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.