A humid, damp and overcast Sunday dawned for the latest iteration of this wonderful little race in the hamlet of Holwick, deep in Upper Teesdale. Twenty four other runners, a handful of marshalls and six Striders (four there for love of the race, one because she thought she’d love it and one because he’s got a fight on his hands for the club GP and needed the points) made up the numbers outside the Strathmore Arms for the basic count-off and race briefing, then a very fast three count sent us off, up the road and away.
It comforted me somewhat to find out afterwards that my thoughts on the first couple of miles had been shared by others, though at the time I wasn’t to know that Penny and Graeme had also disliked them; hard track in the mist and a pace pushes a little harder than maybe I’d have chosen to because of the smallness of the field – I’m not someone who enjoys a quick start, but the sight of a slim thread of vets slowing pulling away over the sheep-strewn moorland dragged me forwards faster than intended despite a strong headwind. Lungs burned and thighs ached as we left the track and crossed a flat, boggy area then commenced the ascent up to the first of the cairns that mark what is, for me, where the fun begins in this race, passing a marshall in high visibility jacket, dropping sharply down a grassy bank and through a beck then heading west again towards the climb onto Cronkley Fell plateau itself, by my reckoning in sixth as the third of a trio, a chap from DPFR trailing thirty metres behind. The climb hit hard, runnable mostly so not providing the opportunity to drop to a walk without fear that someone would pull away, and it was here that the chap from DPFR caught and overtook us. As it dragged on, turning north through a rocky gully with a beck several metres drop to our left, I managed to push up to fifth with a steady shuffle, then fourth as we crested onto the wind-dried expanse of the plateau, the Tees far below to our north and the fenced expanses of Warcop training area to the south. By now the mist had cleared, allowing the occasional chance to actually appreciate it all.
I held fourth and had brief visions of catching Andy Blackett of DFR in third until we hit the long drop to the Tees, my best efforts down resulting in a couple of slips and the DPFR and Coniston runners coming past. Through the field at the bottom on the hill we raced, into the Tees to get our numbers clipped and pay homage to Samuel, the DFR crocodile (this year having a swim) and then, after a horribly slow exit caused by the stones, polished by centuries of lowing water, resulting in an
inadvertent dunking to the waist, back out and up the hill, back into sixth.
This, unfortunately, is where I stayed despite nearly catching both the DPFR and Coniston vests ahead of me on the climb whilst Penny and Graeme hurtled past me seconds apart; once on the largely downhill final four miles despite throwing everything I had into regaining lost places the pair of them gradually inched ahead by virtue of great balance and superior speed, though I managed to lose by some distance my own pursuers also. The descents were as exhilarating as ever, the stretch on the track much more enjoyable in reverse, either because it meant that the end was near or because running it downhill, with the sun out, is just nicer, and the last few hundred metres on the road back to the Strathmore Arms seemed over as soon as it began, with a ‘proper’ fell race finish of half a dozen people quietly applauding and a couple of Labradors strangely excited by the pungent runner smell. Graeme and Penny (third lady) weren’t far after, he finally getting ahead of her, Paul Foster next and then Phil and Jan 29th and 30th of 30 runners, he limping and she scooping the FV60 prize.
Worrying, vital statistic time: thirty runners, one fifth of them Striders, paid £5 each to race 10.5 of the most scenic miles our county has to offer, with a seriously good pub at the end, making this race barely viable for DFR to organise. If this is the last running of the race then so be it, as it has seen some great running over the years and has been a highlight of the calendar for those who enjoy the hilly stuff in our club. If it is on again, I must urge that anyone who enjoys a nice trail race consider giving this a try as it will not be regretted.
(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)