Running Striders: Shaun, Alister, Geoff, Dave, Susan, Jan, John, Mike, Phil, Nigel, Colin, Camilla (first fell race), Dougie, Will, Maggie, Stephen, Me (Wavey Davey), and Mike’s daughter, Rosa (first race, ever).
Weather: Perfect for running; broken skies (shock, horror, some blue could be seen), low cloud, cool, lazy breeze, no bugs and no rain.
Getting ready (putting my white socks on) just below the start line at the top of Crawleyside Bank I immediately felt embarrassed and somewhat intimidated. The abundance of athletic, high endurance muscles was high, and the sense of an over presence of folks that had clearly fell raced since their time in the womb. And then there was me.
After a wee delay, 117 runners gathered at the start line for a briefing. As per usual the planned route had changed. In brief, it was DIY up hill where we ran over shale (yes, there will be geology in this report. This rock is a potential source of oil and gas) to the furthest radiomast (~0.75m). Anticlockwise around the mask we followed the fence line (strict instructions to stay on the left of the fence. No idea why) for ~1m. This took you across some rather interesting uneven heather covered moorland, bog with a hint of quagmire, and peaty earth, and over sandstone (a rock that is a potential reservoir of oil and gas). The route then continued across the road (B6278) and then headed south on almost level but wet ground for about 0.5m. A hairpin turn started you off on a blessed 1m decline that terminated at the stream. Then into the stream (which was strangely quite refreshing) to punch your number, before following the streams path, firstly contouring slightly up hill and then abruptly down to the start of the finale of the route – the hill of terror – a hill of varying gradients all the way to the finish line. Six miles of bog, peat, heather, stream, oh and hill loving fun complete. Great fun was had by all, especially by me. It was then off to the Moorcock Inn for the presentation, refreshment, a bit of grub, and prizes.
Question: What is the secret to making bog coloured socks white?
…and Camilla Lauren-Määttä
Having done a few 10k, half-marathon and cross country races I needed a new challenge and a shorter fell race seemed like a suitable one that didn’t involve a lot of extra training. I was told that Stanhope fell race is a good and fun introduction to fell running so it seemed like a good taster race. To be on the safe side I packed down my (dog)whistle, map and compass and headed to Maiden Castle to meet up with Dave Shipman and Will Horsley, just to discover that Dave was dressed in a smart suit, so apparently I had missed something about the dress code (it later turned out that he didn’t actually run in his suit). Will kindly gave us a speedy lift in his 4×4 (I think there must be a correlation between how fast people drive on narrow roads and their fell-running pace) whilst explaining the course, which apparently involved wading through bogs and streams in waist-high water. He conveniently parked his car right on the start line, which I guess is one of the main reasons to owning a 4×4.
There was a good turnout of Striders (Shaun, Geoff, Dave, Susan, Jan, John, Mike, Phil, Nigel, Colin, Dougie, Will, Maggie, Stephen, Alister, Dave Selby, Mike’s daughter Rosa and myself). Most racers looked liked very seasoned fell runners, but when the organisers asked for runners who hadn’t done the race before a fair few raised their hands. We got a detailed explanation about how to stay on the right side of the fence and not crossing streams so that we wouldn’t get lost. Apparently, anybody less than 5 feet tall was also in danger of being washed away by the stream. This seemed suitably adventurous compared to Blaydon or the Great North Run, where the most likely fatality is being hit by a car.
The route started by a reasonably comfortable ascent along a gravel trail, but soon we were trampling on boggy ground and dense heather moorland near the radio mast. Dave’s regular training on Waldridge fell was apparently good preparation for this and he merrily bounced off disappearing into the distance. There were also a few wide ditches to hop over before crossing the road. Next came the most enjoyable part of the race, with a gentle grassy down-hill slope and postcard views over moorlands and hills. Wading into the stream to punch the race number at the check-point was also rather fun (and even on me the water only reached up to mid-calf level). After this, there was some not too strenuous running along the stream. I spotted Dave’s purple vest in the distance and made sure I didn’t lose sight of him and the other runner in front of me, as I wasn’t too keen to get lost. We were getting closer to the finish and as Will had explained there was a very steep uphill gradient. I’d decided not to walk, but for a while it seemed that my walking was just as fast as my running so I resorted to some walking at the steepest section. However, being a slightly shorter and lighter runner I managed to overtake Dave in the hill. Eventually, I also managed a half-hearted sprint thanks to Alister and others cheering in all Striders by the finishing line.
I thoroughly enjoyed the race and would definitely recommend trying out a fell race. The atmosphere at the presentation in the Moorcock pub afterwards was very friendly and cheerful with some free food and prizes (real ale) for everybody, regardless of position.