Report from Garry Cochrane:
The Dukeries Ultra 40 is a 40 mile trail race taking in Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park in one big loop. It has been running for about 3 years but this year has been taken over by a new race director called Ronnie, from Hobo Race/Space after it was in very real danger of folding. Ronnie has promised a 50 mile addition next year but there are also smaller versions including a 10, 20 and 30 mile distance.
As ultras go it is very accessible, low key and incredibly well signposted. Navigation was a key sticking point, in 2014 (first time I did it) several runners got lost because they failed to follow instructions which mandated printing and carrying a route map. One of Ronnie’s promises when taking the race over was that it would not be a self-navigating race and he was true to his word.
The race started at 7.30am, prompt and the trail is undulating and mainly on solid trails, park paths, tarmac and wooded trails. It was so bone dry this year that road shoes would have been fine. Most people would say the highlight is passing by The Major Oak on the Robin Hood Way. That’s right, Robin’s old gaff but I saw it last year and it was exactly the same so I ploughed on determined to make a better time than the 9 hours it took me last year.
Not bad for 7.30am start and a 4.30am alarm call!
The course largely follows the Robin Hood Way and notable parts include Creswell Crags, the long gentle climb up the endless Lime Tree Avenue and around Clumber Park. Not to mention picturesque little villages such as Holbeck, Hardwick and Norton and running through amazing fields of yellow crops like a scene from North by Northwest!
I ran the first 10 miles with a lady from Knavesmere Harriers in York, she was planning a multi day ultra in July, in Spain but we parted company as I wanted to keep my pace up – a benefit from some recent good training and racing. Overall the race was event free – although I did see a chap take a tumble at a crossing, it was a ford and there was a perfectly good footpath but he wanted to go through the ford. He slipped on some slime and went down hard but dusted himself off and carried on. What a……trooper.
As a fat adapted runner I don’t take on nutrition for marathon distance as I get by fine but with ultras it is still an experiment; I tried a bit of malt loaf which was ok; some salted cashews that didn’t work and an oat bar (bought) that nearly choked me to death. I also had a few dextrose sugar tablets to see what they would do. I consumed very little nutrition and drank plenty of water and felt fine for it during the event, felt a little bit tired at mile 35 but this was mainly down to feet on a stony trail. A friend turned up to surprise me just after and it really gave me the lift needed to perk up and get going again – which just shows it’s a mental game.
As a race there really are no supporters as such but the end was great with everyone cheering and as you came in on your own it felt quite special and it’s the only time I have been caught smiling crossing finish line.
The garmin didn’t last the distance and it was a very early start to the day, in the car for 5am – however the benefit of that was the best sunrise this year so far and of course there is the drive home, overall making it a full on 12 hour effort. But the weather was great, the people friendly and definitely one to consider if you want to make that step up from a marathon.
5am sunrise over Almsclife Crag
And here’s a few piccies I took last year of some the stunning spots on the course (they really hadn’t changed)