“One hell of a run” shows off splendour of Sheffield
“I am broken,” said one of Sunday’s participants after the famous Round Sheffield Run. “An absolute killer,” said another cheery reviewer.
What fun all 2,700 of us had. “It was brutal. My legs hate me,” said a first timer from Nottingham of an event many bill as the nation’s ‘best run of the year.’The 15 mile journey around the approximate route of Sheffield Round Walk was a unique experiment when it started in 2014, mixing eleven timed and often rugged trail runs comprising almost a half marathon around the south western woods, fields and parks of the Outdoor City, with brief walking interludes between. “It was the only one of its kind in the world, when we started,” said organiser Doug Banks, “although now there are now some imitations.” “It’s a completely different atmosphere to what you’d get in a normal race, where you just bury yourself as you run and only feel pleasure at the end” said Jason Brannan of the Steel City Striders club.
“As you walk you can have a rest and chat to other runners, it’s really like a carnival atmosphere between sections.”Hence the comments from other Sheffielders last Sunday: “Why are all these people in running gear walking all over the place?” Doug Banks of Kandoo Events was inspired by motor racing rallies as he set up the run.
“By introducing these breaks, it gives people the opportunity to have a conversation, introducing a social aspect which is missing from other running events,” he said. “We wanted to give runners something they’d not experienced before, and that’s why Sheffield is the perfect location for this type of race. It would be hard to replicate anywhere else.”Indeed. Runners who’d made the trip from Surrey, Scotland, France and Germany were faced initially with the picturesque three mile grind up the Porter Valley, followed by a knee jerking sprint back down again through Whirlow. Many ran in pairs, with a shared timing device forcing you to start and finish each stage more or less together: if your running buddy is thirty years younger and fearless, like mine, this adds the extra excitement of wondering if you’ll have broken an ankle by the time you finish the Ecclesall Woods downhill.Then as you merrily banter with fellow runners from around the country, you know as you cross the River Sheaf that the only way is up (again).“We say to people visiting from flatter parts of the world, that what goes up must come down,” said Doug. “You have to blend a bit of grit and determination with the joy of the downhills!”He’s keen to show off the splendours of the Outdoor City’s woodlands: the very ancient steep oak woods of Ladies Spring Wood, for example, blend in as you go with planted trees and bushes around Beauchief, Chancet Wood and Graves Park.Locals take it all for granted, while visitors clambering out of Lees Hall woods take a few minutes to gather themselves before gasping at the breathtaking descent into inner city Sheffield through Meersbrook Park.The constant ups and downs lead to cheerful conversations with complete strangers, and the city’s new Crescent Runners group used the opportunity of the Round Sheffield Run to encourage more of the city’s Asian community to join Sheffield’s running boom.“When you look around, you see mostly white faces in events like this, so we want to encourage more Asian people to get involved,” said Arif Ali.
The group launched their social media sites last weekend and aim to start a couch to 5k course by late summer.
“We have ten people in the run this year and we hope to double or triple that by 2021.” The final climb through Brincliffe Edge woods had a perfectly timed finale with a short descent suddenly revealing a steep flight of steps to Chelsea Park. “Oh, (expletive) off!” gasped a woman taking part for the first time.No matter. The children with jell babies and oranges cheered us on, and everyone stumbled through the final ‘sprint’ to the finish line and Thornbridge beer tent.Jason Brannan and partner Maxine Whitworth held hands as they crossed the line. “A hell of a run,” they said.