Category Archives: Fell

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 1, 2017

BL / 32.2km / 1219m (20 miles, 2 hills and a smattering of bog)

Joan Hanson …

The thing about entering an event months in advance is you can have that hazy positive belief that in x months time you will be bounding effortlessly over the afore mentioned 20 mile course, laughing in the face of some decidedly sucky and squelchy stuff underfoot and hardly noticing the however many thousands of feet of ascent and descent the said 2 hills (Cheviot and Hedgehope) will entail. And you will have the most enjoyable, relaxing day of running possible…. As I said a hazy and possibly rose tinted vision.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before the event and the realization that you aren’t quite as fit as you had envisaged being and that this year they have removed the walkers option so you have 6 hours to complete it in. Hmmm.

And then the horror on the morning of the event when your companion for the journey (Dougie who has done this before) casually mentions the phrase ‘cut –offs’ for each checkpoint and that they seem a little on the tight side for the first half of the race.
I have felt in more positive frames of mind.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

But at least it has stopped raining and the summits are cloud free so navigation involving maps and compass will not be needed- and you can see exactly how far away those hills you are aiming for are away. Everyone is very friendly, kit checks are passed and before long we were off, Susan disappearing off into the horizon not to be seen again until the finish. Dougie and I leapfrogging for a fair part of the race, he faster on the steeper downhilly bits, me making up time going up. Both agreeing that the second half which on paper should have been the easy bit was anything but, I needed to dig really deep at several points to maintain forward momentum, at one point wondering why they put Wooler so far away.

We all made it back well within the cut offs- interestingly none of us exclaiming what an easy and enjoyable run we have just had but able to reflect on a real sense of achievement (and in my case relief) that it was done.

The Chevy Chase is a great and brilliantly organized event. The route takes in some beautiful and wild terrain, this year we enjoyed expansive views when we could lift our eyes from where we were putting our feet.

I’m glad I did it, the Cheviot’s are a beautiful part of the world and not that far away- definitely worthy of closer exploration –but possibly at a slightly more relaxed pace.

… Dougie Nisbet …

I’d done that bloke sulky pouty thing when Roberta had insisted on me packing some sunscreen. But as I nudged up with Susan and Joan outside race HQ and passed the sunscreen round (on the left hand side) there were lots of Dad comments about getting it behind straps, knees, ears and neck. Still, past-its-sell-by factor 30 wasn’t really going to cut it on Cheviot and Hedgehope in July and I was a bit crisp when I finished later in the day.

I could’ve pretty much written the script for the first half of the race. Joan’s shrewd choice of carrying walking poles had attracted the occasional derisory comment but they’d pretty much dried up as she climbed strongly to Cheviot with me using her as a useful point of purple to focus on as she receded ever further into the vanishing point.

After Cheviot and a revelation. You need to hang left, immediately. When I last did this in 2013 I carried on (zoned out following a walker to Scotland) and turned left too late and missed the trod that took a neat line towards Hedgehope on the other side of the valley. I caught Joan on the descent, pausing to shout “is that you falling on your arse again Hanson!”, before passing her and showing her how to do it properly.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

Everyone was now pretty much a walking washing powder commercial in the making and as we climbed towards Hedgehope I was unsurprised to have Joan back on my shoulder again. And so it continued for the next few checkpoints until CP6 – Brands Corner – we both paused for a drink and check in. The climbing was mostly over and there was a lot of running left now to the finish. I was looking forward to making up some ground in these last few miles.

“Sling your hook Joan, I’ll catch you up”, I said, when it was clear Joan wanted to press on. And so she did. And, I did catch her up, so to speak, after I’d crossed the finish line and she’d brought me over a cup of tea. I had a tough last few miles on what should be a lovely part of the course – the stretch up North West from Carey Burn Bridge is gorgeous, but I was far too busy feeling sorry for myself to pay much attention to the sunny scenery. Susan had a good decisively sub-5 finish, with Joan in around 5:16, then me in around 10 minutes later.

I’ve often said, to anyone who’ll listen, that the Chevy Chase at 20 miles, is twice as hard as the Durham Dales Challenge, at 32 miles. This was the first year the race has dropped the walking race and the cut-offs might need tweaking in the years ahead, but whatever the cutoffs it’s always going to be a tough 20 miles.

 

Swaledale Marathon – in road shoes!, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Matt Archer

I guess a good starting point for this misadventure would be why? I am a roadrunner. I love the roads and although I have grown to love cross country the roads will always be my favourite mistress. After seemingly being stuck in a rut I took some advice from Carole Seheult. She suggested that I needed to love running again and stop PB chasing, so with that in mind I decided to enter races that intrigued me but had never run before because they weren’t on a road. I scoured the race calendar and the two that stood out were the DT20 and Swaledale. As soon as they opened I entered both and was really looking forward to some off road adventures. Before the DT20 I went down to Reeth with my long time training partner in crime, Pete Mason, and we ran some of the DT20 route. I came away feeling that it was tough but achievable. What has this got to do with Swaledale I hear you cry? Well to cut a long story short I ran the DT20 and hated it, my legs were wrecked within the first couple of km and I spent the rest of the race feeling very frustrated. This left me facing Swaledale with some trepidation, I was going to be revisiting the same territory but this time going for longer. Several people tried to reassure me that the Swaledale climbs were not as brutal but I wasn’t convinced.

In the lead up to the race I consulted with a Swaledale vet, who shall remain nameless, who advised me to wear my road shoes over my cushionless Inov8s. This recommendation was reiterated one week before the race so my mind was made up. Unfortunately the weather was not paying attention to my decision as it then proceeded to rain for the entire week before.

I woke on Saturday morning asking myself what I was doing. I had not recced the course, the weather was bad and my experiences at the DT20 were still haunting me. Race day breakfast was consumed and I jumped in the car to drive down. On arriving in Reeth the weather was no better but my mind was made up – road shoes. We assembled in the start field ready for the off, most people in waterproof running jackets that we were sure we would be taking off shortly when we started to warm up.

The ascent of Fremington Ridge began and to my delight I arrived at the top with a piar of legs that seemed to be in good working order. Having run the ridge twice in the past I knew that conditions underfoot would be challenging for the road shoes but to my delight they performed well with no notable traction issues.

Figure 1 – The trusty all terrain Adidas ‘road’ shoes. Next stop Cross Country.

Figure 2 – A photo showing the extensive grip that these beasts posess.

I was slowly working my way through the field feeling slightly cocky about my choice of footwear. We arrived at the descent, a grass like carpet that I had thrown myself down with great delight in the past. A smile started to stretch over my face as… oh shit its like an ice rink. Road shoes + wet grass = no grip. I backed off and slowly picked my way down the climb as runners in grippier options flew past. Reaching the bottom I was not perturbed as we were on a semi solid track and this turned into tarmac as I slowly picked off the runners who had passed me and then some. I saw Elaine Bisson, had a quick chat and carried on my merry way. Oh how I love my road shoes, all is forgiven. Before long Jon Ayres and the second placed female appeared on my horizon and I caught them too. I was enjoying this far more than expected. My legs felt good, my shoes were paying dividends, even the rain couldn’t dampen my spirits. Oh no but the sucking black peat bog that we were about to enter certainly could. I had been warned that this stretch would be tricky in road shoes but 5 miles in the grand scheme of things wasn’t much was it?? Wasn’t much?? It was f*!k$*g eternity. I was all over the shop, even the smallest change in direction had me scrabbling for grip. I slowed to a walk and quickly lost sight of the runners around me. Not a problem if you know where you are going. I didn’t. As I emerged from the black hell Elaine cruised past telling me to latch on and latch on I did. My directional knight in shining armour had arrived. We powered on having returned to a hard trail. I started loving it again, after all I had just completed the toughest part for my road shoes and I hadn’t gone over once. Things were looking up. We descended down towards the river and the run in to Gunnerside, my legs felt good, my body felt pretty fresh and all memories of the DT20 had been vanquished. To get to the river we left the farm track to cut through some fields, not a problem, its grass not the horrible black peat. We enter a field with a steep slope things start to go wrong, smooth soles on wet grass, this isn’t going to go well and it didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was sliding down the hill on my back. I picked myself up, muttered a string of obscenities and studied the line of mud that stretched down my body. I couldn’t dwell though as Elaine was moving and I needed to keep up. We searched for a way out of the field, found it and dropped down to the river and followed it to Gunnerside. Into the check point we went and straight out again, passing runners that had left me on the peat bog earlier.

Figure 3 – Leaving Gunnerside with Elaine who guided me round a big chunk.

Straight out of Gunnerside there is a steep ascent, Elaine powering ahead, me behind furiously trying to keep up. When we arrive at the top Elaine urges me to go on if I feel like it so I open my legs and away I go. Conditions underfoot seem pretty… woah bang. Next thing I know I am lying in some gorse on my back. I hear the words “are you ok Matt?” drifting over. No way I got away with that one. I quickly pick myself up and with a quick “Yes” continue on my… bang. Knees and hands hit the deck, I’m down on all fours. Not again. The footpath began to open up and I passed one runner and then a second. I hit a gravel road I recognised, I knew the end was near and I still felt good. I hit the accelerator and increased the pace passing another runner. The track ends, now I am not sure, I think I know but not 100%. Where is the guy I passed? He appears, I check, he isn’t sure but thinks it’s the way I was going to choose so I go with it. Through the gate and onto an uneven rocky path, yes this is it. My road shoes suddenly come into their own as I start to fly down the path without a care in the world. I pass a lady who warns me that the next section is slippy. Not in these bad boys. I motored on. The end of the path approaches, I know it’s a left onto the road, I open up my stride and throw myself down the hill as I approach the final bend the crowd roars (namely Jo P, Lesley C and Mandy D). Round I go and through the finish. I look at my watch, sub 4 hours. I collect my mug and walk away a happy man.

Figure 4 – Flying into Reeth and the finish.

Massive thanks to Elaine Bisson for being my guide, to Jo P for providing the post race towel, Lesley C and Mandy D for standing in the rain cheering us all home and the biggest thanks go to my Adidas Glide Boosts, I couldn’t have done it without you!!

Swaledale Marathon – A Soaked Supporter’s View, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Pam Kirkup

8.00am on the morning of the race Paul F & I pitched up to registration, in my case, to hand in my number for anyone who hoped to get an entry on the day. It was drizzling nicely.

An hour later at the start, this year’s cohort of runners seemed somewhat diminished from previous years. The purple posse was there in strength … and the rain was building up.

If you don’t know the course of the Swaledale Marathon it’s 23+ miles over quite diverse terrain, including valley paths, some steep climbs on rubble and bog, some awkward peat hags, some decent paths over the moors and a pretty unpleasant, stony downhill path to the road down to the village of Reeth. Saturday was probably one of the worst conditions I have seen for this run. It was going to be difficult and challenging – a certain bog-fest, even for the experts. A baptism of fire for Swaledale ‘virgins’.

After the start, the walking wounded – Mandy and I – trudged in the now heavy rain to Reeth in search of coffee and shelter. In the meantime the purple posse was doing the slog up the rubble to Fremington Edge. This is a swampy, boggy ridge which goes in the direction of Langthwaite, the route goes through a gate downhill into the valley and then on roads to the first checkpoint. On Saturday Fremington Edge would have been at its most unpleasant – and I hear it was very boggy – but nothing compared to what was to come.

The route then is mostly on roads to Whaw and the second checkpoint. After this is a steep uphill climb to the main road, which the runners cross to the path up to Great Punchard  Head. A small stream on the way up had become much more full, and the stream crossing at Great Punchard Head seemed to have become a challenge to some people, as Paul arrived there. After Great Punchard Head route finding can be difficult but, although it was cold, very windy and the rain was hammering down, Paul said that the route was clear. No mist. And,  for the first time, the path was marked with flags. However, the ground underfoot was very difficult. Nina said that she lost her footing and one leg ended up knee deep in a bog. A runner in front of Paul ended up thigh deep in a bog – thankfully he was able to haul himself out. Luckily, visibility was clear and so runners could find their way to Little Punchard and then on to Level House – a fantastic food station with tea, sandwiches, cake, flapjacks and lots more.

By then I had joined the dash to Gunnerside – you have to get there early to get a parking place. The rain was now relentless. I missed the first few runners coming through but I did see Jack, and then Stephen and Gareth (poster boy for next year’s race??). The camaraderie of supporters is really amazing – everyone shouts for other people’s runners as they sprint down that riverside path to the road. Even though you don’t know them! The purple posse came hurtling in after that. Phil & Tim, Matthew & Elaine, David Brown, then Jules, Mike Bennett, Jan, Nina, Malcolm Sygrove, Camilla & Kathryn and then Paul! I didn’t get photos of Elaine Bisson (3rd lady!!) who ran a blinder with Mathew Archer (how could he possibly have run that course in road shoes???), or David Brown – his picture was black .Rain?

From Gunnerside the runners leave the road at the top of the village, taking a long steep path up to a (usually) decent path to Blades. Part of this has vehicular access for the cottages and farms so wouldn’t normally be difficult. At Blades the route veers off to the left onto a level moorland path to Surrender Bridge which can often be quite muddy – a quagmire on Saturday! Surrender Bridge is the last manned checkpoint and marshals point runners in the right direction for the last push to Reeth. Once you’ve negotiated ‘Crinkly Bottom’, a small but steep ghyll, (I hear it now has a bridge to cross it), you make your way to a long, narrow and often steep path of stones and boulders. Punishing on, by now, sore and weary feet. For me it’s always been a nightmare. Then it’s a downhill cruise on the road to the finish.

In the meantime, I drove back to Reeth, after Paul came through Gunnerside, and joined the finish supporters at the Buck Inn. People were sharing stories about the bogs, the peat hags and the awful conditions underfoot. It was certainly a more difficult course this year – for everyone. Gareth said “Never, never, ever again!”. Tim said “It was great I loved it”! Everyone had a story to tell! Spirits were high.

Regardless of the conditions, Elvet Striders did a great job. We were second male team, only just beaten by East Hull Harriers. And Elaine Bisson was 3rd Lady in a sensational 03.55 and was 33rd overall. There were some excellent times:

Michael Mason – 3.24, Jack Lee – 3.36, Steven and Gareth 3.39, Mat (road shoes) Archer – 3.53, Elaine (super woman) Bisson 3.55, David Brown 4.19, Tim & Phil – 4.31, Jules – 4.36, Mike Bennett – 4.45, Nina – 5.10, Jan – 5.17, Kathryn – 5.19,Malcolm – 5.26, Camilla – 5.27, Paul Foster – 5.37, Joan & Anita – 5.42, Emil Maatta – 6.02, Anna & Catherine – 6.51, Barbara Dick – 7.01, Louise Billcliffe – 7.20, Christine Farnsworth & Margaret Thompson – 7.42.

I hope the first-timers won’t be put off. On a good day it’s a fantastic course with wonderful scenery. Saturday was not the best start! However it takes more than a day’s deluge to dampen the spirits of the purple posse.

Here’s a gallery of some thoroughly soaked Striders!

 

Swaledale Marathon – Jack’s story, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Jack Lee

The Swaledale Marathon like any decent run ends up as a story. This will be the story of how I started full of energy, in a rain jacket with a pack full of gels and water and ended up exhausted, sprinting through Reeth and soaked to the skin in just a Striders vest. However, if you ask any who ran or spectated that day they will give you their stories; most of those are shared with friends such as Camilla and Kathryn, Tim and Phil or Gareth and Stephen and many others. While I rarely ran with other Striders I made many friends who shared my struggle and who while I might never know their names I shall never forget.

Swaledale might not be on the FRA calendar but it has one thing in common with the fell races I have ran…it started with a long, steep and painful ascent. This was towards Fremington Edge and while I had told myself and others before I would stay with friends (Jon and Elaine were the ones I was thinking of) I found that my regimen of strength and core training meant I floated up the hill. I looked into Jon’s eyes on the way up and knew that I was too strong to hold myself back. What had felt like a tough start the year before seemed like a jog down to the shops for milk and so I struck off on my own ahead into a windy and rainy new adventure.

Stephen, Michael and Gareth had gone off in their triumvirate but I became the fourth strider running with a group across the top of Fremington and down into the next valley towards Whaw. An increasingly terrifying gap behind meant that the little group I was in became my new comrades and I had to keep the legs turning over to keep up. It wasn’t difficult but I always feared for later as I had barely held onto consciousness last year in the final mile and didn’t fancy going through that again. I kept up through the valley and up towards Great Punchard Head where we lost a few on the climb, at this point I was with a few other men and the first lady (checking the results her name was Amy and she ran for Rugby and Northallerton). She floated up Punchard…I don’t think I ever saw her walk and we were together for 12 or so miles including all the hard work up Great Punchard Head. I ran almost all that uphill as well with only short stops to walk and make sure I didn’t get ahead as I hadn’t recce’d Punchard as thoroughly as possible.

 

After a while we made it to the bog and I am not sure how any of us made it through that mass of muddy holes and collapsing paths. It had been raining pretty consistently since the start of the race and by now we were all sodden and the coarse was soaked through from current rain and that in the week before; wet bog is a beast of its own but we fought through mile after mile of tough track and a few self-clip points later and one manned clip point we came to the last self-clip on Punchard. My group had whittled down to myself, another guy who seemed nice and Amy (who glided as if on road). She later told me at one point it was her second time doing Swaledale and that she was a road runner by trade. Considering her nav (thumbing the map as she went) and her strength I would recommend a change of focus. Anyway we reached the final self-clip on Punchard to find a very wet looking group of three clipping at which point Michael turned around and greeted me. We had run the fell so well that we had caught up to Michael, Stephen and Gareth apparently.

 

This was the start of the downhill towards Gunnerside and when I said to my new friend that these three were some of the fastest in my club she turned to me and said only “you have them”. Encouraged by this I quickly over took Gareth who was busy writing a determined story of his own (albeit maybe not the happiest of tales). When the navigation went a bit awry I took the rest of them and went down towards Gunnerside. While there I did the manned clip and started tactically stripping…I was too hot in the rain jacket and the rain was down to a mere drizzle for the first time since the start of the race. My new friends left ahead and I was left with Michael, with Stephen and Gareth behind. Michael and I started the uphill out of Gunnerside and he stayed with me for a bit until I said something like “Michael, I have run the race of my life but there is not much left and I know the rest of the route…leave me, I will be fine”. So hesitantly he did.

 

I don’t know how I got through the rest of the miles but I did. I thought I could see Michael’s luminous jacket ahead although it turned out it was someone else and he was actually well ahead overtaking everyone and their mothers. I ran as the rain and wind came back to lash at my Strider’s vest. I fell after surrender bridge while in a small gulley and just remember getting up and thinking that I couldn’t stop. My leg had cramped but I though hiking out of the gulley would stretch it out. I was in a bad way at this point with no strength left although I was fairly conscious at least.

 

I kept going and after seeing Jan’s husband I made my way down the lane of loose rocks with the last self-clip and came out into Reeth where a small crowd with a few cheering Striders (Joanne and Lesley come to mind) coaxed a pseudo-sprint out of me. It felt like a sprint to me but for all I know it could have looked more like a waddle. Everyone else turned up in layers at the least and mostly in rain jackets but I must have looked a sight in only shorts and a soaked vest. I got to the finish line, gave in my card and went for food. I had finished 14th in 3 hours and 36 minutes. 7 minutes quicker than last year in much worse conditions and 37 places higher. With food I sat down and made merry…job done.

 

Well done to everyone who ran a tough and wet Swaledale this year with a special mention to Michael Mason (6th), Elaine Bisson (3rd Female) and the Men’s Team (2nd). An honourable mention to everyone who spectated as well who waited in the rain while we had all the “fun”.

Results available here

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Threlkeld, Cumbria, Sunday, May 28, 2017

AL / 24km /1337m

Elaine Bisson

So I’d stupidly made a deal with myself, if I didn’t run as I hoped at Windermere marathon and could walk down the stairs the next day, I would enter this race. I didn’t run the race I hoped, my ankle had been causing bother, I could walk. I spent the week icing my swollen ankle and rolling my calf…all fun and games to convince my husband this idea was perfectly reasonable!

I packed my bag with full compulsory fell kit and had had a wonderful sleep. This race doesn’t start until 12, I could almost lie in (we have three kids) and still have breakfast and drive the two hours to the race headquarters at Threlkeld cricket club. I knew what was in store having recced this with Geoff and Susan the previous summer. Susan had then suggested that I try the race at which time I’d thought her quite mad, especially as I’d spent a considerable time attempting to come down Clough Head, how a year changes you!

Having registered I returned to hide in my car and stare up at Clough head, then covered in cloud. My second deal was simple, if visibility was poor I’d not run the race but do a training run in the lakes. I rechecked the mountain weather forecast which declared with utmost certainty that all tops would be clear by early afternoon affording spectacular views. Not convinced and chilled by the wind I put on my long sleeved top and returned to the cricket ground to have a few laps warm up.

With ten minutes to spare we all sidled to the start, all kits were checked and a race briefing was held. The only thing I remember as panic rises in my chest “visibility is poor, up to 50m at most, keep maps and compasses to hand. Remember if you come off Clough head too early you’ll come a cropper”.

And so there is Tarmac, about a mile,my ankle no longer likes Tarmac, I could feel the limp coming until open fell and up to Clough Head. It’s steep, there are little foot holds like rungs on a ladder. It’s important to get in the right group early on, I find myself going off piste to cut round slower people. At the top wisps of cloud drift down until it’s full on clag. First checkpoint (there are seven…four out three back, Clough Head, Great Dodd, Raise, Helvellyn) in the bag then I try my best to hang onto the men who were all in fell runner club vests. At times they disappearear and I blindly search for those lithe people rather than starting to follow the walkers heavily laden with kit and clothes. There’s a short section everyone skips around Stybarrow Dodd on a sheer grass drop. It’s grass, there’s a bit of a trod. But yikes I’m far too slow and again they leave me for dust. By Raise, the sky has cleared and I’m sweltering, slowing I take off my long sleeved top then set off again.

This out leg I try to keep pace with those around me,the ups seem almost too comfortable but I want to ensure I have enough left in the tank to get back, especially with last week’s marathon still lingering in my legs. It is a breathtaking place to be, the views are incredible.

The sun blisters down and beats on our backs. It is busy coming up Helvellyn Lower Man, trying to pass the many walkers out and keeping out of the way of the fast runners on their way home..that is a thing of beauty to behold lots of extremely fit runners skipping seemingly effortlessly across the rocks.

Helvellyn in the bag I decide to work harder now, I start to really enjoy myself, my ankle on this soft ground isn’t causing as much bother as I’d thought. By then I’ve fallen in with two men, we chat on the ups and I seem to pull them up, they in turn force me to run faster on the descents.

Now back to Clough head, the descent is grassy but extremely steep. By halfway I’ve really got frustrated with myself, I manage to catch one person but a fair few fly past me, I curse myself for my slowness. Then finally the slope lessens and I am able to stretch out my legs it feels glorious and onto the the final downhill stretch on tarmac. I reach the end elated, I’ve done it. Something last year I don’t think I would have dreamed of going near. I’ve finished 7th lass (as all marshals and runners refer to me) 61st overall. My time 3:09 is reasonable. My ankle isn’t complaining too much. The princely fee of £7 does not afford a race Tshirt or medal but it does give a sense of pride, the most spectacular day out and includes in the cost a fabulous picnic buffet…for runners 2 sandwiches, tomato, 1 cake and a tea or coffee. I fill my napkin and enjoy my picnic on the grassy field looking up to Clough Head deeply satisfied.

I’d done it, perhaps not done it justice, but done it all the same. I knew that the me of last year would be incredibly proud if not slightly gobsmacked. I’ll definitely return to this and give it all I’ve got, it’s a beautiful brute of a race, there’s quite a bit of technical work I need to crack before then though…more days in the lakes then!!!

Results available here

The Cheviot and Hedgehope Pendulum Fell Race 2017, Langleeford, Northumberland, Sunday, April 30, 2017

11 miles

Elaine Bisson

A toss up between a long road run round durham on my tod or a race on the fells…well I think you know what wins. Slightly spur of the moment, we were visiting John’s family on Monday so my brownie points were in the bag! I bought a map of the area and tried my best to get my head round what this race was…from Langleeford, straight up a huge hill (Cheviot), straight back down, then straight back up another slightly less huge hill (Hedgehope) and straight back down. The map contours looked grim, hey ho nothing to lose.
I spent the evening faffing with my bag, big bag, little bag, how many layers, water, emergency food, minimum or maximum fell kit? My favourite leggings were stuck in our broken washing machine, I hand washed them and spent a good while hair drying them dry. Oh Lordy, I was a bit nervous.
I arrived at Geoff and Susan’s house bright and early ready for a lovely drive. It was a beautiful spring morning, the sky was blue, the gorse was in full bloom. Chatting along the way took my mind off the task ahead until we turned a bend in the road and there it was, the Cheviot, head slightly covered by cloud. This was a whole different race.
Registration was on the day for the bargain price of £5. As the wind picked up, numbers were scattered in the grass and I started to wonder what on earth I was doing here. The fellow competitors were nothing like I’d seen before. All ages, all extremely lean and fit. I felt out of my depth.
After the weirdest race briefing held along to very loud music (Geoff assured me this was not commonplace) we were off. A tiny stretch of flat Tarmac until the path bends off to the right then up, up, up, up, up, up, up to the very top of the Cheviot. I felt pretty sluggish, my calves and shins were screaming, I now realised the need for a proper warm up. I ran bits, walked (fast) most. A lady came along side me and “complimented”me on my amazing walk…as I laughed she replied “no you’re amazing at walking”, then that was her gone tootling off up the hill. Not for long though, as actually, I am pretty good at walking up hills and by the top I was first lady. We did a funny run round the cairn then it was a downhill dash. As I climbed over the stile I was glad to be holding on tightly as I was at risk of being blown right off the top, I was also pleased to see Susan (at least they’d know where I might have been blown to!)
I tried to convince myself the wind was blowing me in the right direction and tried my best to get down. Not long after the stile two women sped past me, I worked hard to keep them within 100metres. As I hit the bottom bridge before the second of the climbs up Hedgehope, I realised my shoe lace was undone, by then I’d half given up. I wasn’t good at descending and whatever effort I put in to getting up would be inconsequential when these two overtook me on the down. Anyway shoelace triple knotted, I got up and got on. However, over the first stile, there they were, 40m ahead, a quick run past them and they were gone. By then my legs felt like my own good running legs again and I thought if I keep this up, I could just about break enough distance so there’s no chance they can catch me.
Geoff had long since disappeared off Cheviot but If I squinted hard, I could just about spot a tiny purple and green NFR vest with his recognisable effortless skip. I fixed on that minuscule dot and tried my best to make it as big as I could get before the descent…Geoff leaves me for dust on descents. This hill was a lot steeper than the first. After not too long that tiny purple and green dot became a very large Geoff. I passed him and laughed, “there’s no way I can run down this”.
I reached the top, touched the wooden post (which seemed to be the thing to do) then put all my effort into running downhill…not as easy as it sounds. My brain hasn’t hurt so much in a race, always thinking where to place your next foot, how far to reach out or not, is that going to sink if I step on it, how do I miss that rock… I did expect Geoff to whizz past and was over the moon when I looked and saw that he hadn’t gained that much and that the two women were now tiny dots. My watch kept flashing brief paces reaching 5.30 min/mile, it was so much fun I can’t tell you.  Finally I reached that  little stile then back over the wooden bridge and the tiny finish with the organiser shouting, “well done first lady, amazing time.” I was giddy with excitement.
Geoff arrived soon afterwards, effortlessly gliding into the finish, he’d knocked 40minutes off last year’s time (very grim conditions) and I believe it was a personal best by 5 minutes. Not long and  Susan came in too looking very strong and winning her age group and a spot prize.
We picked up our complimentary chocolate bars/jelly beans and water, then it was time for the presentations.
It was cheap.  Everyone was incredibly encouraging as we passed each other on the ups and downs. It was the toughest 11miles I’ve ever tried to race. It had beautiful views and I will have to return so I can appreciate them. I loved every minute.
I do recommend this with caution.  They are two bloody big hills to climb (3550ft)  Apart from the wind, conditions today were perfect, not too cold, lovely bouncy, springy, dry peat. If wet underfoot this could be my idea of bog hell and I can appreciate how the weather could be horrendous.
Credit for photos to Vicki Deritis of Northumberland Fell Runners.
Full results are available here

Captain Cook’s Fell Race, Great Ayton, Sunday, January 1, 2017

BS / 8km / 318m

Dougie Nisbet

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race. I’ve never seen Star Wars …
Dougie Nisbet in Captain Cooks Fell Race. Photo by Dave Aspin.
Photo Courtesy and
© Dave Aspin

Well I have actually. But I’ve never done Captain Cooks, which is almost as bad as never having tried Harrier League, or Brussels sprouts. You can’t claim not to like something unless you’ve tried it. Despite having a great fondness for the Esk Valley fell races this particular fixture had never really appealed to me for some reason. I usually prefer Nine Standards or the (newly returned) Hillforts and Headaches.

I’d heard it was a busy race so I arrived about an hour early, which by my standards is an eternity. After finding somewhere to park an indecently long way from registration I turned up at the Royal Oak to see lots of happy smiling Striders. They were smiling, I think, because they turned up 2 hours early and had already registered. After a while I found the end of the queue and wondered if I’d get to the front before the race started.

I hadn’t been sure about Kit requirements. Although it’s a pretty short race I noticed from Steph’s 2015 report that she considered carrying, amongst other things, a knife (type unspecified, a Rambo one I assumed), so I thought I’d better at least take the basics. It could be rough out there.

I registered with only about 10 minutes to spare and I still didn’t know what shoes I was going to wear! I wandered up to a few random and not-so-random strangers and barked: “Trail or Walshes?!”. One brief straw-poll later and it was pretty clear that Walshes were the clear choice. I ran back to the car, had a quick costume change, then back to the Start with a few seconds to spare.

And then we had the race, which was ok. You went up a hill, not going round the monument (which I thought was a bit ungracious – I was tempted to run round it anyway), then back down again. On the climb I was glad for the Walshes as they dug in nicely and I could see lots of runners, an amazing number of runners, who were in road shoes and wasting a lot of energy sliding about and going twice the distance. They’d also managed to fit their entire kit requirements into a matchbox sized pocket in the back of their pants which was pretty impressive.

Despite there being loads of Striders at registration I saw none around me. I kept thinking I saw Camilla ahead and hoped I might catch her by the finish. I was somewhat bewildered to find her at the level crossing cheering me on and I paused to work out what was going on. Then another marshall told me to stop chatting and keep moving. I glanced back and noticed Jan hunting me down and I wasn’t having that, so moving I kept.

As we approached Great Ayton I was a bit bemused to discover I’d crossed the finish line in the middle of a field. What devil’s work was this? A fell race? That didn’t finish outside the pub it started at? Surely there’s some law against that? Then the hailstorm started and the kit that I was carrying that had been of no value at the monument suddenly became quite handy for the walk back to the car.

So what do I think? I enjoyed it. It’s a good race. But I think I enjoy Nine Standards more. It’s got snow at the top and everything. And by my calculations, the 20 minutes extra that it takes to drive to Kirkby Stephen is easily saved by not having to stand in a long queue or park 10 minutes away. So next year I’ll probably head back to Nine Standards. But then there’s Hillforts and Headaches… Hmmm… That’s the good thing about fell races. EOD. Decide in the morning when you wake up.

Results

pos bib name time cat/pos/pts/total
1 1052 Lloyd Biddell (Mercia Fell) 30.40 MO/1/50/50
1 57 Nik Tarrega (York Knavesmire) 38.17 FO/1/50/50
34 1115 Matthew Claydon 36.44 M40/8/41/41
46 1100 Jason Harding 37.42 M45/8/41/41
50 1141 Gareth Pritchard 37.54 MO/27/22/22
54 1038 Phil Ray 38.08 MO/29/20/20
56 1034 Jack Lee 38.14 MO/30/19/19
78 324 Danny Lim 39.27 MO/39/10/42
79 1051 David Gibson 39.29 M45/12/37/37
84 1166 Mark Warner 39.46 MO/41/8/8
135 1136 Dave Forster 42.42 MO/58/1/1
138 1193 Louise Warner 42.52 FO/5/44/44
158 1108 Mike Hughes 44.30 M45/26/23/23
170 1223 Mandy Dawson 45.11 F45/5/44/44
243 1137 Dougie Nisbet 50.13 M50/23/26/26
251 276 Jan Young 50.55 F60/2/48/96
259 1040 David Shipman 52.00 M60/9/40/40
266 1039 Emil Maatta 52.24 MO/77/1/1
272 1086 Tim Matthews 52.40 M50/27/22/22
293 1231 Lesley Charman 54.47 F40/12/37/37
306 153 Anita Clementson 57.02 F45/12/37/82
326 1224 Diane Watson 60.05 F50/7/42/42
331 1209 Victoria Brown 61.35 FO/26/23/23
336 1207 Diane Harold 64.49 F40/18/31/31

345 finishers.

Angus Tait Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale Town, Sunday, December 4, 2016

CM / 10.4 miles / 1243 feet

Velvet Strider

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 John Butters NFR Men Veteren 40-49 1:09:32
26 Jason Harding Men Veteren 40-49 1:21:00
29 Karen Robertson NFR Women Veteran 40-49 1:22:29
35 Geoff Davis NFR Men Veteran 50-59 1:26:06
99 Susan Davis NFR Women Veteran 50-59 1:42:37
108 Dougie Nisbet Men Veteran 50-59 1:44:05
127 Melanie Hudson Women Senior 1:51:20
147 Diane Harold Women Veteran 40-49 2:20:20
148 Joanne Porter Women Veteran 40-49 2:20:21

153 finishers

Saltergate Gallows, Sunday, November 6, 2016

BM / 10.6 miles / 1411 feet

Penny Browell

A typical Dave Parry prize giving, from Saltergate Gallows 2011This is one of the Esk Valley races which I’d always fancied as it starts in Levisham, a lovely village where I’d been on holiday a few years ago. A few weeks before the race it was announced that this year’s would be run as a memorial to Dave Parry, who had been the face of Esk Valley races for years and had recently very sadly lost his battle with cancer. After hearing this I decided that although I’m cutting down on races, this would be one to put in the diary.

As the day approached the weather forecast was not the best – a part of me was quite pleased though as it had been a while since I’d run a race in bad weather and I do always enjoy the extra challenges it can present. However as we drove down I reminded myself you should be careful what you wish for. The rain was heavy and the winds strong and I started to wonder whether I really wanted to run in this. On arrival the rain kept coming and going – I think I must have changed my mind about whether to wear my waterproof about 5 times but when we lined up at the start and it started to hail I realised I had to face the fact that this was going to be a wet one… There was a decent turnout of Striders to pay their respects to Dave and the cheer when his name was mentioned went on for a good long while as was fitting. It didn’t feel right to be running one of these races without him there to send us off..

But off we went and within a couple of hundred metres I felt terrible. The race starts with a hill and I just felt exhausted straight away. I had hoped to try and stay somewhere near Geoff and Tom but they sped away and out of view within minutes… Once we were off the track and into proper fell racing I started to enjoy myself more. OK it wasn’t going to be my best race ever but I could still make the most of being in this lovely part of the world. The race is a kind of figure of 8 and really has a bit of everything – some fairly steep climbs, nice descents and a reasonable amount of track where you can get a bit of speed. As I settled in I started to pick off a few runners and on a long steady climb I spotted Geoff ahead of me and wondered whether I had it in me to make this the race I pay him back for James Herriot earlier this year. To be fair he had run more than 20 miles in the Lakes the day before but still I’ll take any situation to try and get a victory! So at the top of the hill I did indeed pass him, only for him to get me back on the descent…. At about the 6 mile mark there was a steeper climb through knee deep mud. I smiled to myself as I remembered asking Tom whether he thought it would be muddy and he’d given me a look as if to say “Are you mad?”. This was proper mud, rain, wind and everything and I was loving it! On this climb I managed to pass Geoff again who murmured something about it being all downhill from here. I thought that seemed unlikely since we still had more than 4 miles to go but carried on. (It later turned out Geoff had his watch on km rather than miles and thought the race was nearly over!)

The last part of the race was fairly easy with nothing too steep and less difficult underfoot – although there were some impressive puddles a couple of which had me submerged up to my thighs. As I slowly picked off more runners I spotted Shelli Gordon ahead. For those who don’t know Shelli, she is an amazing runner who wins pretty much all of the Hardmoors races. I tucked in behind her as I didn’t think I had a chance of beating her but as there wasn’t far to go and I still felt good I decided to chance it. Once I was past her I noticed someone else I recognised way ahead of me. With not far to go and a fairly flat last half a mile I thought I should try and catch him. I’ve only ever managed to beat Tom when he fell at Captain Cook’s and it would make my day to manage it today after such a shocking start. However there were still about 6 people between us and a long distance. I started to make ground, passing a couple of people but then he turned and saw me and immediately sped up! I did my best to catch him, passing the remaining 4 or 5 people who separated us and doing my best to sprint the last section back into the village but it was not to be. I did however pick up a prize for third lady and very much enjoyed my cake and tea in the village hall afterwards.

Esk Valley races are always a joy – great atmosphere and for anyone who hasn’t run fell races before they are a perfect introduction. Plus at £5 to enter what’s not to like…

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Harry Holmes York Knavesmire MO 1 75.02
20 Helen Cross Individual FO 1 95.08
26 Tom Reeves M50 4 98.21
27 Penny Browell F40 1 98.39
29 Shelli Gordon New Marske Harriers FO 2 99.22
43 Michael Bennett M60 1 105.50
64 Nigel Heppells* M60 5 118.08
88 Anita Clementson F45 4 148.38
94 Jan Young F60 DNF

93 finishers
*Nigel Heppell. Two Ps Two Ls. And now an extra S as well. You can never have too many Nigels.

The Natural Ability Fell Race, Allenheads, Sunday, October 16, 2016

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Steve Ellis

fell-race-oct2016At my age I should know better! Well perhaps that’s true but new challenges and experiences are always attractive. This was to be a first Fell race for both
myself and Mark (Payne). I had read that this race was suitable for inexperienced and experienced fell runners alike, requiring no special
equipment, and this had persuaded us to give it a go.

Also it was cheap (£9) and set in a beautiful part of the country, the North Pennines. Camilla was
initially to be the designated driver but had to pull out at the eleventh hour with a cold and fortunately Diane(Watson) was able to step in as we negotiated our way along the Wear valley to Allenheads.

The forecast was bleak with rain due at 11am exactly matching the race start
time! Still these things are seldom accurate and anyway with our gung-ho
attitude proudly pinned to our purple attire we arrived in good time. Parking
was easy and we picked up our numbers. The temperature had plummeted and showed
6 degrees on the cars display. We also noted how the wind had picked up and was
blowing the tree tops. Discussions now concentrated on what to wear! Mark and
Diane chose to wear tights and jackets. I had no such choice as I had only come
with shorts, a decision I came to regret and my jacket is only
shower-proof…in other words porous! Diane again came to the rescue lending me
a suitable jacket.

After a warm up run we assembled for the start at about 10;50 and right on-cue
the rain announced its arrival. Ironically the guest race starter was ex-BBC
weather lady Hannah Bayman! So at 11 exactly, we set off. The first 4k took us
along the valley tracks, lanes and bumpy fields until we reached the river
itself. So far it had been “undulating” a word often used and greatly
misunderstood by runners! In this race it had been mainly flat with a few
inclines and stiles to negotiate. However things were now to change
dramatically!

At about 4k we had to cross the river. It was about 8 inches deep and freezing
cold. If your feet weren’t wet so far they would be now. Then up a steep road
section which led to us crossing another road and out onto the Fells. Ohh the
glorious sight of a 1 kilometre hill now stretched out before us and into the
teeth of a gathering gale! Most runners had now slowed to a walk as they
battled against the elements and the force of gravity. I tried to jog- walk my
way to the top but it was very hard going. The heavy rain was now
machine-gunning into my face and pinging my legs.(is this putting you off I
wonder?) However the thoughts you hang on to drive you forward. For example..”
come on now, we are over half way and its only a cross-country distance and we
are nearly at the highest point!! ” etc….well…I bet you talk to yourself
too! And so I crested the hill and alighted onto another rough puddled track
and the battle with the wind really began! It felt like someone was pushing you
backwards at times as it reached 40mph. It was also at this time I noticed how
cold my legs were! I guess they were moving by default and driven by idiocy!
Still the stoic runner battled forward and soon reached the very top of the
course and began the long descent for the finish.

As I gathered pace my legs warmed up and all was well and positive. The idea of
this being a race amused me a little as thus far I had only passed people who
were walking or standing still! Just then a lady from North Shields Poly
breezed past me and soon was 50 or so metres ahead. What! I can’t have that! As
we reached the road at the bottom of the hill I tried to keep her in sight and
crossing the road we descended on to the bumpy fields and stiles again
(remember those?). I now noticed that I was gaining a little on her as she
seemed less happy on this surface. Detecting this chink I her armour I got to
within 10 metres of her as we ran down the final bit of tarmac and onto the
final field. We could now see the finish in the far corner and battle
commenced. I bound past her and finished a couple of seconds ahead. So much for
it not being a race! Just as in harrier league fixtures the race is what you
make of it.

As I finished a small reception committee greeted you with “well dones” and
pats on the back as well as a goody bag, water and a sponsors t-shirt. Amazing
for such a cheap race and even more generous when you realise the race is named
after the wonderful charity it is organised by and for. The Natural Ability
fell race supports adults with special needs in enriching their lives.
Wonderful! And the marshals. My goodness what a task on such a day! The whole
race experience was fantastic, and put my bit of whining to shame!

After trudging back to the car to change ( Mark and Diane found much more
suitable places) we reconvened in the Allenheads Hotel bar for the prizes and a
welcome sandwich soup and coffee. Perhaps none of us had troubled the prize
givers but we had won in so many other ways. I personally found the challenge
tough but it didn’t defeat me and I would certainly go back! Next time fully
equipped for all eventualities. Don’t second guess the fells and the weather!

So far this year I have been chasing the clock in my attempts to post PBs and
tick off targets and I was a little bored with it all if I am truthful. One of
the reasons I fancied this race was to get away from all that and discover new
challenges. I can honestly say I did not check my time once until well after I
had finished. In some ways it is an irrelevance as the real challenge is the
course, the elements and occasionally the chance to chase down a shirt!

The real winners anyway were the organisers and marshalls and of course the
charity. Finally, as always the company and chat on the day with fellow
Striders is always a pleasure and this was no different, so thanks to Mark and
especially Diane who drove us there and back.. my turn to drive next time…now
I wonder where that will be?