Category Archives: FRA-AM

The Fell Runners Association explains race categories in its Rules for competition (pdf) document, but a relevant summary can be found below.

Category A
Should average not less than 50 metres climb per kilometre.
Should not have more than 20% of the race distance on road.
Should be at least 1.5 kilometres in length.

Category M
A category “M” (medium) race is over 10 kilometres but less than 20 kilometres.

Skiddaw Fell Race, Thursday, May 7, 2015

AM / 9m / 2700'

Aaron Gourley

As I reach the finishing straight my 3 year old daughter wants to run with me, so I slow and let her run along, but she decides she’s no energy left, so I scoop her up and carry her over the finish line before slumping in a heap to the floor.

“Daddy, can we play snap now?” she asks as I lie wheezing on the grass outside Keswick Cricket Club after completing the Skiddaw Fell Race. She has no concept that I’ve just run up to the summit and back down from England’s fourth highest mountain standing at 931m covering 9:43miles in 1hr40mins on a hot July day.

It started out relatively easy as the 115 competitors set off at 12:30pm from the edge of the cricket field in Fitz Park, a sharp left up a road and across a foot bridge over the A66 leading into the woods.

Soon the gradient increases and the pace drops. Onto the track at the foot of Jenkin Hill the gradient steepens further – head down, hands on knees power walk begins.

After a while the gradient shallows and it becomes strangely runnable as we pass the gated junction leading to Skiddaw Little Man. It’s on this path the lead runner passes on his way back down closely tracked by the second placed runner. I’m in awe as I plod onwards and upwards.

As I near the summit more and more runners come hurtling down towards me then on the summit plateau, Hardmoors queen, Shelli Gordon passes. I reach the top and find it necessary to touch the summit cairn before I turn to make my descent, but not before I remove a stone that’s sneaked into my shoe.

It’s a beautifully clear day, to my left is Blencathra in all its glory and immediately ahead, the Helvellyn range shadowing over Keswick and the valley below. It’s moments of beauty like this that make fell running such a fabulous sport. But I daren’t take my eyes of the ground for too long as the gradient on the descent steepens.

Up ahead are a group of runners, I catch two guys who are tentatively making their way down and target the two ladies in front but as the path levels out, their pace seems to increase, (or is it mine decreasing?). As we make our way back through the woods they disappear, a final steep descent back to the foot bridge at the A66 sees me caught by a girl from Horwich running club, who powers past me for the final stretch.

This is a fantastic no-nonsense fell race, tough but a relatively simple out and back race with the opportunity to eat your £7 entry fee in cake at the end!

G’bro Three Tops II, North York Moors, Sunday, April 5, 2015

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. AM / 8.1m / 2149ft

Danny Lim

If you can only do one fell race in the North York Moors, Guisborough Three Tops would be my strong recommendation. Highlights include the stunning view of Yorkshire villages from Highcliffe Nab; picture-perfect like a postcard. This is followed immediately by a daring downhill dash into headwind so strong that your snot flies vertically, back into your face!

There is the breathless scramble to Roseberry Topping’s trig point past amused walkers and tourists. And my favourite bit of all, that slightly insane descent down the steep, grassy side of Roseberry Topping. A true fell runner will descend in what would be best described as a “controlled fall”.

This time, only four Striders braved the start line; which is surprising considering it is a GP race. Mike Bennett was the first Strider home but was stung by a 15 minute penalty for missing a newly introduced loop. Camilla and Jan also finished strongly, perhaps adding to their wine collection?

Best of all, this race will take place again this September as part of the English Fell Running Championships. So come on! Sign up now at the Esk Valley Club’s website and hope to see you there.

Mike Jan Danny Camilla
Photos Courtesy and © David Parke


G’bro Three Tops II
Pos Name Club Time cat/pos/pts/total
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley Fell 71.35 MJ/1/50/250
15 Kay Neesam New Marske Harriers 91.56 F45/1/50/300
47 Danny Lim 101.15 MO/13/36/93
53 Mike Bennett 102.26 M60/2/48/198
80 Jan Young 116.46 F60/2/48/342*
82 Camilla Laurén-Määttä 117.51 F45/4/45/279

95 finishers.

In the Esk Valley Winter series with two races to go, Jan Young is in the lead and Camilla Lauren-Maatta 2nd in their respective age groups. everything to play for.

Blakey Blitz, North York Moors, Sunday, March 22, 2015

AM / 10.6m / 2805'

Jan Young

On March 22nd, three Striders completed the Blakey Blitz fell race; 17k/855m ascent. The three should have been five, but Anita C. and Paul E. both unfortunately had last minute domestic/ family incidents. From race registration at the Lion Inn; a welcoming shelter for windswept weary travellers on Castleton Rigg; the route features a 2k downhill start to Moorlands Farm in Rosedale and footbridge over stream, then climb begins.

First past Dale Head Farm; advertising tempting ‘teas’; onto heather moorland towards the paved George Gap Causeway to Great Fryup Head, where we were cheered on by a number logging tented marshal. We stayed high along Glaisdale Rigg, before descending into Great Fryup Dale. A wicked climb out of the end of the dale, to retrace our steps back to the start, remembering to save something for the 2k ascent out of Rosedale to the Lion Inn.

Camilla was ahead of me along Glaisdale Rigg, but I managed to overtake on the Fryup Dale descent and kept a gap between us, until the ascent at the dale end, a group of us reaching the top together. Determined to stay ahead, I tracked a runner in front of me, using his pace and taking shelter from the wind, knowing Sturdy bank into Rosedale is a long downhill and that I’d ‘get away’. I find route knowledge useful as you know when to make an effort and I did call to two runners who were going ‘off piste’.

Mike and the gaggle at the finish were a welcome site; for all my enthusiasm, I had used up all my energy. Much to celebrate, as points all round on NEFRA winter series and wine for age group winners. Next outing Striders’ GP race, Guisborough 3 Tops on Sunday 5th April.


Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley Fell MJ 1 84:11
17 Anwen Darlington York Knavesmire FO 1 99:56
28 Mike Bennett M60 1 104:45
68 Jan Young F60 1 133:58
74 Camilla Laurén-Määttä F45 2 139:57

87 finishers

Carnethy ‘5’, Pentland Hills, nr Edinburgh, Sunday, February 15, 2015

AM, 6 miles, 2500 feet total climb over 5 summits

Dave Selby

The sound of the piper drove the lingering mist away from the hillside, exposing the Carnethy Five in its full glory. Across the lowland the initial climb and final descent awaited and called upon the 500-strong clan of fell runners to do their best. The gun released the rabble and the onslaught began. Across the grass, through the bog, around the thistles, through the gate, and then to find your place for the first of the 1000 feet climbs over just under a mile: up, up and more up. Stubborn mist made its greeting at the summit, along with a light but unforgiving breeze, cooling the sweat on the brow. An ever so slight decline permitted the legs to momentarily build momentum, until the next incline. Fast and furious the terrain went from up to down, back to up, and then into a glorious, several hundred foot rapid drop into a short-lived valley bottom the legs free wheeled. Funnelling through another gate, the final slope encounter beckoned: another 1000 foot climb in just under a mile. Steepening gradually with every step, it was now time to dig deep. Volcanic rocks marked the summit that was ephemeral, as was the plateau at the top. Over the top all went, down down down. Eight hundred feet in a few hundred meters. Across the scree, over the heather the thighs burned. Finally the finish line was in sight, all that was left was, once again, through the gate, past the thistles, through the bog and across the grass.

… Rachael Bullock

Having known Susan and Geoff for a while, I’ve realised that they are fairly selective about what races they enter. So seeing as they’ve both done the Carnethy over 20 times, I figured there must be something special about it. It’s also a ballot entry – pretty unusual for a fell race – another sign that it is popular and worth the journey up to Edinburgh. The race definitely didn’t disappoint. There were hills. 5.7 miles of some of the hardest and most unrelenting hills I’ve ever faced during a fell run. Hands on knees jobbies for much of the way. The penultimate hill was a killer, a long drag on rather tired legs by that point. Sadly, I thought (well really I was just hoping optimistically) that it was the last hill and I gave my all. It wasn’t till I reached the top and saw another monster climb ahead that I realised it was not the last hill. Heart-wrenching stuff. The final hill was a struggle, but pure determination, knowing I had put so much effort in already and that it would be a shame to waste it, kept me going. It was such a relief to get to the top….but only to be greeted by one of the nastiest descents I’ve ever encountered. Very steep and covered in slippery heather. As usual, the more hardy and experienced/senseless, fearless fell-runners skipped past me, as i dithered and tried not to fall. I really didn’t enjoy this bit, but sadly, it was the only way to get to the finish, so it had to be done. Once the skidding and sliding was over, it was a nice flat stretch of boggy, tussocky ground to stretch the legs out towards the finish. Here I tried to capitalize on recent Harrier league training to pass a couple of other ladies before the finish line, where Geoff cheered me in, and I was followed shortly after by Dave and Susan. Then it was back to the local high school for a good feed of pie before heading home! Despite the pain incurred, I would not have to think twice about doing this race again! It was pretty damn awesome and I can’t really think of a better way to spend Valentine’s day?!

Guisborough Three Tops Fell Race, Sunday, November 2, 2014

AM/13 km/655 m

Scott Watson

Elvet Striders at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014 On yet another unseasonably warm day in November with autumn’s colours glowing rich and golden in the weak sunshine, seven Striders gathered in the grounds of Guisborough Rugby Club for the third race in the Northern Runner/NEHRA Winter Series; on this occasion a roughly 13 km jaunt would take in the lofty features of High Cliff Nab, Roseberry Topping and Hanging Stone all lined up along the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, waiting silently to receive the briefest of visitations from 128 frenetic fell-runners.

Paul Evans heads for a well deserved 17th place at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014
photo © David Aspin

Contenders for Elvet Striders on the day were (from left to right in the image above): Rachael Bullock, David Selby, Penny Browell, Paul Evans, Danny Lim, Camilla Lauren-Maatta and Scott Watson. Rachael was coming back from an innocuous but nasty cycling injury and Penny was attending her very first fell race as part of a meteoric debut season with Elvet Striders. For everyone else (to the best of my knowledge) it was just another day at the fell-running office.

The race briefing on the upper reaches of Belmangate emphasised the consequences of trespassing, the potential effects of fallen trees (cleared away as it turned out) on the race start and necessity of avoiding collision with mountain bikers. Then with a faintly disinterested ‘off you go’ from the organiser, Dave Parry, we were away up the path and into the wood.

From my position somewhere in the middle of a jostling pack I could see Paul starting steadily as he is inclined to do. Penny was just ahead and everyone else appeared to be behind me. As with so many fell races, the uphill starts are demanding and we were soon strung out in a long, gasping line as the track narrowed to a muddy trail. Then it was just one long, lactate-producing, ascent out of the woods and up to High Cliff Nab.

Scott Watson heads for the last trig point at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014
photo © David Aspin

No-one can ever accuse me of not being 100% committed when I’m racing and it was at this point that I had a minor meltdown with a gentleman from a Yorkshire running club who appeared to be chatting to everyone he was passing on the way up (none of whom seemed inclined to reply). I KNEW he was going to say something to me and when it came I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t very polite. This led to him referring to the race as a ‘Sunday stroll for him’ which in turn led to me suggesting that he “sod off up the front and win it then!” (I have to confess I didn’t actually use the term ‘sod’ as such).

When he overtook me on the flagged section on the way to Roseberry Topping nothing was said and we continued on our merry way towards Roseberry. After being picked off continually by runners coming up from behind and being left for dead on the descent we finally hit the slopes of Roseberry Topping where I found that all the places I’d lost were quickly regained. As I came up to the next toiling group I could hear a familiar voice recalling at length how somebody had told him to sod off on the last climb. ‘Aye, it was me’ I grunted and to be fair he took it quite well.

By then we were almost at the trig point after which it was a case of making your own luck on the descent. Again I was just blown away by more accomplished descenders, so I resolved to do my own thing and see what I could do on the climbs. The frustrating thing was that I felt I was actually going quite well but I just wasn’t at the races figuratively speaking (not sure if it’s the knees or the nerve).

Penny Browell making her fell running debut at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014
photo © David Aspin

In the trip across the common from Roseberry to Hanging Stone I still can’t decide whether I made up places or lost them, I only know that the group that eventually appeared in front of me out of the bracken was considerably bigger than the one I left on Roseberry Topping.

The climbs seemed to be where it was happening for me today though, with the last big ascent to Hanging Stone being made on a mountain bike course, allowing me to happily focus on the carnage that would be caused by a flying mountain bike hitting a pack of runners at 30 mph instead of on the discomfort in my rapidly tiring legs. It must have done some good because at the top I’d caught and passed everyone who’d left me behind on Roseberry.

A short but steep descent brought us to Hanging Stone which I completely failed to recognise and shot past. Luckily shouts of ‘Whoa, this way son!’ prevented me from going too far down the hill. I amused myself on the long drag back to the final trig point on how good it felt to be called ‘son’ again! Unfortunately I spent most of the distance being caught once more by all that I’d passed on the last climb including my mate from Yorkshire (who didn’t look to me like he was out for a Sunday stroll any more).

The script stayed the same however and with the last couple of dragging and rolling climbs came a series of minor ‘victories’ as, once again, I caught and passed the usual suspects. Unfortunately though, a long, long, fast descent awaited me in the woods and I knew that the outcome wasn’t going to be pretty.

Danny Lim descending at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014
photos © David Aspin

David approaching the final trig point at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014








After rounding the final trig point I stayed with a decent group, off the moor, into the woods and onto the brow of the descent – at which point they all ran away from me! The only positive was that because they’d literally ALL gone, I knew I was no longer under pressure from behind. That was until we hit the steepest and narrowest part of the descent when this chap that I thought I’d left miles behind came bombing past. But what can you do?

Now on a broader, flatter, forest track at least I was able to keep him in sight to the finish which approached very rapidly (another reliable indicator of when you’re having a decent race). I finished 40th overall – well inside my objective of first half of the field – and 5th in the M50 category so can’t complain. One profoundly impressive result I noticed was that of Ben Grant from Harrogate Harriers, who finished 19th, two places behind our own fast finishing Paul Evans, and who was first in the M65 category!

Rachael approaching the final trig point at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014
photos © David Aspin

Camilla approaching the final trig point at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014








Almost the very first person I saw at the finish was my mate from High Cliff Nab who seemed to take my lack of manners in good humour and of course, to whom I apologised. Paul had had a brilliant run, eventually coming in 17th and citing the same shortcomings in the downhill department as had afflicted me.

It wasn’t long afterwards that Penny and Danny came barrelling home with Danny just being outsprinted by the formidable Penny, in 56th and 57th positions respectively (Penny was 6th lady in her debut fell race). David (95th) came in next, a couple of minutes ahead of Rachael (99th/17th lady) with bloodied knee – both looking pretty pleased with their efforts – followed a few minutes later by Camilla (108th/21st lady). All in all, the ladies had done particularly well being third in the ladies’ team competition while the men were eighth in theirs.

Weather conditions had been kind, if a bit blustery and the ground was relatively firm, providing decent and much needed grip (especially through the woods). The three major climbs are a good challenge but there is an awful lot of paving on the transitions between them. This race has been noted for its route choice after Hanging Stone and in previous years it appears to have been won by runners taking a fast route along the bottom of the wood. This year, as far as I could see, everyone was returning the way they had come. All in all though, it was a great day out on the North Yorkshire Moors.

Turner Landscape Fell Race, Lake District, Sunday, August 10, 2014

AM / 10.6m / 2986'

Danny Lim

Gale force winds buffeted me in every direction and visibility was down to 50 yards. I was somewhere on the Coniston Masiff, looking for my second elusive checkpoint. This was a world away from the sunny Duddon valley from which I had started an hour ago. The runner ahead was just about visible and I really didn’t want to lose him.

Then through the mist, a lone waif-like figure stood. Facing the blustery wind, he held himself upright with two walking poles. “Well done!” he called out. As I approached, I saw a weathered, gaunt face framed by white eyebrows and a long, narrow nose. His beady eyes carried a piercing gaze, a distinctive look which I recognised instantly. “Joss Naylor?”. “Aye!”, he replied.

It was a surreal moment, meeting him atop a desolate peak in the mist when I least expected it. Here was the legendary “Iron Joss”, breaker of so many course records, some of which still stand decades on. And here he was in his seventies, marshalling a remote checkpoint, encouraging runners including the ones at the back. And all for a good cause, as all race proceeds were going to the Alzheimer’s Society. For a second, I forgot I was in the middle of a race. A quick handshake and I reluctantly carried on.

From Dow Crag looking into Duddon Valley.

I had lost my quarry and found myself alone in the mist. It was a disconcerting feeling, but I carried on in the bearing I was supposed to take. Eventually, I joined a pack of runners and followed them towards the next checkpoint, the summit of Old Man Coniston. On descending from the “Old Man”, I veered away from the main path, followed a sheep trod which eventually petered out. I found myself on the side of a steep, grassy slope dotted with crags and boulders. I also had a great view of the big, precipitous drop into the valley below. As I fumbled through, trying to traverse the slope, I realised that the runners behind had taken exactly the same line. “You don’t have to follow me, I’m making this up as I go!”, I joked. Nobody had a sense of humour.

We soon reached the next checkpoint at Dow Crag before making our way to White Pike, the last climb of the race. From here it was 20 minutes of exhilarating, quick-stepping, knee-jolting descending through the sheep folds towards Turner Farm Hall. What added to the thrill was knowing I was being chased. I had managed to get ahead of the pack and I could intermittently hear heavy footsteps behind. A last cruel perimeter of the field and I was across the finish.

If you have managed several fell races in the North York Moors and want a step up, this will be a good one to try, though navigational skills is a must. I was initially fazed by my fellow runners. They have thighs that show every sinew of muscle, craggy weathered faces, frames devoid of body fat and a determined and confident expression. But everyone really is friendly and up for a bit of banter, especially after the race. This is only the fourth running of this race, but the route is a horseshoe run over a mountain ridge and boasts great views throughout. It certainly has potential to become a Lakeland “classic”.

Skiddaw Fell Race, Sunday, July 6, 2014

AM / 9m / 2700'

Danny Lim

As I hurtled down the mountainside, my poor legs were turning over as fast they could. Slap! Slap! Slap! Each foot plant was taking place just in time to avoid falling flat on my face. At the speed I was going, I was acutely aware that I was one bad step away from badly twisting my ankle or rolling all the way to oblivion! I glanced at my Garmin; 10 minutes and I had descended 600 feet. Not that I had much choice in the matter!

Then, a flash of colour; a young lady had just overtaken me. To my horror, a few dozen yards ahead, she fell flat on her face. For a few seconds, she lay motionless, then started groaning in a way that left me in no doubt she was in agony. “Don’t panic!”, I told myself. I was trained in Advance Trauma Life Support. Airway clear? Yes! Neck, broken? Does it need to be held still? Before I could ascertain this and to my horror, two fellow runners hoiked her back up to her feet. Blood was poring from the gashes in her arms and knees. With a quick pat on the back, they sent her on her way. I stood and watched in awe as she hurtled downhill, as if nothing had happened. Clearly, these fell-runners are made of different stuff.

Only one hill: Skiddaw!

I continued my descent, at a more sedate pace. By the time I reached the bottom of Skiddaw, my legs didn’t feel like they belong to me and as much as I willed them to, they were stuck in second gear. My lower back was aching from the relentless pounding. An hour of non-stop climbing followed by that brutal descent had taken its toll. Like Rocky Balboa, I kept moving forwards, though I was in no position to give chase. As I struggled to the finish, it was the girl I stopped to help earlier that was cheering me on.

So, any takers for next year then? I had a friendly welcome and plenty of banter with fellow runners. And for the grand sum of £6, got an afternoon’s entertainment and memories to last a lifetime.

Anniversary Waltz, Newlands Valley, Lake District, Saturday, April 19, 2014

AM / 11.5M / 3,600'

Danny Lim

I was feeling distinctly out of place descending this ridiculously steep, grassy slope. No sane person would expect this to be run-able, but everyone around was overtaking me, descending like nimble mountain goats. In comparison, I was like an elephant, clumsily trundling down. What held me back was the fear of slipping and tumbling all the way down a few hundred feet. As if to emphasise the point, a few rocks I had accidentally dislodged continued rolling downhill. Vertigo was not my strong point and this wasn’t helping! It was a delicate balance between daring and stupidity and at the moment, my survival instinct trumped my competitive streak. “How did I get myself into this mess?”, I asked myself.

Two years ago, by chance, I was staying in the same hotel as Dougie Nisbet. He had just finished the Anniversary Waltz and was regaling his adventure. I knew I had to give the race a go. Several fell races in the North York Moors later, I was ready, or at least I thought I was! It was a horseshoe-shaped 11 mile race with a climb of 5 summits. It would start in the Newlands valley near Keswick, climbing Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells. From the comfort of my living room, the contour lines on the map appeared fairly benign. However, in real life, the peaks looked far more menacing. After over an hour of what seemed like “ridiculously steep” climbing, followed by equally steep descents, I was less certain. I had so far managed to climb three of the five summits. “Over halfway there”, I told myself in a vain attempt to shore up my confidence.

A familiar climb to anyone who has ever waltzed round the Newlands Horseshoe. In reality, I was struggling. Foolishly, I hadn’t taken any water, food or energy gels with me. I knew we were going to cross a stream soon, but the last time I drank untreated water was in South Africa where, I developed cholera. I reassured myself that this was unlikely in England and in my desperation, drank greedily from the stream. The water was cold and gloriously sweet. I tried not to dwell on the millions of potential pathogens from the sheep droppings littered everywhere.

Though I was no longer thirsty, I was ravenous. I passed a mother and her young daughter picnicking nearby and resisted the urge to snatch the candy bar she was eating. You know it’s bad when you even think about stealing candy from a child! In desperation, I asked the marshal at the next checkpoint and they obliged with a chocolate bar. Never had anything tasted so good! I Almost immediately, I was much better.

But there was still 3-4 miles to go and I was exhausted. Leg muscles that I didn’t know existed were cramping up everywhere and I was forced to slow down to a gentle jog. All thoughts about finishing in a target time were out the window. Dozens of runners overtook me, but I didn’t care. I was worried I was going to seize up and stop completely because of the cramps. My only thought was to make it home in one piece. As I reached Catbells, the final summit, I could see the village hall and our starting point below. It was the psychological boost I needed to get me through the final hobble-dash to the finish.

Some people prefer to run on roads, apparently! Would I do this race again? Definitely! Throughout the entire run, the scenery was breath-taking. Much of the race was on a ridge and you would have great views on either side. I didn’t know anybody but I was made to feel very welcome by everyone I encountered.

Blakey Blitz Fell Race, Lion Inn, North York Moors, Sunday, March 23, 2014

AM / 10.6m / 2805ft

Anita Clementson

Two Mikes (Hughes & Bennett) along with Danny and myself represented the striders in one of the many scenic races put on by the Esk Valley Fell Club.

The only way is ... up.

Standing in the ‘queue’ for registration (in the car park of red lion pub, somewhere in North York moors!) with some hardy looking fell runners and was told this was the hardest of the fell series runs ran by Esk Valley. The no frills approach of these races is quite appealing, only £6 for entry handed over to Race organiser Dave sat in his warm car! I did take his mobile number for emergency use as the echoes rang in my ears of what I heard in the queue!

Looking up at the blue sky it could be quite easy to think that the kit required is overkill, but the weather can change very quickly and dramatically on the hills and I actually quite like running with my small rucksack, if I ever fell backwards it would be a soft landing if nothing else.

We all set off down hill and the main running field I could soon see snaking off in the distance. For me today this was just all about getting round and enjoying being out in the elements, getting away from it all and to keep at least one runner in front to follow the route! I soon got into a comfortable pace and footing was a little precarious on that first downward section. Soon we were climbing up and I took the sensible option of walking the hills, of which there were 3 notable ones in this race. The views were fantastic which the climbs rewarded you with.

Surprisingly there were a couple of marshals out there and navigation wasn’t too bad as red tape was at points where there was a turn. The terrain was a mix of bog, stones, stoney paths, heather and farm track, the weather was full of all elements with some light hail snow thrown in.

However near the end I took a silly turning and ended up doing an extra mile. The field was so spread out by this time there was no one ahead to follow. I realised my mistake and got on the right track and was happy to see the odd runner still in the race so I wasn’t quite last!

That last hill was a killer, really sapped you of all energy. Was pleased to meet Dave again, yes sat in his warm car taking the numbers of the finishers. Mike H & Danny also got slightly lost and Mike Bennett had a good race with his 35th position and 2nd in his age category. Worse ways to spend your Sunday morning.

Overall a very enjoyable Sunday morning and hope to do more of these series.

Carnethy ‘5’, Pentland Hills, Scotland, Sunday, February 16, 2014

AM / 10km / 762m (2500 feet total climb over 5 summits)

Susan Davis

We left Durham early on what has become something of an annual pilgrimage to this race for Geoff and myself since 1990 when we then ran for Sunderland Poly. The sky was grey and for most of the drive heavy rain persisted so we knew for sure we would not have dry feet, however, the race start time was 2.00pm and the weather forecast was for light showers which would fall as snow on ground over 300m and some brightness for the afternoon so we drove on with some optimism. We arrived at race registration (Beeslack School, Penicuick) at 12.15 with plenty of time to collect our numbers, have a chat with fellow fell runners from the north east and make a clothes selection for the day. The weather was still pretty miserable with low cloud but at least the rain had stopped.

Geoff makes a bit of horizontal progress ...
photo © Bob Marshall

By the time we arrived at the start the sun was shining, all the tops were clear and the blue sky had lots of white fluffy clouds. The Pentland Hills looked beautiful as they were snow-capped. We gathered on the start line and a round of applause was given for all involved in making this race possible with a polite/joking request for all to run as fast as they could as it was freezing on the tops for the marshals. We were off to the usual mad dash across the low boggy start to get a good position before the narrow track began. My dash was not what it should be and things slowed on the narrow track. Then the steep ascent up the first hill Scald Law – I felt strong on this and was gaining places. I had adopted my usual fell runners crouch position due to the steepness of the hill although my lack of height means my head spends a lot of time around other runners calfs, thighs and buttocks. On exiting the sea of legs on the shoulder of the hill I was grabbed by the strong biting wind and started travelling sideways rather than forwards! I reached the first top turned and faced the next challenge descending the rough ground covered with a couple of inches of slushy snow so, along with others, I ran, slipped and slid down the slope. The next three tops in the race followed the usual pattern for me gaining places on the up and loosing on the downs still the sun was shining and, apart from my frozen feet, I was warm and having a great time.

From the top of the 4th of 5 hills in this race is where you drop down into the valley. Another descent through slush, snow and tussocks saw myself and most around me making gentle thudding noises as we made full body contact with the ground on more than one occasion. Now a flat stretch so still some energy in my legs to run through bog and ankle deep mud as fast as I could and to stay upright. My feet were by now a little warmer but felt like cold flippers rather than feet. A marshal on this section had enlisted a snowman as extra help and support – I smiled and thought of Juliet Percival. There is a sharp little descent to Logan Burn and in today’s underfoot conditions there was no point in me trying to run it so I did my version of the skeleton bob and overtook others doing the same so I reckon I was going at a similar speed to Lizzy Yarnold! All around me were in touch with their inner child making whoops of glee and laughing.

Susan on the descent.
photo © Bob Marshall

Back in the upright position and still a lot of work to do with the final ascent up Carnethy Hill. Steady progress up this one and still managing at this point to overtake one or two people. As I go up this last hill I have time to think of many different fell running friends over the years who have run this race and for those who may do it in the future. I then hear someone calling my name so I am spurred on by fellow NFR member John Telfer and push on to the summit taking in the magnificent view of the Firth of Forth as I go. Here we go the descent starts gently so doing okay and not many runners around me as the descent steepens I begin to hear the approach and a what feel like a tsunami of runners pass me despite my best efforts. Last effort across the field to the finish unable to regain any places greeted by cheers from Geoff and others from NFR.

We catch the bus back to the school, have a shower followed by a school dinner and lots of cups of tea and biscuits. Even the drive home was pleasant seeing the moon rise, as we drove across the moors, coloured red and orange until it was high in the sky shining silver and bright – a great end to a great day.

Will we return next year? What do you think?