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"All down hill" at the starlight relays

Enjoy this write-up by Lisa who took part in the 2020/21 Starlight Relay events as part of team "All Down Hill".

Probably the best way to describe these races is “cross country in the dark”, set in 3 fabulous locations, Shipley Country Park, Markeaton & Calke Abbey they do not disappoint. With a 7pm start time you can forget about any chance of seeing the terrain, or the uphill starts! You pick up your numbers, make sure everyone is in the right order, take a brief look at the changeover pen & arrange where your teammates will stand but this is a complete waste of time as when you are about to self combust after running flat out with a baton that might as well be ticking, covered in mud because you didn’t see the ankle deep bog & you’re being blinded my everyone’s head torches you just shout…very very loudly! Crikey, the guys at Peak Running make sure they pack ALL the fun into 2 short miles, I particularly liked the steep bank at Markeaton that I swung myself round a tree to avoid, the steps at Calke are a killer at speed,

but Chris really excelled himself when he made Shipley an uphill start and finish!

Our team, made up of myself, Sarah Drew, Phil Cowell & Matt Wynn, 3 of which had never done the events but had been roped into it by my enthusiasm from previous years. Ok, so after race 1 I think they all may have swore at me momentarily before coming to conclusion that actually to quote Matt “that was bloody brilliant”. We were delighted with 2nd place, missing out on 1st by just 24 seconds overall.

Race 2 in December saw half our team jet off to Mexico just days before but smugly told us they would drink a cocktail in our honour. I had to take on not only my own lap but Sarah’s while Matt doubled up too, it was tough but our handovers were pretty slick - we are quite used to shouting at each other by now so the volume may have gone up a notch but we clinched the win. Following a few message exchanges with the tipsy half of our team they did go out as promised & sprint laps of their resort driveway to do a virtual 2 miles.

Going into the finale at Calke Abbey we knew we needed to be quick but the team was back together again! The guys were winding Sarah up about how fast she needed to be hoping the nervous energy would convert to extra speed (mans logic!)

I was first out, it was certainly the feistiest start line of the series, a few dirty cut ups in the first 100m & a ditch then an uphill drag for half a mile which spread the field, I held a good position until a couple of slips which let 4 people get past but I got them on the next hill! A swift handover to Sarah & she was off, whatever the guys had said to her she set off like a woman on a mission! 14 minutes later she was back, Phil was off while we stood around the scrolling live results board. Sarah had absolutely pulled it out the bag, her speed over that terrain was enough to close the gap but we still needed more. Sarah & I pushed Matt into the changeover pen after 13 minutes & sure enough Phil came speeding up like the baton was on fire….it might as well have been the speed in which we were getting it round!

Again we regrouped around the score board, still in 2nd place but the gap was so so close now, it was a waiting game. Next thing we know there’s a flash of a red top storming past, “was that Matt?”, “Naaaah he’s not been gone long”, “sh*t, that IS Matt!”. 4 Second lead, we’ve done it! 1st team on the night & overall series win! Matt, looking like he may well be sick, Phil coughing up a lung from the cold air intake & Sarah & I giddy with excitement we can definitely say this was a type 2 kind of fun night.

Despite all of this, the series is possibly the best team event out there! The atmosphere is electric, everyone is buzzing, the changeover pen is fast & frantic, I will always remember handing the baton to Sarah at Calke & just hearing her bellow “MOVE” as she made her speedy exit out of the pen.

I urge anyone that enjoys the trails, cross country or just fancies something a bit different to get involved. Fast, steady, fancy dress or club kit these races are for everyone & all will get the friendliest of welcomes by the Peak Running team.

- Written by Lisa Marshall, January 2022.

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