The Peak District Boundary started as a personal challenge but ended up as so much more.
If you’re here simply for a review of Peak District Boundary, here’s the short version: It’s beautiful, there are hills, flats, scrambles, trails & even the dreaded tarmac, there are approximately 12,621 stiles and 10,545 gates to go through, you will see various different animals – cows, deer and everything in between. It’s an incredible route stretching from the moorland tops of the South Pennines to the gentle limestone scenery of the Derbyshire Dales. The route embraces the urban edges of Sheffield and Oldham, as well as Staffordshire’s rugged moorland and the undulating slopes of Cheshire.
If you want a more intimate review covering all of the highs and lows of this adventure – keep reading.
The route is divided into 20 sections, each section is approximately 10ish miles apart. I had arranged for Marc, to meet me at the end of each section of the route in a hired camper van, acting as a mobile checkpoint. I didn’t ask people to run specific sections with me. I just asked if people were free to come and join me as and when they could. Throughout the route I was met by members of my running club and also people that I have ran with at other events. In total I ran 9 miles by myself. The support I received was second to none! People just rallied around, arranged transport amongst themselves, rearranged schedules, brought hot food etc.
I started at 06:00 am on Friday 26th August 2022. I had recced the entire route in sections, so I knew what lay ahead of me. What I didn’t know was where this route was going to take me emotionally and physically.
The beginning to Old Glossop
You can start anywhere along the route. I chose Bottoms Reservoir at Teggs Nose, as it was close to home. I was accompanied on the first section by Kathleen and Bernard from Macclesfield Harriers. We ran and chatted and it felt like we were just off for a morning run.
I made it to Buxton in good time and here I was greeted by Alison and Christine, who ran with me to Peak Forest. This section is up hill, down dale and we just chatted the entire way. Neil picked up the baton at Peak Forest and we headed on to Hayfield. The views around South Head were spectacular.
At Hayfield, we were joined by the male/overall FKT for this route, Mike Jones. I had chatted with Mike on Zoom and exchanged e-mails regarding the route. The weekend prior to my challenge, he kindly met me for a recce run in his area. I had hoped to see him at some stage but wasn’t sure where. This gave me a boost and we proceeded on to Lantern Pike. Mike left us at Rowarth and Neil and I carried on into the dimming light to Old Glossop. Marc was waiting here, I had some food – chips, gravy and sausage and then got my head down for a bit.
Old Glossop to Marsden
I tossed and turned for the next few hours. I decided to give up on the idea of sleep and get going again. A Yazoo and a change of clothes later, I was ready to go. Marc joined me for the first bit out of Old Glossop, he then returned to the camper van for some sleep before meeting me at Greenfield.
This section was Old Glossop to Greenfield. Unbeknown to me this would be the only section I would run on my own. This section takes in the Pennine Bridleway and several reservoirs.
There's something special about running up high looking down on houses, knowing that people are asleep, when you're out on an adventure. As I decended into Carrbrook I met an early morning dog walker. He said, "I thought I was the only person crazy enough to be up at this time. Where have you run from?" I could see the puzzled look on his face, when I responded "Macclesfield." I'm just glad he didn't ask me where I was running to!
The next few miles passed quickly and I reached Dovestones to be greeted by Marc and my next supporter Fiona. Fiona is from this area and had kindly joined me on several recces. We headed straight up to the Obelisk and then joined the moorland. We chatted and took in the views. I knew, that Fiona was aware that the stretch before we reached Marsden was one of my least favourites. At this stage her chatter increased, I knew exactly what she was doing, trying to distract me! My feet were starting to get sore at this stage, so all distractions were welcome.
Shortly after Marsden, we met up with Marc at the next scheduled checkpoint. He was joined by our friends Sarah and Dave. They had driven over from Macc to see me and even brought pizza for later!
In addition to making sure I was eating and drinking and distracting me, Fiona's other role was taking off my socks at shoes (if Carlsberg did friends). At this CP I took the opportunity to bathe my feet.
Marsden to Langsett
Up next was Marsden to Holme. Fiona stayed with me for this section and we were joined by Dave. This section is short but undulating, with views for miles. When I reached Holme I was greeted by a large welcoming party, Marc’s family and more Macc Harriers had turned up to cheer me on. I had prearranged with the Fleece Inn, so we could use their carpark. A pot noodle (needs must) and lots of hugs later I set off towards Langsett, this time I was joined by Dave, Julie and Gail.
The route towards Langsett, takes in several reservoirs - Brownhill, Ramsden, Harden and Winscar. Dave left us on the approach to Winscar and we headed onto Langsett as a threesome. As we approached Dunford Bridge, Gail exclaimed "that sign says Borough of Barnsley, that can't be right." This was a reminder of just how far I'd already travelled. Up next were several miles along the Trans Pennine trail. This was tough going. I hate long flat sections, give me a hill any day. We were in good spirits though, chatting, singing and even an attempt at dancing along.
By the time we reached Langsett my feet were aching and I had grown tired. I was given a pick me up by the arrival of Macc Harriers, Nicky and Dave. We chatted for a bit before it was decided I needed to try and get an hour sleep before the start of the night section.
Langsett to Millthorpe
Again, I tossed and turned but sleep didn't come. I took some comfort in knowing that just closing my eyes was better than nothing at all.
Now with a fresh outfit & socks and the arrival of the 'Dream Team' - Barrie, Dennis and Spence, I headed back out for more 'fun'. Barrie and Dennis, joined me to run from Langsett and Spence headed on with Marc in the camper van to Low Bradfield. The tone was set when just as we left Langsett carpark, Barrie turned to me and said, "it was a long drive here!" I knew I was in for an entertaining night!
This section is a mixture of trails, fields and 'a bit' of tarmac - good job I had two fell runners with me! ;-) As we descended into Bolsterstone the hallucinations started . . . Barrie's not mine! "What's that dog doing there by itself?" It was the leg of a summer seat! We trudged through what seemed like never ending fields full of cows, sheep and even a few 'crazy' horses.
Spence joined us at Low Bradfield for the section to Ringinglow. Part of this section took us through a plantation, that was more like an obstacle course. This was shortly followed by a long section of ferns. My energy levels were dropping and I was becoming sleepy. The boys kept chatting and I put my head down, I had reached a low point. It was inevitable this would happen. I had no choice but to suck it up and persevere.
Just before Ringinglow, there were an array of lights in the distance. It seemed to dawn on us all at the same time, we had reached the outskirts of Sheffield! That's a long way from home, I couldn't help but feel lifted by this realisation.
Once we reached Ringinglow, I got in the camper van and got my head down for an hour. By this point I think I could literally have fallen asleep standing up.
'The next morning' - an hour later in reality, I was up and, on the move, again. Dennis and Spence joined me this time. We had arranged with Marc and Barrie that they would grab some breakfast and meet us at the next road section. I'm not sure why - probably the lack of sleep but I was suddenly hit with the enormity of what still lay ahead of me. Funny that a few hours earlier my spirits had been lifted by how far I'd come.
The tears started. By the time we met Marc again, I'd convinced myself I couldn't do it. In these moments, it’s so hard to remember WHY I want to do this. He sat me down, got me to take on food, even made me have a selfie with the Millstone (we all know I love a selfie). I took a few minutes to myself, dried my tears and remembered my WHY. I had asked friends to give me motivational quotes. At this point, I randomly pulled one out from Maggie May, that said “Be strong because it will get better. It might be stormy but it won't last forever." This was just what I needed to read.
The boys were great, so supportive and encouraging. We made our way on towards Millthorpe. This section consists of forest tracks and moorland. We chatted and the time and miles passed quickly. At the end of this section, the 'dream team' or 'my heroes' as I now consider them, headed for home and some well-deserved sleep. I stopped a while with Marc, sorted my feet, changed my clothes, brushed my teeth etc - a car park spa experience.
Millthorpe to Winster
I thought I'd be running from Millthorpe to Beeley on my own. I left Marc and travelled a mile or so down the road, then I recognised a figure running towards me. He looks like Trevor, he moves like Trevor, he is Trevor!! Trevor is one of the Macc Harriers OG fell runners, he's also a 2hr 33min marathon runner. My initial thoughts were whose bright idea was it to send a 2hr 33min marathon runner at this stage! Thankfully he slowed down for me!
Trevor is always full of banter, a true gentleman and guaranteed spirit lifter. We headed over Birchen Edge, past the trigpoint and Nelson's Monument. It was starting to get warm at this stage. We passed the Robin Hood pub and it looked very inviting. Avoiding the temptation, we crossed the road and headed for Beeley. The next section was quite boggy with indistinguishable paths. Trevor kindly headed on ahead of me and worked out the best lines. At one stage Trevor looked up and said, "Is that Shutlingsloe over there?". Shutlingsloe is our local hill and when I get there I'm almost home. Trevor laughed and said, "I think it might he too early for that joke." Trevor encouraged me to run the bits I could. As we descended through the forest into Beeley we could hear chatter. Out from the trees appeared Julie and Gail again. Since they'd left me the evening before, they'd both been home and had normal Saturday nights. Julie even had a slight hangover. My sympathy was non-existent.
I was greeted in Beeley by the girls; Lindsey, Catherine and Wendy. I asked after Marc and they assured me he was waiting close by and had had a cooked breakfast while he was waiting. I could tell at the last checkpoint that the lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll on him too.
The girls rallied round, got a bowl for my feet, sorted my socks and clothes and even brought me a bacon sandwich. I said goodbye to Trevor and headed off to Winster with the girls. I told them just to keep talking (something this lot are extremely good at). I was now over 140 miles in and needed all the distractions I could get. The first few miles passed and my feet felt OK. True to form it wasn't long before they started throbbing again. As we approached Stanton Moor I felt overwhelmed with emotions. Shit was getting hard, instead of trying to bottle it up or push it away, I acknowledged it and let it out. It lasted a minute or two at most, and then I felt instantly better.
Shortly after this, Andy from Peak Running appeared. He joined us for the section over Stanton Moor and past the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. Andy commented that he was surprised to see me still running uphill at the stage. This sometimes happened, when people appeared, I seemed to get a new surge of energy.
As we approached Winster, we could see Sue and her husband Kevin in the distance. These two had been amazing all weekend, popping up at various points, making sure I was OK but also making sure Marc was OK.
Mike (course record holder) had arrived in Winster and had offered to run the next section to Royston Grange with me. I had planned to nap at this point, Mike understanding exactly how I was feeling said to still do that, I got my head down and for the very first time since I started on Friday morning, I went straight to sleep.
Winster to Waterhouses
Marc set the alarm for an hour and a half. I woke up again just before it went off. Mike and I headed out of Winster towards Royston Grange. This section passes through the picturesque village of Bonsall and overlaps with the Limestone Way and picks up the High Peak Trail before finally descending to Royston Grange. Mike and I chatted and he told me a bit more about his experiences of running the route, - his highs and lows. It was good to chat to someone who had literally been were I was and had lived to tell the tale. We made good progress and I felt good. Just before Grangemill we picked up another supporter - Jon, a Macclesfield Harrier, who had relocated to this area of the Peak District.
There is nothing in Royston Grange, apart from the Pump House, so I had arranged to meet Marc further down the road at Ballidon Quarry. Turns out this was a great idea – Marc had made friends with the security guard at the quarry, who let us use the microwave and the toilet (luxury). Mike left at this point and Jon and I were joined by Emma and Mark (who had raced a marathon himself the day before). It was dark at this stage, so we donned our headtorches and headed for Thorpe.
Things took a turn for the worst shortly after this. I had been going well but suddenly my mood plummeted. Running/jogging became walking/shuffling. The feet were sore and I was overcome with tiredness. I began to get disorientated; couldn’t remember were gates and stiles should be. This was a whole different level of exhaustion. Every part of me was screaming at me to stop, and at that time I found it hard to think of a reason why I shouldn’t. Then I remembered the people that had already been out and supported me, the people that were with me now – these are people that willingly gave up their time for another one of my crazy ideas. I pushed through.
190 (ish) miles is a long way, I always knew there would be lows. I remember turning to Emma and Mark during this section and saying this is the lowest I have ever felt – at that time I truly thought it was. Emma lifted the mood, as we were trying to find our way out of a graveyard (it was on the route, honest), by saying ‘ you bring us to all the nice places.’
Jon left us shortly after Parwich. Just before Ilam we were joined by Tom and Helen, who I had met through Peak Running. As always seemed to happen, when new people arrived it seemed to give me a lift. Tom ran on to find the stiles/gates and Helen chatted away to me. We reached Ilam and Helen had some Macaroni and cheese for me in her car. I remember sitting on a bench in Ilam, eating the aforementioned macaroni and cheese with my fingers (we didn’t have a fork), thinking to myself, when did this become my idea of fun on a bank holiday weekend?!
Finally, we reached Waterhouses, were we were greeted by Neil and Alison. They had rearranged their schedule so Neil could be with me for the Waterhouses to Tittesworth section. They even had to sleep in their car, whilst they were waiting!
Waterhouses to Wildboarclough
I was glad that Neil was joining me on this section. He had recced it with me previously. We said goodbye to Marc and Alison and the first thing Neil said was “How do you want to play this?” I replied, “Just keep talking, I may respond, I may not”. It was light by this stage and my spirits had lifted again. My feet even gave me a reprise for a few miles. We laughed and joked and made good progress. Marc popped up a few miles later to meet us with bacon baps!
I did not specifically pick people for sections, as I said before they kindly arranged that between themselves. Looking back, the people I had on each section were perfect and just the people I needed to see and push me on at those particular points.
It was on this section that I finally started to think, I can actually do this. We started to see the landmarks of home – the Roaches, Hen Cloud and even Shutlingsloe – Trevor’s joke would’ve been a bit funnier at this stage! As we passed the Mermaid Inn and descended towards Upper Hulme a familiar face came running towards us. This was Pascal, who I also know from Peak Running. Pascal lives miles away in Derby and had driven over so she could support me! Gestures like this, mean so much. I was already a bit emotional, when I hit Tittesworth car park the tears started again. Not just mine but some of the Macclesfield Harriers that had met there to see me come through.
I sat down to sort my feet out and could see people putting on their running packs and getting ready to go. It was only then I realised, these people are coming with me! It felt like they had come to bring me home. I suppose they had, the long way home via Wincle and Wildboarclough! We laughed and joked along the way. We all knew this part of the route, I was back on ‘home ground’ now.
Wildboarclough to the Finish
At Wildboarclough, more people joined us. Think of the Forest Gump long run scene, this was pretty similar. Up next was Shutlingsloe – that is always a tough climb, I seemed to forget I had 196 miles in my legs at this stage though, I was on the home straight. Quick pit stop for a picture with my favourite trigpoint (the 88 trigs of the Peak District was one of my previous challenges). We were joined by even more supporters as we made our way through Macclesfield Forest. At this point someone turned to me and said, “I think you’ll have a good welcoming committee at the finish line”. I laughed and thought, surely, I don’t know many more people!
I really didn’t think there was anything left in the tank. Fuelled by adrenaline and the thought that it was nearly over, I ‘sprinted’ the last bit down the road and over the reservoir. I was greeted by the sound of cow bells and loud cheers. 198 miles, 83 hours 21 minutes later, I was back where I started.
198 miles was never going to be easy, I knew that. I had trained for the distance but not for the emotional journey it would take me on. Yes, there were lows but there were many more highs along the way.
As I looked around the carpark I realised that everyone that had been with me on this incredible journey had come out again to see me finish. It may be a cliché but it is true ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’. I could not have finished this challenge without the support of those mentioned in this report. They all played a part in keeping me going and making it a success!
What did I learn on this adventure – I am stubborn. I love a challenge. I have the best bunch of friends anyone could every wish for. Did I really need to travel the whole way around the Peak District Boundary to learn these things? No – I knew them already! It was one hell of an adventure and a fantastic way to spend a Bank Holiday weekend!