White Peak Walk ’22 – trail marathon race report

The White Peak Walk is a low-key, annual event in its, err… 38th year? To be honest I’m not quite sure. It was cancelled once due to Foot & Mouth, and then twice more recently due to the Pandemic. However, this year, things were very definitely back on track.

The route takes you from Monyash in the White Peak, on a stunning 26 mile circular route via Flagg, Priestly, Monsal Trail, Bakewell, Carton Lees, Stanton Lees, Rowsley, Birchover, Youlgreave, and eventually back to Monyash via Lathkildale. Most walk and some run. However, everyone is very happy to find pie, peas and a cup of tea waiting for them at the Monyash Village Hall at the end.

Pie & peas at the end

This year was entered into the race with my ticket which rolled over from 2020 (the race was cancelled in ’20 and ’21 due to Covid). In 2019 I came 5th overall with a time of 4:25 with more to give at the end, so I made the mistake of telling everyone I would win it next time around. Training was going well and I was heading for the summer fell season on great form with some long races in the calendar when Covid suddenly struck in March. The illness itself wasn’t too bad – more of a bad cold – but it left me with some pretty irritating longer-term symptoms like a massively elevated heart rate (over 150 doing the simplest of everyday things), trouble breathing, and most worrying, severe ocular migraines from exercise. March, and April were complete write-offs, and May not much better so my fitness took a huge dive.

My fitness took a dive in March to May due to Covid

Sometimes you realise you’ve got no choice but to ‘ride it out’ which is what I tried to do at first. But it didn’t go away. I’m unfortunately the kind of person who is quick to catastrophise, so eventually just resigned myself to finding a new hobby, when all of a sudden it got better! I don’t really understand how it works, but my best guess is that the virus is a circulatory illness which can stop showing on Lateral Flow tests when it’s cleared from the respiratory system, but can take longer to clear from the rest of the body. But the short version is training was back on… even if it was from scratch with 2 months to go!

Training went OK. A recce of the Round Sheffield Run route (total 24km) went surprisingly well and the race a week later didn’t go too badly either. A few runs around this and it was race day.

The route

You never know what weather you’re going to get in July but this was a hot day. Dry, sunny and very hot. I made the decision not to carry water and worried it was a mistake most of the way around. Luckily, the checkpoints were all as expected with the usual water and biscuits and all went well in the end. 5th overall (again) but in a much slower time of 4:52 (4:36 moving time) – not bad considering the lack of training, let alone the weather!

The White Peak Walk ascent profile

I can’t remember the exact numbers, but around 172 didn’t show on the day (probably mostly due to injuries, weather worries, or Covid) and 176 finished (with around 35 DNF / retirees)

The organisation was flawless as usual, the timing impeccable, checkpoints were manned excellently, and the staff providing the food and drinks did an amazing job