On its traditional first Saturday of September the Bullock Smithy started at its usual time of 12 noon. The event which first took place in 1975 has become a firm favourite for the local running clubs. The course consists of a 56 mile clockwise route around Buxton starting and finishing in Hazel Grove. The route has 14 checkpoints that include Bowstones, Edale Cross, Edale, Castleton, Peak Forest, Millers Dale, Earl Sterndale and Walker Barn.
There is a strong rivalry amongst the local running fraternity, notably between Stockport Harriers, Macclesfield Harriers and Goyt Valley Striders. Macclesfield have won the team prize for the last 12 years and have historically counted on some of fell running's most distinguished athletes - Mark Hartell, Mark McDermott and Julian Brown to name but a few.
Our very own Jerzy Matuszewski has appeared in every Bullock Smithy and was once again in attendance. There was a smaller field from the Harriers this year due to marathon commitments at Berlin and Chester - this also meant that Sally Keigher was unable to defend her ladies title and record time from 2010. Those who were running could therefore afford no slips up and would have to be on top of their game if they were to challenge another strong Macclesfield team.
The weather was humid to start off with and hydration was the key. Overall the conditions were good and the rain in the main stayed away. James Scott-Buccleuch, completing the end of his first full fell running season, headed to the front from the start and was never to be seen again. He had studied the course in detail and was convinced that not only the win was achievable but also the course record. Not far behind was Chris Davies, MEP for North West England. A little further back still was Neil Thompson and Steve Jones from the Harriers running in a group of four with Neil form Goyt Valley Striders and Dougie, an unattached runner from Chorlton, who should surely now join the Harriers!
The support on the course from those Harriers not running was incredible and they seemed to be everywhere. It really does give you a buzz when you recognise fellow club mates who offer words of encouragement and understand the ordeal that you're going though. As day became night the order remained the same although we were hearing that Chris was finding it tougher and James was extending his lead. Most important of all was that there were no signs of any Macclesfield Harriers! Between Brand Top and Cumberland Cottage we got sight of Chris who had obviously gone the wrong way - a 16 minute advantage over the group of four had now become only a few minutes. An hour later he was caught on the canal near Bollington and the group became 5. The final checkpoint was now behind the group who were now on the Middlewood Way. Where was bridge 12, it seemed to take an age!
Despite the fact that the group was determined to stick together and finish as a group the ordeal was starting to take effect. Steve's knee began to play up and he insisted that his fellow Harrier went ahead. Chris too was struggling and dropped back to run/walk/hobble with Steve. The two Neils and Dougie continued on and when the group left the Middlewood Way at the Miners Arms there was only 3 miles to go. Neil from Goyt Valley was the next to drop off as he ushered the others ahead. Towers Road went on for ever and Dougie was now the one struggling but he was determined to finish together. There was a vast number of Harriers at the finish to greet the weary runners.
James had indeed finished first and broken the course record by over 9 minutes - finishing in 8 hours 46 minutes which is an amazing achievement. Neil Thompson finished 2nd in 9-47, along with Dougie, with Neil from Goyt Valley in 3rd. Steve Jones finished 5th in 9-56 along with Chris Davies. The usual suspects from Macclesfield Harriers weren't too far behind. The team prize was therefore won by Stockport in a time that took an hour off the previous record.
This result puts Stockport firmly back amongst the fell running elite clubs. Next year should be an epic battle between Stockport and Macclesfield. The Harriers will have a much larger turnout and Macclesfield will no doubt put their big guns out.
Also completing the course was Chris Winstanley who is looking in great shape as he continues his training for the New York marathon. Unfortunately Ray Hampton had to retire at Earl Sterndale but is sure to be back next year and is already confident of completing the High Peak 40 in two weeks!
Well done to those other Harriers, including of course Jerzy, who managed to complete the Bullock!