Posts Tagged ‘trail running’

Howth Summit 10k

Thursday, October 20th, 2022 | Sport

Howth is a beautiful peninsula that makes up the top of Dublin bay. The Howth Summit 10k is a Gaelforce event that takes you over the top of it.

The start line and car parking is down at Howth Castle (the train station is also close at hand for those not heading straight to Tesco for the weekly shop after the race) but number collection is at the golf course further up the hill so you’ve climbed one hill before you even start 😂. It took a bit of time to find registration but it eventually turned up around the back of the building.

The route starts with a 3km climb uphill. Some of it is just steep. Other bits of it get technical. A lot of it is single-track through the woods. A few of the sections require scrambling, including one extended section that comes out of the top of the woods and gives you a beautiful view over Portmarnock.

Or at least it would if I had dared to look. It was steep and the soil and gravel were loose. Very much outside of my comfort zone so I decided it would be a bad idea to look down. Once we made it to the top I decided to take a breather and take in some of the beautiful views.

After this, things got easier. We went down for a kilometre and then back up for another kilometre, taking us to the radio mast at the very top of Howth. Completely panoramic views from here including Dublin Bay, Portmarnock, the rest of Howth, Ireland’s Eye and even Lambay Castle in the distance.

The next three kilometres took us downhill on better trail that was easier to run on. I usually lose places on the downhill but I managed to hold my own here and even go past a few people. This section takes you down from the mast all the way ho the coastline. A short road section then follows before the climb up past Howth Castle to the finish line at the Deer Park golf club.

My finish time was:


That was good enough for 184 out of 519 but what I am most proud of is that I took the time to stop and admire the views and pull my pace back when I wanted to. I want to enjoy races like this rather than just blast them as quickly as possible and I think allowing myself to take over an hour to do a 10k is a good step in that direction.

Round Sheffield Run

Thursday, July 7th, 2022 | Sport

Round Sheffield Run is a multi-stage trail race that starts and ends in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. It is a stage race in that there is 20k of timed stages with another 4k or so of walking in between. It’s Sheffield, so it was pretty hilly. I finished in:


Happy with that. The course was busy, especially on the single-track sections, so there was a lot of getting stuck behind people. It also made it difficult to see upcoming roots and quite a few people took a tumble. The feed stations has bananas and jelly babies. I’m not sure I would do the event again, but it was okay. I think they missed me on the race photos. Or maybe just decided I’m not photogenic enough, lol.

Man Vs Coast

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 | Sport

Man Vs Coast is a 36-40k adventure race from Marazion Beach to Land’s End. It’s my A- event for the year: not as important as Copenhagen but still one of the big events I have been focusing on.

It’s predominantly a run but includes six trips into the sea (be it wading or jumping in), a very small amount of climbing and a couple of rope bridges to traverse. Rat Race describe it as one of those obstacle course races except that the obsticals are the Cornish coastline.


Registration took place the day before in Penzance. They have quite a long mandatory kit list and checked everyone’s kit before we were allowed to pick up our numbers and satellite trackers. The queue took quite a while but luckily it wasn’t raining while we queued.

Race day

I parked up at Land’s End and took the shuttle bus to the start. I felt a bit sick at this point so when we arrived at Marazion I got a hot chocolate and a brownie which helped settle my stomach. It rained most of the morning and there wasn’t much shelter. I got the 7am bus but you could have got on the 8am but and still got to the start comfortably, even if you were in the 9:00 wave as I was.

They had an open-topped trailer where you could drop a finish line bag so I kept my warm clothing on for as long as possible before sticking it in my bag and handing it in. The rain did stop before the start, which was nice.

Part 1: 0-14k

The race starts with a run along Marazion Beach including wading out to waist-deep water and climbing over a sea wall. There was a second sea-based activity further down the beach where we had to dip under an inflatable so this was a full immersion. At each of the sea-based activities, there is a bag drop so you can keep your kit a little drier.

After this is turned off the beach. To get under the main road into Penzance we climbed into the river and walked up the river under a set of two low bridges. It wasn’t quite hands and feet crawling but pretty low. I nearly knocked myself out on a pipe coming out of the bridge; a moment the photographer was good enough to document.

After this we were onto tracks and roads. I stopped to empty the sand out of my shoes before we took the long climb from the south coast to the north coast. At the top, the first feed stop was waiting for us. They were well stocked: crisps, cakes, sweets, fruit, flapjack bars, water and electrolyte drinks. Finally, there was a cross-country stretch to bring us to the north coast.

Part 2: 14-20k

This part was hard. We dropped onto the South West coastal path but calling it a “path” was generous. The terrain was very technical with the route being filled with rocks and often at steep inclines. I felt like I was moving really slowly here with each kilometre taking anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes.

There was a water activity where we had to wade out and around an inflatable. The water seemed a lot colder on the north coast and the rocks were super-slippy so it was slow going.

At one point, we either left the path or it disappeared completely and we had to climb down a very small cliff and back up again. it was only maybe 4 metres, so if I slipped I would only fall my own height. But that feels like quite a lot when you have only been bouldering once!

At least the views where beautiful, overlooking the rugged coast line below.

Part 3: 20-33k

Mercifully, the trail got better from here. it was still very up and down but the paths tended to be gravel and far more runable. We went passed some of the old tin mines and ruins of old stone buildings.

I was slightly delayed in getting through one gap in a wall when a horse decided it was going to block it. Thankfully, it did eventually moved when I asked it to. Some of the paths are cut into the cliffside themselves so a little nerveracking being so close to falling down a cliff.

One section was the “vertical kilometre”. Honestly, if It had not been labelled I couldn’t have told it apart from the rest of the hills on the course.

Part 4: 33-38k

As we approached Sennen the route dropped down onto the beach and we were running in soft sand again. The first activity here was body boarding: you had to grab a body board, run into the sea and board back in. Unfortunately, most of the body boards were snapped in the middle and there were was not much surf to be had, so I didn’t get very far.

At the end of the beach there was a large rocky section where we had to climb or jump for rock to rock. This was a long section that took a while to traverse. At the end, there was another water activity where we had to duck under a line limbo-style.

The final activity was just around the corner and involved climbing down another little cliff and traversing two rope bridges. They move a lot! There were only a couple of metres above the rocks but that felt pretty high at the time. Finally, it finishes with a cliff jump which again was only 2-3 metres high but that’s a lot when you’re standing there, so I treated myself to climbing into the water lower down and swimming over the other side.

After this, there was a climb back up the hill that brought the Land’s End visitors centre into sight.

The finish

The route took us up past the buildings around Land’s End and into the event village to go under the finish arch. Everyone gets a free finisher photo (the others you have to buy) and a cup of “award-winning” soup. Rat Race admit they don’t know who gave the soup said award but it was probably for the weakest soup in the world 😂.

My official time was:


It is a run, not a race: Rat Race publish results in alphabetical order and any comparison of the timings are meaningless because the activities are all optional so you could go much faster by skipping the trips into the sea. That said, I was moving faster than most participants: 116 out of 800.

My watch clocked the total distance as 37.95 km with 1,222 m of elevation gain. Technically, it is not even a marathon, but I would rate the difficulty as up there with the shorter end of ultra races.


The event was challenging and well organised. A lot of people asked me “was it horrible” on account of the cold water and having your shoes filled with water and sand. But not of that really came to pass. The water did not feel cold (except on the north coast) and I soon warmed up again. My shoes soon drained and although they stayed damp the whole time, I didn’t pick up any blisters. I was sore on Sunday but not overly so.

Some of it was fun. But I really signed up to push my comfort zone: trips into the sea, wet feet, climbing, cliffs, rope bridges, point-to-point races, all of that was uncomfortable and I wanted to push myself, which I did.

Wuthering Heights Wander 2022

Thursday, June 16th, 2022 | Sport

I first did the Wuthering Heights Wander last year to expand my trail running experience. It is an 8-kilometre loop that you can do any time from Once (like I did last time) to lots of times (for the ultra distance). This year, I was there for the three-loop course.

The course starts with a climb over the hills and down to the Bronte waterfall. I was fifth by the time we reached it but once we got to the top of the hill it changes to a downhill road section so I opened up my stride and moved up to second. I held onto this until almost the end when I had a chat with fellow HPH-er Michelle. As we were chatting the guy in third came past me so I had to sprint off to reclaim my second place!

I finished in:


Not quite as fast as last year but I did run three times farther!

Organisation by It’s Grim Up North Running was pretty slick with the exception that they couldn’t get hold of any toilets due to the Jubilee weekend and having no card facilities for the barbeque.

Keswick Mountain Festival

Thursday, May 26th, 2022 | Sport

The Keswick Mountain Festival is the UK’s premier mountain festival. How many mountain festivals are there, though?

I signed up for the 25k. I do not do a lot of hilly running but I thought “even if it is twice as hard as a normal 25k, that would make it a 50k, and I can manage that.” Luckily, it was somewhere in between. It was hard but not in the way I expected. The uphills were fine but the trail was quite technical: a lot of it was rocky or steep gravel descents which meant I was carefully picking where I put my feet.

This meant I was moving slower than I expected. When I signed up I put myself in the sub-3:10 category because I thought I could pretty much walk it in that time and how hard can it be to maintain a walking pace? Well, pretty hard when you’re worried you’re about to go flying. It was unrunnable. And yet, everyone else was running it. I didn’t want to do that because I was worried I would slip. But everyone else just got on with slipping (and they did slip!).

In the second half of the course, it got flatter and less technical and I was able to speed up. I hit the 24k point at around three hours and thought I would probably make it in under 3:10 after all. But the course turned out to be 25.5 km long so when I hit 25 k I could not see the finish. One last push and I crossed the line in:


Good enough for 176 out of 408.

The weather was okay. A little bit of train. In the UK, you sometimes get all four seasons in one day. But in the Lake District, you seem to get all four seasons every day. The route was beautiful with the caveat that I rarely dared to take my eyes off the trail.

I made a video about it that you can watch here:

Roche Abbey trail race

Thursday, April 14th, 2022 | Sport

I booked the 32k Roche Abbey trail race as a prep event for Race to the Castle. Unfortunately, five days before the event, Race to the Castle was cancelled. But it would still be a useful test of the legs after breaking my ankle in December.

It was a three-lap course. We took the first few hundred metres together before the eventual winner accelerated off into the lead. I settled into third place but was down to sixth by the end of the first lap as everyone found their pace. After the second lap, I moved back up to fourth as the other runners slowed down. It was annoying. If they had left me for dead I could chill out. But being close to the podium I wanted to keep pushing.

As we approached the aid station on the final lap, I saw the third-place runner ahead of me. He wasn’t moving too fast and stopped entirely when we reached the aid station. This would have been fine but I was hurting by this point, too. By the halfway out-and-back, I was 3.5 minutes up but I was running out of energy myself and had to do a bit of run-walk.

As I went up the big hill through the woods I realised I had run out of water. Probably the first time ever! For some reason, I had done my maths incorrectly when filling my bottles that morning, so I had estimated my water intake correctly but did not put enough water in the flasks. I was about 20 minutes from the end so there was nothing to do but push on.

In the end, I was still moving faster than everyone behind me and finished 10 minutes ahead of fourth place. Unfortunately, Grim Up North are now only giving out trophies to the winners, but it’s still officially a podium for third overall.

Wuthering Heights Wander

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021 | Sport

Racing is back! Last Saturday I took part in the Wuthering Heights Wander in Haworth.

The course is an 8-kilometre trail route from Haworth village to the Bronte waterfall and back, taking in 180 metres of elevation gain on each loop. You can do a single loop (5 mile) or as many as six for the ultramarathon.

I’m not a big trail runner. I thought this was my first trail race but I have since remembered that I did do the Kirkstall Abbey 7 4 years ago. Additionally, it is rated 5/5 on Grim Up North’s difficulty rating (“Grimmer Than Grim”). Given this then, I decided to take on just one loop.

I was aiming to take it easy and enjoy it but ended up going around the course in 46:41, which was good enough for 7th place in the 5-mile category. Despite the better-than-expected pace I very much did enjoy the run. The descent down to Bronte waterfall was technical but it was otherwise relatively easy running albeit with some hill climbs. Might be very different after heavy rain! But fun enough that I am going to look at more trail races, and coming back to Haworth, in the future.

Plus, it was Grim Up North, so excellent homemade cake at the end.

Trail running

Saturday, February 20th, 2021 | Sport

Traditionally, I’ve been a road runner. I like it. You can focus on the pain. Trail running is fun and I am not always a fun person. But I am challenging a lot of beliefs about myself recently and one of them is that getting my feet wet and muddy may not be as bad as it first seems.

Lockdown 3 has been miserable. It is long and the weather had been terrible for months (I am writing this in the middle of February). I have not taken my bike outside since Christmas Eve. But I have been running in the snow. Given it only snows a few days a year, and sometimes not at all in a year, and I am in my 30s, I may only have a month of snow days left. And that ignores climate breakdown. So, I didn’t want to miss them.

But running in snow is slippy when all you have is a pair of road shoes. As is running on the trail which I have traditionally limited to summer. So, I have finally given in and bought a pair of trail shoes. I tried the Hoka Speedgoat 4 as these match my Clifton 6s, but there was not enough height in the toe box for my giant toes, so I had to switch to the Torrent. Less cushioning but otherwise very nice.

While it is a little annoying to go through a puddle the first time, my feet did stay relatively warm at six degrees Celcius. And because of how miserable the weather was, I literally had Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to myself.

Kirkstall Abbey 7

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 | Sport

Kirkstall Abbey 7 is a trail race staged by Kirkstall Harriers. It starts and ends at Kirstall Abbey, taking in some of the canal towpath, River Aire and surrounding countryside.

Despite the rain, I was reasonably cheery as I went over the start line. I tried to take it easy as I was still recovering from food poisoning, and had already done a hard weekend at Parkrun, but still managed to bring it home in 1:04:55, five minutes ahead of schedule.

The scenery was really nice. Some parts of the race could have done with trail shoes. However, given how much was on hard surfaces, I’m not sure they would have been pleasant to run in for most of the race.

Kirkstall Harriers did an excellent job of organising it with plenty of marshalls, a water station, chip timings and a goodie bag with a much-needed chocolate biscuit in. Plus a bottle of beer.