Quarry Bank Trail Race – race review

It’s been a busy (ish) month for races during August 2018, although it wasn’t planned that way. Whilst Cracken Edge Fell Race had been on the calendar since January, the rest of the month was deemed off-limits due to work getting in the way. However as things panned out I managed to sneak in Eccles Pike Fell Race last week.

A month or so ago, Run North West announced a brand new event local to me; the Quarry Bank Trail Race. This is set in Styal, Cheshire, next to Manchester Airport, and within the grounds of Styal Mill which is looked after now by the National Trust. And if you ever watched the TV Drama ‘The Mill’, it’s this area where filming was undertaken.

Anyway, where an inexpensive race is announced locally, it would be rude not to go and check it out. And a trail race too! So that’s what I did.

Quarry Bank Trail Race

The race itself is multi-terrain, taking in gravel, cobbles and a bit of tarmac, along with woodland trails. Unlike road events, there is less emphasis on trail races to be a standard length (e.g. 5 miles, 10km, 26.2 miles etc) and this event was advised as ‘about 4.5 miles’. And looking at my watch at the finish-line, this was pretty much spot on.

Registration was quick and efficient. Find an iPad, look yourself up to get your race number and then head over to the marshals with the numbers who had already found your number because they’re that efficient!!!

I then spent a lot of time wandering around the grounds of Styal Mill trying to stretch out my right hip/glutes which had been feeling tight all day. I saw plenty of runners I knew; a few from Lyme Runners, others from Marple Runners and Bramhall Runners, and even Faisal who I ran with in Limassol this March! Styal was probably the smallest ever #UKRunChat #TweetUp but we still recorded it!

Lyme Runners pre-race photo

Lyme Runners pre-race photo (minus two we couldn’t find!)

Here’s the course route and profile:

Quarry Bank Trail Race course and profile

Quarry Bank Trail Race course and profile

The first half of the race was quick, being on even surfaces and generally going downhill (after a hill to start with). Having said I wasn’t going to go mad today (fitness not 100% and right glutes feeling a bit sorry and stiff) I did still attack the first half to an extent. Nothing like my 10k pace of last year, but definitely sub 7 min/mile. I decided that I would hold back a little, although on reflection, I probably should have held off more!

Quarry Bank Trail Race

Quarry Bank Trail Race – Photo courtesy of Bryan Dale

Having run out of the Styal Mill grounds and onto a quiet tarmac road, we the followed a stony trail alongside Manchester Airport itself. At the 2 mile mark we then cut away into the woodland area which flanks the River Bollin. The paths were still quick although tree roots introduced a little more of a trip hazard so it wasn’t quite the same level of free running. I was in a group of 4 runners at this stage, snaking along in procession through these narrower paths. Every time there was a chance for an overtake, the order of the 4 changed over.

Things carried on in this way until the proverbial elephant in the race-room appeared. There are multiple sets of steps dotted around the woodland trails. The first few were relatively short, sweet and not too taxing. However as we delved deeper into the woods, so the steps became more of a menace! It was a combination of the number of steps along with the gradient and the unevenness of the steps which made them a challenge. They really were more energy sapping than any other part of the course. In addition, the light was fading (especially under tree-cover) and guess who had left his glasses in the car…….?

My lack of fitness became a problem and the group, already strung out by now, gradually pulled away. Towards the end of the wood section was a sharp incline and I realised that I didn’t have a lot left to give. Another runner passed me on this section and I struggled to keep up with him. Even as the path left the wood and became a stony track again, I couldn’t get going again. Thankfully the last couple of hunder meters was downhill so at least I had a run left into the finish area where there were plenty of spectators.

I crossed the line in 25th overall in a time of 35m08s. It’s the first race in a while where I’ve been that exhausted at the end. I collected my water, flapjack and t-shirt before returning to the finish to watch the other runners cross the line.

Conclusion

The Quarry Bank Trail Race was Run North West’s first trail event. And they pulled it off to perfection. There was a decent size of field of runners, but no so big that it caused problems on the narrow paths. I think there was a little bit of queuing on the steps, but that was it. So kudos to the organisers for getting that right.

Couple that with a whole army of marshals throughout the course from Wilmslow Striders who oozed enthusiasm and you can’t go far wrong! Many brought their kids with them, armed with huge foam hands to give high-fives to the runners. It was a lovely atmosphere.

The course itself was very pleasant, offering a mixture of terrain which was pretty non-technical.  Care had to be taken in the woods however, as there were plenty of potential trip hazards, especially as the light began to fade. This was something that would have affected the slower runners more as it was an evening race.

Photos were provided free of charge via Bryan Dale’s racephotos.org.uk website and the cost to enter was only £10 (affiliated runners). The fact that there was a t-shirt included in this price was incredible really!

I think this race is one that will sell out rapidly in future years. Despite the steps, everyone I spoke to loved the event and said they’d be back. I don’t think there’s a clearer sign of a well received race than that!

A huge thanks to all of the organisers and marshals.

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