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Tour of the Derwent Valley - Rowsley
Monday 26th May 2014
Alex Downie

David Denton(www.runningwithdavid.com) is a man with an interesting sense of humour. For example, one of his events, the Bradbourne Fell race has competitors splashing through the same stream in the same place 3 times on a two-lap course! Hilarious! 75 years old, he masterminds races in Surrey and Derbyshire, including the 4races-in-4days Tour of the Derwent Valley. And as a special joke, he saves up the very worst one till last - the epic challenge at Rowsley.
The Friday, Saturday, Sunday saw us tackling races of between 4 and 5 miles on very undulating courses at Duffield, Wirksworth and Milford respectively. Ah, what a gentle, seductive sort of word that u-word is! But remember this is Derbyshire, and to us the undulations looked more like rather enormous hills.
Rowsley, though, is a small mountain.
OK, the first half mile is flat, and it lasts long enough to induce a sort of smugness. But smugness has a habit of preceding desperation, and sure enough we start to climb, and pant and groan.
To my surprise, I'm doing ok and more or less keeping pace with Andy. Could it be, after 25 years of running, I've finally discovered the secret of running uphill? After what seems like a few million years, we see the sign announcing the village of Stanton. The road dips a bit and I roar past Andy into the welcoming arms of civilisation. This must surely mean the summit of the climb? Stunning Stanton-Atop-the-Hill, I love you!
But no! Round the bend a nasty surprise lurks. As if acting as a joke-within-a-joke, the slope steepens and there still doesn't appear to be an end to it. Wretched, treacherous village! Deceptive decoy! Miserable masquerade! These were some of the things I didn't manage to articulate as I straggled along. I'm afraid my thoughts were more expletive than alliterative.........
Andy surges past me, never to be seen again (until the end of the race, that is), as I slump both mentally and physically; so much for my hill running technique! But eventually, we do reach the top of course. Now for the descent......
A picture, they say, is better than a thousand words, so take a look at our expressions on Dave's photos. They show emotions ranging from deep concern to outright alarm. This is where your shoes seem to catch alight, as the course makes it 'hell for gel.' (Leather not being a normal component of running shoes any more.)
Having pulled a hamstring on the downhill section when I last attempted this race in 2007, I eased the pace a bit, finishing with a 20min/13min split, and a 7-year dread of this race had been conquered. In fact, Ish, it was a piece of cake!
A special mention to John who was awarded a prize for coming 6th overall.

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