All the best ideas are said to be to come from meetings on the golf course. In this case it was a run over the Dark Peak. Back in the summer of 2008, Burbage Skyline organiser Andy Moore (DPFR) and Stuart Hale (Accelerate) were looking at the idea of a new series of fell races for the Peak District, to bring out the best in the areas races and to ensure local races benefitted from extra publicity to ensure their survival or to raise extra funds for local good causes. A couple of pints later and the Gritstone Series was born and all that was needed was four more events. The 2009 Series kicked off and launched at Burbage.
The first year of the event saw five races in the series: Burbage, Castleton, Edale, Great Hucklow and in attempt to save the race from disappearing from the calendar, Baslow. That year Stuart Bond and Lucy Harris took the honours in the Series with other illustrious runners winning the Vets categories, including Ron Fawcett and Pat Goodall being legendary examples.
The 2009 Series was such a success that two more events were added in 2010, with the final event fittingly at the Goyt Valley’s race series, Windgather. Both the Goyt and Gritstone Series concluded at this event which is probably a first and made for a fitting close to the second year. Windgather, exemplified the ethos of the Series of helping new races to establish themselves and the benefit of raising their profile and monies raised for local causes. The other event to be added into the mix was the very traditional, Longshaw Sheep Dog Trial Fell Race. Stuart Bond retained his title, with Helen Elmore taking the ladies title.
For both 2009 and 2010 New Balance and Terra Nova supported the Series.
In 2011 Helen once again retained the Women’s title and ‘Bondy’ the men’s. No new races were added to the Series, although the popularity of Fell Running and the publicity around the Gritstone Series ensured that all race organisers for the second year running reported a minimum of a 10% rise in entrants, with Burabge numbers going through the roof. 2011 was also the year that Inov-8 became the title sponsor of the Series, supporting the work undertaken by Accelerate.
With no change to the format of the Series in 2012, it with the up-coming Aidan Smith winning the men’s series and Helen Elmore once again dominating the ladies championship.
For 2013 the Series was extended to eight events, introducing the Salt Cellar Fell Race, organised by Steel City Striders. This event was to prove to be one of the gems of the Series, with a new route that is very characteristic of the ‘Dark Peak’. A tough yet beautiful route taking in Derwent Edge and the open moorland sweeping down to Derwent Water.
Series winners were once again Helen and Bondy, as they continued to dominate the local fells.
A key change to 2013 was the introduction of the Gritty Series, fell racing for junior runners. Wolf’s Pit, Castleton, Edale and Great Hucklow providing the racing.
Burbage numbers had grown dramatically over the years, with over 400 runners in 2013. So in discussion with the organisers the decision was taken to drop this iconic race from the Series. “Our work is done”, was the general feeling, as such popularity existed for the event. So with this another long race with a more traditional approach to Fell Racing was introduced. Grin ‘n’ Bear It Fell Race was in it’s second year and being organised by Woodhead Mountain Rescue would benefit from a little extra publicity.
So the Series continued in the same light.
In late August the news came through that Windgather was having land owner issues and would have to be postponed for a year, so a new longer race was sought. Up stepped the brand new Curbar Commotion to fill the gap.
Bondy, was running quicker as the year went on and after a stumbling start took the title with an emphatic win at Curbar. Gay Fletcher, was the inspirational, ladies Series winner, having only started to take fell running seriously that year. She also completed the Gritstone Series ‘GrandSlam’, never missing an event.
For 2015, the Gritstone Series gets it’s first real update, with a change to the format of the Series…
Inov-8 continue to be the main Series and Gritty Series prize sponsor whilst Accelerate continue to look after the Series and contribute with this website, race numbers and prize support of each individual event, where required.