Clucking Bell, it's the Four Inns 2019.

Yesterday, was that “wonderful” time of year for the Four Inns Race. A time of excitement, trepidation, and downright angst. Why? 40 miles from Holmebridge to Buxton, mostly off road, and with 7,000 plus feet of climb.

Tony, Jon, and Adam looking down into Edale.

Running yesterday was myself, Tony, Jon, and Adam. This was my fourth time running the race with a new addition in the form of Tony. It is a tough race not simply because of the distance but due to the tough climbs that face you through the route, notably a right bugger at the end when you’ve done 35 miles as you climb out of Errwood Reservoir via Shooters Clough for the checkpoint at the Cat and Fidddle.

It was an early start with the alarm clock going off at 4.30am Saturday morning, with the obligation to pick up Jon and Tony from Jon’s house in Delph. Pickup was successful and off we went to catch Adam at the Holmebridge start. Kit check was 6.16am with a 7.16am start. Yours truly was still in the Land of Nod and operating on auto pilot. Everyone else was busy in the hall, furtively kit checking and packing and unpacking. I alleviated the stress of it all with a Number 2, Weetabix, and cup of tea.

We left at 7.16am and I was still not awake. Great… It was cold and a tad damp (not the mood) as we climbed out of Holmebridge for the first checkpoint on The Isle of Sky Road (Snoopy’s). Pace was good and all happy. We reached Black Hill in quite a fast time and it was clear it was going to be claggy. But your Editor was more than happy because it was not peeing it down or windy, and he was still laden with the trauma of the Trigger and Haworth Hobble.

Approaching the Black Hill Trig.

After Black Hill we hot footed it to Crowden and as we dropped into Crowden the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Little were we to know it’s impact on us. There was a wind as we climbed out of Torside Reservoir heading for “lovely Bleaklow” and the checkpoint at Doctor’s Gate.

Looking away from Torside toward Bleaklow up Torshide Clough.

Doctor’s Gate saw a break and suitable refreshments taken before a notorious slog for two miles down the Snake Pass for the Snake Pass Inn checkpoint. As an aside the checkpoints are “proper” in terms of drinks and food available, support, and emergency measures. It is a major factor on this race.

The climb out of the valley below the Snake Pass Inn via Gate Side Clough is a shocker as you traverse just below the summit of Seal Stones and it was at this point last year that one of the team dropped out and headed back to the pub.

Looking down into Derwent Valley from below the summit of Seal Stones.

From the Snake Inn Pass you simply head to the Kinder Scout Plateau before dropping into Edale as you hit Grindsbrook Clough from in between Upper and Nether Tors.

Edale achieved and you are not quite half way. It is at this point the solider or machine that is Tony needs mentioning. By Edale he was hobbling down hill and bless his cotton socks did not moan and soldiered on. You are then faced with a tortuous climb out of Edale up the Chapel Gate track to reach the Chapel en-le-frith Mam Tor road (Sheffield Road). Climb ticked off and poor Tony cheerful but grimacing we headed to the checkpoint at Chapel. Once achieved you are about 25 miles or there about in to the race. We hobbled off for the next checkpoint.

“Jon Boy” photographing the para gliders from Chapel Gate Track.

The climb from Chapel to White Hall (an outdoor activity centre) is legendary as it is a swine of a slog but one is driven on for the lovely rice pudding and jam they lay on each year, plus a nip of a good single malt if of that inclination.

The safety route card checkpoints you hand in. Note I am runner D of A, B, C, D.

From White Hall you are faced with the drop into the Goyt Valley which is quite a descent to hit the dam wall for the famous Errwood reservoir, which you run along heading for my Bete Noire in the form of Shooters Clough. Basically your legs are shot and you have to climb a few feet over quite a distance as you aim for the Cat and Fiddle pub. Each year if attacks me mentally and physically, and I started the climb apprehensive and at the back…

Dropping down to Errwood with Shooter’s Clough path in the distance, middle of photo.

At this point I will mention the weather. The sun and heat had been a lot stronger than we anticipated through the day, more like summer, and all of us were working our way through lots of water than normal, even though it is an ultra event and you’d expect this. Afterwards at the finish we realised we were sunburnt. By Errwood it was dusk with the sun fading and on reaching the Cat and Fiddle the weather suddenly changed to be incredibly cold, which meant we all dug into the bags to put coats and additional tops on. I myself foolishly let myself get very cold after the tough climb and was covered in sweat that then condensed. I did not really warm back up until the finish when inside. But I was pleased as I’d found the climb okay and made steady pace to the pub. Up Yours Clough Face!

The run from the Cat and Fiddle was mostly walked due to tired legs but the conversation was cheerful as we all knew the end was in sight. It’s true what the Macc Lads said, “No Sheep Till Buxton”.

Finishing was great and a relief as we entered the confines of the local secondary school where the race is based. It was warm and support staff kindly made us a brew as we removed shoes and just plain relaxed.

So, so glad to have finished. In the last three miles into Buxton we were all in agreement that we’d had enough, whilst enjoying it, and just wanted to finish. Nearly 12 hours on your feet in mixed weather takes its toil. What an achievement though! And hats off to Tony! What a beast.

The Four Inns

Have a look at which is provided by Derbyshire Scouts who run the event. It is a strongly recommended event for those who like their ultra, with varied and beautiful scenery; we were very lucky yesterday seeing the Peak District in all its glory. It is a challenge though and must not be under estimated. Some of the off-road climbs are brutal, very much so on knackered legs. Am I doing it next year? My fifth attempt? YEAH BABY!