After two consecutive DNS’s for varying strains and splutters, I was becoming restless and fearful that my racing pants would ne’er be soiled again. I chanced upon this fell race via a rather delightful little flyer, described as a ‘lovely route in rural Tynedale’, I scraped the Harrier League muck off my fell shoes, and trundled over after work .
Blue skies awaited me and I was greeted into the school, superb organisation saw signs direct me to my destination, which appeased any anxieties about finding the place. I changed into my kit as the school yard slowly filled, before signing a short form and handing over £6 in exchange for a number AND safety pins. There was a ten minute walk to the start line (field) again well marked and I trotted along with a couple other runners. Being rather early I started a few effortless drills up and down the starting hill, before cheering on the juniors, a great sight to see and some fantastic efforts shown on their little faces.
The starting pen (corner of field, behind the cow muck/nettles) started to fill up, as I glanced at vests emblazoned with words such as ‘Keswick’, my dreams of a podium finish were dashed (apparently they have good hills to play on). Brief instructions from the race director (“duck under barbed wire, don’t get run over, don’t break your ankle”) a blow on the whistle and we were off, upwards being the direction. We began the climb up and around the hill and into the woods, continuously climbing in single file, with respite coming by form of kissing gates and stiles.
Due to a recent chest plague I was wary not to kill myself going up, so I held back a little to set the scene and figure out the probabilities of me dropping down dead (fair to middling). Still we climbed, forever upwards, however my legs felt strong and I kept my position. The field had spread out rapidly, and by the time we reached the open fells there was a fair gap betwixt runners. As I steadily climbed, and realised I was likely to see my family again, I decided to press on. There was a Tynedale lass about 50 m ahead, she would be my first target, and I changed up a gear and overtook just as we neared the highest point.
It’s up here we get our numbers crossed with red felt tip from the race directors mother, and begin our descent. Guided only by small markers I spied one runner ahead, a civilian not belonging to a club. With around 2 miles to go I now wanted to race, and somewhat regretted taking it easy in the early stages. I began hurtling myself through the overgrown fells, unsure where my feet were landing, with the occasional bog adding a refreshing surprise. The civilian began nervously descending, and politely stepped aside as I put on my best ‘I know what I’m doing’ face and sprinted past him, arms flailing like an octopus in a tank top.
As we looped back toward the woods, I glanced back and noticed a pack had given chase, amongst them lads from Elswick and Morpeth, we crossed stiles and began the race down the wooded single tracks, no room to overtake and I was leading the pack. Around a mile to go I was galloping over roots, winding my way down and down with exhilarating speed (I thought so anyway). No idea where I was in regards to position, but I pretty soon got my Harrier League head on, and there was no way either of these lads were passing me, it wasn’t going to happen. As we were spat out of the woods, into the open and onto the road, my cushion-less fell shoes turned to stone as we raced toward the finish and I held off the pack as promised, to a hero’s welcome.
I finished in a time of 45.45, and 23rd out of 60. This was indeed a ‘lovely route’, and a one to look out for next year. The size of the field was small enough to remain friendly, and big enough to spread across all abilities – but I couldn’t help thinking some of our faster lads and lasses should get over there to race some fantastic runners and push themselves on the fells, maybe Keswick will be the ones shaking at the start.