SUPERMAN, Spiderman and an assortment of farm animals sprinted round a field at Whirlow Hall Farm last Sunday, paced by eager parents trying to keep up, or encouraging their occasionally reticent costumed offspring to keep going.
The Supermen and parents eventually crossed the finishing line of the Big Running Weekend Family Fun Run, (farm animal fancy dress optional, Superman’s status as farm animal unexplained), while nearby, Marcus Scotney was chatting to fellow runners about his Saturday trip to Grindsbrook.
“The Peak District is just stunning,” said Marcus.
Marcus had chosen not to take part in the half-mile family fun run and had instead won the New Balance Ultra Tour of the Peak District.
That is, running from Whirlow Hall Farm to Stanage, Derwent, the edge of Kinder, Edale, Castleton, Bradwell and back to Whirlow again. A trip of over 56 miles, which took Marcus just over nine hours. That’s two marathons, one after the other, but with the addition of lots of boulders, bogs, and hills.
“It was a bit relentless at times but I really enjoyed it,” said Marcus. “And now and again I was able to put my head up and look at the view.”
Marcus was joined by nearly 50 other Ultra runners, who’d travelled to the event from all over the UK. Ultra running, Marcus explained, is for those who want to ‘take it beyond the marathon.’
A former Sheffielder who now lives in Dumfries, Marcus runs 100-kilometre (62 mile) races for England and Team GB, but said the first Peak District Ultra was one of the toughest he’s yet encountered.
The race was the highlight of the first Big Running Weekend at Whirlow, which aimed to raise £4,000 to £5,000 for the Whirlow Hall Farm Trust while promoting Sheffield (and the farm) as a centre for running.
It was inspired by the success of the farm’s 10k race and was put together by farm trust fundraiser Lisa Clowes, herself a keen runner, along with Stuart Hale from the Accelerate running store, and sponsors New Balance and Peterman’s Forklift Trucks.
“Sheffield is the capital city of running,” said Stuart Hale. “It’s got Don Valley, about 15 road and fell running clubs, there are hills and flat areas, and you can start a couple of miles from Hillsborough and do a 20-mile run to Edale with only half a mile of road. We’ve got it all here, we’re so lucky.”
The weekend added more trail races and an Ultra race to the options and feedback from participants had been ‘phenomenal’.
Joan Ward, from Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, said as a non-runner she’d had her misgivings, but was now hoping that the Big Running Weekend would become an annual event.
“We had 170 people in the 10k race, which is the most we’ve ever had,” she said, estimating that well over 300 runners had taken part over the weekend, with hundreds more supporters.
“We even had supporters out at 5.30 on Monday morning to clap home the last of the Ultra runners.”
Dot Kesterton started running four years ago when she retired and was one of the first women back from the 12:12 (12.12 mile in 2012) trail race.
“It was absolutely great to be running in such fabulous countryside,” she said. “Every step of the way was a joy.”
You’re never too old to run, she added, but pointed out that the Olympic legacy needs backing up by government action to support running groups, coaches and facilities. “The demand is there, it just needs to be followed up with some action.”
Stuart Hale said that running is on the rise, and the Olympics will boost the effect, whether for fun runs and social running or for triathletes and Ultra runners setting out for a double marathon over the moors.
“I’d say just give it a go,” he said. “But start training slowly and gently and just enjoy yourself.”