YHA Castleton, or rather the self-contained, poshly-named ‘West Mews’ building, was the weekend home for our first Mud and miles ‘Introduction to trail running’ weekend in March 2017. Sixteen excited, but slightly apprehensive, women arrived laden with trail running gear and hopes for a challenging but fun weekend out on the trails of the glorious Peak District. Over a delicious pub meal on the Friday night (thanks to the Peak Hotel), running stories and experiences, kit choices and much more were shared and compared, setting the scene for the weekend ahead.
Come Saturday morning, well-rested and fuelled, everyone settled down to looking at the map of the area and the features that would come in useful once out on the hills; symbols, contours, open access land and much more. Heading out onto the rough terrain of the YHA camping field, there were many laughs warming up; no-one had predicted they’d be asked to throw and catch a ball or prance like a pony as someone described it! Limbs loosened up, it was time to venture out into the stunning countryside for the day.
Mud was the theme of the first part of the run; everyone helped each other along the gloopy sides of fields, making new friends along the way. Leaving the valley and the mud behind, the long climb up to the summit of Win Hill included a stop to practise the age-old strategy used by fell-runners on the very steepest of ground; the ‘hands on legs’ technique, and a second pause to master good uphill running technique on slightly shallower ground. It was then a case of run/walking to the summit on beautiful sandy tracks, and saving some breath for a gasp when the view from the top could be seen in all its glory! The sense of achievement amongst the group could be felt in the air; magic!
Heading downhill into the forest on a very narrow, rutted path through rough, knee-high undergrowth was another new experience for most of the group; sometimes it is easier, quicker and safer to walk downhill! Once the muddy lower slopes were conquered, a quick lunch stop by the reservoir provided a welcome break before it was back up the hill, this time on a muddy track that turned into muddy steps and a real test of the legs, heart and lungs; pacing was key all the way!
Arriving at a beautifully green field with a perfect shallow run-off, packs were downed again, this time for some downhill running technique work; just how fast could everyone go? With legs like jelly, the last few miles back to the YHA were a welcome mix of downhill and flat, albeit with some muddy twists thrown in! Back at our weekend home, most were surprised to find that around 9 miles had been run/walked in all; it’s amazing what you can achieve when you are having fun! Stretching, showering, and relaxing filled the time before dinner; another feast at the Peak Hotel.
Blue sky was seen when the curtains were opened on Sunday morning, providing a gorgeous backdrop for the Sunday morning ‘run’. A challenge was ahead; this would be no ordinary run! Whilst Rachel walked with the group to the start point in the village, Kathryn (who had kindly joined us from Trail Running York for the weekend), headed off up Cave Dale; she was the ‘hare’ and the ‘rabbits’ had to track her down. Working in groups of two and three, and set off at intervals, everyone had to navigate their way to the hare’s next hiding point. Much fun was had along the way, and much learning was had! It’s not always best to follow the group you can see ahead – they might be wrong! If you see the ‘hare’ in the distance and she’s climbing over a gate, she just might be fooling you, and if you are chatting so much that you forget to look at the map, it’s always helpful when some passing walkers tell you that everyone else has gone a different way!
With everyone safely back at the YHA, there was time for a quick picnic lunch in the sunshine before the trailrunners headed their separate ways. The number of beaming smiles, the “I just can’t believe I’ve done all that” and “When’s the next one?” comments signified the end of a very successful and enjoyable weekend all round. Happy days!