Trophies at double for Hallam Chase winner Jo

Anyone running across the Rivelin Valley from the Hallam Cricket ground to Stannington Church, and back again, could be entitled to feel a little light headed. The 3.25 mile race route involves 800 feet of often steep and bumpy ascent, and, since it’s an out and back course, an equal amount of teeth rattling downhills over stiles, rocks, roots and boulders.

By David Bocking
Monday, 13th June 2022, 1:05 pm

“When they handed me the trophies I was in a bit of a daze,” said 2022 Hallam Chase champion, Jo Gleig.

The 160 year old fell race is so much fun that 20,000 Sheffielders would line the course in the late May works holiday week, often betting on likely winners.

And that’s where it gets interesting: unlike most fell races, where the fittest and fastest runners win, the Hallam Chase is a handicap, with painstaking work beforehand by expert handicapper John Spencer on race results, parkrun records and even a secret multiplier formula for the inclines of the Rivelin Valley. So, the slowest runners start first, with the fastest leaping over the start line when their rivals, who ran out of the tiny gate onto Coldwell Lane twenty minutes earlier, are on their way back from Stannington.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Jo Gleig after her victory -photo Rob Davies

So at 8pm on the Tuesday after the second May Bank Holiday (a start time known to Seb Coe and hundreds of other former Chase participants) Jo Gleig was assigned a handicap of 0.

“I had to start on my own when everyone else was waiting,” said the 62 year old, “whereas normally I’m having to cling on at the back hoping not to finish last. I felt a bit panicky. But then I thought, I’m ok on downhills so I’ll go out as fast as possible.”

There were plenty of supporters from her club, the Steel City Striders, which she only joined a few years ago after progressing from a Couch to 5K course in 2017. (Until then, the only running she’d done was at school.)

After feeling her colleagues cheering her on after the river, and every race photographer capturing her in action, she says she began to appreciate the pressure on faster athletes. Once she reached Stannington Church in first place (and thus also claimed the ‘Stannington’ half way point trophy) she realised she may as well go for it on the downhills.

Runners at the 2022 Hallam Chase - photo Andy Jones

“I found I was saying ‘Well done, well done’ to the fast runners I know who were just on their way up as I ran down, when normally they say ‘well done’ to me after waiting for me to get back.”

Her final spur came from her trainer, Colin Hardy, near the final ascent to the cricket ground. “He was shouting ‘Don’t stop now, keep going!’” and it finally dawned on me that I might win!”

She says she thinks the adrenaline, as well as pushing herself right for the start, meant she got round the course nearly four minutes faster than she’d expected.

“When I looked round with the trophies everyone seemed really happy,” she said. “So that made me very happy.”

Jo Gleig in Endcliffe Park

“Jo was up for it, she ran well, she ran better than we anticipated,” said race organiser Richard Patton from the Hallamshire Harriers, who admitted an ideal result of the handicapping system would be for all 60 or so runners to burst into the cricket ground within a few seconds of each other. (And for more spectators to join in the fun next year, he implored.)

“But we think it’s a very inclusive race. It’s always someone unexpected who wins the trophy.”

Jo recognises the early Chase runners might have been surprised by someone like her bagging the trophy, but says she’s not an unusual runner nowadays.

“Women my age like to be busy, often their kids are grown up, they may be working a bit less, or have other changes in their circumstances. We like the social side of running, and the exercise and getting out into the countryside, and I also like the competition,” she said.

Jim Rangeley enters the Hallam Cricket Ground at the finish of the Hallam Chase - photo Rob Davies

“I’ll enter again. But I bet my handicap goes up next year!”

See: http://www.thehallamchase.org.uk

Jo Gleig being cheered on at the Hallam Chase - photo Andy Jones
Jo Gleig running in Endcliffe Park
Pat Goodall descending - Photo Rob Davies
Jo Gleig running in Endcliffe Park
Jo Gleig at the Hallam Chase - photo Peter Brash