Monday 22 October 2012

Rowbothams Round Rotherham 50 - 20th October 2012

Today, Saturday the 20th October, I had a run around Rotherham – taking part in the annual, and my second, Rowbothams Round Rotherham 50 mile race.
Not being a racer myself, I`m simply restricted to possible PB territory so never really troubling the scorers; in fact it's only within the last couple of years that i get around before the flags come down! So, i try to pick a slant on the event to convey its essence from my perspective However, my contemporaries of whatever ability level, a lot of whom have now become firm friends, are never far from the narrative.

Ludicrously, I found myself at the front of the start line; a shameful place to be when I glanced over my left shoulder to see Duncan Harris and Ian Symington – todays winner (6.29! how on earth can that be allowed) and last years victor – amongst other leading lights but I never had time to get to my rightful place – back of mid pack – before the claxon went off and we were away promptly into the half light of a 7.00am autumnal morning.


This trip around the Rotherham ring today, my local patch, always reminds me of the contrasts with my youth several decades ago. Take any subject you like: Urban / Rural, Road / Trail, Industrial (old and New) / Countryside; all these contrasts are to be found along the way .... from the early morning deserted canal systems around Elsecar right on to my last shot of the day besides the broad canal in Mexborough ...

... not forgetting the derelict canals above the Rother Valley Country Park.

All signs of the decay and decline in the traditional industries of the surrounding area, but with a surprisingly good outcome and aesthetic for the walkers and runners of the this 50 miler. The River Don, too, is now surrounded by relics of old industry and is now remarkably clean; a fine salmon being caught around these parts very recently! ...
... and part of the old Templeborough steel plant now houses the modern Magna experience; all more confirmations of the terminal heavy industrial decline.

However, before all this nonsense it was a chance, prior to the off, to catch up with running pals. I Would have liked to say hello to Jon Steele but I was a late arrival and he was surrounded by well wishes who surely must have asked the question I longed to pose – "So, how`s the body standing up to 38 ultra marathons so far this year?" and "Are you still doing 30 miles around Ennerdale tomorrow?". Me old mucker Nick Ham was a welcome sight and remains a font of knowledge and experience of the years events ... always good to get Nick`s take on the season and his ups and downs ... navigation along the Yorkshire coast eh?.

Lastly, before the off it was good to speak with Dawn Westrum, adventure racer extraordinaire, who has had another packed and very successful year – I'll leave it to Dawn to say what's planned for next spring but what a terrific opportunity!.

54 minutes in and the 10k mark has been passed and we're already sliding around in, what would be our constant companion today, ... Mud!. Fields of it, much later on passed halfway but the early dewy tracks through woods and fields had many of us sliding around fighting for a purchase; hot work to remain upright, and not all of us achieved it.

Leaving the remnants of the Dearne Valley we trudged upwards towards the smashing village of Wentworth, through and passed the impressive Holy Trinity Church at the top of the hill.

Impressive as this "new" Victorian Church was only commissioned in 1872 by the 6th Earl of Fitzwilliam at a cost of around £25,000 in memory of his parents. It was designed by John Pearson, who was the leading Victorian architect at that time – take a peep inside next time you`re passing, the stonemasonry alone inside the vaulted body is well worth worth the visit.

The last of the early climbs saw us passing Kepples Column.

At 115 feet, Keppel’s Column is the tallest of the Wentworth follies; it was originally planned to be even taller and capped with a statue of Admiral Keppel, but evidently the Marquis of Rockingham ran short of funds. It was designed by John Carr, who was also responsible for the Wentworth Woodhouse stables and the family’s Irish house. This, the tallest and the last view of the Wentworth Estate landmarks, sees us away  to checkpoint 1 at Grange Park in good order, both Nick and I take a refuel, have a quick chinwag and then away forward as the sun lights up the grass onwards towards Sheffield and beyond.

Alongside and over the River Don and the industry lesson is over. I paused on the lane under the M1 motorway however to congratulate Ray Matthews. This 71 year old Maltby runner was completing 3 back to back fifty milers and was a quarter of the way around his second lap. Due respect where it's deserved, I wouldn't dream of going that far so a handshake and we parted, him with my hearty good wishes. Just after this meeting, I took my final snap of the industrially changed landscape ...

Tinsley Marshalling Yard today bears no resemblance to the yard of its recent history. It was opened in 1965 as part of a major plan to rationalise all aspects of the rail services in the Sheffield area, and closed in stages from 1985 with the run-down of rail freight in Britain. It was also the site of the Traction Maintenance Depot  which was closed and demolished in the mid 1990`s. At its peak 250 locomotives were allocated here at this depot - only their ghosts now remain. The Yard was designed along the lines of large US rail freight yards. It featured gravity-assisted shunting and a computerised system of wagon control. Incoming trains were split in the 11 arrival sidings, propelled over the hump in the yard, from where the individual wagons rolled down a slope and were automatically sorted into new trains on the Yard's 80 main sorting sidings. It must have looked like a proper yard, but with such a brief life as the surrounding industry declined.
From previous experience, this next section to the halfway point, along the bottom of Orgreave, through Treeton, would represent a dark part of the race for me. The bit where one strives for energy reserves and that second wind!. But with 2 hours 13 minutes for the 1/2 marathon distance, I had to persevere on my own as by now we were all well strung out. Just a case of head down and grinding the miles out, topping up with jelly beans / gels and water ... eventually, turning away left and upwards towards Harthill where I recovered a tad and got the camera out to capture the Lake views ...

Passing under the M1 and the last mile to halfway we were confronted with Brown. ...

...Brown fields as far as the eye could see ... a recently ploughed field made for tough running and this would be the terrain and a theme for the next few hours.

Then just prior to the checkpoint, I was delighted to bump into Joe Williams from Esk Valley who was “in it for the 100 points” and freely admitted to being trashed at that point. Joe and I had passed the time of day at both the Falcon Flyer and Lyke wake Race earlier in the year, both North Yorkshire Moors routes and hence in his backyard so to speak, now I know it's the points that brought him down South and not just the sweeping motorway views. I did indicate that he and I were side by side, as he grumbled away, but as he gently reminded me that he had kicked off at 6.00am then I must be doing something towards a PB then, no matter how bad I felt at that point. And, Joe got back in his expected time ... and bagged his points!.

I did manage to get away from the Harthill checkpoint with 4.24 on the watch and then began the mental calculations. Will I have the discipline to keep going, however pathetic the plod will become, will I succombe, once again, to the shuffle of the spent force or can I grit it out and get my sub 10 hour finish?

At least for now there wasn't anymore climbing to be done, just more and more brown fields.

And wind turbines in brown fields ...

... and the track snaked ever away ... across a brown field.

Then unexpected delights in a small canal lock system by the unofficial drinks stop at Turnerwood ...

Then it was nose to the grindstone for me. Mindful of being well on the return leg, the decision was made - I would get that PB of a sub 10 hour finish and so now the work had to be put in.

Only brief refueling stops at Woodsetts and Firbeck, and with a decent pack of coat-tails to hang onto I was soon on the tussocks of the approach to Roche Abbey and the penultimate checkpoint through the churchyard in Maltby

Many mental calculations followed and with 40 miles gone and 7 hours 40 minutes on the clock, if I just kept plodding onwards then ultimately I'll get there - in time. A bit of head down again out of Maltby, through Micklebring, under the M18 - once again catching Malcolm Coles who gave me a great tow through more fields - and I'm nearly done. Cresting the hill of Old Denaby with the Don valley below it needed a burst of enthusiasm and I chased a Rotherham Harrier relay runner down the hill to the last checkpoint to give me a shot at my target.

With 76K gone and "only" a 5K to go I had 30 minutes left ... normally no problem to do a 5K in 30 minutes and I should do it with time to spare but I needed to run it properly along the Mexborough canal and through the Swinton streets and parkland, upwards, in order to get back to the Finish: doing so in 9 hours 55.

It just remains to be said how much it meant to achieve my target, and to say a big thank you for all the team of supporters and marshalls for another great event. Sobering that Malcolm confirmed it was the slowest of his 14 rounds, and I was only 3 minutes ahead of him! ... room for improvement yet then. Lastly, what happened Nick? too much workload during the week to get near last years time?


  1. Congratulations on your sub 10! I have a feeling I was with you just out of Denaby, I was the girl with a very sore knee who had dumped my bag :)

    1. Hi Laura, yes of course! ... how's the knee today?? and, thanks for the kind comments

    2. I'm still hobbling, but I can get down the stairs today at least! How were you feeling afterwards?

    3. Surprisingly well!!, just a few black toenails and heavy legs but still buoyed by the PB :)

  2. Enjoyed the read Mike. I walked my first RRR 50 this year in 15.10. I might just be back to run it next year. Watch this space!!

    1. 15.10 sounds very like a jog anyday! You must run it next year ... a prime candidate :)

  3. Mike, congrats on the sub-10! It takes a lot of effort to continue running a good pace even in the last 3 miles! Heartbreaking last year to finish in 10:02 but this year the legs gave out and nowhere near that. But still a great race!

    1. Thanks Dawn and well done to you too. I sneaked a pair of Ibuprofens at Harthill and had an armchair ride for the second half as far as the knees went. You did well to tough it out as you did. See ya :)

  4. Good to see you again, no doubt are paths will cross again. You never no, one day i may finish in front.Excellent time though.

    1. Praps the Falcon???? I seem to recall being dished that day!

  5. Good effort and good result, Mike. You obviously remained in front of me from when you left me at the first checkpoint. I'll have to knuckle down so I can catch you again.

    1. Thanks Nick, I did struggle a bit around Rother Valley but pressed on and the magic Ibuprofen fix at Harthill allowed me to hang on until the end. You were breathing down my neck and with little training to boot :) well done to you ... I agree with your earlier adage that the more one does the better one gets!.

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