Lower Borrowdale Skyline Fell Race

Lower Borrowdale, Cumbria, Saturday, May 21, 2022

AM / 20km / 1000m

Nigel Heppell

A new race located in the Lower Borrowdale valley, part of the 2016 extension to the Lake District National Park, an area I have not been to before so what better way to take a look than join in a race around it?

This event also happens to have been selected as one of the 2022 English Fell Running Championship Races and attracted over 320 entrants, mostly high-calibre athletes in all age and gender categories … and me.

Being a ‘Skyline’ race, the route was fairly straightforward but we were all equipped with dibbers and strict instructions to dib at each of 9 checkpoints (see below) to make sure we didn’t take any shortcuts.

Starting at the farm halfway along the valley floor the route started off on an inclined right of way to take us onto the Access Land at the shoulder below Belt Howe before a sharp left (westwards) on undulating trods and tracks and tussocky, boggy grass along Borrowdale Edge, over Wintercleugh, and Winash tops before meeting Breasthigh Road (a proper Green Lane with full public access) and a nice rapid descent to the valley floor and a quick dash through, yes, through the river.

It was now time to regain all that lost altitude with a steep ascent, hands on knees, no running, to Ashstead Fell and on through forestry over multiple ups and downs, twists and turns, bogs and rocks over Mabbin Crag and out once more onto Access Land leading to the bigger climbs up Castle Fell, Whinfell Beacon, a pair of radio masts, Grayrigg Forest followed by a toe-numbing descent to the eastern end of the valley floor and a welcome pause at a water station. The day had warmed up considerably but things were about to get hotter with the final big climb up to the summit of Jeffrey’s Mount.

It’s only about 200m ascent but this is an ‘in-your-face’ clamber; a couple of extracts from the FRA forum:

‘one real hands-on-knees climb’

‘Blew up on the last climb up to cp8 and didn’t really do much running to cp9’

‘that steep long effort cooked me, so I was treading water from then on’

Personally I was hit by cramp in both legs, thighs, calves, shins and made a very slow, very painful job of getting up there and I struggled to get running again off the top. My own fault for not getting any training in post-Covid on the steeper ground typical of the Lake District.

It remained to hobble around Casterfell Hill and up onto Belt Howe before the final checkpoint situated in the col and picking up the flagged track to the finish line in the valley below.

Winning times:
1:37:48 Brennan Townshend, Keswick AC, MSEN
1:54:05 Sarah McCormack, Ambleside AC, WSEN

3:19:02 Nigel Heppell – 304th of 317 with a further 9 DNF.

Ahead of me was one M70, one M75, and Wendy Dodds; but I managed to hold off the one M80!

Course Details (English Championship 20k)

Mass StartNY 578020Farm (12:00)
CP1NY 587022Belt Howe col
CP2NY 576028Winterscleugh (unmanned)
CP3NY 563042Breasthigh Road
WaterNY 554037River crossing
CP4NY 558031Cairn, Ashstead Fell (unmanned)
CP5NY 569014Castle Fell (unmanned)
CP6NY 573002Whinfell Beacon
CP7SD 598997Grayrigg Forest trig point
WaterNY 606014Borrowdale Wood
CP8NY 604023Jeffrey’s Mount
CP9NY 587022Belt Howe col
FinishNY 584014Camp ground

External Links

Full Results

Race Video (93 minutes long) (Editor’s note: Nigel probably didn’t know this existed! Go to 0:06:00 and 1:25:30.)

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