Tag Archives: Chevy Chase

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.

 

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Friday, July 3, 2015

BL / 20M / 4,000'

Camilla Laurén-Määttä

Here's one that Camilla took earlier - on the recce Chevy Chase, a classic fell race open to runners and walkers, has been organised by Wooler Running Club since 1956. This popular race fills up quickly, so I had entered the race in February (so tempting to enter summery races that time of year and so easy to lose count of how many you enter). It is also one of those races where you get cake at the end, always an added bonus. I had arrived early, so had a quick chat with fellow Striders Maggie and Christine before they started their walk 1 h before the runners. Unusually, I was the only Strider running the event this time, so I chatted to unaffiliated runners Liz and Mark whilst waiting. Apparently, many runners had pulled out of the race last minute due to the weather, so Mark had managed to get a last minute place by turning up on the day.

It was still pouring down when we lined up in Ramsay Lane and were told there was a slight possibility that the route may get diverted from the hills later in the event of a thunderstorm. I knew that the first half of the race was going to be the toughest, as we would climb both the Cheviot (815 m) and Hedgehope Hill (714 m) so I took it easy to conserve my energy for later. After the first check point at Broadstruther there was a steady climb over boggy ground, gradually steepening after the Cheviot Knee. The mist was creeping in, so I made sure to stay close behind a lady in a bright yellow top and stripy socks as I couldn’t see very far in front of me.

After a rather long climb and a short flattish run along a flagstoned path I arrived at the Cheviot summit. At this point I hauled out my compass to take the bearings to Hedgehope Hill, as there was no chance of spotting the hill from this distance in the mist. I followed a few runners over a stile and down a steep bank (no footpath at this point). The runners in front of me seemed confident about where they were going so I decided to follow them rather than the compass. However, I soon realised that they didn’t have a clue of the best route, so we all changed direction together following my compass bearing. We would need to cross Harthope Burn at a suitable place but after some additional trotting found a gentle slope and a narrow crossing point only getting slightly wet feet. I was relieved to see some walkers in front of me, so we couldn’t have gone too far off the right track. I was happy to see that they were Maggie and Christine power walking up the hill with great stamina. At last, I could also see the fence that led up to the hill summit.

As I descended down Hedgehope Hill all the fog had lifted and I could see green fields covered by fluffy cotton grass and further away Housey and Long Crags, meaning that Longlea Crag must be hidden behind them. Nearby a group of runners were carrying a lady with a twisted ankle, but they all seemed in good mood. It was getting hotter and I wished I had taken some sun cream with me, but at least I carried plenty of water (and there were often jelly babies on offer at the check points). The last half of the race was a complete contrast to the first; I was running in glorious sunshine through Harthope Valley, past Brands Corner and along Carey Burn to the suitably named Hell Path. My legs were rather knackered after the hills and started to cramp up during the last mile to the Youth Hostel. It was a relief to arrive at the finish and receive a rucksack and water bottle (apparently Liz, the lady I met at the start, had received a spot prize in her rucksack consisting of a large pair of pink pants – the latest alternative to t shirts and wine bottles?).

Overall, this was definitely one of the toughest races I’ve done due to the terrain (good contender this year to Allendale Challenge in terms of bogginess), but my memory is short so I’ll probably be back for more at some point. Also, next year is the 60th anniversary of Chevy Chase so not a bad choice for the 2016 racing calendar..

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 5, 2014

BL / 20M / 4,000'

Matt Claydon

As Aaron explained in last years report ones experience of this race can vary hugely depending on the weather conditions. This year my experience varied hugely all in the same race. Even before the start I felt a certain amount of trepidation having never run a proper fell race and having had limited training as I returned from best part of a year out. This was compounded by the requirement to run with full survival kit including waterproofs, fleece, food, water, map, compass, whistle, flaregun, crampons and a St Bernard. Oh and it’s 20 miles up and down mountains. Well very big hills. Driving up to Wooler through rain and mist did not give me any cheer, although I knew the course had been shortened in recent years when the weather was bad and I admit a repeat of this would not have upset me. Arriving at HQ it was optimistically reported that the mist would clear, which was good as at the time I couldn’t see Cheviot to navigate to.

The distance can be walked or run with the walkers heading off an hour earlier. It was a friendly hustle and bustle at the start where I arrived in time to see some friends off on the walk. An hour later I still felt a little nervous as it was our turn. I ran with a friend who turned up at the start with shoelaces untied and backpack spilling over. I at least felt organised if daunted. I had been a little surprised to see no other Striders at the start, a rare occurrence these days, so was pleased to have some company.

Going over the edge ...

Steady away for the first hour of undulating tracks I began to feel comfortable, even a bit cocky. As we approached the bottom of Cheviot I decided a sub 4 hours was potentially possible and I upped my game. The heavens opened as I tore (trotted) past some of the slower runners and straggling walkers. I caught my walking friends just before the summit fulfilling my threat from the pub the night before ( I left after a nursed pint, they stayed til 1 and hit the shots).

I lost my shoe in the deep peat bogs at the top and spent some unpleasant time retrieving it before charging (sliding) down the other side. This appeared to be an technique underused by the runners around me that I found quite successful. At least you get a rest. As I climbed Hedgehope (nearly as high as Cheviot) the clouds began to clear and I arrived at the summit knackered but dry. I had intended to stop for a rest here, but still optimistic for a good time I took a quick snap of the target in front, framed by a simply stunning panorama, and pushed on.

This is the halfway point, which if you think about too hard is quite unsettling. Luckily I have a talent for not thinking too hard about things and my confidence was growing. All downhill from here! There remains a lot of uphill for downhill, like an impossible scenic Esher print. The temperature steadily rose and stints along rabbit tracks, through gorse bushes and across bogs and rocky outcrops took there toll. A stretch along wooded riverside was stifling and I began to rapidly fade. This was around the 15mile mark, and every footfall required attention. As I (briefly) overtook the lass in front I saw her face was covered in blood. A hardy local type, she explained she had cut her lip falling on a rock. Fair play to her, she won a trophy later.

From here it was walk, jog, walk, jog back to Wooler. I did manage to pick off a few that could by now only manage the walk bit. A sprint (crawl) finish for the camera’s brought me home in 66th place sneaking under 4 hrs 30. I’ll definitely take it. Never ever again I thought. This is a blinking hard race, the hills which one assumes to be the hardest bit are actually relatively straightforward as long as you don’t try to run up them. It’s the long drag home you need to be prepared for. After 6 cakes and a coffee my friends trickled in and we enjoyed a pint in a sunlit beergarden down the way. By the end of the beer we had all agreed it was the hardest thing we had done, and that we would all be back next year.

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 6, 2013

BL / 20M / 4,000'

Aaron Gourley

To give this report some kind of context I think it would be wise of you to read last year’s reports. If you can’t be bothered to do that then I’ll give you a quick summary. The weather was poo, the course was shortened missing out the summits of Cheviot and Hedgehope to a distance of 15 miles (if you didn’t get lost!), Sue and Angela needed rescuing after 4.5 miles after getting lost and Nigel and I made it round to enjoy tea and buns whilst admiring the quality of Northumberland’s mud that had pasted itself to our bodies.

Right, now you’re up to speed with that, I’ll begin my report starting in February when the entries opened. I received an email advising that the entries were open on the Monday and like every other email I get I didn’t respond to it until a week later, too late, the race was full!

Last year was my first attempt at this race and as it had been shortened due to the weather I felt that I hadn’t actually ran this race properly so I was a little disappointed that I’d missed the entries. A quick email to the organisers got me on the waiting list and low and behold I eventually got a place.

The long slog up the Cheviot ...

Fast forward to July 6th and the weather this year couldn’t have been more different, unbroken sunshine and hot, hot temperatures meant this was going to be tough. Arriving in Woooler for registration and kit check I was quite surprised that we were still required to carry full body cover, especially since the conditions meant the needed to carry extra fluids.

So, smothered in factor 50 suncream, I made my way to the start and we were off, up the road and into the valley towards the first checkpoint at Broadstruther. The heat was making its presence felt, this was not going to be an easy race.

With the first check point in the bag it was off up to the second at Cheviot Knee where last year’s race turned off. This is where it all started to unravel. From here the climb up to Cheviot summit becomes one long, straight hands-on-knees slog to its peak at 2,676ft. There was a slight breeze blowing across the higher reaches but it just didn’t temper the heat which was getting more intense.

On reaching the summit I checked in and had a sit down to regain my breath. This year I’ve ran an ultramarathon, ran to the top of Scafell Pike and conquered the Swaledale marathon but this was proving to be a real beast of a race. Rest over; it was back off for a near vertical descent into the valley across the burn and back up the steep, trackless valley side to the summit of Hedgehope Hill at 2,348ft.

It’s fair to say I was knackered by the time I got to this point, 10 miles in and I was beginning to suffer in the heat. The descent off Hedgehope was steep and turned my legs to jelly. These two summits had been missing from last year’s race and what a difference they make, mixed with the heat meant the next 10 miles back to the finish were going to be hard won. I was pretty much walking up to the next checkpoint where I had another sit down before heading off to try and finish the race.

Breaking into a canter, I managed to get my legs moving enough to carry me to Brands Corner where I was handed a packet of Hula Hoops by one of the marshals. The salt hit was just what I needed to tackle the next section along the burn towards the dreaded Hells Path and in the heat; it really did fell like I was in Hell!

From here I pretty much gave up trying to run, I was just too exhausted and so the last 3 miles back to the finish were a long walk. With my feet on fire and muscles screaming I crossed the finish line where a lovely lady stood with a hose pipe ready to cool down the hot racers, the best part of the whole day!

It’s fair to say I nearly put myself off ever wanting to run this race again, but I think I’ll be back next year for another crack, but only if it’s less hot.

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 7, 2012

12M, or indeed 15M, or as much as 18M

Sue Jennings, Nigel Heppell, and Aaron Gourley

Sue Jennings …

Angela and I set off from Durham and headed up to Wooler for the Chevy Chase – we were a bit worried about the weather and course as we knew from others who have completed it in the past that it is tough – boggy and hilly and with the weather having been so bad over the last week, I think we were expecting to be up to our knees in mud and water!

When we arrived, we were disappointed to find that the route had been changed because of the weather (which was even worse at Wooler) and that the new course would only be 12 miles – hardly worth the 70 mile drive up to Wooler! We met up with Nigel and after managing to get all our kit sorted and a map, all of the runners set off at 10.30am. Angela and I were pretty much at the back from the start but managed to keep up with several other runners until the first check point (3.5 miles). At this point, I wanted to get a drink and this meant that we had a gap between us and the other runners and with the awful fog, we very soon lost sight of everyone – you could see 50 feet at the most!

A picture tells a thousand words ... here's a cracker from Nigel. We navigated for a mile or so with our map then came to a cross roads which wasn’t on our map – we were lost and we didn’t know what to do – continue on and potentially get more lost or go back to the first check point. We made the sensible decision not to carry on but to ring Andy to see if he could speak to the organisers and get some advice of what we should do – whilst waiting for them to call we headed back to the first check point. The organisers phoned us though and told us to stay put whilst they worked out where we were. We had been sensible with kit and had full weatherproofs, lots of food and whistles. Angela was told to blow her whistle 6 times every minute so the mountain rescue could find us. We did start to get cold after 30/45 minutes and did some extra training to keep us warm – squats, lunges and star jumps – the rescuers probably heard our laughing rather than the whistle!!!!!

They were great guys and were pleased that we were uninjured and that they had had a chance to get out on a “real” rescue and told us not to be daft with our apologies for getting lost. They said that it was lucky that a lot of other people didn’t get lost in the fog.

We were taken back to the finish where we had tea, sandwiches and cakes – all very nice – and waited for the awards ceremony at 3pm. Nigel was just coming in as we got back. The organisers apologised as the distance they had given as 12 miles was actually a lot further and most of the walkers/runners had done somewhere between 15 and 18 miles and most had got lost at some point. This made us feel a little better as most of the participants were very experienced on this terrain.

Needless to say we are now looking for a course to “hone” up our map and compass reading skills and we hope that something like this never happens again. Chevy Chase again next year? More than likely lol.

… Nigel Heppell …

Yes, due to weather conditions (the MC said if anyone fell in the burn they’d be rescued at Seahouses; and visibility on the tops was such as he couldn’t see his own feet) we were told that an alternative race route was now in force and the distance truncated to a lowly 12 miles from the expected 20.

Nigel after a bit of a cleanup. It was wet and the clag was down and it stayed that way until the end when the general consensus was that the actual distance travelled was a minimum of 15miles with, as testament to the poor visibility and the potential for getting lost, some admitting to 18miles!

A further indication of conditions was the special prize awarded to a group of marshals who took drinking water out to the Langlee Crags checkpoint on the previous evening and who had to self-rescue after getting lost, only to lose the location of the water supply on the actual race day. Not that we needed it; I drank only 100ml over the whole race but probably absorbed 10 times that much through my skin.

Memorable parts include several sections of true compass navigation, a glorious high-speed descent over 2km off Cheviot Knee, ever-cheerful marshals, and unlimited tea and buns at the finish.

… and Aaron Gourley:

I thought I’d add my Chevy Chase experience to the others as it seems everyone who took part had a very different experience.

Leading up to this race I’d been a little apprehensive as to whether I was fit enough. I’d not trained as much as I perhaps should have and after my blow-out in the Swaledale marathon in June, I was beginning to doubt my fell running ability over the longer distances. Add to that the atrocious weather leading up to this race, made me a bag of nerves on my journey up to Wooler. You can imagine my disappointment when the women at registration told me the course had been changed due to the weather and would miss out both Cheviot and Hedgehope summits reducing the course to “12” miles instead. I was now feeling a little more confident that I’d be able to complete this shortened course in a decent time should I not get lost in the fog or swept away in the burn.

Doh! The start of the race was a charge up the road for about three quarters of a mile before turning off onto the tracks to the first checkpoint. Straight away I was given a taste of things to come as the ground squelched beneath my feet and visibility began to reduce as we headed up the valley. The first checkpoint was found with no problems, a quick drink and off onto the second at Cheviot Knee. By now the field was thinning out as the fog got thinker and the ground softer. Hanging on to a guy who claimed he’d run the Chevy every year since 1994, I remained confident that he might lead me in the right direction. And so he did. Checking in at Cheviot Knee (approx 5.5miles), I had a quick drink then headed off for what I believe to have been the best downhill section of fell running I’ve ever done. This is not part of the normal race which would have headed up to the summit, but the conditions made this the most fun/terrifying 11 minutes of running I’ve done as I went for it on the long down hill to the next checkpoint at Hawsen Bridge. By now I was catching up with the walkers who were all in good spirits as they cheered on the runners.

A quick stop at Hawsen Bridge to catch my breath and tighten my shoes back up it was off to Housey Junction before a bit of an uphill slog to Langlee Crags where a dead sheep welcomed you to the checkpoint. Keeping close to my navigator, I was hoping he really did know his way now as a myriad of paths split off in all directions from here to the next checkpoint at Brands Corner. With the very dense fog and the field well spaced out now I’d have definitely got lost at this point had I been by myself. At Brands Corner I was back at the foot of the valley where it was a little bit clearer, but no less grim. My navigator was beginning to slow now so it was with regret that I went past him, but a quick look at my watch said that the distance I’d covered was around 11miles. At this point I thought not far now, then it dawned on me that I still had Hell’s Path checkpoint to get to then it was around 3 miles from there to the finish.. “If this is a 12 miler I’ve gone wrong somewhere,” I thought to myself. Arriving at Hell’s Path, my watch read 12.6 miles and the marshals confirmed that it was around 3 miles back to the start. Feeling a little dejected, it was off up onto Hell’s Path which had a series of helpful little placards to take your mind of the slog. My favourites being, ‘Onwards and Upwards’, ‘He who limps on is still walking’ and ‘WOW’.

Once at the top of Hell’s Path it was a gentle downhill to the farm where I almost missed a turn, only the silhouette of a runner from the corner of my eye stopped me from making a navigational error so close to the end of the race. Back on the right track it was a welcome relief to see tarmac and civilisation once more. Crossing the finish line with 15.48miles on my watch it wasn’t quite the 12 miles I’d expected but was a brilliant race which I’ll definitely be back next year for. I must also congratulate the organisers for getting the race on in such dire conditions and to all the marshals who get top marks for their dedication and support (and the endless supply of jelly sweets).

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 5, 2008

BL / 32.2km / 1219m

Shaun Roberts

The Chevy Chase is a 20-mile/4,000 feet fell run that takes in the Cheviot Summit and Hedgehope Hill. I was a bit apprehensive about doing this one straight after two weeks of lounging on a beach – when Geoff Davis says a race is “hard”, I tend to expect the worst – yet it started so well…

Quite steady undulating running for the first seven miles or so to the base of Cheviot, and then the expected plod up to the top. Emma passed me around here, and I was to follow her round for the next couple of hours. Reaching the top, you feel the race is now halfway done. But it isn’t. Now there’s a long steep knee-trembling descent down to Harthope Burn. I tried to get some momentum up and slide down, but it didn’t work – a fellow runner cried out “8.5”, having mistaken my manoevre for an advanced piece of gymnastics. Really looked forward to some uphill for a bit of relief after reaching the bottom, and my God it came in spades – seemed to take an age to get to the top of Hedgehope Hill, two and a half hours after starting, and I’d only done ten miles, just half the course!

Now I was rather optimistically looking forward to some steady descending, but no, it was more knee-trembling stuff, and at this point my right knee started to turn to jelly, or perhaps blancmange. Or was it Angel Delight? At any rate, not something ideally suited for running another eight hilly miles or so. Luckily the terrain wasn’t too bad now – I had to favour the right leg on the downhills, and just kept plugging away.

More than pleased to get to the finish, also pleased to get round in a shade over four and a half hours. Dave wasn’t far behind, having had a similar experience to mine. Phil had been trying to help a fellow-runner with wonky hips and no insoles get round in under five hours, which he managed with thirty seconds to spare. As for Emma – she pulled twenty minutes ahead of me to finish very strongly indeed.

Very welcome tea, buns and cakes at the finish – the heavens opened towards the end, but to be fair the weather had been very kind for most of the day. A hell of a day out – follow the link below for some great photos from Rob Stephens.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Iain Twaddle North Shields Poly 2:45:06
9 Rachel Vincent Tynedale F 1 3:19:22
73 Emma Bain W40 4:12:20
102 Shaun Roberts M50 4:32:15
113 Dave Robson M50 4:42:29
128 Phil Owen M40 4:59:30

165 finishers.

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 7, 2007

BL / 32.2km / 1219m

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 David Kirkland Alnwick Harriers M 3:13:46
17 Louise Wilkinson NFR F 3:49:40
32 Will Horsley NFR M 4:14:16
44 Susan Davis NFR F40 4:23:58
119 Mary Gibson F50 6:16:52
120 Jane Nathan F40 6:16:54
124= Christine Farnsworth F50 6:33:38
124= Margaret Thompson F50 6:33:38

131 runners finished.
93 walkers also finished.