At some point in December, following Jan and Paul’s deceptively encouraging description of this race I made the decision to tackle the Captain Cook’s fell race – what better way to bring in the New Year than with a new running challenge?
New Year’s Eve came around. I dug out my Camelback rucksack and stuffed it with three different waterproof jackets, trousers, map, compass, whistle and penknife – just in case I needed to cut my arm off. Emergency jelly babies also went in as a precaution. The FRA kit-list was a little intimidating – all this for a five mile yomp up a hill and back? Yikes.
I travelled down with Scott and Diane Watson, who were also running, and their daughter Kathryn who had come to spectate and take photographs. Once registered it was time to sort out the bag. Scott kindly (ruthlessly?) vetted the contents (out went two of the jackets, the trousers, the jelly babies and the knife…). Ready to race? You betcha.
As a GP race, fellow Striders were out in force. We had just enough time for a group photo with the wicker soldier before bunching up at the start line. Despite having read the last few years’ race reports and studying the route I really had no idea what to expect, so I simply focussed on getting round the race and set off at a steady pace.
Once out of the village and off the tarmac, the trail soon became narrow and muddy. The frost and snow from the past few days had thawed in the balmy 12 degrees and turned the trail thick with clarts the Mud Captains would have been proud of. It wasn’t long before the steady running pace turned to a walk as each step tried to claim a shoe, an ankle, a competitor.
Hidden within the depths of the woods was the steepest ascent. I craned my neck upwards to see the legs and feet of several Striders disappearing from view. Mel Hudson appeared at my side and we trudged upwards before finally breaking out of the trees to be buffeted by a strong side wind across the tops. Mel put her head down and started on ahead, towards the monument itself, which was miraculously close – I’d almost forgotten we were meant to be running! I kept close as the route turned downhill across slabs and track, picking up plenty of speed past the fir trees decorated with tinsel and baubles.
The descent steepened and deteriorated into even thicker mud, resembling the Aykley Heads XC course – but on steroids. Choose a line: through the middle, ankle deep? Jump from side to side? I tried the latter, pinballing between trees and the sides of the ruts, but these were covered in the slick mud churned up by the runners in front and far too unstable. Through the middle it was then, praying I tied my laces tight enough.
We skirted the old mines before descending on to tarmac and past the houses of Gribdale Terrace and Dikes Lane. Almost every inhabitant had come out to watch us, waving, cheering and wishing a “Happy New Year” over the garden wall. The sharp right hand bend and short, steep uphill section took me by surprise. I walked again, not recalling how much was left of the race from the map and how much energy I might need to conserve. Mark Dunseith thundered past, shouting over his shoulder I was under the hour mark and disappeared through a gate as the course headed back off-road. I followed suit, determined not to let him get too far ahead as the route took the occasional twist and turn through more woods and fields.
Suddenly I heard shouting and looked up from my detailed study of the still-clarty trail to see that a sea of multicoloured people were stood around the next corner. Was this the end? Surely not. It couldn’t be over already? I crossed the line, bewildered, into the laughing and clapping throng of far speedier Striders. What had just happened? My first fell race was conquered, and the seed of a new running curiosity was planted. That was what happened.
|1||Paul Lowe||North York Moors||M45/1/50/50||32.49|
|4||Bronwen Owen||Scarborough AC||FJ/1/50/50||33.53|
|197||Camilla Lauren Maatta||F45/5/44/186||51.42|