Despite being six months into 2021, racing still feels a little uncertain with race/event organisers facing what appears to be a bit of a minefield when it comes to waiting for Government Covid-19 restrictions to ease/announcements to be made, and deciding how much/when they can gamble on things changing. Thankfully despite the so called ‘freedom day’ being delayed in the UK, Round Sheffield Run was still able to go ahead on Sunday 27th June and provide me with my second racing opportunity of the year.
I have completed the multistage trail event four times before; it’s a staple on my calendar for its completely unique running experience, however this would be the first time I would be running as a pair with my sister. The last time I ran the event felt almost an eternity ago, but I do distinctly remember being sat in the race village afterwards at Endcliffe Park wondering what the next year would bring before I found myself sat here again, slightly traumatized by the hills of Sheffield. Turns out quite a lot has happened in life during the two years since I last ran the beautiful trail course!
I had no goals for the race this year; it’s not really an event I ever complete with a goal to be honest, other than to enjoy a day out running. Round Sheffield Run follows a local ‘Round Sheffield Walk’ route but is broken down into 11 timed stages totaling 20km, with recovery stages split in between. There are also quite a few ‘tasty’ hills mixed in…
Annoyingly, I entered race week with a couple of niggly issues though. The first, some aggravation/inflammation to my left Achilles, which I have no idea the cause of considering throughout June I have been taking things pretty steadily after my May marathon. Secondly, and hampering my running more than my Achilles, was a rather heavy ‘common cold’ – which I had tested negative for Covid on a number of occasions throughout the week before anyone points this out! Perhaps being in enforced isolation for 18 months and having had not so much as sniff of any form of germs meant that this cold seemed to really hit me hard and wipe me out. Not ideal when I just wanted to enjoy a weekend and a race with my sister!
Anyway, as all us mental runners do, dosed up on Lempsip and with packets of tissues stuffed inside my running shorts, I found myself pinning a race number onto my vest in Endcliffe Park ready to push my body over some trails…! I was excited for my sister to experience the course ahead, although also aware she had no idea what to expect as it is so different to any other running event out there. I remember my first Round Sheffield Run and being blissfully naïve as to what was ahead and also having to try get my head into the mode of stopping after each stage and walking! I had not seen my sister for ten months, nor had we run together in years, so I was determined not to let my cold ruin the day.
The Sheffield trails lived up to memories from previous years, such beautiful scenery tucked away in the city, with bubbling brooks, rocky waterfalls, dense woodlands… the hills remain just as steep too! I struggled on a couple of the stages with the longest ascents; I am blaming my cold, but I just suddenly could not catch my breath. However my sister, who lives in an area where a hill is classed as minor ramp over a bridge (!!) took them well within her stride. I thoroughly enjoyed the recovery stages as a chance to – very glamorously – blow my nose and actually let my lungs recover.
As we ticked off each stage I tried to recount to my sister what to expect from the stage ahead; some I could recall with good recognition, mainly due to the hills! Stage 2 is probably one of my favourites scenery wise, it reminds me of almost a rainforest, but also features a long climb which ends rather aggressively. Stage 7 is also a toughie, just gradually building through the woodland, it’s test almost takes you by surprise. Stage 9 has a stunning view across Sheffield’s city landscape and an enjoyable fast flowing downhill, before leading you onto Stage 10. This penultimate stage although features some of the very few stretches of the course set on road, is also a long, drawn out climb, which toward the end of the race your legs certainly feel and remains in the memory for this very reason!
The final stage, named a ‘sprint’, never feels like it by the time your legs have been battered by the course, but my sister and I made it to the end successfully, checking our timer ‘dibber’ out for the final time. I felt relieved to have made it round to be honest, it definitely felt harder than some of the previous years despite my fitness (pre cold!) arguably being in a better position. The biggest success of the day was being able to run with my sister though, and the fact she enjoyed the event – ‘next year?’ I tentatively asked, and happily I was met by a ‘yes!’
As an event Round Sheffield Run did not feel too impacted by Covid-19 restrictions – it is usually set off in waves of small runners, and perhaps the course was a little quieter than in past years, but it still maintained its friendly, sociable feel. I also love the race village which always feels really relaxed and a place I enjoy spending some time just soaking in the atmosphere. My sister and I sat there for a while this year listening to the chilled, slightly dance based music mix being played by the DJ, and assessing how our legs felt. A passerby in the park stopped and asked us how far we had just ran, and our response made him realize we had taken on the Round Sheffield Walk route. ‘Oh...’ he said, pulling a slight face and gesturing with his hands an ‘up and down’ motion - ‘That’s hilly!’
Hilly, yes, but as this year’s Round Sheffield Run medal has inscribed on it ‘The most fun I have had running since I was a kid’ That sentence is a pretty good event summary, especially when you get to run the race with your twin sister who I spent the vast majority of my childhood running around with as a kid.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...