As some of you may be aware I ran a few half marathons in 2016 and one of the races I particularly enjoyed as part of this personal challenge was the Dentdale Run, so it was definitely one that I was going to go back and do again.
Dentdale is a 14.2 mile undulating road race organised to raise funds for the local school and runs from the beautiful village in Yorkshire/Cumbria (they seem a little confused by this) down the valley to Rash, crossing the River Dee, then back up the other side of the valley to Cowgill, again crossing the river and back to Dent and is unusually run on a Saturday.
The Saturday before last dawned dull, overcast yet surprisingly balmy and for me this is perfect running weather. Since I was bringing my mum along to go rock hunting and I know parking can be an issue, I arrived quite early and was surprised to find that my fellow and only other Humbug Dave Lord was already there. This year entry levels were quite high as the race organisers have introduced a shorter 7.9 mile version of the race and we were two small stripes in a sea of green, white and yellow as Royton Road Runners, Eden Runners, Skipton AC and Evenwood Road Runners had turned out in force.
As I waited for the race to start it was nice for once to feel relaxed and confident, putting no pressure on myself as I’ve not run anywhere near this distance since the start of December – it was all about getting round and enjoying it. With that in mind when the 3-2-1 go came after a mumbled and barely audible announcement I set off at a nice and steady pace not worrying if people passed me or I passed them, I would see them on the hills.
Setting off from Dent you quickly hit the first of climb up the side of the valley for a good half a mile, it’s long and winding and the chatter died down as everyone knuckled down to get to the top I, however, in my usual way to distract myself, talked to every person I passed as I ran. I found out that Evenwood is in County Durham, I had a chat with a lady who’d done the race the year before and like me was doing the 14 miler. I passed and was passed and enjoyed the rise and fall of the road as we ran down to the bridge at Rash with locals and farmers cheering us on as we went.
The first water station is at Rash, and this year I was surprised to see cups of water rather than the bottles of water of the previous year, and I had to walk to drink (I just haven’t mastered the run and drink from a cup thing) but only for a few steps before it was over the bridge, turning right then heading up the valley toward Dent. It was on this section that I recalled struggling quite a lot on the hills the previous year, yet I was feeling good and as we climbed I started to overtake quite a few other runners. In the distance I could spy two ladies from Skipton AC and decided I was going to make sure I kept them in my sights.
Around 7 miles in and those doing the shorter version were heading off to the finish back in the town centre, however I was feeling good and with a quick “look after this” throwing my bumbag at my mum, a quick wave to a surprised work colleague, I was flying off towards mile eight, after which I seemed to have a real wobble and my previous good feeling evaporated. The hills from then on felt like mountains and I was almost begging for the next water station so I could walk for those couple of seconds whilst I guzzled down orange and pineapple squash (now on my shopping list). Despite the general feeling I eventually passed one of the Skipton ladies and just before the 10 mile point I hit the flat and my battle with myself kicked in.
I hate running on the flat, it’s monotonous, it’s boring and to me totally soul-destroying and I would rather run up Whalley Nab (Jamie Osborne, still expect to be sworn at when you make me do it) than run on the flat, but having remembered from the previous year that you cross the river after the 10 mile mark, I knew I had to ignore my head and keep pushing my legs as there were hills to conquer on the other side.
Crossing the river and turning back towards Dent seemed to flick a switch in my head and I found myself picking up the pace again and running stronger; and as I passed the 11 mile mark with just a parkrun to go, I was feeling good again.
The last two miles of the race has, in my opinion, the worst of the hills on this course as they are quite steep, but with “run if you can, walk if you must” going round and round my head, I ran slowly and steadily overtaking the other Skipton AC runner around the half marathon mark.
A quick glance at my watch showed that I was just a minute over my PB time for a half marathon which I was really pleased with considering, and it gave me the final push to get to the top of the last hill and the downhill run all the way back to the village.
The finish at Dent is a little bit cheeky as it turns up a cobbled street and up and around the village green with a short downhill sprint finish, and to my absolute delight the big clock was showing a time significantly faster than the year before. With a few cheers from my mum, Dave and colleague I crossed the finish line with the biggest smile on my face!
Dent will always be one of my favorite races, not least for the tea, sandwiches and cakes that you get in your entry fee and I'm already looking forward to tackle those rolling hills again next year.