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A race across the Peak District with a Red Bull twist

by Paul Hayward
Tuesday 14th October 2014
Tags  Red Bull Steeple Chase   |   Red Bull   |   Steeple Chase   |   Hope Valley   |   Peak District   |   Ross Macdonald   |   Paul Hayward

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

I often associate Obstacle Course Racing with feelings of "excitement" or "challenging"; however this weekend I thought I would have a break from those feelings and join our competition winners for a race across the Peak District with a Red Bull twist. 

What occurred, in true Red Bull style, can only be described as giving me a huge injection of endorphins and pain in equal measures and was both exciting and challenging. These feelings were followed by possibly the best after party I have ever been too. 

The quest for the Steeplechasers is unique in that it is an elimination race, by stages, and takes place across the Peak District. Starting in Castleton, competitors are required to run eight miles with 580 metres of height gain to the checkpoint in Bamford. Only the first 250 past the line are allowed to progress past the checkpoint onto the second stage - four miles with 310 metres of height gain to Hope.

At the second checkpoint the field is reduced further and only the first 175 past the line will continue the race to Edale, covering six miles with 340 metres of height gain. Only the first 30 competitors have the honour of racing the final stage to the finish at Castleton, three miles with 170 metres of height gain.

Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

Despite reading Ross Macdonald's article (HERE) and seeing the map at the start line, I really was not prepared for what ensued over the next 1 hour and 38 minutes until my elimination. 

On leaving the start, the first 400 metres to the base of the mountain involved a small incline, although the road appeared to be horizontal at times, serving as a nice warm up for the route up the mountain. On reaching the mountain and beginning to climb it, I cannot actually describe or put into words the pain I endured.

I can only summarise that my calves were screaming and I felt that they were going to explode. At this point I actually thought I may not make it past the first 1000 metres! 

Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

The mountain was as steep, if not steeper, as Snowdown (HERE), although this was no doubt a combination of the pain and the vertical climb that gave this impression. The entire field, save hardened competitors at the front, were reduced to walking pace and trying to scale it on their hands and knees. 

On reaching the top we were treated to a view that was simply sublime. Hope Valley is breathtaking, not that I had either the time to look around for long, or the breath required to run up and down the surrounding mountains! Broken stone paths guided our way through the mountains and provided us with technical descents and climbs that were leg busting and quite challenging. 

The half way point could not come soon enough and I ran past in 250th place, which was dead on the money and the draw for elimination. My body was screaming at me at this point but I had made it this far and I was not about to give up as my goal was to mak the cut. 

I decided to pick up the pace and try to finish strongly. Or at least that was the plan as I began to pick off a few runners.  I was treated to some long down hill sections that were wet and slippy and were a real test for my Merrells, which performed really well and held; challenging trail routes and river crosses. As I began to really enjoy the run and my pace, I came into Bamford and the first Steeple. 

I would be lying if I denied I was beaming at this point. My legs may have been crying, but I was so relived to see the Steeple and then the first check point. However this euphoric happiness turned to deflation on seeing the timing clock. 

Once again the clock said my place was 250th but the marshal was pointing to the big glossy Red Bull marquee. I could not believe it; I thought I was through! On asking the marshal if he was mistaken, he smiled and said I was about 270th and I had missed the deadline!

I was deflated; I had been eliminated. Although I was frowning, my legs were having an absolute party at the news it was over. The previous eight miles had not been easy. I was sad though; I just had not been good enough to get past the first check point and that hurt. 

Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

Luckily this pain disappeared soon! After collecting possibly the best goodie bag ever (a medal; magazine; a beautiful (yes beautiful) hoodie and a can of Redbull) I was whisked to the finish line (in the free shuttle bus) to see the competitors come in and enjoy the after party atmosphere. 

If Red Bull can do one thing well, apart from provide a blinding leg busting run, it appears it had to be a party. Your £25 entry to the race provided you with entry to the after party, which consisted of free food; a free bar and live music. 

I must admit I have never done a race where I have been able to stand at the finish line, drinking cider, clapping and celebrating with all the finishers! It was simply fantastic and the atmosphere was electric. 

I caught up with one of our competition winners, James Ruckley, who was absolutely beaming. When I asked him about the race he commented "it was really good fun; but really hard. It was a very brutal course and it was good to have some down hill sections to open up your legs! This is the best event I have ever done; I will be back next year - regrettably!"

Regular readers will know that Ross Macdonald (of Team inov-8 OCR and triathlon team Tri Training Harder) was hoping to finish in the top few places (HERE). I caught a moment with him to gather his thoughts after the race to see how he had got on. 

Ross commented: "I came in 21st place in the end. I really wanted top 10 but things didn't go as planned. But I am chuffed to have finished it - 21 miles complete and I feel wrecked! But it is all worth it, as it is an awesome event. Red Bull put on one of the most awesome events imaginable. The race, the organisation and the after party are superb and a lot of events could learn a lot from them". 

Red Bull Steeple Chase - October 5, 2014

There is a rumour that this race is not happening next year, which is possibly the worst news I have heard after raving about it non stop for the last 72 hours. However there is some hope that it will happen the following year. You should mark your diary now.  

As experiences go, this race provided it all and I have to concur with James, this is the best event I have ever done. The race was absolutely superb and had everything, from start to finish. Whether you are a serious runner or merely enjoy a challenge; this race is for you.

I will be back and I will make it past the first checkpoint this time!

I would also like to thank both Simon and Lenka from Freestak for their hospitality, thorough organisation and support for this event.

Find out more about the race at: steeplechase.redbull.co.uk

Men's results

1 Andy Greenleaf 02:37:23
2 Ondrej Fejfar 02:42:40
3 Glenn Hughes 02:46:58


Women's results

1 Emily Collinge 02:48:29
2 Katie Williams 03:15:16
3 Sally Fawcett 03:18:05


Click here for full results


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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