The Summer Trail Series by ASICS 2023: Race Director’s Report

Ultra X Race Director Seb

Written By seb moulding

Seb is the Race Director of the Summer Trail Series. A former Ultra X competitor, with finishes at Ultra X Scotland, Mexico and Tanzania to his name and most importantly the first person in history to get an Ultra X Tattoo!

27 July 2023

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Writing this report back home in South London, with the summer rains still pouring down, it feels reminiscent of the moody conditions and rugged terrain that faced our intrepid runners on the 15 July 2023 in the Upper Calder Valley. 

We had a record 397 runners sign-up to run this year’s races across 25km, 50km and 75km distances, with a handful more hardy souls registering on the day. Given the weather forecast, it was no great surprise that nearly 100 fewer runners toed the start lines. Huge respect to all those who showed up regardless of what the British Summer could throw at them! 

Whilst this was the 3rd edition of this event, it wasn’t all copy and paste from previous years however, as we dropped our 100km route and replaced it with the 75km and increased our 21km offering to a 25km. Having had sole creative control for the rerouting of these two new courses, the nerves were in full force as I waited to see how the runners would receive them. 

With a fantastic crew of 36 staff and volunteers out on the course marking and preparing our checkpoints, we were primed for the start of our first race, the 75km runners departing at 7am for a beautiful yet gruelling day on the hills and moors. 

A plucky band of just 36 lined up in the early morning calm on Stubb Fields to listen to my pre-race ramblings and pointers before setting off at 7am sharp towards Hebden Bridge and the first climb of the day just 3km into the race as they ascended the Cuckoo Steps up to the top of the valley with the weather still largely on their side, before descending through Hardcastle and continuing North through CP1, across Penistone Country Park and down into Stanbury where CP2 awaited. 

As the bulk of the 75km runners approached this milestone, the 50km runners had registered, dropped their bags and all 134 of them had assembled at the start. Encouraging them out from under gazebos and into the wind and drizzle for the race-briefing, we had them away at 9am to chase down the 75km runners. 

Weather couldn’t dampen runner spirits

Upon reaching CP2 the 50km and 75km routes diverge, with the 50km runners turning south and beginning the run for home, largely along the Pennine Bridlepath and Rochdale Canal before climbing up to the Stoodley Pike monument before turning north to return to Mytholmroyd. 

The 75km runners meanwhile tackle an extra 25km loop, returning to CP2 having ascended the moors and splashed through the bogs on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border, before rejoining the 50km route as above. 

With a short break in the rain, the sun was just about shining when 138 runners lined up for our 25km start. Somewhat lighter-of-load than our ultra runners, they set off at 11am to take on the shortest distance of the day. Make no mistake, with almost 900m of elevation, this was still a formidable race! 

With all the runners out the gate we could prepare race HQ for the finishers to return and take a chance to check in with our fantastic team from Resultsbase to see how they were getting on. 

As expected, our 25km front-runners were the first to reappear, led by Frazer Durris to win the men’s 25km in 2:13:27, trailed closely by Callum Ely in 2:14:10 and Pete Osbourne completing the podium in 2:19:36. Not far behind, and thoroughly surprised to be the first lady over the line was Kamila Feret in 2:36:17, followed by Nicole Cameron in 2:43:45 and Alex Chovancova in 2:48:23. 

Hot on the heels of our 25km leaders, and near enough flying over the line taking us all by surprise was our 50km men’s winner Joe Turner in a record-setting 4:23:52. A strong performance saw Mark Peart take second place in 4:35:56 with Jack Cooper comfortably beating the 5hr mark for third place in 4:56:41. A decision on the day to switch from 75km to 50km paid dividends for Chloe Elliot who took the prize in the ladies 50km in 5:32:44. Whilst there was a small wait for the rest of the ladies podium, it was well worth it with just 4 seconds between Eleanor Bett and Georgia Williams, racing back in 6:20:36 and 6:20:40 respectively. 

Sneaking in before Eleanor and Georgia’s photo-finish, we witnessed Sasha Baranov complete a storming 8:16:38 75km to win the men’s race, pursued closely by Nat Newman in 8:18:45. Christian Garvey completed the set, crossing the line with real panache, necking a bottle of lager he’d acquired from a friendly Yorkshireman along the route, in a solid 8:32:54. Clearly having heard the drama of the ladies 50km finish, Anna Ward and Sian Seccombe decided to cross the line together in joint first in 11:22:34, the pair followed soon after by Eszter Adam in 11:44:22. 

By about 3pm, conditions had quicky deteriorated in camp and out on the course into full-blown thunderstorms, heavy rain and gusting winds. We at race HQ hunkered down to await our soggy runners return, many of them racing against the dying light as the race progressed. 

Our proud finishers continued to stream through the blue arch of victory as the afternoon turned to evening, to receive their well-deserved medals and pay a visit to our wonderful therapist team for any niggles they’d picked up, not to mention our onsite wood fired pizza truck who were selling hot pizza until late into the evening. 

With the sun-setting, many of our checkpoint crew back in town and the rain refusing to relent, we awaited our last runners under floodlights and were delighted to see them all still in such high spirits. 

A massive well done to the 304 runners who made the finish line and thank you all for coming to race with Ultra X. I hope you enjoyed your race, and we would love to have you back in future – why not consider entering one of our multi-stage races to really see how far you can push yourself. 

Remember, race photos are available to purchase via our partners at MyBibNumber here 

A huge thanks goes out to all the crew who did a fantastic job in setting up and organising the event as well as providing relentless, infectiously positive support and encouragement at our checkpoints.  

If you’re yet to have your own #UltraXperience, get yourself signed up to a race today and you won’t be disappointed! 

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