A story of 3 races. Coombs Tor, Padfield Scamper and the Coal Sack race

A day with 2 fell races is always going to present a choice, unless they are close enough to each other to get from one to the other in time for the second one to start.
This will normally involve a bit of pre-planning and a car.
What if the races are on the same day, a decent amount of time between them, and a runnable distance from each other? What then.

Numbering up for Coombs

We started off the day picking up Sikobe (whose idea this entire folly it was) and John S and wended our way out to Rowarth for the start of Coombs tor race. The first time this race has been run, organised by Goyt Valley Stranglers. There were a few of us around who were doing both races, but fewer of us that were going to do both, and the run between them.
We dropped off the bags of stuff we were going to take from one race to the other, and warmed up a bit. There was quite a good Glossopdale turnout for the race, which is always good, a nice social scene. I don’t know if we outnumbered all the other clubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It was good to see Nick Barber of Pennine at the race, on his way back up north to his new job- he wasn’t going to stop off at Padfield after, though, mores the shame.

route checking

Sikobe decided that anyone running all 3 sections of the day should all be given a token of our dedication to the cause and brought chillies fresh from his allotment- to be kept until the end of the races and then swapped for a “prize”. hmmm. In all there were 5 of us from Glossopdale who were fool enough to do it, Me, John S, John H, Julien and Sikobe. There were also 2 other guys from Retford AC who thought they would join in the fun.

We lined up for starting a bit early, and hung around for quite a bit. The start was delayed by a horsebox loading a horse just around the corner, and time ticked away… we needed a timely start to ensure that we could get down to Padfield in time for the 2nd race. oooh. 15 mins went by and we still didn’t start. Eventually we did, about 20 mins late, and there was a full blown dash down the hill (led by our own Carl Bedson, striding away like a mad thing at the front) until we hit a tiny, slippery footpath which spread things out a bit. I hung on to Julien, who took the first opportunity he had to whip his Glossopdale top off, complaining of the “heat”.

Elaine and Claire from Pennine warming up
The start (and eventual end)

There were a few guys in front of me, but not a whole lot. The problem here was do I go all out, and run like crazy to get a decent result in this race and damn the second, or do I chill out on both races and the run between? Hmmm. Well, I can’t let Julien get too far ahead of me, simply¬† because he is doing both races and I didn’t really want to be too far behind him at the end of either race. Up and over the hill, down the other side and over some footpaths. Truth to tell there wasn’t much in terms of an epic battle going on, I was just trying to keep Julien in sight, and there were 2 others between us who were swapping places quite a lot.
As expected, up the hills I was dropping back, and down the hills I was gaining, while the flat sections were a kind of stalemate, with one of the other guys being quite strong through the flats. Going down the only slippery grassy part of the race, Julien was a good 40 yards ahead and I managed to close up a little, but up the next part, there was no way that I was making up any time at all. I noticed a bit of a pain in the back of my left calf. Was it cramp? No, it didn’t feel like cramp. A sting? A bite? as I ran, it felt more like a bite. Ah, dammit. Looking down, nope, nothing there. Oh well, just get on an ignore it as best I can.

We got to the top and there was a fair amount of undulation going on where I made nothing on any of them, and they ended up as more of a trio competing against each other. Down, and a minor mistake made because of a slightly misplaced marshal. I saw this from about 50 metres back and was able to make up a little distance, on them. Down, over a stile, left and onto a road that went down and up. Julien doesn’t like road, so I made a little back on the trio ahead.

We must be 3/4 of the way around by now, my legs are aching a bit. Its not like I’ve been hammering around, but I certainly haven’t been dawdling. I’m almost in a realm of my own, with 3 ahead and no-one else around me. By this time I’m thinking about how many people must be in front of me. Ohh. about 10. That makes me 10th. ish. I’ve not really been properly top 10 ever, so that’s pretty damn good. I can see 9,8 and 7 in front of me, between 20 and 50 metres away, so that’s not all that bad. We’ll go with that.

Thanks for the photo Geoff

Up and right, and then, what? another hill? I didn’t realise there was another up. Julien gets overhauled by both runners, and I’m slowly catching up. I recognise the area as I’ve biked around here before. It dawns on me that we will be going down quite a slippy technical descent at the end of the race, brilliant, perfect for catching people up. I keep the pace and we go on. And on. and on. I’m SURE the turning is up here somewhere, can’t let them get too far ahead. Dig a little deeper, and I’m starting to feel it a lot more.
Then. I hear breathing behind me. Is that breathing? Or is it my imagination?
Not sure, the turning is coming up, doesn’t matter, pretend it is breathing, and pretend its John H and it will make you go faster. Better the imagination than nothing there at all.
Cut right, out of the corner of my eye I see a blue top.
It IS John. Crikey. He was no-where just now. Better the devil behind you than imagination!
I head down the trail, I know this bit. Flat and fast on a mountain bike, getting more technical as you go down, and then a bit rocky and nasty through some trees until you come out on a tarmacked road.
I pass Julien easily with him saying “I thought it was you behind me”, 200 metres further, just getting into the technical rocky stuff I pass the next guy on the left, brain off, and down into the trees, fast gaining on the guy in 7th. Out at the bottom I’m a pace behind him, and there are maybe 200 metres left. I follow him down for about 10 of them and he begins to try and accelerate down the hill. We started half way up this hill and it was the bottom that Carl had run crazily down at the beginning of the race. I knew exactly when to kick. Just as we passed the “start line” with 100 metres to go, bang, left him for dead, sprinting in to the line in 7th place, 1st Glossopdale. Not bad at all. But a tad tired. This might not bode quite so well for the rest of the day.
John H and Julien came in pretty much hot on my heels, but were 9th and 10th respectively.
We stood around for a while, gasping, and trying to look composed. It didn’t really work.
Had there been a team prize we would have got it, but I don’t think there was. Ah well.

All too soon, Sikobe and John S had come in and it was going on midday, time to head on out, the Padfield race starts at 1315. We set on out and within about 150 metres I was thinking “this might have been a bad idea”. Up and out of Rowarth, I followed Julien, as this wasn’t really a race, it was a transit, but with a specific time that we had to be in Padfield. Jules knows his stuff, so I’ll keep with him. Over a few stiles, my Garmin kept turning itself off, so I really don’t have a perfect route of where we went, but its close enough.


A long long hill up on a road, then eventually onto a field, up and over to Monks road, across it and over to the Nab. A delightful run, taking in the views, at a relaxed pace. Julien and I out front with the others a way back. At points, my left calf twinged a bit, but there was nothing serious or significant about it. I also managed to run through a thistle and lodge a huge thorn in the top of my shoe which constantly, on every step, embedded itself further into the top of my foot. Ouch. I’ll have to take that out before we start the next race.

Transit over the Nab

Over the Nab, and down the Herod Farm race route, then through Glossop in a direction that I have never gone before, following Julien’s nose, and listening to stories of how it used to be before this that and the other was built. He has a fascinating knowledge of the place and would be brilliant to get drunk with, but as we went up the hill towards Padfield all I wanted was for him to stop running! My legs were not happy and I was considerably tired, getting into the place where I really didn’t want to be. Tired and achy and not really in a position to head up another hill.

Me and Jules coming in

Over the hill and down into Padfield. Thank goodness for that. Its 1pm, the race starts in 15 mins, and we had just about got there in time, Lynne and Andrea were there (taxi drivers from the morning), as were 2 worried wives from Retford AC. No, they weren’t with us, yes, they were with the other guys, yes they were fine last time we saw them, no, we have no idea exactly where they are or when they will turn up, but it probably won’t be long.

John S
John H

I wander around and see a few faces from this mornings run who have driven over to here from Rowarth. Again, there is a good Glossopdale turnout, with more faces who weren’t there this morning. I won’t be getting top 10 here then! StevieK from Pennine is running, I try to psyche him out with the mud on my shorts, but it doesn’t seem to work. Chris Jackson is looking happy because Jules and I look pretty tired, and John H still hasn’t arrived yet…


5 mins goes by. Then 10, and John S turns up. Then John H. Eventually, 2 mins before we are due to start, Sikobe rocks up. I have no idea what happened to the Retford guys, I presume they turned up and are alive because one of the posted on the Forum.

Number swap with Bray

All too soon the Gun went and we were off.
I didn’t even make an attempt at being near the front for the off, and jogged along mid pack. This was going to be long and quite hard. Down, then up. The beginning of a lot of up. Not steep, not technical, just long and steady. Into the first field and I get overtaken by a client saying “yknow, its your wives’ massages that make me run this fast”. I catch him at the next stile and he says “I didn’t mean to be presumptuous of course, wife, partner….” I’m nearly too knackered to reply, and I can’t remember the retort.

A gaggle of Glossopdalers

Onward and upward, across a road and along a flat bit and I’m accosted from behind, its John H, stumbling along in much the same state as me. Jules has gone off ahead of us and there is no way we are going to catch him. Up the hill, and another voice, “ah, you two must be doing the double and the run, glad about that, there’s no way I’d catch you normally!”
Well, at least we are making someones day.

John S back marking
Looking comfy at the start. (thanks for the pic Ian)

That hill went on forever. Just grinding away. My calf is beginning to hurt a bit more and I’m wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. The thorn in my shoe is still there and making life a little more uncomfortable every time I take a step. So many times I wanted to stop, but if you walk, its just going to take longer to get around the course. Eventually after about 20 years of running it flattened out a bit, and John managed to find some wind from somewhere and went off ahead. No way was I going to respond. This was pretty much about survival now.
Grinding it out, we overtook 2 people, and 2 others over took us. Up to the top and the turn around, there were 2 people between me and John, and Claire from Pennine (who won the Ladies prize in the morning at Rowarth- but failed to run between the 2, mind you, it was her Birthday as well. Happy Birthday Claire!) was catching me up. My legs felt like lead, but now it was all, or at least mostly, downhill. But it wasn’t fun technical stuff, it was undulating bits and pieces, which is a lot easier to run on, and hence I have a lower average speed on it in comparison to other people. I was losing out and losing places all the time. Down the hill. Claire overtakes me, and in the next 700 metres overtakes the next two and is challenging John for his place. We go through a field, and down a rocky gully where I close all of them down, overtake 2 of them and am snapping at the heels of John and Claire.
Then it went up again, I was nearly on my knees. Up, over, I had to walk a couple of paces before I got a grip and carried on with the shuffle. Overtaken again, but only once, and then down onto the path again. I can’t keep the speed on the flat and I’m overtaken again.

My sprint finish

I know this is the last mile or so, but there is nothing left at all. Across the road and down through the field. I’m sure I can hear footsteps behind me, and I hang on. Down through the field, into the trees and out again, feet slapping on the road, and there is an acceleration from behind me. This is no more than 40 metres from the finish. I’m not having that.

Quite tired.

Stretch out, ignore the pain, ignore the issues in my legs, and reach for the line, I come in fast and ahead of the guy challenging for the place. A triumph at the end of the pain.
I came in about 30th ish.
Lynne was there to greet me and I stumbled around for a while. John H looked a mess, as did Julien, and I daresay I did as well. Brilliant. What a day. John S and Sikobe eventually came in somewhere right at the back of the field- but not last. (just).

Lynne, Caroline and I wandered around the show for a bit and somehow we ended up in the Peels for a pint. It was the sitting down that really made me go there. John S and Sikobe joined us, and then hunger overtook any desire to sit down and we went back for Hog Roast, to find John H wandering around in a minor daze. Filling up with food (and the inevitable chilli that we had been carrying around with us all day, jeeeeeez it was HOT) we started to think about ANOTHER race. Sikobe had been talking about the Coal Sack Race for the past 2 weeks. I thought it was a sack race like when you get in a sack and jump down the road.
You pick up a 25kg sack of coal and run(!) up a 150m hill. That’s it.

Brilliant, that sounds like a marvellous idea, especially in the state we’re in. Jules had already gone home, and was going to come back for the coal sack race as well. (He was a winner of the Coal Sack race in 2005 and (I think) was keen to prove his total superiority over all of us).
We wandered around, had a scone, and found somewhere to sit down. Wandered to the hill, looked at it, thought this is a bad idea, and wandered back.

Result of the chillies. No, they weren’t hot at all Sikobe.

The race starts at 5pm, after literally everything else has been packed up and everyone else has gone home. Odd, considering its a pretty good event to watch, but then I’m sure the organisers have their reasons.

We signed up, got numbers, Jules stood around giving out advice on how to hold the sack and that the first 20 metres are “easy” and then it gets hard. I suspect the rest of us were thinking… it ALL looks hard.

nervous at the start line

Lynne also signed up for the Ladies race, only 2 competitors, the other was a record holder from a number of years ago. They only had 10kg sacks to carry. Lynne has been wandering around with a 35 or 40kg sack at the end of her training sessions at S&P, and picked it up as if it wasn’t there… She was going to find this one easy.

There was a certain amount of waiting around, and then we started. 3 at a time, you ran with whoever was at the start line and picked up a sack. Julien and Tom Jackson were in the first lot to go, and set a blistering pace. I decided to get it over with, and stepped up for the 2nd run. Lynne immediately stepped up beside me (its the same distance just a different weight, so guys and girls ran together. Torsten from Glossop MRT came up next to me. Great, this is going to be fun.

Lynne trouncing me quite significantly

Hoiking the bag up was unsurprisingly awkward, keeping it there wasn’t too bad, and the gun went. Lynne accelerated away. Not really a surprise there either, Torsten and I dragging away behind. Up and up, legs, already heavy from about 18 miles of running getting heavier at every step. Lynne blasting out ahead with all the women shouting “yay! do it for the girls!” (I can almost hear Lynne’s thoughts of “I’m doing this for me, if you want to do it for the girls, go and pick up a sack you lazy sods”)

John H and bag

Torsten comes level with me at about half way and I’m hanging on for dear life, I have power for maybe a 5 metre push at the end, just don’t go to early and it will be fine. Go too early and you’ll be on your knees.
We are neck and neck until the last 5 metres, I push and beat him by a small amount, throwing the sack down on the pile at the end. Well, that’ll be the days racing over then.

Sikobe and John S down the hill

I sit down on the hill and FINALLY remember to pull the thorn out of my shoe. Sweet relief. Sikobe, John S and John H come up, the Johns both looking broken, but they pull through and get to the top. The day is ended with the current and 4 years running winner sprinting up the hill in less than 30 second, but not quite managing to break his record.

Lynne and her prize

Lynne won herself a trophy which now sits on the mantelpiece (I’ve run about 13 races this year, and the most I’ve got is a bit of paper from Andy Howie saying he owes me a prize for being 3rd bloke in the May Queen Races, she runs one race and gets a trophy… ah well).
We all got a can of beer for taking part, and at the end, the organisers had obviously got wind of us 5 doing the treble (or even quadruple if you count the transition run) and we got an extra can of beer each. A long and tortuous way of earning your calories, but within about 2 mins of starting on our way home, Julien was talking excitedly about next year, and how we could make it “more interesting”.

I finally found out it was a thorn lodged in my calf that was causing the pain throughout all the races, nothing muscular at all. Which is good. I wore a pair of Inov8 roclites all the way through the day and didn’t take them off at all. No blisters, no pains, but I wonder if a pair of sock gaiter things might have stopped the thorn in the foot issue…
Thanks to Sikobe for coming up with the idea, to all the race organisers of all 3 races, John H, John S and Julien for coming along on the whole thing as well, and Lynne and Andrea for taxiing us out there in the first place. I don’t think running the first leg would have been entirely intelligent… but, then, there is always next year.

Oh, results.
Julien came 11th, 19th and 7th(ish) total of 37(ish)
John H came 10th, 26th(ish) and 15th, total of 51(ish)
I came 7th, 30th and 10th, total of 47(ish)
Sikobe came 64th, 3rd last and 13th, total of quite a lot
John S came 72nd, 2nd last and 14th, total of quite a lot

Jules, Me, John H, Sikobe and John S

Coombs Tor results are definite, the rest are approximate. But we all had a good day out. And that’s all that matters.

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