Braving the weather for athletic start to New Year
Tea and spaghetti bring cheer to droves of damp runners in the Dark Peak
“It was great,” said Loxley Crawshaw, “it was drizzle all the way round, then when we were going up to Broomhead Reservoir it got really cold.”
Loxley was cheerfully assisting the Dark Peak Fell Runners support team as they warmed tea and spaghetti hoops for a troop of damp athletes on their way down from Bleaklow on the day before New Year’s Eve, after running across 25 miles of winter countryside on the edge of the Outdoor City.
“There’s some really bad and wet sections up there,” grinned Loxley. “It’s awful.”
Loxley has run the whole 48 miles of the annual Bradfield Boundary Run several times before, so he could afford to be upbeat about curtailing his pre-dawn sprint through the streets and woods of northern Sheffield after a mere 15 miles, in order to support his fellow runners.
Fellow spaghetti stirrer Dave Markham was one of the inaugural Bradfield Boundary runners 23 years ago, and remembers the conditions fondly.
“It’s like going through black porridge, and at other times it’s like walking through broken windowpanes, when you go through the crust of ice into a dark thick nasty liquid and it cuts your shins. It’s quite arduous.”
Veteran Dark Peak member David Holmes set up the first Bradfield Boundary run for New Year’s Eve 1994, essentially as a training exercise for parents from Loxley primary school who were planning to raise £25,000 of sponsorship money for a new classroom by running legs of the Pennine Way the following spring.
Dave Markham was then the head teacher of Loxley (the school) and joined the project enthusiastically, little realising he’d still be doling out tea and cake to freezing fell runners a generation later.
“An increasing number of people are enjoying engaging with the beautiful landscape around Sheffield, which I think is good for the soul,” Dave said, as the runners squelched in for brunch after already completing a swampy marathon.
“I’ve done ultramarathons where you’re just on roads, trails or tracks, but there are bits up there where you’re just picking your way through bogs,” said Loxley (the runner). “This is extreme.”
The Bradfield Boundary Run was inspired by the formidable 66 mile ‘Bob Graham Round’ in the Lake District, where participants traverse 42 mountain tops within 24 hours. After completing the round thirty years ago, David Holmes tried to find a similar challenge back home in Sheffield.
“I wanted to exploit what I felt at the time was Sheffield’s under-celebrated cheek-by-jowl co-existence with the Peak District,” he said.
David rejected a circuit around the city boundary when he realised the passable route would approach 100 miles and include several unappealing urban features.
“Picking your way round the edge of Blackburn Meadows sewage works would hardly be comparable to cresting Scafell Pike or Great Gable,” he said.
He then noticed the Bradfield parish boundary on his map, with plenty of inhospitable moorland sections likely to be popular with fell runners. At a more suitable 48 miles, it was also “achievable before the pubs close,” David noted.
So now on the first Saturday after Christmas, the Bradfield boundary runners set off at 6am from Loxley primary school to run all or part of the almost double marathon circuit past the moorland fringes now fully celebrated by the Outdoor City.
Loaded up on tea and noodles, the boundary beaters hurtled down to Fairholmes in their road shoes, then changed back to bog equipment for their ascent to the howling winds of Derwent Edge before another cuppa at Moscar as darkness fell, with 12 miles of rocks, woods, and marshes to go.
Thirty runners ticked off some of the route (helped by a half dozen support crew), with eight completing the full 48 miles including the heroic Tom Saville who sped in at just under ten hours.
“The Bradfield parish is England’s biggest, and it spans the amazing geography of our unique Outdoor City,” said David Holmes. “Where else could you set off running past a tram stop, and then three hours later be fighting gale force winds and swollen streams in a snow-covered moorland wilderness?
“I think that’s why the Boundary Run fires people’s imaginations, and I’m really chuffed that so many people want to keep it alive after all these years.”