Ok, I’ll admit it, I wanted the GP points. And with that confession the story of how I came to be on the start line of my first ever fell race becomes a lot easier to tell. I’d eyed this one up earlier in the year when the fixtures were published, the need for kit including a map and a compass had almost put me off, but chatting to a few clubmates about the race assuaged my fears and with borrowed kit (thanks to Fiona, Katy and Jon!), some very kind offers of chaperoning on the day (thanks Dave, Bill and Alister!) and the very welcome offer of a lift (thanks Graeme and Katy!) I thought I might as well give it a go.
Basecamp was the local school with tea and cake on sale beforehand and plenty of space to change and leave bags and debate how many layers would be sensible with the other Striders. Compared to the snow, ice and hypothermia-inducing temperatures from previous years it was ridiculously mild and I really couldn’t have asked for more from the weather. Sure, it was a bit boggy underfoot in places but even that wasn’t as bad as XC and it was warm enough for me to remove my hat after the first mile and not to put it back on. That might also have been to do with the fact that the first mile is a 25% gradient uphill, I’d been warned that it was hilly to begin with but ouch! Fell racers are, in the main, sensible people though and tend to walk up the big hills, something I stuck to on the way round and probably was the best bit of advice I got.
Once up the big hill we were on to the moors, a boggy track with some puddles to navigate over, a couple of sharp downhills, some more boggy bits, another ascent and then down onto a gravelly track before climbing back up again and along the top of a ridge. Then a very steep tarmac downhill, followed by an even steeper track uphill before some more moors and then the final welcome tarmac downhill. It was glorious out on the moors, although having to concentrate on where my feet were going most of the time meant there weren’t too many opportunities to enjoy the view. I managed to escape unscathed though unlike Graeme who had fallen in a ditch and a lady behind me who had just been telling me about how she’d fallen over at the same point last year when I heard a crash and turned round to see her sprawled on the path having been tripped up by a rock. I even managed to have enough in my legs to out-sprint a very disgruntled woman on the line but in my defence it was downhill and I just couldn’t stop (and I’d been trying to get past her for the last mile, that too)! Very chuffed with my finishing time of just under 1:54 and also very grateful for all the Strider support out on the course, I definitely couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and advice along the way. Some excellent Strider performances too with Shaun splitting the Waltons at the top of the field and the ladies teams finishing 3rd (Katy, Camilla, Me) and 5th (Anita, Angela and Sue) overall.
The reward for finishing was a lovely cup of tea in the “Hexhamshire Hobble” mug that you got for finishing, and also a crack at the largest spread of cakes I have ever seen – perfect for tired legs. It may take me the best part of a month to get the mud out of my shoes but I really enjoyed my introduction to fell racing and despite the fact that I suspect I will never be as lucky with the weather again I will definitely be back!