Tag Archives: Anniversary Waltz

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.

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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.

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Anniversary Waltz, Lake District, Saturday, April 21, 2012

AM / 11.5M / 3,600'

Dougie Nisbet

Nowadays I never second guess races. I never trust the way I feel the night before, the morning of, or even several miles in. Things have a way of sorting themselves out. So my heart went out to Phil as he tried to recall if the last thing he ate were some lamb chops he’d found at the back of the fridge, although he was quite particular about the number of pints.

Unless I’m very sure of my form or expected finish position I tend to start pretty much all races at the back treating the starting whistle a bit like the bell you get in the theatre telling you it’s time to get back to your seat. Something that you should probably pay some attention to, but there’s still plenty of time to chat, finish your drink and say your farewells. When I did eventually start moving under a clear(ish) blue(ish) sky, I soon became hot and acutely aware of being overdressed. The forecast had been quite explicit about sunshine and showers, cloud and rain, heaven and hell, and the village hall had a few posters on the subject too. But any decent fell runner with any sense will only pay a passing nod to the mandatory kit requirements anyway, and concentrate on taking what they think they might need for any particular race on any particular day. So as well as the mandatory kit I also brought more wet-weather gear than usual but hadn’t bothered with water. No point. I did this race last year in zero visibility and hydration had not been an issue. I’d started the race with 500ml of water and it was untouched at the finish. With cloud and rain forecast, I would definitely not be bothered with thirst today … (I think you can see where I’m going with this).

Phil and Dougie ... more than likely before the start!

The first few miles are pretty much an excellent pleasant warm-up despite the guff on the Pete Bland map saying how terrible it is. Flatish along lanes and trails on good surfaces. By the time we got to Newlands Church I’d joined up with Phil and was attempting unsuccessfully to reminisce about last year’s race. “Do you remember we ran up here and we got that lass Julie to take our photo?”. Phil shook his head and looked blank. I thought he was winding me up, but he was serious and couldn’t remember a thing about the last year’s race. Perhaps it was the beer or the lamb chops, but whether it was the route, photos, or chalk hearts melting on a playground wall, Phil was having a big CRAFT moment.

At the start of our first major climb to Robinson I gradually (like last year) made some distance ahead of Phil. It was only 6 days since Phil had finished well ahead of me at Guis. Moors so I wasn’t convinced I’d seen the last of him. Approaching the summit of Robinson I started spotting another Striders shirt and a distinctive pink headband. And although it’s difficult to read the backs of distant runners, this Strider was clearly not in a happy place. It was to be another few miles, at the top of Hindscarth, before I finally caught Andrew up as his fast descent from Robinson had opened up the gap again. This was Andrew’s first ‘proper’ fell race, and I opined/ventured that it was a bit like Swaledale. I was told, in rather robust tones, that it was nothing like Swaledale. This was hard, the climbing was horrible, and he was never going to run again. I nodded sympathetically, as I recalled the last Kielder Borderer in which I’d had a massive amount of time to ponder on the relative merits of struggling across remote fells against that of drinking tea and watching old movies on tv. I didn’t make any real attempt to overtake Andrew as I knew I’d probably burn a lot of energy to make a few yards that he’d probably leap back on the next descent. In fact we did alternate position quite a bit for the next mile or two, carrying on our conversation, sometimes unaware that the other party was not actually there.

Not that that mattered. Other fell runners were happy to fill in the gaps. One runner was bemoaning leaving her gels at home so I introduced her to shotbloks. Leaving the Dale Head checkpoint I lost sight of Andrew on the descent and guessed he’d perked up. The descent from Dalehead offers one of the few route choices and I took a similar line as 2011, but with clear visibility this year it was easier to take a direct line toward the tarn. Once or twice I noticed Andrew away to the right taking the Pete Bland recommended route, and since he’d been descending faster than me from Robinson I was a bit surprised to overtake him somewhere on the way down. Whether this means Andrew had slowed down, I’d speeded up, or Pete Bland is wrong about the fastest descent route, is an interesting question (or three). Shotblok lady informed me that we were approaching the only drinks station on the course. This was good news; I could not recall a drinks station in 2011 but perhaps I’d missed it in the murk, and hadn’t needed it anyway. But this year the promised rain and cloud hadn’t come and I was hot and thirsty. When we got beyond the tarn and she started filling her water bottle in the beck I realised at once what she meant. I was now getting dodgily dehydrated in the unexpectedly dry and mild weather and I gratefully offered her offer of a drink from her bottle although I’d have happily dunked my head in the beck if need be. As we left the waterhole she started muttering “Theresjoss!” over and over again and I just nodded happily and politely although I had no idea what she was saying. When she exchanged greetings with Joss Naylor who was spectating, as you do, at Dale Head Tarn, I realised what she’d been saying. With two walking sticks and his dog he was nodding to all runners as they passed and it was a nice way to start the penultimate climb of the day, High Spy.

I was prepared this year for the least few miles along the High Spy ridge knowing not to forget that Cat Bells was still at the end. Just when you’ve enjoyed a sustained fast descent from High Spy and think it’s time to go home Cat Bells appears from nowhere and stretches out its claws in a luxurious yawn to remind you there’s one more climb left. Taking a longer line this year of Cat Bells I nearly literally bumped into Roberta and paused to get my photo taken (I have my priorities) before giving my new Mudclaws their last burst of the day as I ran down a few feet wide of the path where the running was easier and faster and passed a few runners in the final few yards.

I crossed the line then turned round to walk back up the hill to meet Roberta and look out for Phil and Andrew. I bumped into a DWT chum Laura who was out supporting Nicola (currently chasing (literally) Nina in the Harrier League) and had a chat with them. I excused myself (“gotta milk this one!”) when I saw Andrew appear, looking pleased to be at journey’s end. Phil appeared a bit later running in with NFR’s Andrew Russell.

Last year had taught me that it’s not the distance that makes this race a toughie, it’s the climbing. This year I was not caught out by the 3600 feet although I was very nearly caught out by the unexpectedly mild and dry weather, and if it hadn’t been for the fortuitous appearance of the beck at Dale Head Tarn I might have been in real trouble.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Bell Carl Howgill Harriers M 1 1:33:46
241 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV40 2:47:50
254 Andrew Thompson M 2:53:46
272 Phil Owen MV40 3:08:29

289 finishers.

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Anniversary Waltz, Saturday, April 23, 2011

AM / 11.5M / 3,600'

Dougie Nisbet

Dougie starts his post-marathon recovery run. “You’ve chopped the top of the fell off! Have another go”. I handed the camera back to Roberta and while she lined up the shot they decided to start the fell race so I nabbed the camera back and bid her a hasty farewell and chased after the pack as it sped up the field. Phil and David Gibson were here running as Striders with me running for DFR. Phil and I were miffed as we’d discovered that there was an extra long race called the Anniversary Wa! which, had we known, we would have entered instead of the measly Anniversary Waltz, checking in as it did with a paltry 10.5 miles and 3600 feet. We were, it has to be said, of a slightly different viewpoint some 3+ hours later when we staggered home from the fells and into the village hall for the free beer. I think I can speak for both of us in stating that we’d had ample sufficiency of fells for one day.

My quads are still hurting from this race. Some ridiculously steep climbing, various route choices, thrilling scrambles over rock faces, and pretty close to zero visibility on the tops. With the exception of Cat Bells the other four checkpoints were in cloud and this added an extra edge of excitement to the day. As far as fell races go this one gets a big field; getting on for 200 I believe. Even so I soon found I was running alone on the tops due to the poor visibility with occasionally glimpses of other vests as routes converged and diverged. I was dismayed when I descended of Cat Bells to discover I was actually still descending of High Spy and Cat Bells was still to come. For the first time I can remember my knees started hurting on the final descent probably due to the relentless steep terrain. Running the London Marathon the previous week probably wasn’t helping much either. I was certainly glad to see the finish.

Me and Roberta had found some late availability at a local hotel which meant a nice relaxing evening with no long drive home. There was a couple in the prime window seats in the dining room who asked the waiter to take their picture. As the sun set and the backdrop silhouette of the lakeland fells came into more dramatic relief I saw it would make a great photo. I could contain myself no longer and hopped over to the couple to ask them if they wanted another photo taken with the beautiful landscape behind them. It’s only when I was standing right next to the table I realised it was Danny Lim (or to be more accurate, he realised it was me!). I never recognise runners when they’re out of uniform. Our poor womenfolk had to put up with me reliving the Anniversary Waltz for Danny’s benefit but I think we could possibly have another fell running convert in the making here.

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