Back To Burbage

Runners often use inappropriate descriptions to underline the amount of effort they’ve just applied in a race – this is relative to individual intensity, terrain and other variables such as weather conditions and experience. Fellrunners sometimes dismiss routes as being mostly trail or even too easy. Indeed, if hardened bogtrotters don’t return from a winter race with filthy mud splattered up to the armpits they will say that either the route wasn’t challenging enough or the weather of late has been very favourable. I’m guessing Tigger Tor is never described as easy and the route is always a challenge.

The mist, sticky dark-brown bog and cold grey millstone seemed oh so familiar. In 1999 I’d been taken here upon my first visit to Sheffield. I vividly remember the same gloomy weather, heather-lined footpaths and weaving between the large boulders that formed the tor outcrops. Admittedly, I had no idea that fine views were usually available, west to the Hope Valley and south along to and beyond Froggatt Edge. Today would be different. And not.

LK and PM

Warmth at last. After the usually frenetic start a short stretch of tarmac, soggy field then tarmac was enjoyable just to feel some warmth in the bones. We even left behind the early mist and – as witnessed in some photos – blues skies emerged overhead. The first mile over and on to the moor proper, and the first route choice, just after CP1. Skipping up the rocky track most runners veered left down into bracken and on the single width footpath across the hillside covered in heather. I followed Totley AC green straight up the track to meet Houndkirk Road.

The next route choice was soon on offer: bear right across the boggy heather or straight on the track again likely longer. Both would join to meet the part marked area of the route. This time I chose the heather. Quickly I wound in the pace though as the underfoot conditions were wet and soft. Heather claws were also catching nearly every footlift, and snagging at shoe fabric and laces. My shins were soon burning from the repeated scrapes. I ploughed on, passing a few who were clearly finding the early terrain hard work. Still don’t know if this route choice was advantageous or just leg-sapping.  Local knowledge better.

I experienced the first of my three tumbles just after CP2. My legs were more tired than expected and the lethargy might’ve been partly due to a week-long cold. After the open moor crossing I was just looking forward to stretching out. I’d just scaled down the rocky drop from Burbage Edge and could see copper bracken beneath me. A voice near me mentioned something about a stunning view so instinctively I looked up. Rock clipped, stumble, roll and curse.

Route choice and local knowledge was a pivotal factor. Yes, I should’ve got my map out to check. But as the mist had lifted I was caught with the racehorse mentality of running alongside whoever was moving near to me. After wading through a deep section of a water crossing I passed some hi-vis tabards next to a conifer woodland. I knew this must be CP3. The gradient climbed up immediately and underfoot was frosted white. I remember my exhaled breath was visible, like smoke from a puffer engine. A short stiff rise led up to Higger Tor and enthusiastic supporters around CP4.

tigger-tor-revise-nw2

Suddenly, runners sprayed off in all directions between the grey gritsone boulders. Again, I did think about getting out the map and compass. Quickly the edge of the tor arrived and I could see runners skipping down through the bracken and rock to again merge, approximately 300 metres down the hill. The group of runners around me increased the pace across the boggy plateau, peppered with hidden smooth rocks. As we approached a short and seemingly innocuous incline my mind started to wander. Almost immediately I didn’t quite find a solid footfall and I experience my second fall – I actually went down in instalments but failed to raise an arm in protection, so I went face first into a shallow puddle. A woman runner nearby sarcastically asked if I’d lay down for a rest.

‘All Distoreintated’

Perhaps the shock of the fall but CP5 and CP6 passed without notice. I really was a bit disorientated, despite visibility being good. I recognised changes in direction but subtle rises over shoulder and rocks always limited full distance views so destinations were always restricted. The route up to Carl Wark was extremely boggy at first then, as the gradient rose towards the tor, the route forced runners to swerve left and right to avoid large boulders. Runners who’d already reached CP7 were returning and making the descent towards CP8. A shorts scramble around the marshals then the pace again increased. My momentum soon overtook control as I went for a third and final tumble into soft moss and reeds.

nw-tigger-tor
All Rights: Frontrunner Sheffield

A short beck crossing was refreshing of the feet and then the steep pull up the other side again sapped much leg energy. I somehow managed to climb the short rise up to the rocky edge and CP8, where cheery marshals offered out sweets and encouragement. I took the opportunity to gulp some water from my waist pack. The route alarmingly veered right into heather and a single footpath. I had expected to stay on a defined path for nearly a mile. I quickly calculated that this direction must cut off another corner. Again, shorter distance overall but likely more energy-depleting. I followed other runners.

Bingo

The route here was definitely technical. Overgrown heather screened the footpath that was sometimes rocky but mostly claggy peat in a chiselled trough. The undulating gradient offered the odd glimpse at a rocky outcrop that I guessed would be the next CP. Another footpath junction sent runners on a track, to the left, while others continued on the heathery boggy trod. I knew there were fine views to my right and kept concentration on my footfall. This was ‘Bingo Running’ – eyes down.

Cheerful support at CP9 suggested the last climb was near and then it was all downhill to the finish. I summoned energy from somewhere and started to again overtake a few runners on the climb up from a boggy beck. Striding out from the bracken of the moor I soon reached CP10. I had to make a quick decision to return via the longer route on the rocky track or take my chances through the heathery footpath. I followed two women in front and quickly regretted my choice. I was quicker at descending and there were no obvious passing places. I tucked in and consoled myself at hopefully saving some energy for the road descent after CP1/11.

Again I discovered some reserves for the 1 mile of tarmac freefall. Rather than blow out too quickly I tried to keep my pace steady and with a strong technique. A few blokes edged passed me as we neared the turn towards the grass lane that I assumed led to the finish. A sneaky incline ramp soon arrived and this was misjudged by some runners who were reduced here to a fast walk. I shuffled passed and even managed a strong tempo towards the finish line.

Overall

A belting route with a challenge over every tor, between each boulder and among the many bogs and becks. Fabulous weather conditions in the end, although I’d imagine this race is a considerable test if windy, wet and/ or with poor visibility. I would strongly recommend that the host club consider placing some signs with the marshals at each of the checkpoints – I’m a human satnav and yet on more than one occasion I was confused as to where I’d just passed. This would enhance safety in case of an emergency. The facilities at race HQ were splendid and the opportunity to wash in a hot shower was gladly taken. I’d recommend and I will definitely return.

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