Ultra X England 2022: Race Director’s Report
Written By Mark Topham
Mark is a Race Director at Ultra X whose portfolio includes the Azores, England, Mexico and most recently he set up Ultra X Tanzania. A former Army Officer and Management Consultant he loves running and putting on top quality experiences.
Ultra X England 2022 was a momentous occasion in the history of Ultra X as it was our biggest multi-stage event ever. Sure, a majority of the runners were actually only taking on the second day in the separate 50km event but still, a total of 340 runners crossing the start line on the Sunday felt pretty special.
This years’ event saw a total of 78 runners start the 125km on the Saturday and an additional 262 runners arrive on the Sunday for the 50km race.
Despite being the 3rd year we have run this event, in a way it felt like a new race with Race HQ having changed location and a redesigned course. Race HQ was moved to Newfold Farm in Edale, right on the Pennine way. This turned out to be a massive improvement on previous years and an extremely ideal place on which to centre the race. The team at Newfold Farm were incredibly onside and supportive of the event and their campsite a lovely spot with good facilities.
Competitors had the option of renting a tent if needed
Registration for the 125km took place on Friday afternoon/evening out of the café at Newfold Farm. Runners then headed up the hill to set up their tents and continue the carb load prior to the next day’s efforts either with their pre prepared nutrition or with the campsite’s freshly prepared pizzas.
Registration takes place in the café at Newfold Farm
Day 1 – 76km, 2,847m elevation gain
Day 1 of the 125km race began with a minute’s silence in remembrance of Her Majesty The Queen, followed by a few reminders before the race got underway promptly at 07:00. For Day 1, the runners headed out west to begin with, taking the climb up Jacob’s ladder early on, sweeping past Kinder Scout and heading north up to the outskirts of Glossop. It then headed back to the Kinder Scout plateau, before winding down to the Derwent Dam. The final part of the loop saw runners take one last climb up past Mam Tor to Hollins Cross before descending back into Edale.
Participants examine the course map in preparation
It was a beautiful blue-sky day with a slight nip in the air providing ideal running conditions. Mac Kennelly was the early frontrunner and leading through the first couple of checkpoints (all of which were distributed roughly 10km apart). In the women’s race, Ultra X’s very own Hannah Tyldesley took the race out hard followed by Jacqui Bell and Carla Novakovic. Ben Poole competing in his first ultra was running at his own pace but found himself in the overall lead by checkpoint 3. By this stage Carla had moved up to second behind Hannah in the women’s race and Helen Pike third. From there on Ben continued to extend his advantage over the rest of the field which saw him cross the line at 15:52 in a total time of 8:52:37. Rich Gill had worked his way through the field and came home in second on day 1, 38 minutes behind first in a time of 9:30:36, followed 21 minutes later by Rob Joines in third. Hannah was next home and the first women in a time of 09:53:39, with Helen having moved up to take second and Carla third.
125km runners start Stage 1 on a beautiful morning
The runners continued to stream in throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening with many competitors having to rely on the use of a headtorch for the final section of the course. The final handful of finishers made it home at approximately midnight, a good 2 hours ahead of the generous cut off.
Day 2 – 50km, 1,933m elevation
Sunday’s course was another loop centred on Edale but run in an anticlockwise direction in contrast to Saturday’s route. The trail had not changed much from previous years but started in a new place and therefore saw the climb onto the Great Ridge and up to Mam Tor tackled at the end of the day rather than early on.
Sunday morning was a chilly one but had the 125km runners starting an hour later at 08:00. By then the 50km single stage runners had already started to arrive and register if they hadn’t already done so on previous days. All runners were issued their bib along with a tracker to record their time and allow friends and family to track their progress (as well as clearly helping Race HQ to understand where everyone was).
Rob Joines leads the way as the course joins the Pennine Way
The course had been marked by a team of markers using flags or ribbon all of which were with labelled with reflective tape to aid at night-time. As usual though a lot of re-marking was required in order to deal with sections that had been tampered with which turned out to be quite a lot, so the marking team was certainly kept busy. Runners were also expected to be carry their phone or watch with the route loaded on it to help in any situations where they might lose the route or simply provide a bit of reassurance that they were on track.
Veloforte, our nutrition partner were out and about providing their all natural bars, chews and gels at the checkpoints and the finish line
Stage 2 of the 125km event saw the previous day’s podium of Ben Poole, Rich Gill and Rob Joines lead the race out in that order by first checkpoint. The same pattern appeared in the women’s race with Hannah Tyldesley, Helen Pike and Carla Novakovic leading the way in that order.
Runners navigating the Great Ridge
By checkpoint 2 (just under halfway) Ben and Rich were still out front with Rob and Mac Kennelly in pursuit. Mac, who having taken the race out hard the previous day before slipping back to 9th overall, had moved up to 2nd by checkpoint 3. The fight for the men’s podium was really heating up. In the women’s race the 3 leading ladies remained in close contact throughout and it wasn’t until after the final checkpoint that some proper gaps appeared, finishing in the same order as the previous day with Hannah crossing the line first to take the win. In the men’s race Ben Poole came storming home 1st overall to claim his maiden victory in his first ultra. Mac Kennelly was second across the line on the day and did just enough to leapfrog Rob Joines onto the podium with Rich Gill taking a solid silver.
Ben Poole and Hannah Tyldesley, winners of the 125km race receive their trophies and Veloforte bundles
The 50km race got underway at 10:00, a couple of hours after the multistage race with a throng of 262 runners and a reasonable crowd of supporters. There was a lovely round of applause following the minute’s silence for The Queen followed by the count down to the start.
The 50km start gets underway to ACDC’s Thunderstruck
Unfortunately there was a bit of a bottleneck early on with so many runners trying to get out onto the Pennine Way but pacing in an ultra is key and so hopefully it aided in calming people down after being hyped up on the start line by ACDCs Thunderstruck.
Runners quickly join onto the Pennine Way having left Newfold Farm
Jamie Shipston took the race out hard and was leading at the first checkpoint, followed by James Lilley and Nathan Drinkwater. In the women’s race Florence Ingham was followed by Jasmine Kenyon and Agathe Delloue. By checkpoint 2 Agathe had moved up to second in the women’s race and Fred Whittaker had taken the bronze medal position in the men’s. This is how they remained by checkpoint 4 just before the final big climb up the Great Ridge to Mam Tor. Jamie Shipston came tearing across the finish line at 15:07 in a rapid time of 05:07:39 followed 19 minutes later by James Lilley. Impressively it was Calum Boyce who timed his run to perfection to make up the podium having been placed 28th overall at checkpoint 1! Florence took the win in the women’s race in a time of 06:24:38 followed by Agathe in 06:32:42 and Jasmine Kenyon in 06:46:09.
Jamie Shipston storms across the line for the win in the 50km race
As the afternoon wore on the weather turned and the heavens opened turning a serious challenge for most into an even harder one. It quite literally put a damper on the festival like atmosphere that had been envisaged but the BBQ put on by Newfold Farm carried on under covers to welcome runners as they finished.
Florence Ingham winner of the women’s 50km moving swiftly along the Great Ridge on her way to Mam Tor
Runners continued crossing under the then floodlit Ultra X arch until about 21:45. Thankfully by then the rain had eased up and the last of the 306 finishers crossed the line to receive their well-deserved Ultra X medal.
Competitors finishing under the floodlit arch
A big thanks goes out to all of the volunteer crew who did a fabulous job in helping to set up and organise the event as well as most importantly to provide the huge support and encouragement from the Ultra X checkpoints. If you haven’t experienced them yet, get yourself signed up to a race and you won’t be disappointed!
Ultra X crew supporting at the finish line
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