And so at 11.45pm 207 kagools huddled together for shelter from the horizontal rain in a corner of Devonshire Park, Hazel Grove awaiting the striking of the customary anvil at noon. At 11.58pm the rain miraculously ceased long enough for new hike organiser Steve Holt to coax the already bedraggled throng into the middle of the park to issue some final notices. Nick Fenton an ex. 3rd Hazel Grove scout who was walking to raise money for Christies struck the anvil to begin the 24 hours of purgatory, and it began to rain horizontally again shortly afterwards. This cycle continued for much of the next 6 hours or so except at Edale Cross checkpoint where there were no dry bits between the downpours.
As darkness fell weather conditions improved and a clear moonlit night seemed in prospect. That was until around midnight when conditions deteriorated once again and the moon gave way once more to driving rain and mist on higher ground. Conditions at Brand Top in the early hours were truly appalling.
Not surprisingly given the worst weather conditions in the history of the event there was a record number of retirements with 88 abandonments (43%). One hundred and nineteen heroic souls did make it back to Hazel Grove however, and congratulations are in order to each and every finisher.
We were pleased this year to incorporate a round of the inaugural Montrail/Planet Fear Ultarunning Championship within our event which I am sure helped to boost our entries. After a nine hour duel Tony Okell was fastest finisher in a personal best time for the new route of 9hrs 1min to win the Bullock Smithy trophy for the eighth time. David Waide, 3rd in 2004 put pressure on Tony all the way and lead for some time to finish 2nd just one minute behind. Two remarkable performances given the atrocious conditions. Joanna Miles of Macclesfield Harriers also recorded a personal best of 14hrs 35mins to take the Chinley trophy as fastest lady. Macclesfield Harriers were also victorious in the team competition once again. In the Scouts competitions the appropriately named Alex Walker from 1st Hazel Grove retained both the Shining Tor and Bullock Smithy Cup as fastest scout in 18hrs 22mins. Dave Mason was fastest scout from 3rd Hazel Grove in 20hrs 34mins to take the Corfield Farrier.
The new organising team could not have had a more difficult baptism and my thanks go to everybody who helped in whatever capacity. Special thanks must go to Pete Attwood and Andy Whitehead for all their work at hike control for the smooth transition over to computer technology which proved a great success. To all the checkpoint staff who endured the conditions and in particular those who battled the elements at Bowstones, Chinley, Edale Cross and Chelmorton. Also to the drivers and catering staff who had a busy night due to the number of abandonments. Our thanks also go the land and property owners and our sponsors who helped to make the event a success.
Finally our thanks to you, the walkers, for supporting our event in particular those 119 finishers who will be able to say to their walking companions whenever it rains in any future event. ‘Yes, but did you do the Bullock Smithy in 2006’
Next years event will be on 1st/2nd September. We look forward to doing it all again then and I think I can safely say that the weather will be better. Scouts Honour!