Nine moments from a long run between Manchester and Sheffield

Words & images by Tom Hill [@24tom]

“You reckon we could run from Manchester to Sheffield over a couple of days?”, asked Luke. When faced with these kinds of questions, you should always, always say yes. Small problems like practicalities, fitness, calendars are much easier to overcome than an answer of “no”.

Two week later, we were joined by mutual friend Tom R in Manchester city centre, with the goal of reaching Castleton and our buddy Stef in time for a pint. He would join us on our second day as we reversed our urban/rural transition into Sheffield. Four mates going for a bit of jog will never change the world, but it did change our world for two days.

Memories are not runs. They don’t start at the beginning and finish at the end. For that reason, this isn’t an A-to-B account. It isn’t a guidebook or a how-to*. The moments we experienced were unique to those two days. Never to be repeated. That’s what makes saying yes so important, though. It isn’t just an affirmative to the experience, it’s an openness to new memories.

*Ed - it's not, but it is a thing and we're calling it the Peakander, watch this space.

A fruity start

How do you mark a starting point and a finish on an arbitrary route? Does it even matter? Do you know there’s a Vimto monument in Manchester? I didn’t, but it seemed like as good a beginning as any. I take photos as the others lounge across a giant grape under a three metre high bottle of squash.


The packet of Starmix I had carefully placed on the floor is blown over, scattering multi-coloured jewels of energy and E-numbers across the peaty ground above Stanage Edge. I duck a little lower, sheltering from the cruel wind behind an organically curved chunk of gritstone and pluck each sweet from the earth and eat them. The sugar puckers my mouth and sends tingles across the back of my brain. I return a few Haribo to their bag and tuck them away ready to fuel me a little further.

And there we sit, down jackets tugged over sweat-dampened layers, crisp packets opened out flat, pint glasses two thirds empty.

Nut butter with a banana

We naturally break down longer journeys into bite-size chunks and mini-destinations. Werneth Low, Kinder Scout, Stanage Edge and er, the Tesco Express at Gee Cross (AKA the last chance to stock up en route until Castleton). We find trails so deeply set in the landscape that they are closer to a tunnel than a path. We stumble across a plane wreck. We discover new views of familiar features. We eat nut butter daubed on bananas next to an empty shop window advertising an American Wrestling night in Hyde. Majestic.


The first day was all but run out. We trot down the broken road above Castleton under darkening skies. It’s always a magical moment. The work for the day has been done and there is time to indulge in that fact, luxuriate in the promise of a warm pub just around the corner. We slide down the last, muddy footpath, only to bump into Stef on his way up to meet us. He shepherds us through fields and down the tight streets of the village straight to the bar. And there we sit, down jackets tugged over sweat-dampened layers, crisp packets opened out flat, pint glasses two thirds empty. Done. But only half done. Another day of running niggles in the back of the mind, but for now another pint is all that is needed to dull thoughts of the future and simply enjoy the now.


We take a wrong turn. It is okay though because we can just cut through the cemetery. We dash past gravestones, across open grass, only to find there is no way out; just a high wrought iron fence. Why turn around when you can expend even more energy and time attempting to scale the problem. We jam our feet between rungs, use a handy tree and risk impalement. As we each individually plop down back on the trail, I imagine our more sensible, virtual selves jogging past shaking their heads in dismay. Still, it is a couple of hundred footsteps saved and a sense of adventure preserved.


Side-by-side conversations. Conger-line exchanges. Threads of ideas left hanging in the air for hours before being picked back up again. Thoughts, emotions, experiences. Jokes, plans, dreams. Human connections that are not had in any other situation. From the deeply personal to the ephemeral and playful. Ideas and tales are planted like footsteps on the earth. Friendships are formed (I’d not met Tom R before the run) and strengthened. This run is as much about the people it is shared with as it is the route, destination or physical activity.


The rain that has chased us the entire second day finally catches up with us as we descend wooded trails along Porter Brook. We shuffle along wet tarmac through residential streets. Locals stride with umbrellas directed against the westerly showers. Car windscreen wipers flap at full speed. We pause at pedestrian crossings, mud stained trail shoes now utterly out of place. We run past shop windows and tram stops. Bars and offices. Human constructs; other humans.

Relishing the finish

I went to university in Sheffield. For three years I walked past the Henderson’s Relish factory on my way to lectures. The smell of vinegar and spice would linger in the air. So for the sake of sentimentality, the GPX track finished right there. We stand peering through scaffolding at a faded sign and a construction site. Times move on, I guess. More importantly, we need to move on to somewhere warm, somewhere that serves food; so we keep running a little longer.

Beer out of a hydration flask

I’m tired now. The train’s heating is on full whack, but I’m still wearing all my clothes, relishing being cosy and making forward progress without any effort. I almost missed the train back home. Keen not to waste my pint, I emptied it into one of those squeezy hydration bottles before one last dash to the station. I take a sip and stretch out. 

“I wonder if I can do that run in one go?” 

When faced with these kinds of questions you should always, always say 'yes' and worry about the finer details later…

The details

If you want to repeat the route; and I utterly recommend that you do, you can find a GPX below.

We ran around 80km in total, with a little over half on the first day, so we could reach Castleton. We stayed at @peakbunkhouse. It was the perfect overnight accommodation and meant we didn’t need to carry any camping kit.

There are limited options for resupply (we'll get them marked on the route map shortly) along the route, so it’s worth bringing a decent amount of snacks with you.

Manchester and Sheffield are well linked by train, so travel from the start/end is simple. If you need to bail from the route, head for the nearest train station.

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