The Spire Ultra is a 33 (or 34) mile loop round Chesterfield with the towns church with its crooked spire in the centre. When Wendy suggested we take part in the event which is held in early May, I thought it would be a good way of getting going again after the MYAU.
We decided we would ‘recce’ the route in three sections, over a number of weeks prior to the event. Each of our ‘recce’ runs was a little further than the last, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the nature of the route – some lovely footpaths through countryside and woodland that we hadn’t been through before. The first run we found hard – it was a lot hillier than expected and this was the first proper run I had done since returning from the Yukon. For the last run we had an unseasonably warm and sunny day and we suffered through the last few miles.
On the day of the race it was good to know that we were familiar with the route, but with the recce’s in mind we decided that we should make sure we start slowly in order to keep going for the full 33 miles. The race start was friendly and welcoming and soon we were walked to the start of the run and we were off.
Luckily for us the first section of the race went more quickly and easily than expected and wasn’t as hard as we had found it a few weeks earlier, this gave us a little boost and we were able to enjoy the trail and surroundings as we went.
The trail went though a property about 10 miles in and the owner had set up a table with drinks for the runners – she was topping up as we got there, so we stopped for a drink and a chat and thanked her for the unexpected hospitality.
About half way through the run Wendy started to get cramp in her leg and wasn’t sure if she would be able to make it to the end, however, with determination and effort (and some very welcome fresh fruit at the final checkpoint) she kept going and we made it to the end with time to spare.
My overall impressions were that the route itself was very much more enjoyable than expected, with more footpaths and trails and lovely surroundings. The checkpoints varied, but were all as described, that is, some were water stations, others had a variety of food as well – I particularly enjoyed the bananas. The people at the checkpoints and all the marshals were very friendly, helpful and encouraging, we were cheered in to the finish despite the rain and welcomed in to the hall for hot drinks and food. All in all a really enjoyable day out and one I would definitely consider taking part in again!
Marianne Heading discovered winter endurance racing in 2007, while working as a volunteer for the Yukon Arctic Ultra. This experience inspired her to take up running and go back to the Yukon as a competitor. Since 2007 she has been back to the YAU multiple times, completing both the 100 and 300mile races, in 2011 she became the first European female to complete the 300mile YAU and in 2019 won the 300mile MYUA. Events are not a very regular feature, but other races include the Semi-Raid Reunion, Roveaneimi150, ITI350, Karwendelmarsch and closer to home the Four Inns, the Druids Challenge, Equinox24, run to the castle, Hardmoors55. Being outdoors and enjoying the countryside and wildlife are a higher priority than being fast... luckily! Training runs and walks are often prolonged by a break to watch wildlife and take in the surroundings!