The race starts through a forest trail section, with runners enjoying a rare flat section – but that doesn’t last long before the first ascent. This starts in the woods, with tree roots aplenty to catch out the unwary runner, then a short tarmac section which then gives way to an ever-climbing lane. After more than a mile of lung-busting ascent, runners are finally treated to a descent, through more wooden trails with tricky technical surfaces and a few strategic decisions whether to leap over or squelch through muddy sections.
The course retraces the route for a short section, before sending runners up another ascent, through another wooded section. Emerging from the woods, and approaching the comparative civilization of South Darley, the natural homing instinct is to descend towards the Race HQ, but Ricky’s Race has a sting in the tail and the final ascent is the cruelest. Rising to the Oker Trig Point, the 1:3 hill is punishing, but a strategically placed photographer at the Trig Point was sufficient to transform many runners from pained faces to beaming athletes, if only for a few moments.
The Trig Point provides superb views across the village, up and down the valley, and perhaps more importantly to the finish point. An encouraging shout of “it’s all downhill from now” is very welcome, if not entirely truthful. A short section along the skyline towards the famous Oker Tree and you’re on the home straight. A few more technical descents but by now gravity is doing much of the hard work. And before long, runners emerge from the final stile to the sight of the finish flags – just enough distance across the final field for a last minute sprint to try to gain a place or two.