Category Archives: Fell

The Last Anniversary Waltz Fell Race, Stair Village Hall, Keswick, Saturday, April 21, 2018

11.5 miles, 3600 foot of ascent

Paul Evans

Photo courtesy of Tim SkeltonThis is not just a report about a race. This is a love story. With a race central to it.

I’d first heard of the Anniversary Waltz when, around 14 years ago, a striking photo of a runner approaching the summit of, I think, Robinson, the lush green of the Newlands valley in the background, graced the front cover of The Fellrunner. Over the years, I’d wondered at the unusual name and had got as far as entering a few years ago, only for life to make other plans. This year was different, as it was announced that the race would be run for the final time, due to the death of one of the married couple who have for two decades organised the race; if not now, never.

Race day dawned bright, with the skies over Keswick clear and the road out to Stair village busy with running traffic – it appeared that Jack, Fiona and I were not alone in taking the last opportunity to race here, and we were informed that c600 runners were here for the Waltz, and c300 for the Teenager (the 15m extended version), many north-eastern vests amongst them, as well as a smattering of national-level talent; to all intents and purposes, this felt very much like an unofficial extension to the English Championships.

Registration was busy though efficient, and after watching the Teenager competitors walk up their first hill from the start (Causey Pike), we had a pleasant half-mile or so to the start, an old mining track that cuts below Catbells. A brief, eloquent speech was made about the life and legacy of Steve Cliff, whose marriage to Wynn this commemorated and in whose name the proceeds would be donated to MND research (I presume the pollen count was high, as there was a lot of eye-rubbing going on), and then we were off, shuffling from a position too close to the rear of the pack, slowly picking up speed as we dodged around runners, descending into the valley bottom with Jack on my shoulder and Fiona not far behind.

The first 3 miles were rapid, and felt it, my watch recording the second mile as sub-7min/mile pace, and I quickly began to realise that if we’d lost height in the first three of nearly twelve miles, and the last mile was downhill, then ALL of the 3600′ height gain would have to take place in the next eight miles. This thought occurred as the track turned to grass, Robinson loomed on the right-hand side and it was decision time – take the pain of climbing Robinson now, in order to get it out of the way, or keep up the speed on the gentle track up the valley and then brace for a sharp final ascent? I went for the former, Jack, just ahead of me, for the latter, and we saw each other again at the top, both hurting a little from the quad-straining gradient and the short section of scrambling. From this first summit, Jack loped ahead of me at speed down the grassy flank of Robinson to the path that leads up to Hindscarth, the next peak of the horseshoe. I tailed as rapidly as I could and rather enjoyed the shallow gradient and springy, forgiving ground, not losing him to sight, then slowly regaining on both he and an NFR runner as we climbed again, passing them near the top, along with another 15 or so runners. Hindscarth summited, it was down again to Dale Head, another nice runnable section with a final rocky drag, passing Tim Skelton en route (not in the race, so a rather surprising sighting) before the section I’d been fearing.

I am a terrible descender in rocky terrain. My balance is not great and my eyes water so much that often I can barely see as I go downhill at speed, leading to a lot of falls. My intention had been to come off Dale Head to the south, using the tourist path. However, having realised I was a reasonable way up the field by now and, more importantly, actually a little ahead of Jack, I could not bring myself to be sensible and therefore attempted the direct route to the stream leaving the tarn at the bottom. If memory serves me, the descent was not enjoyable, was faster than I thought possible, still lost me a dozen or two places, probably accounted for the bruised bits I felt the next day and had me at one point on the verge of having to stop to ‘do a Paula.’ Let us move on; love stories do not include that kind of mess.

The hard bit over, and feet refreshed in the clear waters of the rocky stream crossing, the rest of the race passed well, with places regained on the climb to High Spy, no more lost on the gentle descent before Catbells, another handful gained on the steady run up to Catbells and then a grassy descent that hurt the feet as it got steeper and steeper (I was looking forward to running down the natural curve of the hill, only to be pointed sharp left, down the steep bit, by marshals), but gave enough traction to maintain pace sufficient that only a handful of runners came past me again – none of them Jack, who I was convinced was on my shoulder. Down onto the track where we had started, through a farm, onto tarmac and back to the village where the finishing funnel, a stream for foot-washing and a chap with a hosepipe awaited. At the time of writing, results are unpublished, but I think I took around 2:10 and Jack came in a few minutes later, not helped by one of his shoes disintegrating on Catbells and a touch of heat illness. Fiona? She’d started the race as a ‘nice, steady run’ and then felt competitive halfway round, so had spent the back half picking people off one by one, and seemed fairly upbeat.

It has been said that the deaths of those who will be missed deeply, by many, lead to the most enjoyable wakes; this was such a day – a massive field of people who love the hills gathered together for a day simultaneously about life, death and running. The world moves on. This race does not, though was a fitting tribute to a man who loved the area and the sport and a reminder that a day spent in the hills, with friends, is never a day wasted.
Photo Courtesy of Tim Skelton

Edale Skyline, Peak District, Sunday, March 11, 2018

AL / 34km / 1373m

Paul Evans

Plan for 2018, after the running horrors of Jan 16-Oct 17: train hard, do XC and hit the ground running with the long races of Marsden-Edale, Wadsworth and the Skyline, with a view to longer stuff later.

Reality: pick up an Achilles injury after Christmas, miss Capt Cook, run/limp a stinker at Herrington XC when injured (worst performance at HL I can recall), exacerbate injury in the process, miss races and become limited to running no faster than 8min/mile without the troublesome tendon swelling and hurting. Up to this point, with the possible exception of the English XC Championships in London, where I ran slowly but at least got round somehow, 2018 has not been a great deal of fun.

So, expectations set to ‘low, just get round,’ I found myself being counted into the starting field at the bottom of the Nab, looking up to the dark edges of Kinder scout, seeing snowy streaks and a sky with a few hopeful-looking patches of blue. It was probably best to look upwards, rather than to my sides, as this was an English Championship race, and the quality at ground level was intimidatingly-good. The usual brief pre-amble over, we ran to and then ascended at a shuffle the familiar zig-zags of the Nab then, just for this one year, turned left on summiting Ringing Roger, one of the many high points of the Kinder plateau; yes, reader, this year the Skyline went backwards, thus making it even more unmissable! In practise, this meant that we hit the clart sooner than usual, and spent the first couple of miles round to Grindslow Knoll undulating, bouncing off rocks, getting our feet soaked in the frequent streams and occasional snowdrifts trapped in sheltered cloughs, and generally spreading out a little; for this section and, as it turned out, much of the race I hung onto the familiar vest of a Sunderland Stroller, catching him on every little climb and watching him bounce past me on the downhills.

‘Brown Knoll’ used to be words that sent an involuntary shudder down the spine of many a fell-runner: a relatively featureless morass of peat, sphagnum, trods leading to uncertain places and, crucially in this race, an area in the final third of the traditional Skyline route, thus hitting the unsuspecting runner precisely when they least needed it (see report from 2015). Not without controversy, a route over it has now been paved due to erosion concerns, which meant this was a faster-than-expected, albeit quite dull section, though I remained cautious and gained fewer places than I could have done with a more aggressive approach here, instead starting to attack a little as we left it and began the long succession of ridge-running that would take us all the way to Lose Hill, that Strollers’ vest remaining an aiming point as we passed a few runners beginning to tire. Half-way along we dropped into Mam Nick, our first encounter with tarmac all race, then reduced pace to a hands-on-thighs walk until hitting the top of Mam Tor, start of the section of the race with ALL the views – this year we could see for miles to both north and south. Lose Hill came, was climbed at a plod, and went again in an exhilarating, wet run/slide combination, one done less well than the dozen or so runners I’d beaten on the climb, all of them repaying the favour with interest on the way down; Hope village at the bottom presented our second encounter with tarmac, a second jelly baby and the start of the real test.

Memory: an unreliable thing. I remember from 2015 the entire section from start to Hope, via Whin Hill, as being fairly easy running and likely to present a nice final few miles the other way round. I still remember 2015’s course this way, though the evidence of my split times and recent nociceptor experience disproves it utterly – once I’d trotted over the railway bridge out of Hope the ascent was severe, on wet, bracken-covered peat with little purchase, the Mars bar nauseated me and I was able to manage a shuffling run when the incline slackened towards the top, through the heather and then on the shooting track. That said, the strung-out line of runners ahead did not look healthy and I was able to gain a lot of places, finally leaving behind the Stroller, passing him again after touching the trig and heading the final 5 miles for home. Mystery solved: I remembered little of this stretch as it was relatively dull, 2 miles of an easy trudge along farm tracks, 3 of a steady uphill back to Ringing Roger, livening up as we left grass and got back onto rock and peat, sore feet and knackered proprioception not helping, though more places gained before dibbing for the last time and heading downhill…where 15-20 runners I’d led, slowly, uphill flew past me and hit the finish line just ahead.

Number cut off and water being taken from the jerrycans stacked against the wall, I watched as both the Stroller I’d raced for hours (Adnan Khan, though we did not know it yet, to show me a clean pair of heels one week later at Alnwick’s Harrier League fixture) and another (Ken Maynard) came in, amongst a steady flow of battered bodies; blood both fresh and dried was prominent on many. An hour later, washed in the stream, fed with chilli, rehydrated with tea (Victoria Wilkinson, having just smashed the female record for the race, queuing patiently behind me) and having gained a new injury (thigh strain) to go with the pre-existing one, life felt better.

It would have been better yet had a hundred Kurds not blockaded a railway line and caused a 3-hour wait for the train back to Sheffield but that, reader, is another story…

Captain Cook’s Fell Race, Great Ayton, Monday, January 1, 2018

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BS / 8km / 318m

posbibnametimeclass
11013Lloyd Biddell
(Mercia Fell Runners)
30.41MO/1/50/50
161130Mark Kearney35.51MO/10/39/39
281058Mark Warner37.16MO/16/33/33
371048Michael Littlewood38.00M40/6/43/43
441015Jack Lee38.36MO/21/28/28
1211082David Gibson43.42M50/11/38/38
1491027Mike Bennett45.32M60/4/45/45
1561279Louise Warner45.50FO/3/46/46
1621075Michael Barlow46.53M40/22/27/27
1711262Rachael Bullock47.43FO/5/44/44
1831088Nigel Heppell48.51M60/10/39/39
1941295Nina Mason49.33F40/3/46/46
2191266Stephanie Barlow51.23F40/4/45/45
2361018Tim Matthews52.43M50/21/28/28
2781028David Shipman56.59M60/20/29/29
3011252Anita Clementson62.09F45/9/40/40

Simonside Cairns, Sunday, December 10, 2017

11 miles/540 m

Scott Watson

Beautiful day for a fell race – but icy cold! So cold that I immediately regretted leaving my gloves in the bumbag as we ran up the tracks towards the fells. My fingers were absolutely numb though everything else felt perfectly OK.

As far as I can remember, this was my first fell race since my Bob Graham in July although I’ve trained on them (the fells) a couple of times. I felt really good after having two unplanned days off and just swimming yesterday (still quite a hard session though).

I started right at the back (also unplanned) as it’s a really restricted start in an alleyway and I turned up on the line later than I would have liked (last I think). However, the race very quickly reaches a road so there’s loads of opportunity to overtake without burning too many matches. If you’ve no chance of winning then starting at the back is often quite a good strategy because it makes you feel like a bit of a god, striding imperiously past mere mortals – until you hit the point where you belong.

Before then I passed Geoff Davis quietly going about his business in his own unmistakable style then further up onto the fell I passed Mark Davinson from Derwentside, so I felt that I was going quite well. In fact, I was running quite strongly up the initial slopes passing many who were already walking – and feeling much more relaxed than I’d expected.

When we hit the fells it was apparent what the theme of the race was going to be: ice! It was everywhere, often in wide sheets, very slippery and HARD! All of the water channels that typically run along and across upland paths had frozen solid in the minus temperatures and wind chill and to step on a smooth piece was always going to end in tears. I hit the deck a couple of times but with no damage other than to my pride.

My particular problem, as soon as I got onto the fells, turned out to be a basic error: I hadn’t put the all-important extra twist in my laces and both immediately came undone when the heather began tugging at them. By this time I was running competitively with a couple of guys from NFR and others and because my shoes still felt fairly secure (Inov-8 X-talon 200s – I love them) I decided to see how far I could get. If it had been boggy I’d have had to stop or I’d literally have lost them. Remarkably, whilst they certainly didn’t feel secure, neither did they feel like we were going to part company and so on I went.

By the time we got round to the back of the course and the climb over the cairns with its stunning views (which I never saw) three of us had broken away though it turns out that there was somebody behind me that was closer than I thought. I was going much better than I’d anticipated and whilst the other guys looked like they were basically faster than me I was right behind them on the climbs, still comfortably running where they were walking, although I had to continue likewise as it involved too much effort to get past in the heather. However, when we reached the tops they very gradually pulled away and that was that.

Much of the long descent to the finish is now on very good, constructed paths obviously put there to prevent further erosion to, what I remember as being, almost muddy tunnels when I last did this race. Now my quads really began to protest. It was simply lack of specific condition but it was more uncomfortable than I would have thought possible. To make matters worse I could hear this guy closing on me so it was going to be fast to the finish and bugger the quads – I’d have to find some other way of walking afterwards.

I pulled away a bit on the last major undulation where I passed a lone walker at the top of the descent of the final fell who for some reason felt the need to tell me that both shoelaces were undone. Blimey, I hadn’t realised! I was actually a bit more uncharitable than that (in my mind) but I’m sure she thought she was helping. Then, almost immediately afterwards, charging down the descent, I hit the deck again when my legs just shot from under me on unseen ice. I was back up almost immediately, shaken and stirred after uncomfortably wrenching a couple of bits and pieces. It was all the guy behind me needed to squeeze by but as we weren’t too far from the finish he must have realised he was going to have to put a shift in.

Personally, unless I was absolutely sure of the situation, I’d have waited until the last descent and raced to the narrow bridge over the river because there’s not much opportunity to pass after that and so you can shorten the race by a hundred metres or so. As so often happens though, once he’d come past it was relatively easy to sit in but I couldn’t help passing him on the last short climb. So I just thought, “get it all out and see what happens”. Nothing – was the answer. That’s the way it stayed until the bridge when the game was effectively over. I was perfectly ready to accept being pipped but was pleased to have only lost the two places after the race had begun in earnest.

Despite the vast amounts of nervous concentration required it was a really good event made all the more enjoyable by the conditions. Not sure where I came but I think I did OK and made third V50, beating the first V45 in the process (I was 13th out of 87 competitors & 3rd V50 in 1:38:51)! Came away smelling of Roses (the Cadbury’s variety).

PositionNameCategoryTime
1Matthew Seddon
Pudsey/Bramley
M Sen1.24.00
23Emma Holt
Morpeth
F Sen1.42.56
13Scott WatsonM 501.38.51
31Geoff DaviesM 601.45.38

The Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, Sunday, December 3, 2017

10.6miles, 1000 ft elevation

Elaine Bisson

Most definitely a muddy one

This is just about my perfect race. Although you can pre-enter via post or online, EOD are available for one pound more at £8. It had been on my ever-growing list for quite some time. A FB post suggesting the ground would be firm and ideal for racing convinced me to enter on the day. A few texts to Michael and we were all set.

The race starts at a very sociable 11 am, we didn’t leave Durham until after 9, meaning a Sunday lie in was enjoyed!

Race HQ and parking are at the Allendale Primary School. After a few toilet stops (there was no queue), I had a little warm up with Michael while he took me to the start of the first hill, and pointing upwards warned me what I could see was not the top…not in the slightest.

I had mixed feelings, this was a last minute decision, a Sunday run to top-up my mileage to finish off (for me) a fairly heavy training week. My legs already felt pretty tired. Michael was as giddy as a schoolboy though. This evidently was one of his favourite races and he couldn’t contain his excitement, which was slowly rubbing off! However it’s a race, and I always get nervous before races, no matter what I tell myself beforehand.

We missed the race briefing and joined the runners as they made their way from the school hall, 200m to the start line in a muddy field. I was pretty sure the promise of firm ground was no longer right as the temperature soared and the thaw had well and truly set in.

The gun fired and we were off, splodging over a muddy field until we hit road and then up, for quite some time and quite a few miles. We then turned off onto an equally muddy and puddly trail; it got muddier and muddier until we were attempting to cross the bogs. I’m not fond of bogs, having torn my hamstring and had months off running because of them, so I really grew frustrated with myself for my lack of confidence. The low sun gleaming off all the sloppy mud and puddles made it really difficult to see.

It was such a pleasure to finally feel firm stone trails beneath my feet again and my legs, after their requisite 3-mile warm-up, were finally not aching anymore. I picked up speed and started to catch a few men who had skipped past me as I floundered in the bogs. I started to enjoy myself after that. It was a beautiful day. We turned so the sun was no longer in our eyes and you could see for miles over gorgeous Northumberland moorland. The frustration didn’t end though. Quite soon we were again navigating around boggy puddles along little tracks that you could barely place one foot comfortably, never mind try to run and swiftly get your next foot in front of your other. The thaw had well and truly set in, it was superbly damp and it did seem we were running in small streams. We splashed and soaked our legs for miles upon miles.
Over the worst of it and again we found ourselves flying downhill on road. I’d totally miscalculated, Michael had told me to be ready for the fast long descent. So when quite exhausted and tired I got on the road I thought that was it. I really picked up speed, only to realise the valley curves weren’t quite how I’d remembered Allendale and then with a sunken heart I spotted runners climbing out of the valley bottom up another steep, but shorter ascent. Anyway, I was longing for the promised descent and I realised this must be my last climb.

I gained quite a few places on the hill then we ran on a flattish stony trail until we reached a gate and I was told I was second lady.

I’d entered not really hoping for much. Looking around at the start I’d spotted a few runners that I’d convinced myself would be miles ahead of me, but once I realised my position I threw myself into maintaining it. I set off down this final long descent catching quite a few runners. I felt really strong by this point, I’ve grown to like descending, no, I really love it.

The finish line was in the field where we started. Welcomed in by Michael who had again managed an astonishing 5th place.
I was over the moon to find empty, warm, clean showers to rid my legs of mud and warm up. Tea and cakes were complimentary to runners. I have to say I’ve never seen such a huge selection of cakes, nor have I taken so long in choosing one! We gathered again in the sports hall and welcomed in Tim and Fiona. It was funny to see the faces filling the room. Some bodies covered in blood from knee down (its quite treacherous and you have to keep switched on running over all the rocky paths), others had fallen waist deep in bog and had needed runners to pull them out. I was so pleased to return relatively unscathed and to be 2nd lady.

The prize giving was in the hall, we stayed to collect mine, unfortunately, we had to dash as the second race of the day was on. The most important one, the one where we prove that we weren’t away for too long on a family day…. I just about made that one with minutes to spare!

It’s tough, there are two big climbs, the first being the longest. The terrain and exposure will yield different surprises each year. You can’t beat the organisation, price and wonderful community spirit that an event like this holds. Loved it!

Tour of Pendle Fell Race 4830′, AL, Barley Village, SW Pennines, Saturday, November 18, 2017

16.8 miles

Paul Evans

‘I’ve not yet done the full course, so back next year it is.’

Photo Courtesy of Phil Donlan

So said I, two years ago, after the Tour was shortened due to inclement weather (for a fell race, this takes a lot), shortly before developing an unhealthy relationship with work for the next year, with far too many hours spent behind a desk and training tailing off somewhat, along with any motivation to run. The extra stone or so, as a result of this inactivity and a love of bacon, was not exactly helpful either.

Instead, let us forward two years, to now, minus 36 hours, when I stood back on the line (actually, tucked somewhere halfway down the field, safely away from the pointy end), ready for the hammer to drop on this compact, punchy East Lancs race: conditions excellent (cold, clear, blustery but no rain), field sizeable (c400) and Strider numbers one (plus an ex-Strider now running for Kirkstall Harriers). I’d had my porridge at a suitably ghastly hour, had found actual toilet paper in the toilets and was full of tea, so all was basically good. Better yet, earlier XC fixtures at Wrekenton and Druridge had even seen the return of something that felt like competitiveness, which boded well.

The race begins with a fairly flat mile on the reservoir track, primarily to permit the field to spread before turning due north up the slopes of Buttock, onto Pendle Hill. This passed quickly, with a degree of mild frustration when trying to pass slower runners, until I reminded myself there was a long way to go and a lot of it would be spent walking; this indeed occurred shortly, with the first climb being a run/walk affair until the contour lines began to space out and permit a steady pace to be achieved up to the trig at CP1, the high point of Pendle Hill (in case you’re wondering, the entire race is essentially an up-down affair of one hill, the hill only being 558m in height). The top was wet but runnable, and the leg down to CP2 was a delight, what with being able to see this year, all of it downhill and none of it steep – 2 miles of pleasure, with only the wet ground at all hazardous (reader, we had bottom/ground interface for the first time when ambition trumped ability in an over-taking attempt), then another easy half mile to CP3, hand-railing another reservoir.

Photo Courtesy of Phil DonlanThe fun was now over, and we needed to climb sharply through slippery mud and bracken, then back onto the
moorland; this was slow, but profitable in terms of places, and I crested ahead of those who’d come past me on the way down. I then saw them again as they flew past me on the infamous ‘Geronimo’ descent, which started slowly, got faster as I gained confidence and finished sliding on my posterior, stopping just short of the stream of Ogden Clough (CP4); this was 2 climbs and descents of a total 6 accomplished, and it was starting to hurt, though the field was beginning to spread and I was gaining one or two more places on each climb or flat section than I was losing. I’d also acquired some blood on my right hand and face (another runner pointed this out), though was unclear how.

Through the stream and sharp left, we ran single-file along a narrow, rocky path towards the headwaters, then crossed it again and made a shorter climb that was actually runnable for the second half (another place gained) before dropping gradually, at proper running pace again, to CP5, legs loosening and enjoying the chance to stretch out. Up again to CP6, another left off the top, with yet more descending like a crab/ball/a.n.other thing incapable of running in a straight line on feet, and it was onto the final two climbs, those missed off the bad-weather course of two years ago. Going back onto the top to CP 8 started well, though the horror of concave slopes is that they get harder the closer you get to the top, so the first hundred or so yards were fine, unless you raised your eyes and looked up at the grassy wall in front – the one peppered with dots of colour, all moving slowly upwards. I would say that everyone was suffering by this point, but realistically the winners were nearly home by now, so that would be untrue; the rest of us were firmly in ‘hands-on-thighs’ mode, though I managed to steal a place or two by getting hands-on and essentially crawling upwards, hitting CP 8, embellished with a massive union flag blowing in the wind along with the waterproofs of the well-wrapped marshals.

Photo Courtesy of Phil DonlanI now knew we had half a mile of running on the flat top of Pendle, another descent, a final climb and then home for tea and cake. It played out essentially that way, with me holding my place on the top, dropping a couple on the downhill section (a few little crags on this one, just to keep you on your toes), then working as hard as possible, again with hands-on-grass, on the last uphill, knowing this was the last chance to push for places – in the event, I gained half a dozen or so, and hit CP10 (at the trig passed on the first leg) opening my legs desperate to hold whatever slim advantage had been gained in the last 15 miles. The leg to CP11 was the reverse of the initial leg, but a little to the west – grassy and downhill all the way to Ogden Clough, easy running and probably fun were it not for the competition. It hit me here that I wanted this place, wherever in the field I was, and that the competitive urge largely absent for a long while was back – I would probably not resort to knee-capping other runners to hold my position (this isn’t XC, after all!), but I’d not dismiss the idea out of hand…idle thoughts aside, I had breath in my right ear and the vests of Bowland, Todmorden, Rossendale and some club in red ahead of me, all of them possibly catchable. Some, on the reservoir road that makes up the final mile, were caught, others were not, and some who’d not been in sight initially were chased fruitlessly as I got closer – there was even an approximation of a sprint finish, entirely in vain as I was never going to make up 30 yards on someone who was themselves only 20 yards from the line.

That, then, was that – the line crossed, a ‘well done’ from the time-keeper and handshakes with those in front and behind me for a race hard-fought, whilst drinking from the jerry-cans of water set out for runners. 17 miles done and a category AL race in the bag, for the grand cost of £9. As things stand, writing this on Sunday evening whilst wearing the race T-shirt that the organisers throw in), I don’t actually know my finishing time (3hrs-ish?), nor my position (top half?), but am satisfied they couldn’t have been a lot better on the day in what is always going to be a hard race, no matter the conditions: six times up and six times down a hill that’s not that high sound so much easier than it actually is.

Long Tour of Bradwell, Peak District, Saturday, August 12, 2017

BL / 52.7km / 2200m

Paul Evans

Greased, Taped, Wonky, and ready to goIt’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to spend a Sunday evening sat at a laptop, trying to recall what took place the day before. Probably around two years or so – [ actually just last year! ^DN] the website seems to show nothing from me since November 2015 [<cough!> Paul Evans ^DN]. However, a return to racing with a rejoinder from our webmaster means that what happened must be relayed, for the ever-developing archive of north-eastern running that is our website. Here goes…

0712hrs at Sheffield railway station for a 25 minute ride on a rattling little train, older than I, to Hope. The journey is spent checking bumbag contents, unpacking and adjusting. The only other passengers seem similarly absorbed in their kit, and I assume both are heading for the tour, either long or half, also. We walk the mile or so the Bradwell in amiable silence. The fact that the western edge of the valley is obscured by cloud bodes ill. I consider switching to the half tour, a 17-miler that cuts out the more punchy climbs, then remember I’m returning with a ultra so I don’t HAVE to race it.

0810hrs. Check-in for the race is slick (impressively, EOD are taken as well), laminated maps are issued and a demo is given of the new electronic timing system. Hot brews are offered and received, and the portaloos portable toilets provision is adequate. Kit is re-checked, re-assembled and then adjusted once more, nipples taped and anything that might chafe greased to fairy obscene levels. A decision is made to add to the bumbag a half dozen mini pork pies, on the basis that I’m not really racing, but instead here for a nice day’s running.

0900hrs. Assembly at the village green, in a light rain with overcast skies promising more. No kit check. We set off at an easy pace for the gentle undulation of the first mile or so along a damp, overhung lane, the rumble of the enormous cement works a background note. I’m not impressed to note that my Mudclaws are showing themselves to be awful on wet concrete, having switched to Inov8 after four successive pairs of Walshes disintegrated early in their lives [same here, sadly. ; a gentle downhill sees me skid to one side and hug the fence. Control 1 is found easily (ie. at the point you leave the lane – truly idiot-proof) though it later turns out that my timing gear does not register, despite flashing and beeping. From here a steady run, with occasional walking on the steeper parts, takes us through the quarries that feed the plant below, along a track to CP2 and then down some grassy fields…

…to the abomination that is Cave Dale. For those of you who have not visited Cave Dale, it is a picturesque descent through limestone crags and lush greenery. For tourists, it is delightful. For farmers, it’s a nice place to graze sheep. For runners, it is a steep downhill over loose limestone, polished by water for centuries, today in the rain. It is an axiom of ultra-runner to ‘walk the ups, run the downs.’ I did the opposite, and lost a good number of places to those with a little more poise and balance, only falling twice, which I think a result of sorts. This led into Castleton, pretty as ever, along a minor road to the climb up to Hollins Cross, then straight down a good track, under the railway line and into Edale.

1030hrs. Edale gained, with two of the big climbs over with. Banana and a few peanuts offered along with water, and a small group of us trotted out past the Nag’s Head/Pennine Way start, over the footbridge and up the zig-zags that mark the start and finish of the Edale Skyline fell race; walking only here. About two-thirds of the way up the climb flattens and the ground becomes soggier, helped by the rain that’s picked up a bit. Reaching the plateau I hit my stride, unfortunately making the mistake of enjoying the running too much to notice the trod that leads to CP5, the Druid’s Stone. Heather-bashing needed, then more of the same to regain the edge, followed by what someone following me informs me I’ve ‘picked a great line’ through the rocks and heather tussocks that take us down to runnable fields (I don’t tell him that I descended earlier than intended then made the best of it/pretended I had a plan). A fast downhill mile brings us under the railway again, then it’s over the road and straight up the other side of the valley to Lose Hill, walking pace resumed. I crack open the mini pork pies. I eat one slowly, then realise it is not sitting well; in retrospect, this lack of hunger should have been a warning. Nevertheless, Lose Hill CP6 is gained with a stiff tab to the steps and then a run along the tops, legs feeling less stiff than earlier. The descent is a grassy delight, halted only to call back a handful ahead of me who’ve taken a bad line and are liable to end up a mile or so west of where they need to be. Hope, CP7, is another food/drink station and by this point we’re well-mixed with runners doing the half tour, so it is harder to ascertain who the competition is. If I were being competitive, which I’m not.

The next few legs are fairly easy running, bar a cheeky climb up Whin Hill, with views of Ladybower reservoir, some very enjoyable forest trails and a bit of flat converted railway line taking us to CP9, the cut off for the full tour.

1230hrs. The two races separate, the half tour runners having broken the back of their race and heading home. It feels lonely again. I change pace again to drop down from the line through a couple of fields onto CP10, situated halfway along Bamford Weir, admire the serenity of the ducks paddling through the lilies, then accept I cannot change the fact that a couple of miles of climbing, on road then rocky track, lies between Stanage Edge and I. Strangely, I make up a few places here, my ability to sustain an uphill plod serving me well, gain CP11 and then shuffle-run along Stanage Edge to Burbage Bridge, the sun now out and the views superlative, miles of purple heather to the left and lush valley to the right. CP12 at the roadside sees us fed again, though I’m really not hungry by now, and we descend steadily to Toad’s Mouth, 2 miles of largely downhill easy running…or would be if my left foot were not now hurting with every step. CPs 13, 14 and 15 feature no big climbs, some pretty woodland and Burbage Brook, which is this afternoon rammed with children paddling, fishing and enjoying themselves. How dare they, when some of us are suffering? Some even have snacks they appear to relish eating, rather than 5 uneaten pork pies they cannot face but must carry.

1430hrs. CP15 reached, a lot of water and 4 peanuts forced down and the rest shoved into a pocket. From here, I know I’ve got about 6 miles, an hour, one big, but steady climb and, in the immediate future, one short road climb to go. I and two others who appear also a bit on the tired side climb to the farm track, descend into the woods and then walk-run through terrain that seems more uneven than the map suggests to CP16, at a brook I refill my water bottle from. We then climb slowly to Abney hamlet, take a right up an interminably-long track (the map says only 3/4m, but it feels worse) and then skirt another quarry before dropping down through gorse and mud into Bradwell, for a final half-mile trot along the road. Our threesome has split by now, after all checking that we’re fine, and I come in last of the three after another involuntary trip down the hillside on my bottom.

1545hrs. It is done. Hot brews and soup. Flapjack that takes 15 minutes a square to eat as my mouth does not have sufficient moisture to masticate adequately. Lying on my back in the warm grass, the moist soil fragrant. A walk back to the station and half an hour sat waiting in the sun, finally able to eat again, content, knowing it is all done and that, hurting feet and all, it has been a run to remember. And I might have, despite all good intentions, actually raced the thing. Maybe a little.

The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Race, Selkirk, Monday, August 7, 2017

11km / 400m

Nigel Heppell

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

A poor result north of the border -or was it?

On holiday in the Scottish Borders? Looking for a Sunday run? Something simple to raise funds for the local play park? Never visited the Three Bretheren before? The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Run looked just right at 7 miles and 400m ascent.

A mixed bag of 62 runners competed over a nice traily route over two hilltops with stunning views; no kit required -‘its a summer run’.

I manage a very mediocre 1hr 07mins putting me 5th in the V60 category.

The official results table shows my time as 140% of the winners’ time which sounds pretty poor to me;

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

The winner is no spring chicken either, he’s a V50; but I then notice he is Colin Donnelly of Cambuslang Harriers – one time youngest winner of the Ben Nevis Race (1979) and Scotland’s representative at the World Hill Running Championships for 14 years in a row, winning silver in 1989; winner of the British Fell Running Championship 1987-89; and numerous top performances in Scottish Cross Country racing; he retains the record for traversing the Welsh 3000’s and has course records for the Buckden Pike and Shelf Moor races …

Maybe my time isn’t so bad after all?

Steel Fell, Lake District, Monday, August 7, 2017

AS / 5km / 400m

Aaron Gourley

My legs feel like jelly…in fact they don’t feel like they’re mine anymore as I hit the road for the final chase into the finish. There’s a Keswick AC runner up ahead whom I’d eyed as a potential catch to gain a vital place in this short but incredibly tough little fell race but my legs have other ideas. My brain can’t decide what to do with them, they don’t feel real.

32 minutes earlier, I’d been on this path heading up the hill to the start of the off-road climb up Steel Fell. From the farmer’s field at West Head Farm just off the A591 beyond Thirlmere, over 70 runners gathered – Keswick, Ambleside, Helm Hill, Bowland and Kendal are some of the vests synonymous with fell running that are donning the mostly lithe, athletic and clearly fit for the fells, runners.

I stood cutting a lone figure in my purple Striders vest – the Lone Strider – tipping up for this summer fling as I happened to be on a week holiday in the area.  The fee? free for 3 miles of fell running fun.

The premise of this race is easy – wheeze your way to the top of Steel Fell, run around the summit cairn then leg it as fast as you can back down the same way. How hard could that be?

With heads down and hands on knees we make our way up the steep slope on a beautiful summer evening. Every now and again I look up to see what progress I’m making and to see if the front runners are on their way back down yet – they’re not! How far is this race again? Surely they must be heading back, I’ve been climbing for what seems like ages!

Eventually I reach the plateau where the gradient levels off. Now I can see up ahead the summit cairn and turn around point. I can also see the front runners on their way back, they’re like gazelles leaping effortlessly across the rough ground.

With the field well stretched out now, I make my way slowly to the turn around point before the fun of the downhill starts. There’s about half a mile of easy running before the gradient drops. I run to this point, take a moment to savour the view of Thirlmere and the valley stretching out in the late evening sun, then, with a sharp intake of breath, hurl myself down the slope.

I’ve eyes on a couple of people who I think I can catch. My legs are pounding and arms are held aloft to keep balance as I pass two guys taking tentative steps. Then I spy another target, which I manage to take. My legs are really taking a battering now but there’s not far to go and I’m enjoying the experience.

Then up ahead is the Keswick runner, I think I might have this place but it’s going to be a battle. Back onto the road and the battle is lost before it begins. My only hope is no-one catches me from behind as I try to maintain my form for the final stretch to the finish.

Job done but my legs have took a serious battering from this little beauty of a race.

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 1, 2017

BL / 32.2km / 1219m (20 miles, 2 hills and a smattering of bog)

Joan Hanson …

The thing about entering an event months in advance is you can have that hazy positive belief that in x months time you will be bounding effortlessly over the afore mentioned 20 mile course, laughing in the face of some decidedly sucky and squelchy stuff underfoot and hardly noticing the however many thousands of feet of ascent and descent the said 2 hills (Cheviot and Hedgehope) will entail. And you will have the most enjoyable, relaxing day of running possible…. As I said a hazy and possibly rose tinted vision.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before the event and the realization that you aren’t quite as fit as you had envisaged being and that this year they have removed the walkers option so you have 6 hours to complete it in. Hmmm.

And then the horror on the morning of the event when your companion for the journey (Dougie who has done this before) casually mentions the phrase ‘cut –offs’ for each checkpoint and that they seem a little on the tight side for the first half of the race.
I have felt in more positive frames of mind.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

But at least it has stopped raining and the summits are cloud free so navigation involving maps and compass will not be needed- and you can see exactly how far away those hills you are aiming for are away. Everyone is very friendly, kit checks are passed and before long we were off, Susan disappearing off into the horizon not to be seen again until the finish. Dougie and I leapfrogging for a fair part of the race, he faster on the steeper downhilly bits, me making up time going up. Both agreeing that the second half which on paper should have been the easy bit was anything but, I needed to dig really deep at several points to maintain forward momentum, at one point wondering why they put Wooler so far away.

We all made it back well within the cut offs- interestingly none of us exclaiming what an easy and enjoyable run we have just had but able to reflect on a real sense of achievement (and in my case relief) that it was done.

The Chevy Chase is a great and brilliantly organized event. The route takes in some beautiful and wild terrain, this year we enjoyed expansive views when we could lift our eyes from where we were putting our feet.

I’m glad I did it, the Cheviot’s are a beautiful part of the world and not that far away- definitely worthy of closer exploration –but possibly at a slightly more relaxed pace.

… Dougie Nisbet …

I’d done that bloke sulky pouty thing when Roberta had insisted on me packing some sunscreen. But as I nudged up with Susan and Joan outside race HQ and passed the sunscreen round (on the left hand side) there were lots of Dad comments about getting it behind straps, knees, ears and neck. Still, past-its-sell-by factor 30 wasn’t really going to cut it on Cheviot and Hedgehope in July and I was a bit crisp when I finished later in the day.

I could’ve pretty much written the script for the first half of the race. Joan’s shrewd choice of carrying walking poles had attracted the occasional derisory comment but they’d pretty much dried up as she climbed strongly to Cheviot with me using her as a useful point of purple to focus on as she receded ever further into the vanishing point.

After Cheviot and a revelation. You need to hang left, immediately. When I last did this in 2013 I carried on (zoned out following a walker to Scotland) and turned left too late and missed the trod that took a neat line towards Hedgehope on the other side of the valley. I caught Joan on the descent, pausing to shout “is that you falling on your arse again Hanson!”, before passing her and showing her how to do it properly.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

Everyone was now pretty much a walking washing powder commercial in the making and as we climbed towards Hedgehope I was unsurprised to have Joan back on my shoulder again. And so it continued for the next few checkpoints until CP6 – Brands Corner – we both paused for a drink and check in. The climbing was mostly over and there was a lot of running left now to the finish. I was looking forward to making up some ground in these last few miles.

“Sling your hook Joan, I’ll catch you up”, I said, when it was clear Joan wanted to press on. And so she did. And, I did catch her up, so to speak, after I’d crossed the finish line and she’d brought me over a cup of tea. I had a tough last few miles on what should be a lovely part of the course – the stretch up North West from Carey Burn Bridge is gorgeous, but I was far too busy feeling sorry for myself to pay much attention to the sunny scenery. Susan had a good decisively sub-5 finish, with Joan in around 5:16, then me in around 10 minutes later.

I’ve often said, to anyone who’ll listen, that the Chevy Chase at 20 miles, is twice as hard as the Durham Dales Challenge, at 32 miles. This was the first year the race has dropped the walking race and the cut-offs might need tweaking in the years ahead, but whatever the cutoffs it’s always going to be a tough 20 miles.