THE 15th Grindleford Gallop was the most popular ever.
“We’d sold out of places by the first week in January,” said Galloping Kate Axelby, of the organising team.
The Gallop is a 21-mile run, walk or combination of the two from the village of Grindleford, through Eyam, on to Longstone Moor, through Bakewell, Edensor and Chatsworth and back along Baslow, Curbar and Frogatt Edges. It is gruelling but very picturesque.
“When you’ve finished, you can go to the pub and talk about it all and how lucky you are to live here,” said Jenny Shepherd.
“I like the atmosphere of this run,” said triathlete Clare Hadway. “It goes through woods, over streams, up and down dale. There’s more variation and it’s a lot more interesting than a lot of other runs you can do.”
Every year, 600 participants take part, including casual runners, athletes, families, local residents and Peak District enthusiasts from as far away as London, including 84-year-old Louis Myers, who now walks the event after years of running.
Louis had prostate cancer a few years ago and walks the route partly to promote the importance of men checking for early signs of prostate cancer to improve their chances of overcoming the condition.
The main purpose of the run is to raise funds for Grindleford Primary School. Entrance fees aim to raise around £5,500 every year for equipment and trips, such as revamping the school pond for nature study, a stage area for a classroom to help with drama, and a traversing wall in the playground.
Ten members of the PTA organise the event, with support from the school, pupils, local residents and businesses. This year the Sir William pub produced soup for finishers with ingredients from Peak Fruits in Hathersage and prizes for winners came from the Outside outdoor equipment store.
“Running the Gallop means we can concentrate on one major fundraising event in the year,” said Kate Axelby. “The whole community gets together in one big push.”
A key component is the production of 1,500 cakes, traybakes and flapjack slices by locals, which are handed out at traybake stops.
“That’s why we do it,” said runner Helen Willatt. “It’s about damage limitation. The more you run, the more you can eat.”
Helen was racing and eating with colleagues from the Smiley Paces running club, a group of about 100 women from southern Sheffield who got together to take up running a few years ago from an original group of mothers at Ecclesall Junior School.
“After five years of wandering round with toddlers, it’s nice to go a bit faster,” said Helen.
“It gives us a bit of fresh air and child free time, added Catherine Timbers. “It’s been perfect conditions today and the route is stunning. It is a challenge but we’ve had a lovely day.”
Clare Hadway and Jenny Shepherd added that the community-centred nature of the event was also an attraction.
“You’ve got the cakes to look forward to at the next stop and the runners are all looking out for each other, if they get lost, for example,” said Jenny.
“I’d recommend it,” said Clare. “A lot of people walk and run the course, like us. You can always just walk up the hills.”
The 2013 Gallop will take place on the second Saturday in March and entries will open in November. “I’d advise people to book in early,” said Galloping Kate.