Category Archives: Fell

Skiddaw Fell Race, Sunday, July 7, 2019

AM/9.6m/3150ft

Nina Mason

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

This one has been on my list for a few months, and it didn’t disappoint. I stayed over in the Lakes the night before (in my new van J and had a relaxing morning wandering round Keswick and down to the lake. The weather was fabulous, if a little warm for running.

After a proper warm up and mandatory kit check, I bumped into Graeme seconds before the start, and then we were off. The race starts and finishes in Fitz Park, and is as simple as it gets….get up Skiddaw as quick as you can (you must stick to the tourist path), one checkpoint at the summit, then back to the park as fast as possible.

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

It was run, jog, or trudge on the way up, depending on the incline, and I felt pretty good, catching and passing people most of the way. I’ve started to enjoy these ‘out and backs’ – it’s inspiring and exciting seeing the front runners come hurtling past. The eventual winner had a clear lead as he passed me on the flatter section round Little Man, and a few minutes and runners later Graeme got a massive shout from me – he looked strong on his descent.

Courtesy of Lucy Burnett

After my run across the flat summit to the trig, and a breathless ‘thank you’ to the marshals, I set off on the fantastic descent. I absolutely loved this, trying to hold nothing back even on the steeper sections, running as hard as I could all the way. I got a ‘5th lady well done’ from one of the marshals about half way down, so when I saw the 4th female in front, not going as quick as me on the steep descent, I went for it – running past hard, and then trying to keep it going past the car park near Latrigg and down the final section, determined not to show weakness and look behind.

I was convinced she was right there behind me all the way, as I crossed the A66 over the bridge, and raced toward the park. A sneaky peek back as I entered the park showed me I was well clear (thank goodness, my legs had very little left in them), and then all that was needed was an attempt to sprint finish on the grass.

I really enjoyed this race – well organised, brilliant supportive marshals all the way up (and of course down), and on the day we were thoroughly spoiled by glorious weather and views (though not much time to enjoy them). 

Well done to Graeme who had a great race, and seemed to retain healthy feet…see below. I was very pleased with both my time and position, with the added bonus of getting the 3rd women’s prize, as one of the faster women declined her prize as she works for the sponsors.

The only downside…I trashed my feet. I don’t think different shoes would have helped, it must just have been the heat, terrain and my running style. I’ve taken all the skin off the soles of my heels. I even have photos if anyone is interestedJ. I’ve been hobbling around, cross because I can’t run despite feeling great otherwise, walking on tip-toe until they healed (heeled!) enough to weight-bear. I’ll be strapping them up the next time I do this race (which is a strong possibility!).

 

Click here for results

 

(Visited 3 times, 3 visits today)

Saltwell Fell Race, Stanhope, Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BS/9Km/300m

Emma Thompson

After the London Marathon, I had planned to try and use my new found level of fitness to achieve a sub-40 10k. One failed attempt, a second attempt thwarted by Father’s day, and I decided to shelve this dream for a short while as I was getting too negative about it all.


So when Fiona mentioned the Saltwell fell race on Tuesday morning, it caught my eye. A quick online search told me this was only 5.5 miles and was partially marked – that sold it. A quick check to make sure I wasn’t going to be the only Strider there, and the decision was made – my first fell race! No PB chasing and no clock watching.

With the nice weather, it seemed unlikely we’d need full kit, but I wasn’t taking any chances and quickly treated myself to a whistle, a compass I can’t use and some taped seam trousers on the afternoon. Now I have the kit, I’ll have to do a bad weather race to get my money’s worth!

The race start was located a couple of miles north of Stanhope. Race HQ was the back of someone’s car parked by the side of the road, with parking also scattered along the road. A flag marked the race start. Very low key.

As soon as I parked I realised that, in my effort to pack a full FRA kit, I had forgotten my inhaler…. Whilst I can manage as long slow run without, exercise is the main trigger for my asthma, so without this, it was going to be a slow jog over the fells. I decided to randomly ask total strangers if they had an inhaler but had resigned myself to just enjoying a gentle run out on a summer evening.

Having found Nina, Robin, Nigel and Simon at the start, we were ready to go. Well almost, a request from the race director for an inhaler came up with a result, so 2 quick puffs and we were off!

I had no real idea what to expect so was happy just to settle into pace with those around me at first. After a very short section of path, the race heads uphill, through heather and bracken. There was a small (very small) gap to follow and I just slotted in at a very comfortable pace, not wanting to waste energy at this point traipsing over the foliage. As we got higher, there started to be some slightly sparser areas of foliage (is there an official fell term for this???!), so I started to take the opportunities to move up a few places at a time. Eventually we joined a gravel path again for a short time, reaching the top of the hill. By this point I suspected I might be first female, and if not, then not far off. But was well aware I may have just gone out too fast and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going…

We headed back on ourselves with a long mainly downhill section, but we were back on rough ground. Constantly watching for the best path through, I’d hooked onto the back of a very similarly paced runner and was happy to let him help guide me through. Both taken by surprise with the first bog, not helped by running into the sunshine. He lost one leg into the bog, I lost both above the knees and was pretty concerned about my trainers, but managed to get out with both still on my feet. Off we went.

Second fall was a km or so further on, when a sudden dip in the ground sent me flying forwards with a bit of a thump into the heather. Slightly winded (and with a quick check around to see if anyone had noticed) I got going again and gradually built my pace up again.

Plain sailing until we approached the stream and the ground just seemed to drop away. As I gingerly picked my way down, I was overtaken by Dawn Metcalfe of Durham Fell Runners, who was taking a very much more confident approach to the descent. Then it was into the stream – no we didn’t need to cross it, just go in to the far side, clip our numbers, then back out the same side. Took this crossing a little too fast and fell again, up to my chest in water, but actually quite welcome at this point in the race. Sadly fell right at the feet of the same guy from the bog who by now was probably wondering what I was doing…

There was a bit of a climb back up and then, essentially, it followed the river line. However, I got back in front of Dawn and the river fall man, and started heading up and left further than we needed. Another runner whistled us back down. I had a few random “I don’t know where I’m going” moments (out loud – same man still in earshot, presumably shaking his head around this point), torn between pushing ahead, or holding back and tagging along. Dawn actually took a higher line and in retrospect this worked better, as she got back in front of me.

We dipped back down to the river and then it was a climb and a half back up towards the finish. This was a walk-run in places, and Dawn was still well within reach. She went for a more even pace, and each time I ran, I caught up a little more. Never did quite get there though and had to settle for second place in the end. Still, more than happy with that for my first fell race. And it was just what I needed! I might have to do another one now. And learn how to use that compass. And run down really steep hills without fear for my life.

(Visited 83 times, 1 visits today)

High Force Fell Race, Sunday, June 23, 2019

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BM / 18km / 500m

Dougie Nisbet

I was tempted to run today. Cronkley Fell is an old Strider favourite and a traditional GP fixture. But 14 days after Comrades I knew it’d be unwise. Many times I’ve run a favourite race, felt fine for the first mile, then not so fine for the remaining 90% of the race. Lessons learned.

So Roberta and I wandered up by High Force, flasks and flapjacks packed, bumped into Jan, and settled down beside the Tees. This is a fine course. There were moments when I wished I’d been on the other side of the lens, but a man’s got to know his limitations.

But it illustrates the wonderful fickleness of the GP. The GP is the Elvet Striders all-rounders race. It’s open to all. And if you had been a lady Strider today, and ran, and finished, you’d have scooped 15 GP points.

results

posgenderagenametimecat
111Callum Hanson (Pudsey & Bramley)01:20:29MO
553Graham Watt01:31:51M40
12121Geoff Davis (NFR)01:41:44M60
232311Robin David Parsons01:48:31M40
28263Allan Renwick01:54:28M50
333014Simon Dobson02:00:20M40
3853Susan Davis (NFR)02:01:29W50

GP Note: Geoff and Susan are not eligible for GP points as they ran as NFR. If I’d run today, as DFR, as I’d planned, I would’ve been ineligible too. To be eligible for GP points you must run as a Strider.

(Visited 48 times, 1 visits today)

Alwinton 3 Tops fell race, Saturday, June 15, 2019

BL/14.9m

Nina Mason

A wonderful low-key but challenging fell race (also with a kid’s race, a 10k run, and three ‘Alwinton Challenge’ walks) – all to support North of Tyne Mountain Rescue.

There are no cut-offs in this race, and I entered this with no time to chase or expectations – just to enjoy the run out. I persuaded mum to come along as my #1 cheerleader, and for a walk out on the hills. As always, she performed admirably, including fending off some inquisitive bullocks in one of the fields on the return.

The course was marked pretty much all the way round, so I didn’t even need to navigate, and we all got some sunshine, a dry day, and some glorious views of the Cheviots (though plenty of bog underfoot in some sections 😁).

A good day out, and a race I would recommend.

Thanks to the cheery marshalls at the seven checkpoints, and to the ROs for a great race, and the snacks and drinks afterwards

Map courtesy of the Alwinton 3 tops FB page
(Visited 74 times, 1 visits today)

Fairfield Horseshoe Fell Race, Lake District, Saturday, May 18, 2019

AM/14.5km/914m

Aaron Gourley

I’ve wanted to run Fairfield Horseshoe for many years but just never got around to doing it but a very last-minute decision to go camping in the Lake District meant I might have a chance this year. However, unlike many of the other fell races, although many are going the same way, this was pre-entry only, so I had to enter pretty much at the last minute, if not the last person to do so.

After not a very good night’s sleep but with the chance to relax and take time for breakfast I set off from the campsite to Rydal ready for the 12pm start. On the way there I passed the Old County Tops runners as the made their way across the road from Helvellyn – another race I have longed to do for a while. I parked up at the event car park and made the long walk up to the start area, where there was a thorough kit check before receiving my race number and timing tag. Then there was a short wait for the start of the race.

The weather was fairly pleasant for a race, mild if not a bit muggy. There was a nice cooling wind blowing but importantly, there was going to be good visibility as the summit of Fairfield can be very confusing to navigate in the clag. Mindful of the disaster of a run I’d had at Newlands a few weeks ago, I was determined not to overcook it at the start of this race which, after a short run up the road quickly turns to begin the long ascent up to the summit of Fairfield. I took my time trying to keep my heart rate in check but as not to fall too far behind.

As the ground got steeper, running became a fast walk and the cooling breeze helped massively to ensure I didn’t overheat. I seemed to be climbing strongly and my breathing was good and heart rate consistent. I also seemed to be holding my ground on the early steep climbs where I would normally lose places.

I felt good as the march upwards continued. I traded places with a few other people, took note of who was around and ahead and made targets – keep with these; catch them; don’t even think about trying to catch that person! The views of the surrounding fells were stunning, as I made time to lift my head and have a look around. Days like these are priceless and I was really enjoying the race as I made my way over to the final pull up to the summit of Fairfield. I managed to pass a few targets from up ahead as we reached the top, before the real racing could begin.

I’d executed my climb to the summit well and was feeling good and in control of my race unlike at Newlands where I was completely burnt out by half way. I knew I had enough to make a good effort of getting back to the finish. I set my sights on an Eden Runner up ahead and went for the chase. The ground underfoot was rocky but runnable, so I was able to maintain a decent pace. After a few sharp climbs there was then a steep rocky technical descent to negotiate, made more difficult with the huge number of walkers on the route. I got down this as fast as was manageable then set off again on the chase. This time a guy from Tring AC was my target. I slowly worked my way up to him and after a bit of swapping places I eventually got past and pulled away as the final descents got steeper.

The relatively dry weather meant that the rocky paths were bone dry and hard which made every step painful on the final blast down. Eventually the route dropped on the stony track near the car park and then turned up for the final ¾ mile slog back up to the finish.


This was a long drag back to finish which turned off the path for a cruel little detour across a small bridge over a beck and a little climb for the run to the finish. Like all good fell races there was minimum fuss as I grabbed a cup of orange juice and made my way back to the car very happy to have finally run this race. It’s definitely one I’d to run again, hopefully soon
.

PosRace NoNameTimeNet TimeCategoryCat PosGenderGen PosClub
113Carl Bell01:20:1701:20:15SEN1Male1Keswick AC
16211Kelli Roberts01:31:5401:31:53SEN1Female1Helm Hill
168104Aaron Gourley02:09:3602:09:25V4043Male137Elvet Striders
(Visited 61 times, 1 visits today)

Old County Tops Fell Race, Lake District, Saturday, May 18, 2019

Nina Mason

Feeling Ok on Helvellyn (top 1)

I would never have even considered this race – it’s well beyond anything I have previously attempted in terms of distance, climb, and time on feet. But a few weeks prior to the event Elaine got in touch and asked if I would pair up with her. Immensely flattered and yet terrified at the same time, I did a bit of reading, studied the map, and received a couple of encouraging messages suggesting I could do it (thanks – you know who you are) ….and said yes. Elaine said she was happy doing it my pace, she just wanted to complete it and have ‘a good day on the hills’.

The race starts and finishes in Langdale near the New Dungeon Ghyll. You must run in pairs, finish in 12 hours, and there are 8 checkpoints – three of which are the old county ‘tops’ Helvellyn, Scafell Pike, and the Old Man of Coniston. I shared with Elaine a timing plan which would get us to the CPs within the cut offs (one recommended, one mandatory), and see us finish in about 11hr 15.

I was pretty anxious beforehand – I have never recorded a ‘DNF’ and I didn’t want this to be my first. For the first time I was starting a race with no idea whether or not I would get round.

Caption: All competitors get a Harvey course map – I’ve added the big red arrows showing the ‘tops’. Looks easy in 2D!

We had each recce’d a half of the course, and we were fairly confident we would be ok if we needed to navigate (though this might cost us time). On the day we were incredibly lucky with the weather. The forecast rain never appeared, there was no wind, the sun came out a couple of times, but it never got too hot, and the tops were pretty much clear, except for Helvellyn.

I found this event (not unexpectedly!) very tough, and I had a couple of bad patches. The first 15 or so miles (and Helvellyn – top 1 – in the bag) felt ok. But then heading up to Angle Tarn (CP4 and about half way) I was starting to struggle to eat, and psychologically I felt there were a lot of miles in front of me. But, with a bit of internal ‘get a grip Nina, just get to the next checkpoint’ and Elaine telling me quite firmly that my sandwich wouldn’t get eaten if it was still wrapped up, I plodded on.

Heading up to Scafell Pike (top 2) and down the other side over Great Moss and Mosedale I got a second wind, which lasted to the climb up Grey Friar (on our way to Coniston Old Man). My head was ok, my legs were tired but moving (slowly), but my stomach needed a lie down and some kind words. Eating was really difficult here (I know, hard to believe!) so I was nibbling tiny pieces of flapjack and washing it down with water. Elaine, again coming to the rescue, also forced a couple of pieces of mint cake down me. It worked. One of my highlights of the day was getting up to Coniston Old Man (top 3) and knowing we were on the home stretch.

So 30 miles in, and with a good mouthful of a popular brand of tangy, sugar-coated jelly sweets (I have discovered my race food!) I started to feel ‘good’. Even Elaine asked if I was excited as I bounded down the hill (ok, ok, it felt like I was bounding) to the final CP. From there, a ‘victory lap’ of the last 3 or so downhill miles to the finish (catching a couple of pairs on the way!) where I cried like a baby out of sheer relief and thankfulness.

I reckon Elaine had a secret race plan – we obviously travelled my pace, but finished an hour inside my planned time (and I’ll take the extra effort to be finished an hour sooner any day).

Elaine and I starting to believe we have got this – on Coniston Old Man (top 3) – Home stretch!

Elaine was an amazing running partner – for asking me to do this, and for being utterly unselfish – if she ever got frustrated with my pace she never, ever showed it. Most of the race I was following her (though I led a couple of sections and pointed out the odd trod on the bits I’d recce’d) – but she was always checking where I was and checking her pace accordingly. She also offered no ‘sympathy’ (on my instruction, as I wouldn’t have reacted well to this) but just good common sense, pragmatic support all the way round. I don’t think I would have made it round without her, and I feel incredibly thankful that I got the opportunity to do this event with her.

We were both ‘well-chuffed’ for completing this, and also with the additional reward of winning the LV80 category (that’s two lady vet 40s in a pairs event in case you’re thinking we both look really good for our age. Obviously, we do anyway).

Would I do this again? Possibly yes, with more training! It is a fantastic, well-organised event, an excellent (tough!) course, and for £20 per person you get a map, a lot of miles, brilliant support at the CPs, mountains of food at two of them, and food at the finish. Oh, and the famous t-shirt…. only for those that finish the race. A truly limited edition, and Elaine and I are very proud of ours!
Photo Caption: Elaine and I at the finish – Age group prize mugs

The famous t-shirt – only 246 given out this year 🙂
(Visited 89 times, 1 visits today)

The Flower Scar Fell Race, Inter County Fell and Hill Championships, Todmorden, Saturday, May 11, 2019

AM/13.3Km/660m

Elaine Bisson

Courtesy of John Tollitt

In early April I was contacted by the team manager for the North East Counties, John Tollitt. He wanted to know whether I’d be available, if selected, to represent the North East. My reply was pretty speedy, a short and sweet, most definitely. The last time I’d represented the North East I was in my early teens running the 800m and 1500 m. 30 odd years, a few grey hairs and some frown lines later, just to be asked was pretty special.

A few days later it had been confirmed that I had been successful. I’ve a big race coming up, my training plan was quite specific but for this I adapted massively to optimise a good taper and to get some race specific training in. Unfortunately, it was a little far to recce, that would have been the ideal. I spent a lot of time trawling through old race reports and studying my race map. I’d only run in the area when I had done my fell coaching course so I knew the climbs would be steep and that it should be a challenging race. Fortunately, as it was a championship race, the route was flagged for the day, removing a bit of worry.

Courtesy of John Tollitt

Fiona had been selected as well so we travelled down together the car full of nervous energy. We arrived early for kit check and who was to stand behind me but Carl Bell! Then we picked up our numbers and finally our NE vests. Waiting in the toilet queue we were both equally terrified and excited. Fiona had been scouring championship results and kept pointing out previous winners/Salomon/innov8 athletes. It was some line up and to say we were daunted would be an understatement.

We went for a good warm up together across to the start. We had planned to do the first mile or so of the race route but it went straight up a hill, STRAIGHT up….so we decided we’d save our legs and did some laps of the flat grassy field where the race would start. I have never seen so many huge thigh muscles…think of the Hulk (except not green coloured), they must have found it difficult to buy trousers to fit. The warm ups and drills were again something out of a textbook…A skips, B skips, sky high kicks and bounds aplenty, it was quite a sight. These were definitely serious athletes.
The race was open to everyone on the day at a princely fee of £7, but the majority were county teams. I was over the moon to spot a couple of older ladies not wearing county vests who I thought I might be able to beat!

We grouped together with the rest of the North East team. As Fiona chatted to Dawn and Katherine, I quietly took myself away so that I could gather my thoughts, calm my nerves and to make sure I raced my race and wasn’t distracted by people I knew. I kept repeating please don’t be last, please don’t be last in my head…. It was a beautiful sunny warm day, clouds flitting across the sky. The race start was in a leisure centre field, very well sheltered, not that there was any wind.  Lush green grass, shady old trees and well-tended flower beds surrounded us. The steep valley sides, rising sharply out of the valley floor, were covered in trees.

 The gun fired and we were off at last, thankful release from the stress of waiting, onwards and upwards. It was an unsurprisingly fast start, I didn’t want to get swept up and dropped after a few miles, so I kept to my pace. It narrowed quickly up some steps where there was the first bottleneck and then it twisted up a small road for a few metres before it turned onto an extremely muddy stepped path climbing up the hillside through a wood. I was desperate to push a bit faster, I’m strong at climbing, but I couldn’t get past on the narrow track. Finally, it turned into a little lane past a few cottages and I could pick up speed again as it dropped slightly downhill across a field and then yet another wait to cross a stile. A few spritely young men vaulted the fence much to a fierce woman’s disapproval who had been waiting in line (she will return later in the tale!)

Courtesy of John Tollitt

Then it was up a stony uneven track flanked by crumbly stone walls and up onto the moors. Still climbing up for the first ascent, every time I thought we’d neared the top another summit appeared just beyond reach. My lovely blond ponytailed running companion stayed firmly in sight. I was always a few paces from her and determined to try to maintain this throughout, on the flats she’d pull away, on the hills, I’d pull her back again.

Courtesy of John Tollitt

The first summit eventually was reached across a muddy grassy hillside. There were highland cows with their young grazing on the top which we had been warned about. I’m not fond of cows so I tucked in neatly next to a much bigger male target! The fierce lady was up to no good again as her man gave her a shove over a boggy section then handed her some gels…Fiona berated her for her naughtiness. I’m glad to say we both passed her soon afterwards as she fell in a bog. We then dropped down the other side through a nice squidgy section and onto a wide gravel track. It wasn’t long before it turned a bend and dropped down onto a lovely technical descent by a stream…I passed a lot of runners who floundered on the rocks. We crossed over a stile and had to duck under some trees as the track led us into a dark forest.

It was really good fun, I loved the varied terrain, each section only lasted a few hundred metres and then it would change again. Finally, the small awkward trod turned onto a main forest track dropping steeply through the wood. I’ve really become fond of ‘falling down hills’ it’s taken a while to switch my brain off enough and much concerted effort, mainly to keep Geoff in reach, but I now love it. This descent quickly turned into another grassy track strewn with stones that skirted round the hill and dropped down onto the valley floor. A short section of tarmac before it quickly rose and merged into a muddy stony track, then over a stile and onto a tiny grassy trod climbing sharply up onto the fell. Off the fell and then too quickly we were retracing our steps back to the finish.

It was pretty much all downhill from now, the absolute perfect race finish. I felt like I shot down the hill only to pass Carl Bell looking as fresh as a daisy doing his cool down up the hill! Onto the grassy field round the circumference and into the finish. Fiona hadn’t finished too far in front and I ran across to congratulate her and to bounce around merrily as we both rejoiced. We were as high as kites realising that we were first and second counters for the North East female team and certainly not last. We had also both beaten the previous female course record…it’s a shame all those other county runners were there!

It’s fair to say that we both absolutely loved it, the amazing opportunity and the race itself. It had it all, £5 entry fee with EOD, really pretty, varied terrain, some lovely steep ascents and matching descents and not much tarmac to bother with, I only wish it had been longer!

Courtesy of John Tollitt

Click here to view results

 

(Visited 32 times, 10 visits today)

Newlands Memorial Fell Race, Stair, Newlands Valley, Lake District, Saturday, April 20, 2019

AM / 18.5km / 1100 m

Aaron Gourley

Formally known as the Anniversary Waltz, this race is now hosted by Cumberland Fell Runners following the sad passing of former organiser, Steve Cliff in 2018 who set up the race to commemorate his wedding to wife Wynn at Newlands Church in 1996.

This race, along with its angry sibling, Teenager With Altitude (TWA) is firmly established in the Lake District’s fell racing calendar so it would have been a great shame for them both to disappear following Wynn’s decision not to host them anymore.

Continue reading Newlands Memorial Fell Race
(Visited 54 times, 1 visits today)

Coledale Horseshoe, Briathwaite Village, Lake District, Saturday, April 6, 2019

AM 8.5miles, 3002ft

Nina Mason

Coach checking on my performance and offering gentle, maternal encouragement heading up to Barrow

A traditional Lakeland ‘horseshoe’ round Coledale from Braithwaite Lodge, taking in Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill, and Barrow. As the race map describes it: ‘a superb race with a monster climb at the start, a bit of scrambling in the middle, and a lovely grassy descent to finish’.

This was my first race in the Lakes. Despite other fell races I’ve done, I was very nervous. Mum and I had recce’d the route in fairly wintry conditions a couple of months ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

Saturday’s forecast looked good, and when I arrived at Braithwaite (early, to see Mum and Tony at the campsite where they were staying) the day promised to be glorious – sun, clear blue skies, no wind.

Continue reading Coledale Horseshoe
(Visited 92 times, 1 visits today)

Bilsdale Fell Race, Chop Gate, North York’s Moors, Sunday, March 17, 2019

AL / 23km / 1300m

Nigel Heppell

Striders variable dress code

First running of this FRA category AL race; a 23km/1300m (14.3 miles/4265ft) route taking in the climbs of the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors: hosted by Esk Valley Fell Club.

Apparently, this is the only AL (long, and lots of climbs) fell race to be held on the North Yorks Moors (NYM).

Now the NYM are generally regarded as not being particularly high, so how did Esk Valley FC fit in the necessary climb? Simple answer is climb to a peak, drop off the escarpment to the bottom; and repeat; 7 times in all – bit like a fiddler’s elbow, up and down, up and down, up and down…

Heading towards CP2

120 runners turned up for this event on a bright but breezy spring day. Strict kit requirements to usual FRA standards rightly enforced by the organisers, but everything ranging from vest and shorts to full body cover seen out on the hills, especially once at altitude on the moors and exposed to the full force of the wind.

Bilsdale

A handful of Striders, Nina, Danny, Robin and Nigel (Jan and Fiona marshalling) attended along with a few faces from familiar running clubs, 3 NFR and a bucket-load of DFR (it’s on their championship race list); a lot of very young and fit types from Durham University AC; and representatives from Scarborough, York, Swaledale, Thirsk, Pudsey, NYM, Middlesborough, Wharfdale, Pickering, Loftus, Leeds, Vegan, Billingham, Darlington, Beverley, Keswick, Totley, Derwent, Driffield, Harrogate, Marske, Wootton, and a certain Mr Fishwick from Chorley.

The start is a sober affair, everyone conscious of the distance lying ahead and wanting to take it easy, on a steady uphill climb, the longest of the day, to summit Round Hill (highest point of NYM), but tempered by the knowledge that there is a 90min cut-off at the top of Cold Moor (3rd climb and living up to its name today) some 6miles away.

As this is a proper fell race there is no defined route and we are free to decide our own way between checkpoints. Some of the CP locations are obvious; summits of Round Hill/Cold Moor/Falconers Seat/ Cock Howe cairn; others are easily visible from above, Toft Hill Scout Hut/Busby stream crossing/Carlton Bank; but CP 8 tucked away out of sight down in Raisdale offers scope for individual route choice off the established tracks.

I elected to go cross-country at this point, taking DFR Denise through the heather with me, and leaving an NFR man to follow the main track. We hopped and jumped through the heather, scrambled down a gully, picked up a nice runnable surface alongside a boundary wall, plodged through a few boggy bits, and arrived at CP 8 from behind; about 10 paces after NFR guy coming in from opposite direction!

I had more success with route choice earlier on, dropping down towards Clay Bank road crossing where I deviated off the Cleveland Way onto a smooth remnant of quarry track, happily overtaking at least 15 others slowly picking their way down the uneven steps and slabs. And again, taking the direct route down a steep overgrown gully onto Busby Moor put me in front of probably the same set of people who had steadily re-overtaken me since Clay Bank but who ran a zig-zag along the obvious track.

Scout Hall CP4, Roseberry Topping, and Denise Tunstall, DFR
Climb to Falconer’s Seat (Pork Pie Hill?)

My route choice into Scugdale was no good at all; from memory I thought a right fork in the trail would line me up nicely with the Hall (out of sight over the ridgeline) which it did – but I hadn’t factored in the fenced-off quarry/crags that it led to, so a bit of back-tracking had to be done and this is where Denise (who had chosen left fork) got away from me!

The climb out of Scugdale is the last one on the route but it goes on forever. Steep and only walkable at first, you think you are out on to the ridgeline at last but there is still a steady climb of over 100m or so to the last checkpoint at Cock Howe Cairn 2km further on. Run-walk, run-walk; trying to catch those ahead but we are all doing the same; DFR Denise is in sight but I can’t close the gap. Pretty much exhausted and with leaden legs, we are greeted at CP10 by Fiona cheerily hopping about and running up and down the cairn to keep warm; I’m envious of her energy!

At last the downhill run to the finish begins; normally a time to let go, take advantage of gravity and stride out. Not today, the legs just won’t have it; it’s too steep and so it’s a fight all the way. Some small consolation as I manage to pass a couple of equally weary runners on the way down and elect to take the twisty gully track because it feels easier. Slightly surprised as I emerge onto the lane to see I’ve been caught up by another runner taking the direct route down the field so final effort goes into 100m dash through the mud to hold them off, spurred on by Jan’s audible encouragement!
3hrs 40min and near enough 16 miles. Official results coming later.

Footnote:

Huge thanks to Esk Valley FC led by Mike Quinn for organising this and making it look so easy even though we know how much work goes on behind the scenes and how many contribute marshalling/tea making/cake baking without the chance to run. And with a nod in the direction of Dave Parry, once the main prizes have been distributed it’s a case of ‘well we’ve got some bottles left, so if you can think of a reason come forward and claim one’ – of course we’re all too polite to do that, so Danny wins one for entering the race before it is officially open (Nina too, but she already has her age category winnings) and evidently someone has travelled all the way from Texas to claim their bottle of beer!

NameTimeCat Pos
Neil Crampton
Pudsey & Bramley
02:15:50MO/M/50
Katie Lliffe
Durham University A
02:27:50FO/!/50
Danny Lim03:02:07MO/21/28
Nina Mason03:08:41FV45/1/50
Robin Parsons03:18:47MV40/9/40
Nigel Heppell03:40:21MV60/5/44
(Visited 198 times, 1 visits today)