Marsden 10 mile challenge 2013

I love the Marsden 10 mile challenge for a few reasons.

It’s on my doorstep and I know the course inside out, it’s got a great mix of challenging climbing with around 1500ft of total ascent over the first 6 miles and then 4 miles of downhill and flat trail to the finish and the organisation is second to none with the results published while you’re having you free cake and coffee after the race.

Take note race organisers, this is how it’s done.

The race

10 miles, 1500ft of ascent and a course profile that’s not too far off being 6 miles up, 4 miles down, I ran it as a novice runner with 5 months experience last year in 1:28 and placed 42nd. I’d written in my aims for 2013 that I’d like to improve on that by running sub 1:20 or getting into the top 25 and I managed 1 of those yesterday with one of my best runs to date – finishing in 1:14:49 which on the day showed the depth of the field this year because improving by 14 minutes was only good for 36th this year!


It’s a really tough start climbing out of Marsden but I was keen to go out fast knowing that once you get to the top of Wessenden Head Road it’s all downhill from there for the last 4 miles and I felt confident enough that if I could pace myself to the top I’d make up places going downhill and so it transpired.

I went out reasonably close to the leaders but slowed back quickly and dropped into a small group heading up to Deerhill Reservoir where I took my first little walking break for a minute just to lower my heart rate.

Then it’s onto the flat around the reservoir and down to the catchwater trail through to the beginning of the brutal climb up to Wessenden Head Road and another walking break for a minute or so to grab the one gel I’d carried and a drink of water at the second of 3 drink stations as it was roasting hot in the sun.

I’d managed to settle into a 10min/mile pace shuffling up Wessenden Head Road which goes on and on and up and up for a long time.

I know it well as I live further down it and train on it but it doesn’t make it any easier. On reaching the bit where the incline starts to ease off, I definitely felt the benefit of those couple of little walking breaks and immediately started pulling away from the guy I was running up with.

My race plan was to try and catch and take as many people as possible on the downhill from there knowing my downhill speed has improved massively since last year when I had none and was overtaken myself on the final 4 mile stretch by several people.


A quick drink at the top of the trail and my actual race began … I’ve been practicing running downhill since I saw a great tip from Ian Sharman on how to run downhill and I’ve gone from a slightly jarring style running at about 6:30/mile pace to flying down easier and at about 5:20/mile instead.

Knowing this I took a place on the first downhill section and the momentum carried me along the trail at a good 6:20-6:30/mile pace where I think ultimately I took another 3 or 4 positions and finished more than a minute clear of the man who was a good minute or so ahead of me only 4 miles earlier so I’m happy with that!

Lessons learnt

Walking is still ok. I have no qualms about taking a minute or so to walk on a steep climb because more often than not it’s a chance to grab a drink and more importantly lower the heartrate quickly as you work very hard going up steep hills like these.

I know most of the people who finished in front of me ran the full course and I guess that’s the step up I need to make next but compared to last year where I walked large stretches uphill my walking this year was less than 5 minutes of the total time so I’m happy with that.

Organisation and value

As with last year, this is a superb race. It’s a great course, well marshalled and with results being processed while you’re eating free cake and drinking tea you simply can’t go wrong for a tenner. Thanks to the Colne Valley Lions for organising another great one.