This 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…
|1||Harry Holmes||York Knavesmire||MO||1||75.02|
|29||Shelli Gordon||New Marske Harriers||FO||2||99.22|
*Nigel Heppell. Two Ps Two Ls. And now an extra S as well. You can never have too many Nigels.