High Peak Relay
Enthusiasm and eagerness was abound as 20 teams from in and around the region gathered for registration at the historic Arkwright Mill, Cromford. Once the location for the start of the industrial revolution, now a site of scientific and historical interest and the start of the 23rd annual High Peak Relay.
Each team consisted of eight runners, each running one stage of the eight-stage race, a total distance equating 28.48 miles. The stages varied in length, difficulty and altitude from short flat stages to long-climbs presenting challenges for both the elite club athletes and for the more inexperienced runners.
The competitors gathered at the first stage start-line at the base of 'Intake Lane' for a gruelling 800' climb, up intake lane, eventually joining the High Peak Trail and the notorious Cromford Incline, levelling briefly at the foot of 'Black Rocks' before the 2nd accent 'Middleton Incline' to Middleton Top where shortly after the first change over occurred.
To make the event competitive throughout, the organizers set the competitors of each stage off when the winner of the previous stage arrived, effectively turning the relay into a set of 8 mini races.
The second stage was a short stage of 2 1/2 miles and started with Hopton incline, a short climb of about 800m in length before levelling out and remaining so as the trail passed Harborough Rocks until it's finish at Longcliffe Station. The third stage was the longest in the race at nearly 5 1/2 miles but was completely flat passing by Minninglow Hill and through Gotham and finishing at the village of Friden.
The fourth stage of 2 1/2 miles was again level, passing by Newhaven Cottage to end at Parsley Hay.The final four stages were the first four stages but in reverse.
At the first change over at Middleton Top, Ashbourne RC A team were leading, however, at the end of the second stage Matlock AC had pulled back a little time as they also did at the Friden change over.
At the turnaround, at the end of the fourth stage, however, it was North Derbyshire RC that led in both Ashbourne and Matlock. It was Matlock, however, who stamped their authority at the line on the fifth changeover on the return leg just beating a storming Pink Plodder by some nine seconds. As the end of the sixth stage was reached North Derbyshire made a flying comeback leading in Burton AC C team and again at the seventh change over North Derbyshire struck again. At the finishing line in Intake line, however, consistency was to take Matlock to a further win at their fourth stage, which, allowed them to clinch the fastest time overall for the entire relay.
As the competitors were arriving back in the sunlit yard of the magnificent setting of Arkwright Mill, mugs of tea and cake was the order of the day. Presentations were made by the chief organizer of the event, David Denton, who should be congratulated for putting on a memorable event.
Copy by S Gresty and M Ludbrook
Images by S Gresty, M Ludbrook, D Thorburn
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