Saltwell Harriers Fell Race, Stanhope, Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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Penny Browell

After a tough day I was delighted that childcare and work allowed me to escape to try out this little fell race. There is nothing better to clear the mind than a run in our beautiful countryside and the fact that the race had been described as a “little brute of a race” made it sounds like a great challenge.

Penny running strongly at the Saltwell Harriers' Fell Race just prior to the 'fluid exchange' (see article)

Whilst some of our speedy club mates met in Newcastle for the 5 mile Bridge of the Tyne Race, a hardy group of 10 purple-vested adventurers met in a layby on a road near Stanhope to begin our Tuesday evening. As we waited for the start the wind was a touch chilly but the sun was out and after a somewhat scary briefing (“obey the rules or I will tell the FRA and you will never run a fell race again”) we were off.

The race soon warms you up as it starts with a steady climb first on track and then through the grass. Once we’d turned at the mast we ran directly into the sun which made it quite difficult to make out where your feet were going. There were plenty of boggy puddles to keep you on your toes and I was quite happy to learn from the runner in front where not to plant my feet. I have to say I felt absolutely great out there – the views were fabulous and seeing runners spreading out into the distance always gives me a buzz. My enjoyment was only slightly diminished when, whilst overtaking a DFR runner, who (I hope not realising I was there) deposited a full mouthful of spit across my face. Maybe he just couldn’t handle being ‘chicked’…

After crossing the road we continued the descent to the stream checkpoint. As ever I lost places on the descent. I was aware that at this point I was first Strider. I didn’t know where I was in the ladies’ ranking but I knew I didn’t want to drop back. So each time someone passed me I breathed a sigh of relief that it was neither a strider nor a woman! The descent becomes suddenly much steeper just before the stream and I had to resort to sliding down on my bum as running was never going to work. The bum tactic was fairly efficient and I was soon into the stream, slightly disappointed it was nothing like the wade through the Tees at Cronkley a couple of weeks ago but quite appreciative of the refreshing cold water. As I scrambled out I heard what I’d feared from the start – Graeme’s voice….it was going to be a repeat of Cronkley with him flying past me and me regretting taking the first hill too fast!

Penny finally overhauls a fast-finishing Graeme on the 'velvet path' climb to the finish of the Saltwell Harriers' Fell RaceI tried to push on but the next section along the contour of the hill was quite uncomfortable. I’d turned my ankle slightly on the descent and couldn’t get into a rhythm. Unsurprisingly Graeme passed me and when we had to negotiate a tricky little downhill section I thought I’d lost him. To make matters worse I could hear a woman breathing down my neck. Now I didn’t really mind Graeme beating me but since someone had mentioned I was second lady on the downhill, I did not want to lose my place. Next up was a fairly steep uphill section and I knew this was my chance to lose her. I put my foot on the gas and passed a couple of men so I knew there was space between us. This burst of speed brought Graeme back into sight. As I levelled with him I asked how far we had to go – he warned there was a steep uphill to finish but with my hill rep training in the bag (thanks Tom) I decided I’d be fine. So on I went. The final climb was painful but with the end in sight I pushed on and was delighted to cross the line and grab my much-needed bottle of water.

As many people have said before, this really is a cracking little race and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Summer’s evening. At just £5 it’s an absolute bargain (especially as they are generous with prizes!). Anyone who is tempted to try fell racing I really recommend this one next year. You won’t regret it!

Results

position bib name club cat time
1 65 Andy Blackett Durham Fell Runners M 42.48
29 84 Karen Robertson NFR F40 51:02
47 86 Penny Browell F V40 53.56
51 55 Graeme Walton M V40 54.21
53 16 Michael Bennett M V60 54.51
75 73 Shaun Roberts M V55 59.28
83 57 Katy Walton F Senior 62.38
88 87 Stephanie Piper F Senior 63.48
97 31 Jan Young F V60 65.36
108 62 Anita Clementson F V45 73.13
110 63 Diane Watson F V50 76.52
111 64 Jean Bradley F V55 78.02

113 finishers.

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