedbergh. After about 3½ miles, it turns and heads back, along the road that we had driven in on. You are then given a tantalising glimpse of the village before being sent out for another loop to the east of Dent. So at just before 1, we gathered on the start line outside the village school, and were sent on our way.
View from the start
Being a downhill start everyone is taken up in the moment and aspirational paces are the norm. We knew that Waddy and Jacqui were coming to watch, but hadn’t managed to see them. It turned out that they were in a queue of cars behind a tractor which were all being made to wait for the runners to pass. At that turn in the road, we were greeted by the first of many hills, and the wheels immediately fell off some of the aspirants. I’d had a great tussle with Richard Jones of Garstang at the Haweswater half, and so was pleased when he appeared next to me at the start of the race. It was déjà-vu as we spent the first outward part of the course keeping each other honest – is he Mike Harris in disguise? At the turn of the first loop, I put a bit more effort in and seemed to gain some distance on Richard and a few other runners – though I didn’t look back to check.
This part of the course sends you back towards Dent, and despite running into the wind, I was feeling good and settled into a nice pace. Then to my astonishment (because he’s usually way in front of me), I realised that the next runner in my sights was Peter Cruse of Lytham. Without consciously increasing pace, I gradually came up on his shoulder, and not wanting to be seen to be drafting, pulled alongside and had a chat. He worryingly told me that for some reason he tends to get stronger in the second half of these races, so I thought I’d just stay with him for as long as I could. There was a drinks station at about the 6 mile mark, and I was surprised that Peter took a cup. Before I knew it, I was ahead of him with Dent in sight.
A couple more runners were reeled in and then I could see the crowds at the half way stage. Jacqui had threatened to bring a chair to sit in as part of her recuperation, so I was surprised to see her standing there. Just along was Waddy with his camera at the ready, and an encouraging “Come on Dave”. He immediately undid the good work by shouting “Well done Crusey”. Apparently, this was to warn me that he was back on my tail! True to his promise Peter passed me shortly after, but I managed to hold the distance between us until about 13 miles; in some places pulling back to within a few yards.
From Dent to the turn was largely uphill, and although the wind wasn’t strong, it was bitter. I noticed that my legs had turned a nice shade of red, and Jayne said that she never got warm along this stretch. The turn took you over a bridge and a little dig of a hill. What better place to site the race photographer!
Jayne looking very determined!
The last few miles are a classic roller coaster. I hadn’t read the script, and thought that there was a single big climb at some point. I can’t say that I was disappointed that one never materialised, but the continual ups and downs took their toll on your legs, and eventually at about mile 13 my right hamstring spasmed and I thought it was the end. At a similar distance, Jayne got a sharp burning pain in her left calf and also feared the worst. For me, it was a case of avoiding striding out, so any thoughts of trying to catch Crusey were conveniently dropped, and the focus shifted to not being caught from behind.
Classic: Waddy the photographer cheered on Peter Cruse! Nice one Coach!
The 14 mile mark came, with a wry smile, and then we were into Dent village itself. The quaint cobbled streets were not exactly the best surface to finish on, and the last little climb was unappreciated, but the finish line was in sight and with no-one to catch or to be caught by, I could avoid any temptation to sprint. I’d not really had any pre-race targets because the race was such an unknown to me. I managed 1.34.31 (about 6.39 pace) which Peter Cruse assured me was a good time – he was 18 seconds ahead. This put me in 40th place overall, and 7th vet 50 – who was saying that they might podium in this category?! Jayne had another excellent run, defying her claim that she can’t run these types of course. She was 57th overall, 4th lady and 1st in the vet 45-54 category, in a time of 1.38.29. Altogether, 447 runners finished, the winner being Simon Deakin of Leeds City in 1.18.34, and the leading lady Joasia Zakrzewski of Dumries RC in 1.29.17.
Waddy and Jacqui were at the finish with stories about being stuck behind tractors and missing the race finish due to being caught up in a coffee shop – the tough life of the spectator. We chilled (cold, not relaxed!) surprisingly quickly and so limped back to the car to get changed. The school hall provided welcome refreshments, organised with military precision by the local WI. It was great to see so many runners stay behind for the presentations., but I’m sure the free refreshments played their part. Jayne recovered our entry fee with a prize for 4th lady, and then somewhat unusually also received a vets prize. I couldn’t believe it as she explained that she had already received one prize, and was relieved when the organisers insisted that she take it. Relief was temporary though because it turned out to be a pair of running socks, not my size, and another glass trophy for me to dust.
As with Haweswater, get this race on your 2016 calendar. In my opinion, great spring marathon training – but I’ll reassess that claim, depending how we go at Manchester.
Editor’s note: Dave is going to have withdrawal symptoms from writing race reports so I guess we will need to get him to write up the relays. Beware anyone who smiles or waves at the camera, you’ll be slaughtered in the write up!
Or maybe not?