The Spire Ultra 2021 – updated with results

The Spire took place on Saturday and it rained all day.  But…racing was back on again!  Many thanks to Jamie and his team for pressing ahead and making it happen – it can’t have been easy give the Covid situation.  The race results are up on the race website, and there were new records set by the first man and woman.  Julian Hood finished first in 4:16:15, with last year’s winner Kevin Hoult just 10 seconds behind him.  Christine Howard was first woman, in 5:48:09, with Karen Nash just over a minute behind her.  I’ve no idea whether any of them knew how close they were to each other, as the race had a staggered start for Covid reasons.  Karen has sent me her race report, which is on her blog, and I’ve copied it here too (see below).  Charles Colbourn has written up his race, and you can find his account on his blog.

The Runfurther leaderboard has been updated, and you can find that here.  Jenny Wiles is currently first woman!  I don’t get to say that often.

The race results and the Runfurther leaderboard have been updated to correct the times of Lawrence Eccles and Rory Harris (3rd and 4th respectively).

Karen’s race report:

First race since Covid lockdowns- The Spire Ultra


After missing out on the Pendle Way in a Day through injury this was my first opportunity to pin a number on and to race. Thanks to Jamie McKilvenny and Jamie Glazebrook for their determination in making these two races happen. We had been away most of the week but after two days of slow runs in the Dales I was careful and restrained on Friday and just went for a walk despite the lovely weather on the edge of Derbyshire. The forecast for Saturday was poor and did not change, what a shame. It was raining when I woke at 6am and did not stop all day although I have to admit it was not ‘heavy’ as they had predicted.

                              Our fabulous sponsors- plus banners at the farm for tent meals and Romneys

Luckily we had put up the Runfurther flags and banners the evening before so all I had to do on Saturday was wander up the lane to the car park field, hand over mint cake and prizes to Jamie and collect my race number from Clare. I then retreated to the van for over an hour. We were set off in waves of 8 to be Covid safe. It meant I didn’t see everybody but I did start with Sarah C and Charles C.  At this stage I had no idea whether my groin would allow me to run this race and knew that with about 18 miles being the most I had run since late January it would not be easy. Worried that I might be forced to walk and get chilly I set off in tights and full waterproofs. I timed my arrival up at the start perfectly… just in time to see wave 4 go and a couple of minutes to chat with friends. I had some doubts about my ability to remember the way even though I had done this race 2 years ago. Recently I have started to rely on OS maps with the route downloaded on my phone but today fearful of the wet I had buried it deep in my sack thinking I would only get it out in an emergency. As a consequence I was pulled along as I tried to catch people from the earlier waves and then keep up with some for a short time in the faster waves behind. There were a few bits I did remember but I would have sworn never to have ever seen other sections! For me it was a new start venue as being in Tier 3 prevented me going last October for the rescheduled 2020 race. Once off and running the rain really didn’t seem so bad and with the first landmark being Belland (Bellend?) Road I was already smiling. All was going well and I even recognised the woods and bits near Holymoorside and the Chatsworth Rd.

I had no memory at all of this bridge!

I made it through Commonside and into the woods beyond. Then I lost the faster male runners from waves behind me. I stopped to get food and also for a wee. Just as I was debating if my memory was correct about an unmarked turning to reach the A61 crossing some more runners arrived. Sarah and Charles were in the group but first to arrive was Christine and I quickly hooked in with her and Frank. Mostly I remembered this section but it was good to have Frank and his GPS making sure and also almost non-stop chat with Chris. I do most of my running solo and was amazed how fast the miles flew by as we were chatting. I felt she was setting the pace (apparently she thought I was) so we cracked on. So far I had only had a twix, a MF jelly and some MF in my drink. At the pub at Hundall a nice marshall opened a packet of crisps for me and I managed not to choke as I ate and ran.

Why do I look like I am battling the weather while Chris looks so nonchalant?

We made a tiny nav error in New Whittington but it only cost us a couple of hundred metres. Near Longcourse Farm I told tales of eating strawberries and melon on the hot day two years ago and also realised I knew the way for the next few miles to Heath and beyond. I had spotted Sarah and Charles not far behind at this point and was keen to push on. Chris and I pulled ahead of Frank and all was well until the 5 Pits Trail. Famous last words of “it’s easy this bit”. As we sped down hill chatting I suddenly felt it wasn’t right. We trudged back uphill and sure enough there was Charles waving and putting us on the correct route. By North Wingfield we were off and alone again. Once again on a downhill we flew along chatting and missed a small turn off the main track. Chris said she sort of knew this bit and I stopped concentrating. She did know it- well enough to get us back on route and we only added about a mile. We popped out new the new houses and retail-park just behind Charles and Sarah. Bugger, now we would have to run hard all over again. Some earlier sections had been ankle deep in water or on very slippery mud but the next woods were a delight and full of blue bells. I could remember this section and gradually pulled ahead knowing that once we were on Bole Hill we were almost home. It looked likely that Chris and I would both beat my old record and perhaps Sarah too. In the last woods I could smell home and as always this gave me just the boost I needed to plod on with renewed effort. I did pull away from Chris but knew that she had started in the wave behind me and so had at least a 2 minute advantage. As we left the last lane I turned to check she was still on route and raced in the last 800m or so. I arrived at the finish soggy from rain and sweat. There had been no opportunity to remove waterproof over trousers or the extra base layer I was wearing.

                                              Leading women all fuelled by Mountain Fuel!

Chris arrived less than two minutes later and so was the female winner- delighted with her trophy and Icebug shoe voucher (thanks to our sponsors at Beta). It was only then talking to Jamie that I realised I actually knew Chris from fell races about 15-20 years ago- more as a name than somebody I ran with as I was never that fast. Sarah arrived shortly afterwards and we managed a group photo before deciding we needed to shed wet clothes and get warm again.

The route needs a few more markers in places for those of us who are not local and have a poor memory. I have suggested an option to donate medal ( I have plenty of medals) preference to fund more signs instead. The route is lovely and very varied with a much more rural feel than say Round Rotherham.

Not that we actually saw the crooked Spire in the rain

It was a great day out and so wonderful to pin on a number again, see friends, actually race and to make sure Runfurther keeps going. Thanks to the RO, team of marshalls and those who kept me company on the run. Bob drove home, although by the time we got to Glossop we were starving and so stopped for Fish and Chips which disappeared very very fast… another good reason to like ultra running.

Spire Ultra 2019

The Spire Ultra was on Saturday – 30 miles in a loop round Chesterfield, in South Yorkshire.  This one is organised by Jamie and Clare Glazebrook, both Runfurther members.  There was a select field, with 64 finishers in what is probably the easiest of the Runfurther 2019 races.  Conditions were good, with the weather being great for running, although it will have a been a bit muddy underfoot due the rain the day before.  I was helping out with another ultra in Cheshire, and our runners and walkers had a great time.

Back to the Spire then.  It was the third running of the event, and new men’s and women’s records were set, by Kevin Hoult and Karen Nash, also putting both of them to the top of the Runfurther leaderboard.

Kevin won in 4:30:42, with Greg Hopkinson second in 4:36:34, and Gavin Holmes third, over half an hour later.  Karen finished 12th in 5:57:37.  Second woman was Sarah Challans in 6:15:27, and third was Emma Staniland in 6:22:19.

Kevin will not find it easy to stay at the top of the leaderboard: Rory Harris will probably overtake him once he’s run a fourth counter.  Karen is unlikely to stay at the top this year either, as Sabrina Verjee is looking unbeatable.  My money is on Sabrina to get her fourth win on her home ground at the Lakeland Five Passes next month.

There’s only one runner eligible for this year’s Grand Slam of all 12 races: Steven Jones has run all five races so far.  Go Steve!

Karen’s written up her race report, and you can find that on her blog, or by scrolling down this page.  Nick Ham has posted his photos to his Flickr site, and I’ve pinched some for here as usual.  For some reason only one of Nick’s photos shows anyone actually running, and even then he’s in the background of a checkpoint shot.  No idea why…

I’m not sure when the results will be posted to the Spire website, but here’s what Jamie sent me (with Bob Nash’s time corrected):

Spire Ultra 2019 Results
1 Kevin Hoult 4.30.42 New CR
2 Greg Hopkinson 4.36.34
3 Gavin Holmes 5.08.19
4 Martin Terry 5.25.41
5 Jonathan Kinder 5.29.06
6 Chris Musther 5.32.17
7 Joe Carruthers 5.39.51
8 Ian Challans 5.43.25
9 Tim Straughan 5.47.43
10 Shane James 5.56.44
11 Roland Allatt 5.57.35
12 Karen Nash 5.57.37 New CR
13 Daryl Bentley 6.01.08
14 William Clarke 6.11.41
15 Phil Scope 6.12.05
16 Ben Marshall 6.12.11
17 Sarah Challans 6.15.27
18 Charles Colbourn 6.17.17
19 John Boardman 6.20.33
20 Steven Jones 6.20.52
21 Emma Staniland 6.22.19
22 David Elphick 6.22.20
23 Rebecca Thomas 6.22.32
24 Hal Roberts 6.23.16
25 Helen Burgess 6.23.24
26 Richard Conroy 6.24.41
27 Matt Hutchinson 6.25.10
28 Cindy Woodhead 6.26.58
29 Richard Powell 6.34.36
30 Chris Peach 6.35.21
31 Debbie Cooper 6.36.53
32 Carl Hopkinson 6.36.57
33 John Ellis-Hill 6.37.49
34 Rob Ferrol 6.43.52
35 Kim Gray 6.43.52
36 John Power 6.43.55
37 Chris Martin 6.45.50
38 Sarah Louise Smith 6.53.57
39 John Gorman 6.56.22
40 Martin Sleath 6.57.35
41 Simon English 6.58.21
42 Jake Warwick 6.58.59
43 Marianne Headin 7.01.49
43 Wendy Amis 7.01.49
45 Tim Butler 7.06.11
46 Heather Webster 7.32.05
46 Rebecca Thomas 7.32.05
46 Sarah Johnson 7.32.05
49 Stephen Hall 7.35.25
49 Richard Corker 7.35.25
51 Kellie Ross 7.48.50
51 Al Whyte 7.48.50
53 Robert Nash 7.48.52
54 Nick Ham 8.15.32
55 Judith Kippax 8.25.12
56 Karen Johnson 8.40.48
56 Steve Monaghan 8.40.48
58 Julia Barnes 8.42.25
58 Chris Barnes 8.42.25
60 Dick Scroop 8.49.58
61 Kirsten Grafton 8.54.27
62 Kathryn Fagg 8.54.51
63 Sharon Collis 8.57.26
64 David Belcher 9.07.07
64 Katherine Rogers 9.07.07
Relay Teams
1 Muppets 3.48.37 New CR
2 NDDC 5.18.12
2 Clowne Ultra 5.18.12
4 Wobblers 6.25.42
4 Hobblers 6.25.42
6 Sisters with Blisters 7.10.48

Karen’s race report

A new race for Runfurther and it was great. We were happy to help Jamie and Clare with their local race for charity. It’s in the third year now and slowly gaining popularity. At 32 miles with about 4600ft climb it was very runnable – Not my forte, with no big hills to stomp up and some long disused railway lines towards the end which to me felt like torture. Brilliantly organised, marshalled and huge plate of chilli at the end.
It was to be a special race for me as it would ultra race 100. I have only counted races with results and only those over 30 miles. I now have a total of 5256 miles with the shortest being 30 miles and the longest being 200. It includes 11 races of over 100 miles and an average distance of 52.6 miles. All in the last decade (almost: started March 2009, completed May 2019).
By Friday I was stressing that I would not find the way etc. I was anxious about needing to slow down enough to read and act on all the instructions etc. I have only been to Chesterfield before, some time in the late 90s when they made it to an FA Cup final and festooned the town in blue and white. I had studied the text and map but was worried about needing to slow down enough to read and act on all the instructions and the time lost if I went off route.

Bob and I drove down after a morning of indoor climbing. The weather was foul through the Peaks and drains were struggling to cope with the water. By the time we got near Chesterfield it had improved and we went for a short walk on a loop of the course near Holymoorside. It was enough to persuade me that I would need shoes with some grip and also that the text route description seemed pretty good. Jamie had suggested that a dead end lane in Heath would be better than a night by the start so that was our next stop. Again we walked a short loop before we settled down to an evening in the van. I didn’t sleep well and Jamie had not realised that the church bells chimed every hour through the night. At least it wasn’t every 1/4 hour.

It didn’t take long to move to the start in the morning and the weather looked so much better. The flags and banners were soon up and we could concentrate on registration and kit checks.

Photo Nick Ham – the Runfurther discussion table

For a small race with an entry of fewer than 70 Runfurther had brought a fair number…. Dick, Bob, Nick, Kevin, Sarah S, Sarah and Ian, Matt, Sam,Steve, Daryl, Debbie, Martin, Stephen and Tim.

After a briefing in the garden quad at the Resource Centre we were walked to the start.

Photo Nick Ham

I found myself closer to the front than I had intended and then realised some were relay runners and speedy guys like Kevin. Oops. I probably set off too fast but it was good to keep people who knew where they were going in sight and it was very runnable.

Photo Nick Ham

A lovely mixture of field paths, blue bell woods, trails and some short sections of tarmac to link it all. I was soon pretty warm but by 5 miles or so had settled into a more realistic pace. Some point around here Daryl caught me up and it was wonderful to have company for pace and the route finding. He used his Garmin while I read the text and referred to the map every now and again. It didn’t stop all our errors but one was over excitement at a nice down hill and the other me missing a sentence when two bridges were mentioned. Neither cost us 5 mins in total but it did ultimately cost him his sub 6 hour finish which is a shame. CP2 had food so I grabbed a banana and some crisps.The course profile suggested that the biggest climbs were in the first 10 miles or so. I resolved to walk the steepest hills in the hope I would save some running for the flat bits later. Daryl was happy to agree. At this stage we were being very polite and both suggesting the other should run on alone if they felt capable. Politeness didn’t last. Between CP3 and 4 my foot started hurting and Daryl had stomach pains. Politeness was traded for farting (what is it about eating and running) and swearing as we tried to keep up the pace but were hurting! The week’s rain had made some of the descents in the woods rather muddy but mostly it was fine. and the instructions were mostly making sense. I grabbed more food at CP4 but cannot eat on the run at that speed. Luckily I was carrying some MF jellies and could manage those. Ian caught us up and was flying- a true runner who was loving the flatter course. No chance of me beating him today. We noticed huge storm clouds lurking and soon after CP5 stopped to but jackets on for a few miles.The last 14 miles or so were flatter but they also included some long straight sections which were mentally tough and more hard surface under foot which was the last thing my foot needed. I must be the only person who rejoiced at the sign of mud. Actually mud was also our friend with stud marks often confirming that we were on the correct route- well either that or all those in front were also off route. I have quite good map memory and as CP6 came into view I knew what was left. It spurred me on. The CP itself was highlight of the day- strawberries, grapes and melon! I was now also shadowing a runner that knew the way and so keen to hang on or at least keep him in sight. Daryl and I drifted apart a bit. As we climbed to Heath and scene of our overnight stop I knew there was about 3 miles left and it would be possible with a little effort to get under 6 hours. I upped the pace over the field paths and then the Five Pits trail area into the woods. All was OK until we hit the old railway line. My heart sank. It should have been so runnable but was such an effort. I blocked all other thought and worked on keeping the guys ahead in sight. It worked and I think I finished in 5hrs58. Daryl appeared only a few minutes later.

Phew I had done it and had a great day to complete my challenge. 100 race ultras done, a race win, a new women’s record and a top day out. Thanks for the company Daryl and for pushing me when alone I would have gone slower.

After collapsing on the floor outside the hall I did a second finish to get a photo but we soon had to move inside as it got chilly.

Sarah C was second woman and Debbie was back soon too. Bob had left me a special card and the front runners had already signed it.

We shared cake as others signed too. Bob had been very worried about the 9 hour limit. His time is usually mine plus 50%. Not today.

He was flying and finished in under 8 hours. It’s the big hills that now slow him down and today’s undulating course suited him well.

Knackered but what a good run!

We sat eating and chatting until all runners were back. Then it was taking down damp flags and banners before the long drive home and a celebratory beer.
The question now is “What next?” Another 100 ultras in the next decade? Aim for 50 over 100 miles?