Oli Johnson on his way to victory at Edale Skyline. Photo courtesy of Niamh Barry.
The Edale Skyline is one of the most prestigious English fell races in the calendar and one I have always wanted to win.
So, after missing the race in 2013 due to illness, I was determined to try and get my name on the trophy this year.
Run in March, the race (34km with 1373m of ascent over some of the Peak District’s biggest summits) is always at the mercy of the elements. This year was no exception -the weather gods threw absolutely everything at us, including fierce winds, hail and snow!
It is a tough race to get right. There is a lot of fast running and some big climbs and descents (notably Win Hill, Lose Hill and Mam Tor) in the first half.
After that, it gets even tougher, with lots of rough ground and bogs. Route-choice also plays a big part, especially over Brown Knoll and along the edge of the Kinder plateau.
I wore the inov-8 X-Talon 190 shoes, which were light and fast on the grassy sections and gave me plenty of grip over the peat and rocks.
The pace was fast from the off. Mercia’s Pete Vale led up the first climb, with Macclesfield’s Simon Harding and I chasing hard.
I got on terms with Pete on the way up Win Hill and took the lead, but it wasn’t until Lose Hill that I managed to get a small gap on the chasing pair. I had hoped to hold onto that gap but Pete had other ideas, reeling me in on the soft, sapping ground across to Brown Knoll and taking the lead on the climb up to Kinder.
I was using the super-comfortable inov-8 Race Ultra Vest as I wanted to carry water and extra food. Both were easily accessible from the vest, so as we headed up Kinder I tucked in behind Pete and fuelled up.The Race Ultra Vest, as used by Oli during his Edale Skyline win
We both took different routes but neither made any real ground, and as we hit the top of Gridnslow Knoll we were side-by-side again.
Thoughts of risking the notorious down-and-up route to Ringing Roger popped into my head, but I dismissed them as fatigue-induced delusions and set off with purpose on the longer but much more runnable top route along the skyline.
I noticed Pete was starting to suffer and I managed to pull out a gap, which I was able to extend before the final descent into the finish.
I completed the course in 2:51:46, around three-and-a-half minutes ahead of Pete.