Whilst many competitive sporting events have had to be cancelled, some have managed to go ahead, including the rescheduled Spire Ultra – a 34-mile ‘Maypole’ run around the Chesterfield’s crooked spire. 63 solo runners and five relay teams braved last Saturday’s (31st October) wind, rain & mud to take part in this race, which had been significantly amended to take the pandemic into account (including marshalls in PPE, & runners setting off in socially distanced ‘pods’ based on their expected finish time).
Despite challenging weather, CVFR’s ultra-runner Kevin Hoult stormed to first place for the second year in a row – shaving six seconds off his previous personal best (although he was quick to point out that the route had been slightly shortened due to COVID restrictions). The red & white hooped runner described just how tough conditions were – whilst normally, competitors can see the famous spire in the distance for much of the race, this year, no such views were possible; with runners battling seriously stormy weather and epic mud to complete the course.Read More
However, COVID restrictions were not all inconveniences, & Hoult reports how setting off in the final pod with the expected fastest runners meant a lovely atmosphere, as runners were able to go past & encourage one another along the route. He ran the first half of the race with last year’s second placed Greg Hopkinson & keen ultra-racer Ady Pendred – after Sam Anderson left the rest of the pod well behind at the start. However, as they reached the second half of the race, his fellow runners started to flag & Hoult saw his chance to catch up with Anderson. He not only did this five miles from the finish line, but after a navigation error at the end of the race saw Anderson drop to third place, Hoult took the win – crossing the line a staggering 10 minutes & 13 seconds ahead of second placed Pendred & nearly 15 minutes ahead of Anderson – to finish this grueling 55-km route in an astounding 4 hours 31 minutes & 31 seconds.
Hoult was quick to heap praise on race organisers, Jamie and Claire Glazebrook, as it was thanks to their hard work, diligence in risk assessment & jumping through the various hoops associated with respect for COVID restrictions that the rescheduled race was able to go ahead. Hoult commented how ‘great’ it was ‘to get back to racing’ after a seven-month enforced break, & how the first place finish was very much a ‘pleasant surprise’. All profits from the race were donated to High Ashes Rural Project (HARP) http://www.highashes.org.uk/
With this weekend’s lockdown news, racing will be suspended for at least the next month, but runners look forward to May 2021 & the next ultra in the series.