Category Archives: FRA-AS

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 S
A category “S” (short) race is 10 kilometres or less.

Steel Fell Race, Lake District, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

AS / 3 miles / 400 metres

Aaron Gourley

So the previous Saturday I’d timed out at Borrowdale Fell Race. On Tuesday, after a few days of rest (I was on holiday after all) and cursing my:
a) navigation mistake; and,
b) my climbing ability,
I decided to go out for a run-up and down Skiddaw – as you do.

On Wednesday evening, after a day exploring Ambleside and Grasmere, I dropped my wife and daughter off at the Kings Head Inn at Thirlspot and headed back to Steel Head Farm for the Steel Fell Race.

This is a tough little 3-mile race which takes you up to the summit of Steel Fell turn around and run back to the finish. I parked up, registered, then went back to the car to get changed. It was then that I realised I’d forgotten my Striders vest, and more importantly, my fell shoes!

If there’s a race where you need grip, this is it. I had my Adidas Kanidia’s which have a fairly aggressive sole but nothing in the way of the Walshes or Inov-8’s. And I had a tech t-shirt but, as you can imagine, I looked a bit like a fish out of water surrounded, once again, by the fell running skeletons of the Lake District’s clubs.

This is a peculiar race. There’s no entry fee, no kit check and there are no prizes, but it’s seriously competitive with just over 100 runners taking part. On the stroke of 7:30 pm, we were off, up the path for a gentle warm-up run before turning sharply onto the slopes of Steel Fell.

Once more my I found myself head down, hands on knees marching upwards. This time though, I was holding my place, breathing well and seemingly feeling good, but 1.5 miles of solid climbing takes its time.

Eventually, the climb starts to shallow a little but as I look up, I see the first placed runner, Keswick’s Carl Bell, making his way back down. He’s phenomenally quick. I look at my watch which confirms this. I’ve been climbing for over 12 minutes; he’s on his way back down. This is why he was one of Killian Jornet’s pacers for his record-breaking Bob Graham Round, although he narrowly missed out on a win at Borrowdale Fell Race, being beaten, by only 5 seconds, in a sprint finish from a rejuvenated Ricky Lightfoot.

Anyway, back to my race, and with the vertical now shallow enough to stand up straight and run, I made my way to the summit turn-around point. I managed to grab a few places from those that were still recovering from the climb whilst trying not to get in the way of the returning front-runners.

Once at the summit, it was all-systems-go to get back to the finish as quickly as possible. The runoff across the plateau is just shy of half a mile, climb a fence then onto the steep slope back to the finish field. It is here that makes or breaks the race, and my usual confidence and exuberance on the downhills was gone with the worry of the grip of my replacement shoes.

A heavy downpour earlier in the day had made the slopes greasy, so I was worried that if I let fly, I’d end up coming down in a very unconventional manner but one that’s not uncommon – on my arse!

Normally, I’d take places on a downhill, but today I was losing them which was really annoying but I kept going as fast as I could and eventually reached the gate to the road for the final few hundred metres of running to the finish. With legs of jelly, I put in everything I had to hold my place and not get caught in the final straight.

I finished in 87th place, in 34:20mins, just shy of a minute slower than last year but feeling much better and considering my exertions the previous days, I was very happy with that time. Looking at my Strava data I was also surprised to find that I’d actually descended faster than the previous year despite the lack of proper footwear, so I just need to work on getting up the hills faster and I’ll probably become a better fell runner.

Roof of England Fell Race, Chapelfell Top, St John’s Chapel, Tuesday, July 17, 2018

AS / 7km / 400m

Tim Skelton

I’ve long been an armchair fell racer. I’ve done bits-and-bobs here and there (Swaledale Marathon being my biggest and favourite). I’ve also been a member of the Fell Runners Association for 2 years to try to motivate myself to get out there… They send out amazing magazines and a yearly calendar of events. But…. children, work, travel and laziness have prevented me from getting out onto the fells until I saw DFR offering the Roof of England Fell race. All the planets were in their right zodiac signs and I discovered that I was able to make it!

Weardale is one of, if not my favourite, of the dales…. maybe only beaten by Borrowdale and Swaledale. The drive over to St. John’s Chapel was stunning. Nobody was on the road and I thoroughly enjoyed the sweeping roads and views over the fells. I pulled up outside the public loos after driving past a couple of dozen chaps and lasses in their respective club vests. I saw Geoff in an alien vest and realised tonight he was one of the enemy. Geoff Davis (aka Yoda) has long been the club’s bastion of Fell running and puts on some great up and downhill training sessions. The plan for the night was to finish with Yoda in sight. I knew I’d been off the boil over the last few weeks so this was more about testing myself and seeing if my armchair love for fell running would develop into true love, as I suspected it might.

Much humming and haa’ing ensued and I decided to go full Mudclaw. It rained very heavily the night before but until then, we’d had a month or so of now’t but sun. The kit list was downgraded too from full FRA requirements to map, compass and whistle. Thank goodness, as I didn’t fancy carrying the full body cover, hat, gloves and water – a tad excessive for a 7km race.

I wandered across the road after a 200m warm-up through the village to meet the race director for our pre-race briefing. In total there were 46 of us from a wide range of clubs on the rocky start line. The fast lads (and lasses) had made their way to the front under the flags but the atmosphere was jovial and people were nattering away in the gorgeous summer’s evening light.

The race started at quite a pace but slowed slightly as it became almost single file up between stone walls moving very much in an upwards direction. After 1 mile I’d passed quite a number of my fellow fell runners (I think I can say that now) and we passed the first set of Marshalls wishing us well. After this, it was every man and woman for themselves. There was no route. Only point upward to Chapel Fell Top. Competitors could go any route their heart desired (imagine that at the GNR!) as long as they made the summit. This was much like the Durham three peaks challenge but no ladders would be of help here…

The terrain quickly became very steep. I was about 10m behind Yoda and I decided that this would be a good classroom to learn the ways of the force. Where he walked I walked. Where he picked up the pace, I picked up the pace. My legs were feeling good, I was loving the surroundings, but the grass and moss were getting higher and squishier respectively. There was no clear route and people were spread out across the Fell trying to find a route of least resistance. I kept swapping places with a Keswick AC and Derwent Valley runner over the next gruelling mile. It was great. I loved it but, my word, it hurt my calves. All of a sudden I thought I saw a “different” more direct route to Geoff’s and went off on my own…. sod the lesson plan, this was a race! It seemed to be the bed of peat bog (one which Elaine would probably try drink out of if the stories are true) but was now dried to a powdery black mush. We both rounded the Cairn together and turned back to decent down (down deeper and down) to the village once again.

Here it became a bit crazy in a very good way!! I’ve always loved going up hills (but they hurt)…. but LOVE running down…. it seems to play to my strengths. It sounds stupid writing it but I find it’s like a super fast game of chess. My brain works at 100mph working out where to place my feet. What’s safe? What’s not? Where will require a little jump and where will cause a bit of a squelch. I love this side of downhill running on trails (and now fells). It makes me feel very alive and following Geoff was certainly that.

He is obviously very good at this and I savoured the challenge of keeping up. I passed a couple of people with a, “you alright mate?”, who’d twisted and ankle (or 2) and flew down some sections with the grass whipping at my knees. It was hard work but on the thighs now. I loved it.

We passed the 1-mile left marshal and picked up the pace. My Strava said 6:30m/m over the next very rocky section. I’m really pleased about this as it was tough underfoot but was great fun. We went down with the dry stone walls blurring past us. My plan was to wait until 200m or so before the end and to kick on and pass. All was going well and I spotted my chance…. but stupidly I hesitated. I have no idea why, as I had more in my legs to give… Then the track changed and became single file only. I couldn’t pass. I debated going through the nettles but it seemed a bit silly as I’d already proved to myself that I was okay at this AS grading of Fell runs. (Fell races are all graded. Simply put, the first letter A-B-C, is for the grade in terms of steepness/complexity. The second letter, S-M-L is the length and I’ll let you work out what they stand for). This was an AS. Under 10km and carried a fair bit of elevation gain (400m).

We rounded the last corner with the flags in sight. I passed the finish line on the heels of Yoda and was met by an “oh I didn’t realise it was you chasing me!”

We cheered/clapped in the remaining runners and chatted about the race.

After a quick Lucozade in the Chatterbox cafe (apt name), we moved outside for the prizes. Andy the Race Director had put on a great spread of wine, beer and chocolate for the lucky winners. Strangely I got a spot prize for it being my first proper fell race.

Many then returned to the cafe for a treat… My chosen indulgence was a freshly cooked scone (rhymes with gone!), jam and cream. I sat with runners from other local clubs and just nattered. It was the perfect after race party in that respect.

The drive home was stunning. The sunset behind me made it look like the Gods were happy and putting on a show especially for us runners. Reds, oranges, yellows and amazingly, purples. This little Elvet Strider was one happy bunny after bounding down Chapel Fell Top at sun 7mins/mile.

I’d love to see many more Elvet Striders join me next year. It’s a fantastic race and at £5 on the day, what is there to lose?

 

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.

The Natural Ability Fell Race, Allenheads, Sunday, October 16, 2016

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Steve Ellis

fell-race-oct2016At my age I should know better! Well perhaps that’s true but new challenges and experiences are always attractive. This was to be a first Fell race for both
myself and Mark (Payne). I had read that this race was suitable for inexperienced and experienced fell runners alike, requiring no special
equipment, and this had persuaded us to give it a go.

Also it was cheap (£9) and set in a beautiful part of the country, the North Pennines. Camilla was
initially to be the designated driver but had to pull out at the eleventh hour with a cold and fortunately Diane(Watson) was able to step in as we negotiated our way along the Wear valley to Allenheads.

The forecast was bleak with rain due at 11am exactly matching the race start
time! Still these things are seldom accurate and anyway with our gung-ho
attitude proudly pinned to our purple attire we arrived in good time. Parking
was easy and we picked up our numbers. The temperature had plummeted and showed
6 degrees on the cars display. We also noted how the wind had picked up and was
blowing the tree tops. Discussions now concentrated on what to wear! Mark and
Diane chose to wear tights and jackets. I had no such choice as I had only come
with shorts, a decision I came to regret and my jacket is only
shower-proof…in other words porous! Diane again came to the rescue lending me
a suitable jacket.

After a warm up run we assembled for the start at about 10;50 and right on-cue
the rain announced its arrival. Ironically the guest race starter was ex-BBC
weather lady Hannah Bayman! So at 11 exactly, we set off. The first 4k took us
along the valley tracks, lanes and bumpy fields until we reached the river
itself. So far it had been “undulating” a word often used and greatly
misunderstood by runners! In this race it had been mainly flat with a few
inclines and stiles to negotiate. However things were now to change
dramatically!

At about 4k we had to cross the river. It was about 8 inches deep and freezing
cold. If your feet weren’t wet so far they would be now. Then up a steep road
section which led to us crossing another road and out onto the Fells. Ohh the
glorious sight of a 1 kilometre hill now stretched out before us and into the
teeth of a gathering gale! Most runners had now slowed to a walk as they
battled against the elements and the force of gravity. I tried to jog- walk my
way to the top but it was very hard going. The heavy rain was now
machine-gunning into my face and pinging my legs.(is this putting you off I
wonder?) However the thoughts you hang on to drive you forward. For example..”
come on now, we are over half way and its only a cross-country distance and we
are nearly at the highest point!! ” etc….well…I bet you talk to yourself
too! And so I crested the hill and alighted onto another rough puddled track
and the battle with the wind really began! It felt like someone was pushing you
backwards at times as it reached 40mph. It was also at this time I noticed how
cold my legs were! I guess they were moving by default and driven by idiocy!
Still the stoic runner battled forward and soon reached the very top of the
course and began the long descent for the finish.

As I gathered pace my legs warmed up and all was well and positive. The idea of
this being a race amused me a little as thus far I had only passed people who
were walking or standing still! Just then a lady from North Shields Poly
breezed past me and soon was 50 or so metres ahead. What! I can’t have that! As
we reached the road at the bottom of the hill I tried to keep her in sight and
crossing the road we descended on to the bumpy fields and stiles again
(remember those?). I now noticed that I was gaining a little on her as she
seemed less happy on this surface. Detecting this chink I her armour I got to
within 10 metres of her as we ran down the final bit of tarmac and onto the
final field. We could now see the finish in the far corner and battle
commenced. I bound past her and finished a couple of seconds ahead. So much for
it not being a race! Just as in harrier league fixtures the race is what you
make of it.

As I finished a small reception committee greeted you with “well dones” and
pats on the back as well as a goody bag, water and a sponsors t-shirt. Amazing
for such a cheap race and even more generous when you realise the race is named
after the wonderful charity it is organised by and for. The Natural Ability
fell race supports adults with special needs in enriching their lives.
Wonderful! And the marshals. My goodness what a task on such a day! The whole
race experience was fantastic, and put my bit of whining to shame!

After trudging back to the car to change ( Mark and Diane found much more
suitable places) we reconvened in the Allenheads Hotel bar for the prizes and a
welcome sandwich soup and coffee. Perhaps none of us had troubled the prize
givers but we had won in so many other ways. I personally found the challenge
tough but it didn’t defeat me and I would certainly go back! Next time fully
equipped for all eventualities. Don’t second guess the fells and the weather!

So far this year I have been chasing the clock in my attempts to post PBs and
tick off targets and I was a little bored with it all if I am truthful. One of
the reasons I fancied this race was to get away from all that and discover new
challenges. I can honestly say I did not check my time once until well after I
had finished. In some ways it is an irrelevance as the real challenge is the
course, the elements and occasionally the chance to chase down a shirt!

The real winners anyway were the organisers and marshalls and of course the
charity. Finally, as always the company and chat on the day with fellow
Striders is always a pleasure and this was no different, so thanks to Mark and
especially Diane who drove us there and back.. my turn to drive next time…now
I wonder where that will be?

Natural Ability Fell Race, Monday, May 4, 2015

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Jo Porter

Finding myself unexpectedly at a bit of a loose end on Bank Holiday Monday due to it being good fishing and motorcycling weather I made a last minute decision to have a ride over to Allenheads and give this race a go. I was a little daunted by it, not being used to fell races, but had read the race information after Paul mentioned it on Wednesday at Striders and it looked okay for beginners.

Arriving at the village I saw it was pretty busy, I wondered if there would be EOD’s left. I parked in the car park they had organised and walked the very short distance to race registration. I paid my £10, took my number and a friendly marshal showed me the race route on a map. He pointed out where the hills were, in particular one steep climb just before the halfway point. I was pretty nervous by then, most of the people around me were obviously seasoned fell runners, without any fat on them, looking like they could run forever. The marshal however assured me it was do-able, fully marshalled and taped and that full waterproofs didn’t need to be carried.

It started at 11am, as advertised. I’d guess there were about 120 runners. I started almost at the back, in short sleeves having ditched my jacket behind a wall before the start as the sun had come out. It was a very slight uphill start on a stony lane, but nothing too steep. Pretty soon we were crossing a couple of fields, the going was soggy underfoot. I’d worn new road shoes as I needed the cushioning, having had a problem with my foot recently. I soon realised that sadly they wouldn’t be clean for long as I squelched across the boggy bits and slid in the odd bit of mud. It was undulating with a good mixture of surfaces, the occasional stile and a stream to cross, or fall in for some! I was enjoying it, listening to the ground nesting birds and the water rushing down the hillside after heavy rain the day before. Shortly before we crossed the main road there was a ford to get over, which meant my feet got absolutely soaked, at least it cleaned the mud off!

Then the climb started… Suffice to say it took me over 9 minutes to cover the half a mile to 3 miles, all the people around me were walking up what seemed like an endless hill. For fit people I guess it was very run able, on a good clear path through the heather, but the gradient was beyond my running capabilities. The top couldn’t come soon enough. We were then rewarded by fabulous views as we contoured along the hillside, I think the next part was overall pretty flat, passing a quarry, along a pleasant stony track, until we reached the road again. The marshals at the road crossing assured me that it was all downhill from there. They were right, it was a lovely downhill initially on grass then the final bit on the road into the village. I tried to sprint for what I thought was the finish line, and managed to catch someone up who I’d been behind for a couple of miles, but on getting there I was directed up another track to the left, where the finish flag could be seen around 50 yards away. A final push and I was finished. I felt like I’d ran far further than 5.7miles, and was glad of the water in the goody bag. I’d taken about 65 minutes, so it was far from fast. There were also a few packets of sweets, some crisps and a chocolate bar in the goody bag. Only a few finished after me, and after clapping them in I walked down into the village and had a nice lunch at a nearby café, sitting in front of a log burning stove. They’d put a barbecue on at the village pub, where they held the prize giving, it smelled lovely as I walked past to go back to the car.

Garmin shows 5.73 miles and 782 feet of ascent, a great, well organised run in lovely unspoilt countryside, definitely worth doing next year. Proceeds go to a charity which seems to do some great work with special needs children.

Broughton Woods Wobble, North York Moors, Sunday, April 12, 2015

AS / 4.5m / 1220ft

Mike Bennett

3 Esk valley usual suspects, Jan Young, Danny Lim and Mike Bennett made it to a damp windy Clay bank car park to enter on the day for this event, another in the Esk Valley series, rescheduled from Feb. Only 55 runners turning up on the day.

The course may be quite short but had all the ingredients of a testing fell race. The climb being the longest uphill section on the Cleveland hills then a mixture of heather tracks, mud, granite slab paths, and rocky descents. Scenery was great if you dared take your eyes off the track for more than a few seconds without taking a tumble. Marshalls on route at critical points, course was reasonably well marked but a couple of sections where you could miss the route. I did manage to stay on the course this week so avoiding any time penalty.

A fast downhill muddy finish, fell shoes tested to the limit.

Jan was 10th female finisher and came away with wine, I managed first in age group with Danny close behind.

Mike Jan Danny

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley Fell MJ/1/50/300 39:46
9 Kay Neesam New Marske Harriers F45/1/50/350 44:51
16 Mike Bennett M60/1/50/248 50:12
18 Danny Lim M0/7/42/135 51:31
46 Jan Young F60/2/48/390 61:20

55 finishers

Dale Head, Rosthwaite, Saturday, September 20, 2014

4.5M 2215' AS

Dougie Nisbet

Join the queue.We crossed over the M6 and continued west to Keswick. It was around this point I realised that my Walshes were not sitting on the back seat but were in fact sitting next to the back door back in Durham where I’d cleverly placed them so that I couldn’t possibly forget them when we left the house. A quick detour via George Fisher was required, where I said I wanted a pair of Fell Shoes, size 43, and I needed to walk out the door in them in 10 minutes. This was becoming a habit. I tried on a nice pair of yellow La Sportiva Bushidos that felt just fine so I kept them on and made my way to the counter. “That’ll be £110 please”, she said nicely. My jaw clanged on the counter. This was about twice as much as I’ve ever paid for a running shoe. But they were a very nice yellow colour and I didn’t have any time to spare so I handed over the dosh.

The Borrowdale Show has had several years of bad luck with the weather and this entirely volunteer run event was now financially threatened. Roberta had signed us up for a couple of tickets earlier in the year via the Indiegogo website. This scheme along with some sponsorship appears to have saved the show and this year the weather was looking fantastic. As it turned out we had bags of time and I was standing staring absent mindedly at some carved sticks when the announcement came over the PA: “Would anyone wishing to enter the Fell Race please make their way to the cattle truck.”

Ah, fell racing! I’d missed this. It was good to be back! It’s not a proper race unless you’re filling in an FRA entry form in the back of a cattle truck. I found myself at the front of a queue of 1 and was given my number which was, oh excellent, 1! I’ve never been number 1 before. No pressure then. I had a look at the race details and noted it was an AS. Roberta noticing the worried frown that passed across my otherwise tranquil features asked, “What does AS mean?”. “Er, well basically, short and brutal. Usually.”. I paid some closer attention to where the race actually went and noticed that it marched right up to the top of the hill, the hill being Dale Head, then marched right down again. This wasn’t looking such a clever idea the week before the Loch Ness marathon.

Surrounded by Borrowdale vests ... no wonder I'm looking nervous.

The race briefing had an unusual twist that I hadn’t come across before. To check everyone who had registered was actually starting we all had to shout out our numbers in sequence. No. 26 having registered mere minutes earlier, must’ve decided not to bother, possibly having noted the lithe mass of sinew that was assembled for the race. I was having serious doubts myself – there were no tourists here. This was a serious bunch.

What’s to say about the race itself, apart from it was slate-shatteringly hard. It was hot and I struggled, feeling drained, weak and puzzled, much as I felt in last week’s LDMT. I should’ve been feeling fantastic as I approached the end of my marathon taper but I felt terrible. I stopped for a good drink both ways at the Dalehead Tarn beck (the ‘water stop’ in the Anniversary Waltz) and with some great encouragement from the marshalls managed to get round.

The weather was so warm that there was no need to fumble for post-race jerseys or shelter. I got a cup of tea and found a quiet patch of grass and we just sat quietly for a while soaking up the atmosphere of the show. It was a brutal little race and I should’ve treated it with far more respect than I did. I guess if you want to race well in a race that involves running up hills, then you need to train by running up hills rather than along railway lines. Clearly just buying expensive shoes and wearing the number 1 wasn’t going to cut the mustard.

Ascent of Dale Head.

Roseberry Topping Fell Race, North York Moors, Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AS / 2.3km / 217m

Jan Young

After you lot pounded thirteen miles at the GNR, I thought I’d buck the trend with 2.3k. Scoff not, that short stretch climbs 217m. Picture that angle; can someone do the maths for me?

It’s steep! But it’s a very tolerant Topping; allows you to walk up/ climb up/ cling on to it’s grassy, rocky bits. On summitting, kiss the graffiti obelisk, turn around and throw yourself into mid air, leaping athletically over the heads of still ascending runners. As your feet are now moving far too fast for your brain to consider route choices, many follow blindly and wish they’d practised 50 degree upright stance before. No injuries; oldest competitor, seventy five, in Bingley vest.

Prize giving equally entertaining and challenging; organiser Dave invited anyone not awarded prize to come forward and claim spares. Always results in embarrassing ‘scrum’. Third lady, Lucy- DCH/DFR, yes I’ve named you, dived into the fray clutching her three bottles of wine, emerging with sweets! She did share them! All part of the fun, camaraderie and challenge.

Brough Law, Sunday, March 9, 2014

AS / 5M / 1250'

Geoff Davis

A Race Too Far?

Against our better judgement we decided to break one of our long established principles and run two races in one weekend. If we’re involved in a race there’s only one way we know how to run and that’s to give it 100% from start to finish, aim to be as high up the field as you can and only drop out if someone shoots you! This puts a certain amount of strain on the body and we’ve found over the years that our bodies tend to complain if they are asked to take the strain too often – like twice in two days. But you never learn and after what we thought would be an easy x/c on Saturday we found ourselves heading off to do a shortish fell race on the Sunday! Mike Hughes joined us on the drive north to the Ingram Valley in Northumberland.

There was a record turnout of over 120 for Will Horsley’s Brough Law Fell Race – a worthy reward for all of Will’s efforts. Susan and I had run the race on a number of occasions so we knew what to expect. It starts with a very steep climb and although this is mercifully short it continues with a further long climb only slightly less steep. It only took a few paces uphill for me to realise that I should have stayed at home. My chest seemed to be saying “Oi! You had us doing this yesterday and last Saturday and the Saturday before that and the Saturday before that – enough is enough – slow down or we’re not playing ball!”

What can you do when you’re delivered such an ultimatum? I slowed down. It was galling to see others pass me who normally never do but I could do little about it on that long climb. Things picked up a bit as the climb eased off and I was able to stretch out along the lovely grassy track amid beautiful Cheviot scenery. Runners stopped passing me and I began to pick a few off. There was more ‘technical’ terrain here than at yesterday’s Wallsend x/c with some nice grassy descents – just what I like!

So, all was not lost, and although one or two rivals finished ahead of me I wasn’t too disappointed and I was sure I could shake off the three injury niggles I’d managed to aggravate! Mike wasn’t far behind me and he had enjoyed very much his first fell race in the Cheviots. Susan had a good race as well, in spite of taking a tumble coming downhill near the end and being annoyed by other runners taking short cuts when Will had warned against such tactics before the start of the race.

A good morning out, home in time to see us give the Welsh a good hiding and a relaxing evening with the injuries stretched, rolled & iced. However, no more two race weekends – until the next time!

Hillforts and Headaches, Rothbury, Wednesday, January 1, 2014

AS / 3M / 1020'

Geoff Davis

On New Year’s Day Mudwoman and I switched to fell running mode (as per the last 16 New Year’s Days!) and headed to Rothbury to run ‘Hillforts & Headaches’ (Hillforts ‘cos you run over and finish on an ancient hillfort & headaches ‘cos it’s New Year’s Day!) Anyway, the race is quite short, just three miles, but those miles are practically all up hill and quite steep, with over 1,000’ of climb, earning the race an ‘A’ classification from the FRA.

The whole thing is quite low key with a field of 73 runners assembling outside the Newcastle Arms in the centre of Rothbury for the ‘off’. The pain starts almost immediately with the first hill just across the river from the town. This goes on for about a mile and half and those suffering from ‘headaches’ soon begin to feel the pain. Phil Green (NFR & Heaton) was one of those this year but his form is such that I was still unable to catch him!

It was cold this year (I wore hat and gloves for the whole race) and the mist was down for the last 2-300′ of climb but there’s no real ‘nav’ problems in this race so everyone finished safely, all be it with lungs that were fit to burst! The race was won by ex-Strider Phil Sanderson & Mudwoman and I were pleased with our respective 2nd MV50 & 3RD WV50 places as we were rewarded with two bottles of ‘Hobgoblin’! Unlike most other races this one finishes on top of a hill 3 miles from where you started! However, the downhill trot back to the start is very pleasant and provides a great opportunity to catch up with old friends from fell running.

There’s a danger that this race could be lost if no one steps forward to take over the organisation. We both hope a saviour can be found!