Extreme Cross Country in the Derbyshire Dales by Sue Park

The Dovedale Dash has been run for 61 years.The first Dovedale Dash was held on the Bonfire Party Weekend at Ilam Hall in 1953 and was a challenge race between the cyclists and the walkers of the Derby Mercury Running Club. It now attracts around 1500 runners and raises money for local causes such as the school. It's 4 and 3/4 miles long. 

We always arrive early and pay the National Trust for a spot on a gravel surface. It's a long uphill trek to the start but we get to see the tea hut arrive on a tractor and use the loo. 

Torrential rain overnight so the plan to wear waterproof walking boots to the start paid off as standing around for nearly two hours with frozen wet feet before the start wouldn't have been much fun. It's a 'pay on the day', just sign, print your name and go - presumably a disclaimer but no one bothered to read it. They don't want your mobile number or your email address, your home address or your credit card! Bring your own bin bag and dump your kit behind the sign on tent and watch the children race - wow the youngsters up here are tough. It must be the local schoolteacher on mic as it seems almost every child's name is called as they cross the line. All the adults cheer and watch with utmost respect of their grit and strength.

Finally we are huddled at the top of the hill and I realise we are moving forward, hurtling down the dale through bog and rocks, slick mud and tussocks of long grass as fast as we dare. There are always some great fancy dress costumes and in I notice a guy who is pretty fast considering he is in full cricket whites, including pads, a full face helmet and carrying a bat!  

At the bottom of the dale is (allegedly) one of the coldest rivers in the country, no point in hesitating, using the stepping stones or tippy toeing through...just got to grit your teeth and get to the other side. It's quite fast flowing this year and up to my ... (well up high anyway!).


Dogs were carried and we clambered out the other side but the river bank was in flood so no chance to dry off and get the feeling back into my feet for a while. We turn into the first field on a steep camber and slog it up the first hill. The race goes through a farm and 4 farm gates in fields so it's pretty muddy and sometimes smelly but we got a cheery wave from the farmer as we slithered through his yard.  

This year, as last it included a delayed start as the muddy car park (field) meant marshals stopped vehicles getting close and participants had to abandon and walk. The charm of this race is partly it's lack of finesse. No-one really cared it started an hour late. We'd only paid £8 and we're waiting in beautiful surroundings - albeit in about 4 degrees! I do have some sympathy for those who had to leave due to other commitments. 

Last year the entry fee was £5. Personally, I don't care what my time was and chip timing for the first time this year seems a bit unnecessary. Yes there was a long queue last year to cross the line but if you didn't want the 'fill it in yourself' certificate you could just duck out of the queue. After all, if you enjoy this kind of race any faff at the end is unlikely to be of interest (except the beer voucher stapled to the certificate perhaps).

I was definitely slower than last year which was much drier. Finished 183 out of 518 ladies. Time was 57:29.

There are some great videos on YouTube of the 2017 race. Just search for Dovedale Dash 2017.