A Tale of Two Races

Nick Latham

Original images ©Joe Elstob and Mike Steven

The weather plays a huge part in fell races, especially over the winter. These were my experiences at two winter north-eastern races which were separated by just a week. Read each of the reports below in turn to see for yourself.

Hexhamshire Hobble 2023

Nick Latham races on the moors of Allendale, despite recent heavy snow.

Simonside Cairns 2023

Nick Latham heads off to the hills of Northumberland in mild but somewhat soggy winter conditions.

Fancy a go?

Two weeks, two very different races, both well-organised – and very different weather.

The Hobble would be a great introduction to fell racing. The Cairns is tougher. The B rating means more climb and it’s a fraction longer; the different weather and underfoot conditions account for the rest of the 26-minute difference in my times over the two courses.

The time of year means careful consideration of kit and shoe choices to suit the conditions for both. Neither required navigation, the mandatory map and compass only carried for safety this time around, so if that’s something that puts you off giving a fell race a try, it shouldn’t. There are plenty on the calendar which are achievable if you want to give them a go and lots of experience and advice available in the club if you’re unsure of which one(s) to try. Over the winter, Captain Cook’s on New Year’s Day is always popular with Striders and Guisborough Woods during the week before is straightforward, it’s a bit more like extreme cross-country!

The fields are typically smaller than road races and it’s a friendly community. For only a few quid there may not be a medal or a t-shirt, but I’d much rather have a cake or a mug of soup at the finish these days anyway. Oh, and some decent loos.

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