I was really looking forward to this race for multiple reasons: 1) I love fell running; 2) It’s a GP race so there would be lots of friendly faces there (plus some added motivation!); 3) I had fond memories from last year after finishing 5th lady (although I put this down to the appalling weather which meant a poor turnout!); 4) It was a gloriously sunny evening and 5) I REALLY love fell running.
There was indeed a pretty decent Strider turnout, including the mean machine that is Katy Walton! Seeing as Katy had just run a pretty amazing PB at the Humber Bridge half marathon just 2 days beforehand, whilst I had had a relatively restful weekend, I was vaguely hopeful that I may be in with a rare chance of giving her a run for her money!
I felt reasonably comfortable as we set off up the hill – a long but quite gentle climb, and I managed to overtake quite a few people. Sadly, my legs weren’t feeling particularly rested at all, but despite that I felt like I was going ok and making good progress, so when it started to flatten out I tried to keep going strong. Soon we started a long and gentle descent, although the ground underfoot was pretty rough – gotta keep your wits about your footing at this race. With the lack of rain recently, I was expecting pretty dry underfoot conditions, but it wasn’t long before I was greeted by a rather large boggy puddle. And for some stupid reason (I guess I’m just a huge pansy) I dithered for a good few seconds trying to work out how to negotiate it! It was at this point that I heard Katy’s menacing voice behind me – I can’t remember what she said, but it sure struck the fear of death into me as I now knew she was right behind me and those seconds of dithering could cost me dear. This prompted me to just splash through the bog any which way, as I should have done in the first place, and surprise surprise, it did not kill me.
On I trotted, well aware that Katy was close behind and a little surprised she hadn’t overtaken me yet. But then I thought … I know her game plan … she is just gonna let me pace her comfortably round and then overtake me on the uphill finish at the end (I had failed miserably to keep up with her during the hill session she put on last week). The descent is long and after crossing the road it gradually gets steeper and steeper, and rougher and rougher, and also pretty damp in places. I fell over in some bog at one point and witnessed several others doing the same. All the time I was convinced Katy was just behind me but I never once looked back, because that rarely works for me, it just makes me nervous and I prefer just to focus on what I’m doing. Katy didn’t pass me on the descent but fellow Strider Scott did – we had passed each other a few times already and he was clearly tiring of this child’s play and looked pretty comfortable on the descent.
Soon I reached the stream, where we had to go into the stream to clip our numbers! It’s a VERY steep descent down to the stream, not everyone’s cup of tea (including mine!) but I loved the stream! So refreshing! I wished I could have stayed in there for longer! It was pretty deep – I had soggy knickers when I came out! I wouldn’t advise carrying any valuables in your pockets for this race! It wasn’t until I was clambering out the stream that I realised Katy was nowhere to be seen! Turns out the purple vest I could sense behind me was that of Graeme! I was quite relieved at this point but I didn’t want to relax too much as I figured I must have been doing quite well and it would be a shame to let things slip at this stage.
So I pushed on up the next hill (brisk walk rather than running at this point!) and onto higher ground again where we had to contour around the hillside – I remember hating this bit last year as again the ground is very uneven and you are running on a slant. This year I didn’t find it too bad but I had a steely determination about me by now! In addition, I was still stupidly furious at myself for dithering earlier on at the bog…I couldn’t stop thinking about how ashamed mudman and mudwoman would have been!! So I was feeling the need to punish myself! A short descent followed (in fact quite a horrible one for those of us who don’t like steep, loose ground!) before the final uphill push to the finish. A marshal at the bottom of the hill informed that I was 3rd, or maybe 4th lady … YAY, I thought! But then I realised there was another lady not too far behind me and so if I was going to retain my position I was going to have to run all the way up this hill with a fair amount of conviction! And with some words of encouragement from Graeme, that’s what I did. I gave it my all and finished comfortably ahead of her. Turns out I had been in 4th position – I would have loved a podium finish but at least I was one place up on last year! I was completely knackered at the end, I had found it a very tough run. I would say that most finishers looked suitably knackered after the uphill finish, but some great results from fellow Striders nonetheless.
This is a great race and very friendly and fun atmosphere. There is a good amount of marshalling and taping for a fell race, so although it’s not the easiest of courses (in my opinion anyway) it is still pretty beginner-friendly.
Rachael neglects to mention that the Striders Ladies (Rachael, Katy & Camilla) were first ladies team 🙂