At the end of the week leading up to the Hobble we enjoyed a huge dump of snow in the north-east, causing almost all of the regional parkruns to be cancelled the day before. I’d originally intended to do Eskdale Eureka, but that had been cancelled during the week. Luckily, Penny Browell had spotted that this was still a possibility and was a similar distance and climb to the Eureka.
But with the weather, would the race be on? Would we be able to get there? Thankfully the race was confirmed and by sticking to the A1 and A69, Penny and I had a really easy journey on gritted roads all the way to Allendale Town.
Race HQ was in the primary school, which had plenty of parking, a space to leave bags and decent loos…always an important factor in choosing a race. David Simm and John Bean had also made it through, so we four Striders lined up on the road next to the school for the off sharp at 11 o’clock.
Mentally I’d broken the race into five sections. The first started on roads, with a short descent (100m or so) followed by the first part of the main climb for a mile. I’d started at the back to prevent myself going off with a rush of blood to the head, and it appeared to pay off. I managed to overhaul John before the end of that first part of the climb, when we turned left onto a farm track.
The road had been clear of snow and ice up to that point. I’d chosen a thermal base layer under my vest and didn’t regret it. I’d also chosen to run with Yaktrax over my shoes, anticipating that most of the course would be frozen. I wasn’t wrong and it started in earnest underfoot from here.
This mental second leg was a longer one, the next 5 miles or so. The main climb continued for the first of these, passing from farmland onto the open moor. What followed included undulations, crossing two streams and a hard left turn, before reaching a high point below Watson’s Pike. Honestly, I’m getting this all from the map. We were in cloud, the path was narrow and, in the wintry conditions, it took all my concentration to stay on my feet, so I wasn’t savouring any breath-taking views. I was catching people as we crossed the moors and had to pick my moments to pass – jumping into the heather at the wrong moment would just sap energy. I still managed to pick up a few places. From Watson’s Pike, we started a lovely descent, but I was still being held up in traffic so I couldn’t make as much of it as I would have liked.
At the end of the moor, we turned onto a tarmac road and my inner leg 3. The Yaktrax came into their own here; as others struggled to find traction on the icy road, I was able to get some pace going.
Unfortunately, this was only a short section. With a twist in the road and another river crossing I started leg 4, which began with a short, stiff climb on a wide track through farmland. As I reached the top, I could see David ahead of me. I counted the seconds off from a gate as he passed it and reckoned he was about 40 seconds up on me. I wanted to see if I could catch him.
The path continued to climb gradually as we crossed the final section of moor. I couldn’t be certain, but it seemed as though I was reeling David in. The gradient turned to the final downhill we left the moor back onto tarmac and onto my leg 5.
Now I knew I was making inroads; I could see the gap closing. Soon I’d closed David down to 10 seconds, then 5 and then I was behind him. The road started to snake a little as we started to enter the town. I thought about sitting there, out of sight, and trying to out-kick him at the finish. Had the race mattered, that’s exactly what I would have done. But this wasn’t an A race, we weren’t competing for podium places or GP points or any other glory. I planned to race again the following weekend, so I asked myself whether it was worth risking slipping and a heavy fall, and the answer was a simple “no”.
I pulled alongside David with about 400m to go and we agreed we would run in together. We picked up a few more places as we powered down the road, before turning into the finish and I eased off to let David cross first. I’ll save that finish for another day.
Penny was already back and was second F50. John arrived back not long after. We scooted off before the prize-giving to get back but not before we’d made the most of the wonderful tea and cake on offer to all runners.
It was exhilarating to get out and race in truly wintry conditions, especially when it was all so uncertain.
|Tyne Bridge Harriers
Full results are published here.
This report was originally published as part of a set in the article below.
Nick finds that a change in the winter weather makes a big difference to two similar winter fell races in Northumberland, only a week apart.