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Quarry Bank Trail Race 2024 🏃🏻‍♀️🍃


“F*!@*!G HELL!” The runner in-front of me suddenly exclaimed.

I looked up and followed the line of expletives.

Ah yes. F*!@*!G HELL, indeed.

A flight of steep steps loomed menacingly into view ahead of us at the end of the trail… And they were rapidly approaching. I glanced wildly around, looking for an alternative route, ANY way through the trees that would prove my suspicions incorrect.

There was no alternative route. There was only one way to go, and to my horror, it did indeed involve us tackling those steps head on.

After countless hills and tree roots, steps were NOT a welcome prospect!

 

On Tuesday 21st May 2024, I was incredibly lucky to take part in the Quarry Bank Trail Race, organised by Run North West. I’ve dreamed of running this course for years, but have always narrowly missed out on one of the highly sought after places. This year, however, I was fortunate enough to finally bag an entry.

I booked the day off work, and honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a race!

 

I love Styal Mill and have enjoyed many happy Sunday strolls through the woods, followed by blissful afternoons spent browsing the cute second-hand bookshop in the centre. (Side note: during my last visit, I actually bought an incredible book that I'd highly recommend to any avid runner: Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall.)

 

As I’d never run this course before, I didn’t really know what to expect. Taking the trail terrain and clammy temperatures into consideration, I set my sights on a time of around 45 minutes.

I’d heard mutterings amongst other runners about a ‘tough first kilometer,’ and when I saw the starting arch, I knew why…

Ahh, it’s always nice to run your first 500 meters up a vertical hill, isn’t it?! Lovely way to kickstart the lung spasms within the first five minutes…! 🤣

Still, at least it was good practise ahead of the Buxton Half Marathon on Sunday!


Quarry Bank Mill 😍💚


I can't imagine a more majestic Race HQ than Quarry Bank Mill.

What an honour it was to stroll through the pristine gardens and over the cobbles to collect my number below the grand stature of the Mill.

Running is all about little moments like this: those times when you're suddenly hit by the appreciation of how lucky you are. Lucky to be healthy enough to run, lucky to experience nights like this in places like these, and simply put, lucky to be blessed with the gift of life.

My non-running friends find my dedication hard to understand, and fail to see how anyone could willingly choose to run for fun.

Days like this cement my belief that running is life's most precious reward. Ah, the places running can take you (both literally and metaphorically), and the freedom it can so generously provide... It's a sacred secret I vow to never take for granted.

The courtyard started to fill up with runners as the evening ebbed by.

I spotted Darren, who had been the 40-minute pacer at the Alderley Edge Bypass 10k. He said that he'd spotted me overtake him at around 3k, but confirmed that a lot of runners had also started to fade at around 6k due to the heat, just as I did. He encouraged me to aim for a sub-40 again at the Knutsford 10k this year, which he'll also be pacing. Watch this space! 🥴


Getting ready! 🥰


At 7pm, the wait was finally over. Time to get running! 🥰

Okay, so I'm just going to jump straight in with this: the course was SENSATIONAL.

The route led us out around the outskirts of Quarry Bank, adjacent to the runway at Manchester Airport, and then back through the woods. It boasted such a divine mix of scenery; I was so busy marvelling at the views presented at each stage of the course that the time just passed by without me even realising.

The terrain was undulating to say the least, but I loved every single second of this event.


One of the things I adore the most about trail running is that there's no pressure. Let's be honest, you're highly unlikely to smash out a PB on a trail course. After the disappointment of another sub-40 near-miss at the Alderley Edge Bypass 10k, this event was exactly what I needed to restore my passion.

I know I've said this before, but sometimes, we get so fixated on chasing our PBs that we actually forget to enjoy ourselves in the process.

Trail running is the perfect excuse to take my love of running back to basics and relish in all of the things that made me fall head over heels with this pursuit in the first place...

☀️The enchanting patterns cast by the lolling evening sun as it cascaded through the branches overhead.


🌼 The cheery pop of the buttercup meadows, twirling softly in the breeze.


🌊 The serene giggle of the stream as it flowed in liberation.


🍃 The whispering rustle of the trees.


✈️ The magnificent rumble of the plane engines as they rolled across the runway and erupted through the clouds.


🏃🏻‍♀️The realisation that running is the key ingredient in life's mission for ecstasy.


Always so happy when I run ❤️

I didn't want the run to end. I could have quite happily carried on meandering through those woods all night, lost in that undefinable elation that only running can supply.

The cheeky little step sections were, um, an interesting addition, shall we say? But it was all part of the fun.

I think this race had it all: a good mix of challenging and more relaxed sections, a variation of terrains, and sublime scenery.

It was actually the steep downhill sections that I struggled with the most - can anybody hazard a guess as to why...? Yep - that'll be Cazza B and her obsession with road shoes, yet again. 🤣 The New Balance 'lifestyle' treads strike again! I promise that I'm going to start wearing trail shoes to trail races soon. 😇


The thing that made this event extra special? The marshalls.

The marshalls are always amazing at every event I run at, but the Hi-Viz heroes and their little helpers at Styal Mill were just something else. The support was absolutely exceptional. From high-five pick-me-ups and handfuls of Haribo to provide a much needed energy boost mid-run, the kids helping out were absolutely tireless in cheering us on.

I found myself absolutely beaming all the way round, thanks to the marshalls. The Run North West team and their volunteers certainly exceeded their usual impeccable standards at this event.

I was delighted to complete the Quarry Bank Trail Race with a chip time of 42:01, placing 5th female out of 351, FIRST in my age category, and 41st out of 689 overall.

I wish every Tuesday night could be spent the same way. Wonderful event, magical route, good company, and as usual, an almost indescribable surge of passion for our beautiful sport.


Cara Jasmine Bradley ©



🍃 Quarry Bank Mill, National Trust: Quarry Bank | Cheshire | National Trust

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