Huddersfield’s Rockhoppers train with ultra-running legend Nicky Spinks

Rockhopper Running, a Huddersfield based running group, were recently joined on one of their Tuesday evening sessions by the well-known long-distance ultra-runner Nicky Spinks. Nicky, a multiple record holder, first started to run in Huddersfield in 2001 and still lives locally. 

The Rockhopper Running sessions are coached runs, designed to combine technical off-road running, showcasing Huddersfield and the surrounding scenery.  Martin Wright, from Rockhopper Running, was delighted that Nicky was able to join the group for one of their evening runs. 

“I’ve admired Nicky Spinks for a long time, her achievements are so impressive, so this was a great opportunity for our Rockhoppers to train with her and learn about her amazing experiences,” he says. 

Nicky Spinks and Martin Wright

The evening was ideal for a Rockhopper Run with warm weather and blue skies, and great views of Farnley Tyas and Castle Hill, though of course Nicky Spinks isn’t afraid of any type of weather. 

In 2019, she entered the infamous Barkley Marathon, an extreme 160-kilometre race held in Tennessee, USA.  The race is limited to around 40 carefully chosen runners, who apply for the race through a secretive selection process, without a fixed start time.  The race can be started any time from midnight, and once the start is announced, runners only have one hour to prepare.  The weather conditions can be variable and extreme.  “The temperature was swinging from really hot to really cold, we were in shorts and vests during the day then it was snowing on us at night” remembers Nicky, describing the experience as the toughest she has participated in.     

The Rockhopper Run was an 8km run through fields and woods, and Nicky stayed for a Q&A session with the runners afterwards. Nicky was chatting about the challenge of combining her running events with managing a busy farm, and talked about the Tor des Geants. This is an endurance race in Italy’s Aosta Valley, which she completed in 2019, running from Sunday to Thursday on only three hours of sleep.  The race was cancelled last year due to Covid-19, but she is hoping to run the Tor again this September. 

Q&A session with Nicky Spinks

Nicky Spinks is well known for her successes running the Bob Graham Round, a fell running mountain challenge in the Lake District, which she first ran in 2005 before setting the women’s record for the race in 2012 and again in 2015.  She then smashed the record for the Double Bob Graham in May 2016, completing two circuits of the 132-mile route in under 46 hours.  Nicky remains the record holder for the ‘Double Bob’, which includes 54,000 feet of climbing, describing it as the achievement that means the most to her.  

“I didn’t know I could do it, so I told very few people that I was actually going to do it,” says Nicky, recalling that after 30 hours she felt confident as she realised she still felt alright, but later struggled with sleep deprivation.  Taking a ten-minute power nap helped to regain her energy – “it’s about resetting your brain,” she admits. 

Since running with the Rockhoppers Nicky has broken the record for the Ladies Lake District 24 Hour race, completing an amazing 65 peaks in 23 hours 45 minutes.  “Nicky is an amazing lady, and a true ambassador to the sport,” says Martin Wright, “I think the Rockhopper Run was ideal preparation for the Lake District”.  Though the Rockhopper runners’ ambitions are modest in comparison, they were all truly inspired by Nicky Spinks’ achievements.

Photographs by Andrew Swales Photography.

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