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!
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.
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.
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).