I had been looking forward to the race ALL year. I had been eyeing it up for a couple of years and liked the concept of a timed stage race, but I had never got around to entering it. In fact, this year I had already entered a local 10 miler on the same day, but when entries opened, and my husband agreed to run it in a team with me, we decided to go for it! Round Sheffield Run was to be my summer fun run, conveniently positioned in between my two ultras in May and July.
We had not been too quick off the mark in booking and ended up on the 9:30am wave, which meant it wasn’t too early a start from Lincoln, but also meant we were quite late starting compared to many others. The event is chip timed, and consists of 11 timed stages totalling 20 kilometres, with the longest stage being 2.9km. There were recovery stages in between where you were given maximum times before you had to start the next phase. These times were based on walking pace between the points, or you were given slightly longer to take advantage of the two feed stations en route. It sounds complicated, but it’s really simple in practice. Essentially you carry a chip and dib in at the RFID device at the start and end of each stage so you get a total time at the end of the event for each timed stage.
Initial impressions at entering Endcliffe Park were of the enormous queue, which I feared were for the toilets, but I waited only around 15 minutes for the loo, and it turned out the enormous queue was to actually cross the start line. There were no queues at all at registration. We got straight into the startline queue at around 8:45am just in case we were waiting ages, but we were at the start before 9, and although they were checking colours of numbers we managed to sneak under the bar early (sorry guys!).
We left Endliffe Park and ran along a pleasant path up into the woods, which were breathtaking. Is this really a 5 minute run out of Sheffield? Beautiful green surroundings and a gradual ascent to warm you up for the big climb of Stage 2. There is a cafe here at the end of the stage with toilets, in case of queues at the start.
Stage 2 : 2.5km Porter Valley Ascent
Wow, what a tough climb! Up from the Forge Dam cafe this stage leads away from town and the climb gradually gets steeper and steeper. It’s a tough climb, and I normally take a good 4 miles to warm up, so I really struggled here (especially living in the flats of Lincolnshire), but the trails were once again stunning. I could certainly tell the locals who were used to running up these hills! I guess it’s good to get this stage out of the way early, rather than do it on tired legs later, and I was looking forward to the downhill afterwards!
What a fantastic stage! A wide grassy trail leads to a fantastically fast downhill path through the woods. I felt like I was flying! In fact I was going so fast here that Ben the photographer actually missed me! Gutted I don’t have a photograph of me legging it down here!
Stage 4 : 1.8km Ecclesall Woods
The woods were beautiful and shady and I really enjoyed this section. There were plenty of roots so a really fun trail, which eventually spat us out at Dore Station. We had a brief walk to the next stage, and were very grateful to see we didn’t hit the timed section until we were at the top of the steep stairs, which everyone was walking up!
Stage 5 : 2.5km Beauchief Golf Course
Another stunning section through woodland, which still climbed even after those steps. This trail was single track so it was difficult overtaking other runners who we had caught up, but the path soon widened out as we reached the golf course.
Stage 6 : 0.9km Chancet Woods
A very short section through woods. Nice and quick!
Stage 7 : 1.4km Graves Park
More uphill! Seriously, how many hills does Sheffield have?
Stage 8 : 1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course
More fun downhill!!! And then back up again towards Meersbrook park where we were looking forward to the views over Sheffield.
Stage 9 : 0.8km Meersbrook Park
Views, views, views, all over the city. Stunning! Also an extremely fast descent. I stuck to the grass here rather than the tarmac path as I was scared I may trip over my own feet we were going downhill so quickly. Great fun!
Stage 10 : 2.2km Brincliffe Edge
My least favourite stage as it was through an urban area and I was here for the trails. It was also uphill, again!
Stage 11 : 0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish
This was supposed to be a sprint finish, but after the hills, my legs genuinely had nothing left! There were great crowds along the finish straight – really enoyed it!
The finish area
Immediately on finishing, you are given a medal, then a very detailed printout of your times. There was then another large queue to collect pre-ordered race tshirts (we bought one for a fiver) and snacks consisting of crisps, a trek bar, jelly babies and a bottle of water. I’m ashamed to say we didn’t stay to sample the Thornbridge beer there, but the atmosphere was very family-friendly and relaxed, with a DJ playing tunes. The sunshine really helped too.
Do I really have to wait a whole year until I can run this again?? I loved it. Actually, this route is all waymarked as the Round Sheffield Walk so it would be easy to go and run this route at any time. In total, the route is 15 miles. I was amazed at how many beautiful leafy trails Sheffield has. I loved the uniqueness of the timed stages. Actually, it seems a really innovative way for the organisers to avoid any expensive road closures, because there were always RFID devices at busy road crossings so you weren’t worrying about losing time, and the stages had been designed so cleverly so that the recovery stages included most of the crossings and the suburban areas. Absolute genius. I can’t wait to run it again!
Also a great medal, and good snacks at the end. The feed stations were really simple (water, half bananas and jelly babies) but that was all we needed. Simple, pure trail running, and plenty of fun!
Total distance: 14.8 miles
Elevation: 1880 feet