Tag Archives: Penny Browell

29th Allendale Challenge, Allendale near Hexham, Saturday, April 7, 2018

26 miles

Penny Browell

I first heard about this race a few years ago when Mike Hughes told me he’d done a race which involved running over mounds of mud which were taller than him. I couldn’t quite envisage what he meant and whilst intrigued I didn’t really want to experience it myself at the time I was more interested in trying to get PB’s in road races rather than wading through mud for hours.

Fast forward a couple of years and I will do pretty much anything to avoid running on the road and am one of those slightly strange people who go out in search of mud and hills every weekend.

Having missed a couple of other long fell races I was looking through the race diary and spotted the Allendale Challenge on a weekend where I knew I was going to be child-free. What had sounded like madness now seemed like the perfect way to spend a cold April Saturday.

After a spectacularly wet and cold winter, it was clear the conditions were not going to be good. Apparently, this race is muddy even after the driest of winters. This didn’t bother me too much and I was quite cheered to see the weather forecast was kind-ish; clear in the morning and a bit of drizzle for the last couple of hours of the race. Perfect for when you’re getting a bit hot…

Geoff, John and I headed over early on Saturday morning and got there about an hour before the race started. It was a lovely morning and I imagined the walkers (who set out 2 hours before the runners) would be having a lovely time. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. With gloves and two layers, I was soon quite hot.

The race starts with a reasonable amount of climb on road and then gradually you move onto track and after a few miles, you’re into the fun stuff. Geoff and I had been to and froing up until this point but once we got into the mud I seemed to lose him and also got myself to the front of the ladies’ race. I’m not sure how as I felt like I was moving backwards through the thick bog. The only way I realised I was going faster than walking pace was that I started to pass quite a few of the walkers.

It was at this point that the “drizzle” arrived. At first, it was just that and quite pleasant but it quite quickly became heavy and rather than refreshing was just making it even harder to see properly and to gauge how deep the mud was. This is one of those races where you can’t get into a rhythm – every few steps a leg will disappear deep into the mud and I had soon coated both legs from foot to thigh in thick mud. As we climbed up towards Killhope I stopped to put my waterproof on – I was starting to get really cold and the extra layer gave me a boost as I was immediately much more comfortable.

Killhope is the highest point of the race and about halfway through the 26 miles. I knew the race had more climb in the first half and was looking forward to speeding up after the hard work climbing through mud, rain and snow. The descent arrived and I did feel better – it was a stony track that went on seemingly forever. Not the most comfortable in fell shoes but a relief after the mud. After a quick checkpoint, we were back in mud though and on the way up again. And then the peat bogs…

Mike hadn’t been wrong.. I thought I knew mud but this was something else. You completely lose your sense of direction when you’re hidden amongst enormous piles of peat… so whilst some people tried to run between them I kept going over the top to try and spot the runners ahead of me. Typically I lost confidence in my route choice so did a bit of shuffling around trying to decide who I should be following. Eventually, we came through it and I was pleased to hear a few supporters and walkers telling me I was still the first female.

There was now about 8 miles to go and I’d been told that the final section was not too tough – a long slow climb (“the drag”) and then an easy-ish descent back into Allendale. I felt good. At this stage in a long race I know if I’m going to crash or not and today was a good day.

As I sped down an easy rocky descent before the drag I knew it was all for the taking – first lady and (perhaps more importantly) a victory over Geoff!

Then suddenly a rock decided it had other plans for me, in slow motion I went over one rock then my leg crashed against another and finally my head clunked hard onto a third. It was like they were all distributed carefully to cause me as much damage as possible. I was winded but thought I should be ok to carry on. The runner behind me thought differently – he told me to sit down and shouted ahead to get medical help. I told him I had to finish the race and I was fine. (I’d DNF’d my last long race and was not about to let that happen again). He said I was bleeding and should get my head looked at. I put my hand to my head and realised he was right…with a handful of blood and legs which were beginning to hurt more, it became apparent I had to do the sensible thing. I wasn’t giving up though and my new friend started to walk me up to the medical van so I could get sorted as quickly as possible.

I had a few shocked looks as I climbed up but I assured everyone I was fine. At the van, I told them repeatedly that I had to finish the race. They seemed to think my health was more important (obviously not runners) and insisted on doing various checks, cleaning all my wounds and asking me a series of questions, to most of which I replied: “I’m fine, I need to finish the race”. After several minutes a lady passed and I complained to the medical team that I’d lost my place – still I wasn’t allowed to go. A few minutes later and Geoff appeared looking a touch concerned (but not enough to stop!). Eventually, I was allowed to head off as long as I promised to stop if I felt ill and to check in with the final checkpoint. I was determined to gain back the places I’d lost and set off at a good pace up the drag. It wasn’t long before I spotted Geoff and I could tell he was using the run/walk system, which I’d read in previous reports he often found sensible for this section. I knew I could get him, so dug in and before long I passed him. Then I thought I spotted the first lady ahead of me and sped up again to try and catch her. I think this was a mistake… it turned out not to be the first lady but a man… and the burst of speed was swiftly followed by a wave of nausea. The weather was getting worse and worse with rain falling heavily and I couldn’t work out if my vision was blurred because of the head injury or because of the rainwater filling my eyes. I slowed down for the descent to the next checkpoint feeling sicker and sicker and cursing myself for thinking I could run at speed after my fall.

On arrival at the checkpoint, as promised, I was given another check over and asked whether I felt well enough to continue. I admitted I felt sick but figured with only 3.5 miles to go I had nothing to lose. So I continued, now at a walk and still in mud (so much for the easy finish to the race…). Before long Geoff passed me – he asked if I wanted him to walk/run with me but I declined, preferring to admit defeat… There is a short section along the river towards the end which I’d imagined would be quite pleasant but even that was deep in mud. I managed to build back up to a run and before long I was on the final road which would take me back to Allendale, warmth and food!

I finally got to the hall in 4 hrs 48 minutes… not quite where I wanted to be… and not the first lady but still a very happy runner.

My head wound decided the end of the race was a signal to start bleeding again so I was properly patched up and given a full MOT by the fabulous mountain rescue staff whilst Geoff (who had beaten me by 2 minutes in the end!) provided sweet tea and Jaffa cakes to get my blood sugar levels up.

Not long after, John returned and we made our way to the Golden Lion for pie and peas, the perfect way to celebrate finishing what had been a tough race for everyone, Geoff claiming that in 13 years of running the race, this had been the worst conditions yet.

If anyone has made it this far, I must say a massive thank you to the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue team both on the course and back at Allendale. We know from their incredible work looking after Rob Wishart last year that the emergency services are brilliant at what they do and they proved this again. Profits from the race go towards this fantastic resource and for that reason alone I recommend it to anyone. However, unless you’re a really big fan of mud I’d suggest choosing a slightly drier year!

Lakes in a Day, Saturday, October 7, 2017

50 mile ultra run from Caldbeck to Cartmel

Penny Browell

Four years ago exactly I ran my first marathon at Kielder. It didn’t end well – yes I got the sub 4 I wanted but due to poor clothing and fueling I ended up needing medical attention as soon as I crossed the finishing line. When I finally came round I swore to myself never to attempt such a stupid distance again…

So this weekend I find myself embarking on Lakes in a Day, a 50 mile race from the North to South of the Lake District wondering how I got here. I’m not an ultra runner. Indeed I still haven’t learnt how to pace a marathon properly. But I do love the Lake District and as soon as I saw this race advertised I knew I had to give it a shot.

The week of the race arrived and the forecast was terrible. Rain, gales, more rain, no visibility… the optimist in me was sure the met office would change their mind. They did – by Friday they were saying bits of rain, maybe some wind on the peaks but not as bad as it could have been. Saturday morning at 430am my alarm woke me and I was happy not to hear rain outside the window of my quirky airbnb in Cartmel. Maybe we were going to be ok….

The race started at 8 from Oddfellows Pub in Caldbeck. Everything about this race is impeccably organised – the pub staff were amazing providing teas, coffees and bacon sandwiches and we all chatted excitedly before James Thurlow, the fabulous race organizer sent us on our way. As we set off to the first climb we discussed how lucky we were with the weather in comparison with the forecasts earlier in the week… we would live to regret these comments!

It is very much a race of two halves. The first half tough fell racing – a lot of it open fell and on difficult terrain, the second half less mountainous and more on tracks or moorland. This was its fourth year and on every previous occasion it has been dry and clear – within a mile or two of leaving Caldbeck it became obvious this year wouldn’t be the same. The waterproofs were coming out as we entered the cloud and began the climb up High Pike. Visibility was getting worse, winds were increasing and the rain was coming at us horizontally. This was to be the theme throughout all of the fell section. No views, no grip on either slippy rocks or slippy grass/mud and for me no feeling in my fingers so no access to drink, food or maps! In spite of this I loved it. The route takes you up Blencathra at which point there is a decision between Halls Fell Ridge (hard in any conditions) and Blease Fell (easier but 2 miles longer). Coming up Mungrisdale Common was so bad with winds apparently up to 50 mph, I decided I should probably put my kids first and try to avoid death but when I saw others taking Halls Fell I couldn’t resist. This was the only place on the route with event support. They advised us to take it easy – I’m not sure anyone could go anything other than easy on this. It was terrifying but brilliant. From race reports     I’ve read I now know quite a few people got stuck and needed help. And quite a few were more sensible and took Blease Fell… Somehow I got through it and by 11am was back down in Threlkeld at the first of three truly amazing feed stations. The crew were incredible – couldn’t do enough to help us and the food was definitely chosen by fell runners. Anything you could possibly want was there. As I was only 3 hours in I stuck to tea, coke, fruit and a few crisps.

The next section was without doubt going to be the hardest and longest as it took us from Threlkeld to Ambleside via amazing peaks such as Helvellyn and Fairfield. I’ve run most of this section at least a couple of times so I knew how hard it was even on a good day but also felt fairly confident of knowing the route. Unfortunately the mountains don’t look the same in cloud and rain so I did have a few mishaps route-wise firstly after Helvellyn where a few of us started heading off down to Thirlmere but fortunately realized our mistake fairly quickly. The descent to Grisedale tarn was tough – the rock path was way too slippy to contemplate so most of us took the grass option which although better in some ways did mean more concentrating to avoid accidents on hidden rocks or losing a foot into bog. On the positive side it was a bit clearer and calmer down at the tarn but I knew the worst bit was coming. I don’t like climbing Fairfield. It’s a long drag and after 23 miles and nearly 7 hours it was never going to be fun. The battering rain didn’t help and I was really getting quite cold and hungry but with numb fingers and no wish to stop there was no way I was going to get anything out of my bag to eat. So up I plodded…. And plodded…

When I eventually reached the top I was so happy I broke into a little run and immediately fell flat on my face. I was slightly winded and lost my companions and headed off following someone without really thinking about where I should be going. Climbing down some tough rocks I fell again, slid down on my bum and ended up sitting at the bottom of a rock quite nicely sheltered. I decided it was time to give my body a break, grabbed a bag of crisps out of the side of my bag and quite happily chomped on them waiting for the next runner to come by so I could pair up with them. Sadly the next runner didn’t come.. and didn’t come.. and it became obvious I wasn’t actually on the race route. No worries, I had a GPS tracker safely tucked away in my bag so I could use that to get me back on course. Out of the plastic bag, click it on and it happily told me I was still in Caldbeck. No matter what I did or said to it, it just didn’t believe that I had left the start… [You can get a tracker replay on the Opentracking website. ^DN]

I was just starting to get a tad worried when a runner appeared. Possibly not a bright runner (he’d gone wrong too) but someone to tag onto. He was convinced we were on the right route but I managed to persuade him we probably needed to head up and left to meet up with the other racers. Eventually we were back on track. The run down into Ambleside (over several peaks on the way) was very boggy and much slower than when I’d recce’d it but seeing the town gradually get closer spurred us all on.

So feed station two and I was about 9.5 hours in. The longest I’d ever been out running and the furthest I’d ever run in the Lakes (and not far off my distance PB of 50k prior to today).Before the start I’d told myself I could stop here but there was no way that was happening. The sun was finally creeping through and I’d been fed pasta and flat coke and was ready to face the world. This was the also the point where we were allowed to change shoes so my sodden x-talons came off and were replaced with nice dry trail shoes. I felt ready to set off on the second half…

So off we went on the next leg. This section is mainly along the coast of Windermere but with a few climbs including Claife Heights and Rawlinson Nab. Leaving Ambleside the horrors of the first half seemed like a bad dream. The sun was breaking through and the views were lovely as we followed the road down to the lakeside. So this half was actually definitely going to be fine… Once we were off-road it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be quite as simple as I’d hoped. Knee deep mud and puddles the size of a swimming pool faced us to ensure there was no rhythm to be gained. But it was fun – the views along the lakeside were stunning and although there were climbs there was nothing too difficult and the route was now easy to follow with arrows provided for the entire second half. As we went through the village of Sowry I realized the sun was about to disappear and there was still a way to go before the last feed station. I stopped to get my headtorch out only to discover the batteries had died. Thankfully Alex, a much more organized and experienced runner, was with me and kindly lent me his spare torch. Being a spare it was pretty weak so visbility was going to be poor for the next section. I stuck with Alex and his much more powerful torch to Finsthwaite. As the sun went down an enormous moon emerged and in spite of the mud, roots and other hazards I really enjoyed this section.

At the final feed station we were met with soup, rice pudding and more coke and tea. Looking back on the day I suspect I was high on caffeine for a lot of it! We watched a big screen which showed the trackers and we were impressed to see that several runners had already finished. But even more impressed to see that some were still going on Fairfield. It was now 930pm and they were doing that impossible open fell section in pitch dark. Many of them went on to finish in the early hours of Sunday. Massive respect to them.

After 15 minutes or so and with my headtorch now fixed it became apparent the last 8 miles were not going to run themselves so I left the warmth of the hall and set off, commenting to my fellow runners that this was likely to be quite a long 8 miles. It certainly was. The route for this section was across boggy fields and up and down woodland paths. Although it was hard I was actually enjoying myself – it was a lovely night and I now knew I was going to succeed.

The race finishes with a couple of miles of road. By the time this finally appeared I had passed a few people since Finsthwaite and running up and down the road to Cartmel I somehow found a bit of pace and managed to overtake a few more. Looking back I have no idea what was going on. I was finishing this race fresher and less tired than most marathons or half marathons!

Cartmel Priory School finally appeared and I crossed the line in 15 hours and 7 minutes. 53 miles done, over 4000 metres of climbing, 9th lady and a day I would never forget. I grabbed the race director and gushed about what a great race it was. He thought I was mad – the conditions had been awful how had I enjoyed it?! I don’t know but all I can say was that as I sat eating a baked potato with cheese and beans and talked to other fellow ultra runners I felt absolutely on top of the world. After a year with more than its fair share of lows this race meant so much to me for so many reasons. I will definitely be back. But next year I’m ordering better weather…

There are many videos and much better report on Facebook group runitinaday.

Saltergate Gallows, Sunday, November 6, 2016

BM / 10.6 miles / 1411 feet

Penny Browell

A typical Dave Parry prize giving, from Saltergate Gallows 2011This is one of the Esk Valley races which I’d always fancied as it starts in Levisham, a lovely village where I’d been on holiday a few years ago. A few weeks before the race it was announced that this year’s would be run as a memorial to Dave Parry, who had been the face of Esk Valley races for years and had recently very sadly lost his battle with cancer. After hearing this I decided that although I’m cutting down on races, this would be one to put in the diary.

As the day approached the weather forecast was not the best – a part of me was quite pleased though as it had been a while since I’d run a race in bad weather and I do always enjoy the extra challenges it can present. However as we drove down I reminded myself you should be careful what you wish for. The rain was heavy and the winds strong and I started to wonder whether I really wanted to run in this. On arrival the rain kept coming and going – I think I must have changed my mind about whether to wear my waterproof about 5 times but when we lined up at the start and it started to hail I realised I had to face the fact that this was going to be a wet one… There was a decent turnout of Striders to pay their respects to Dave and the cheer when his name was mentioned went on for a good long while as was fitting. It didn’t feel right to be running one of these races without him there to send us off..

But off we went and within a couple of hundred metres I felt terrible. The race starts with a hill and I just felt exhausted straight away. I had hoped to try and stay somewhere near Geoff and Tom but they sped away and out of view within minutes… Once we were off the track and into proper fell racing I started to enjoy myself more. OK it wasn’t going to be my best race ever but I could still make the most of being in this lovely part of the world. The race is a kind of figure of 8 and really has a bit of everything – some fairly steep climbs, nice descents and a reasonable amount of track where you can get a bit of speed. As I settled in I started to pick off a few runners and on a long steady climb I spotted Geoff ahead of me and wondered whether I had it in me to make this the race I pay him back for James Herriot earlier this year. To be fair he had run more than 20 miles in the Lakes the day before but still I’ll take any situation to try and get a victory! So at the top of the hill I did indeed pass him, only for him to get me back on the descent…. At about the 6 mile mark there was a steeper climb through knee deep mud. I smiled to myself as I remembered asking Tom whether he thought it would be muddy and he’d given me a look as if to say “Are you mad?”. This was proper mud, rain, wind and everything and I was loving it! On this climb I managed to pass Geoff again who murmured something about it being all downhill from here. I thought that seemed unlikely since we still had more than 4 miles to go but carried on. (It later turned out Geoff had his watch on km rather than miles and thought the race was nearly over!)

The last part of the race was fairly easy with nothing too steep and less difficult underfoot – although there were some impressive puddles a couple of which had me submerged up to my thighs. As I slowly picked off more runners I spotted Shelli Gordon ahead. For those who don’t know Shelli, she is an amazing runner who wins pretty much all of the Hardmoors races. I tucked in behind her as I didn’t think I had a chance of beating her but as there wasn’t far to go and I still felt good I decided to chance it. Once I was past her I noticed someone else I recognised way ahead of me. With not far to go and a fairly flat last half a mile I thought I should try and catch him. I’ve only ever managed to beat Tom when he fell at Captain Cook’s and it would make my day to manage it today after such a shocking start. However there were still about 6 people between us and a long distance. I started to make ground, passing a couple of people but then he turned and saw me and immediately sped up! I did my best to catch him, passing the remaining 4 or 5 people who separated us and doing my best to sprint the last section back into the village but it was not to be. I did however pick up a prize for third lady and very much enjoyed my cake and tea in the village hall afterwards.

Esk Valley races are always a joy – great atmosphere and for anyone who hasn’t run fell races before they are a perfect introduction. Plus at £5 to enter what’s not to like…

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Harry Holmes York Knavesmire MO 1 75.02
20 Helen Cross Individual FO 1 95.08
26 Tom Reeves M50 4 98.21
27 Penny Browell F40 1 98.39
29 Shelli Gordon New Marske Harriers FO 2 99.22
43 Michael Bennett M60 1 105.50
64 Nigel Heppells* M60 5 118.08
88 Anita Clementson F45 4 148.38
94 Jan Young F60 DNF

93 finishers
*Nigel Heppell. Two Ps Two Ls. And now an extra S as well. You can never have too many Nigels.

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 26, 2016

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BM / 16.9km 535m

Penny Browell

cronkley penny cronkley tom Now I’m not the best at navigating but I was pretty sure I’d be ok with this race for a couple of reasons – it’s an out and back race (in pretty much a straight line) and I’d done it last year. So how could I go wrong? This is exactly the question I was asking myself as I stood in the midst of some bracken on the way back which definitely hadn’t been there on the way out. I looked ahead and behind and there were no runners to be seen anywhere. So I got out my map, stopped and looked at it in the vague hope it would magically burst into life and tell me which way to go.

Sadly it didn’t. And it didn’t appear to show any of the fences I’d passed so I decided to go for my usual technique when lost – keep running and hope it’s in vaguely the right direction. After a few minutes of gradually getting more worried I eventually spotted some people running a couple of hundred metres away from me so I headed over to where they were. The marshals looked bemused as I arrived at a checkpoint from completely the wrong direction. I was relieved to see them but the competitor in me had to ask “How many places have I lost?”. “Five” they said “but you’re still first lady”. That was some compensation but I knew my chances of a PB were slipping away.

cronkley winnersAfter a slightly disappointing patch in my running due to minor injuries and tiredness I wanted this to be the race where I proved to myself I could still run well. The first half had gone reasonably well – I felt strongish on the climb and the descent seemed less difficult than last year (recent runs in the Lakes have obviously affected my perceptions of what a steep hill is). But then came the river. The river crossing in this race is really not pleasant. You have to get all the way across the Tees in water up to your thigh (on me anyway) and the rocks are unbelievably slippy. It took me forever to get over to the crocodile and back so by the time I was out of the river I’d almost been caught by the guy behind me and I knew I was losing time.

cronkley susan cronkley stephThe joy of out and back races is that you get to see all of your competitors. Having seen the front runners speed past me prior to the river, it was lovely to see both Susan and Steph on the way back and to be encouraged by the marshals that I was still in the top 10. Looking at my watch I figured I was on for a PB.

Sadly it was soon after this that everything went wrong. Having lost 5 places and several minutes it was hard to stay motivated; I managed to get past 3 of the 5 but was still a long way off where I wanted to be. The long track to the end seemed to go on forever and when I finally crossed the line I was greeted by looks of “what happened to you???”.

Results aren’t out yet but according to my watch I was about 12 seconds slower than last year. I have to say I was somewhat gutted but the disappointment soon passed with a drink in the pub and a couple of goodies for being first lady (this is a very small race so being first wasn’t a massive achievement!). Tom and Susan also picked up prizes for winning their categories and Steph was given a spot prize for her unusual way of crossing the river… So all in all a fun day out. It’s a great race but for me it has a bit too much road and track at the start and end. And obviously they need to make the route a bit less complicated!

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Lake District, Sunday, May 29, 2016

Aaron Gourley, Tom Reeves, Penny Browell

I’d be lying if I said I was wasn’t feeling nervous about this race. As I drove over from a dull and damp north east across the A66 I was worried about low cloud. However, as I dropped into Cumbria my worries faded as blue skies appeared and the temperature started to rise.

The Professionals

Pulling into Threkeld Cricket Club, I made my way to registration, handed over £7 then dashed straight over to Pete Bland’s mobile shop to purchase some emergency equipment – a race map, blok shots and a spanking new pair of Walsh’s.

All set and ready for the off, Tom and Penny appeared and after a quick group picture it was time to run.

The first mile winds its way along a track then through a soggy field before we hit the base of Clough Head, here starts the long and torturous climb to the first check point.

For the next mile it’s a near vertical climb. My heart rate has hit 89%, and all I’ve seen for the last 10mins are the heels of those in front – Inov8, Salomon, La Sportiva – I pass the time studying each person’s shoe choice. All the while in my mind I’m thinking that this is going to be a horrendous descent, will the Walsh’s I have on cope? Will my legs cope? I need to keep something in the bank for this.

Briefly looking up for a moment to savour the views the summit of Clough Head is reached and its a long run down then back up to Great Dodd, via Calfhow Pike before skirting the summits of Watson Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd before dropping down to Sticks Pass.

From here it’s a slog up to Raise and the ground gets rockier and the crowds of walkers bigger. It’s also getting hotter.

From Raise the route drops down again before rising back up to the summit of White Side, It’s here the race leader of this out and back course, Carl Bell, comes flying past. He looks so strong, is minutes ahead of the chasing pack and as it happens, managed to break the course record by oner 2 minutes.

Dropping off White Side there’s a small climb up to Helvellyn Little Man and it’s here I hear words of encouragement from Penny and Tom as they make their way back from the summit of Helvellyn, the turn around point of the race.

I guess they’re around 10mins ahead of me at this point as I take my time up to the summit of Helvellyn. Turning around the race retraces itself back up and over each peak. I’m still feeling good but the temperature really starts to take it’s toll and I being to flag,

Approaching the final climb to the summit of Clough Head again I hit the wall and have to stop for a bit. There’s a paraglider about to begin his take-off, I wonder if he’ll take a passenger and drop me off at the finish.

The final descent is as torturous as I’d imagined. the lactic acid builds up in my legs and the heat has become unbearable as I reach the bottom for the final run in back to the cricket club.

3hr29mins of torturous beauty in the high fells of the Lake District on a simply stunning day. What more could you want from a day out running? Well there was lots and lots of cake at the end and the ginger flapjack was a real treat.

I wish I could smile and run uphill at the same time!

… Tom Reeves and Penny Browell

Descending Fast

TR: Although I’ve covered the ground of this race many time on various Bob Graham expeditions, I still studied the map which Penny kindly provided very carefully, as she drove me across to Threlkeld Cricket Club and the start of the race. This is a category A fell race for good reason with 4388 feet of ascent over a 15 mile out and back route covering long hard high ground. The day looked good for navigation with clear blue skies and sun. My main aim of this race was to get round in good form as it was my first lakeland race for quite some time.

PB: My aim was purely survival! Although I’ve done little bits of running and walking in the Lakes I knew this was going to be harder than anything I’d tried before so I wanted to get round without getting lost and ideally without completely dying on the second half.

TR: We bumped into Aaron who had also ventured over to take part and we headed for the start on the road beside the cricket club. After a quick photo opportunity we were off and soon spread out as the fast guys at the front pushed on. All too quickly we left the road and started the long thigh busting, back breaking climb to the summit of Clough Head (728 metres). Penny and I swapped places several times on the first half of the climb before she began to pull away from me. I just couldn’t keep up with her.

PB: I found the first climb hard but really wanted to get it done. Whilst we could see the frontrunners pulling away it was still quite congested in the middle of the pack and it was hard to get into any kind of rhythm so I kept overtaking people to find some space. I’d been warned it was probably the hardest climb and was delighted to get up it unscathed and feeling good. The view at the top was breath-taking – I don’t care how hard climbs are when you’re rewarded with landscapes like that!

TR: At the summit Penny was about 50 metres ahead and I gradually caught her on the long grassy very runnable descent from the summit toward Great Dodd and another slightly less steep climb. The sun was well and truly out by now and I was beginning to feel the pace a bit.

The pattern for the race was pretty much set by now…Penny would get ahead on the climbs and the flattish stuff; I would get ahead on the descents (being less sensible) On the drop down from Whiteside (863 metres) before the final rocky climb to Helvellyn the race leader passed us. I gasped a well done and pushed on to the summit as more and more runners ran past me on the way back!!

PB: The frontrunners were incredible as we made the final climb up Helvellyn. They seemed to literally fly down the mountain. The leader (who broke the course record) seemed never to touch the ground – as someone who struggles with downhills I was in total awe. Although out and back races sometimes seem less exciting it was an absolute joy to see such incredible runners show us how it’s done.

TR: There were quite a lot of people at the summit cheering us on which really does help. The views from the top were stunning as I felt a new injection of energy as I headed back. The run back is obviously a bit easier as you are generally heading down, but there are still a couple of naughty climbs which Penny was still blasting up.

PB: I think blasting up is an exaggeration – although there is less climbing on the way back it seemed a lot harder! I was starting to feel quite weak and sickly but managed to get some food into me and was spurred on by Tom and a Swaledale friend who were both still running well. It was also good to see Aaron heading up Helvellyn and to exchange tired “well done”s with other runners.

TR: We had a fantastic run down off Great Dodd and soon found ourselves at the summit of Clough Head and clearly the most difficult of descents after 14 miles of hard running.

PB: I’d been dreading this from the start – everyone told me the final descent was a killer and I knew I was going to lose some time here. Fortunately I was feeling a bit less sick and knowing this ridiculously steep and long hill was taking me back to tea and cake definitely helped. I knew Tom was going to get away from me but I just didn’t want to lose too many more places on the way down.

TR: I managed to overtake a good handful of runners but by the final road section my quads were little more than jelly and even though it is a gentle run down the road to the finish I was also finished and was nearly caught on the line by a woman! My stubborn male pride could not allow this of course and I crossed the line gasping.

PB: In the first half of the descent I was overtaken by a couple of runners and Tom gradually disappeared into the distance. But I felt slightly less wobbly than I’d expected and once we were off the really steep stuff I managed to get past a couple of people so I think ended up finishing in the same position as I’d started the descent. OK I was way slower than Tom but for me this was a minor victory!

TR: Penny arrived shortly after me and I gave her a congratulatory hug knowing it won’t be long till I’m following her in. Tea, sandwiches and cakes awaited us in the pavilion and it was a very pleasant prize giving out on the grass in the sun. All in all a very good race.

PB: Finishing the race was tough – the road seemed to go on forever but the sense of achievement crossing the line matched any marathon I’ve finished. I’d been pretty scared going into it as these Lakeland races are so much harder than the small fell races I’ve done in North Yorkshire and Northumberland. But it couldn’t have been better. For a mere £7 we got the most incredible climbing and running and stunning views in the most beautiful part of our country. I’ll never forget being half way up Clough Head and seeing runners spreading out into the distance both ahead of me and behind me. The atmosphere as we recovered after the race was fantastic and the cheese and pickle sandwich, Bakewell tart and tea were exactly what I needed. I’ll definitely be back to the Lakes for more…

The Salomon 10K Trail Race, Keswick, Sunday, May 22, 2016

Penny Browell

Keswick Mountain Festival

Plink, plink, fizz!

A few months ago I received an invitation to a wedding in the lake district and the groom (a fellow runner) mentioned the wedding was taking place the same weekend as the Keswick Mountain Festival so I might want to get a race in whilst I was there. It struck me as slightly unwise to race the day after a wedding but once the idea had been planted I couldn’t resist booking myself in. However at 1am on Sunday morning after too many drinks to count and 4 hours in my dancing shoes I (for once) agreed with my husband that maybe racing wasn’t a great idea.

Sunday morning arrived and due to road closures we had to get up early to drive from Hawkshead to Keswick. My head and feet were sore but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day and when we arrived at the festival village there was a lovely atmosphere with plenty of coffee and porridge on sale (thankfully). The festival included a massive range of sporting events including triathlons, ultras, open water swimming and more. It was great to see some of the other competitors taking part and crossing the finishing line but before long it was time for me to set off for the 10k. The race was slightly unusual in that there were multiple starts across the day with each heat only around 100-200. But part of its appeal had been the fact that you have to get a boat from Keswick to Low Brandelhow to get to the start. The boat was bustling with nervous and excited runners and I finally started to feel like I was there to run rather than nurse my hangover.

Penny.

I’d read up a little on the route and knew that the first half was harder than the second and they weren’t kidding. After about a mile of lovely lakeside trails we turned sharply up some monster hills to then contour the side of Catbells. Views were fabulous and the terrain rocky and uneven but dry so fairly easy to run on. The paths undulated up and down and eventually we were back on easier lakeside paths which I recognised from many holidays around Keswick. The last mile or so included some road I knew well through Portinscale and then onto a footpath into Keswick. We were close to the 10k mark and I knew the quickest way back but the race organisers decided to give us an extra bit of fun by taking us off road for a couple more twists and turns before returning to the festival village a lot closer to 7 miles than 10k… The finish was fabulous with crowds cheering you in and especially special for me as I got to see my kids for the first time in over 24 hours.

Due to the race being run in heats I was unable to be absolutely confident of my position but I knew I was first lady in my heat and that I’d run a good race so I celebrated with a cider ice lolly whilst cheering my brother in law in from a 1500m swim in Derwent water. Later in the day I found out I’d won first place for the ladies overall and even broken the course record for women (although I think the race has only been running a couple of years!). I’m now wondering whether I need to drink heavily and dance for hours the night before every race….

Dentdale Run, Dent, Cumbria, Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Sprint Champion Race - click flag for more information. 14 miles 379 yards

Penny Browell

A couple of years ago a friend of mine recommended I run the Dentdale race – “just your kind of thing” she said, so it was one that had been on my radar for a while. When I discovered I had a Saturday where I wasn’t needed for ferrying to children’s parties I elected to give it a go. It was a bit of a last minute decision and I had no thoughts on pace or race strategy – I decided I just wanted to enjoy it.

When I got to the pretty village of Dent I was happy to see a good number of Striders, discussing how many layers we needed and warning each other of the hills ahead. The race started at 1pm which caused me all sorts of quandaries with regards to eating. As we lined up to start I realised my stomach was already rumbling and asking for lunch but it was too late to do much about it. Whilst waiting for the gun I spotted a Swaledale runner who I knew was pretty speedy and has beaten me on a number of occasions but I’d just manage to squeeze past her at the Viking Chase last year so knew she was a good target for me. I decided to try and stick with her as far as I could.

Penny and Swaledale friend.
photo courtesy and © Andrew Thrippleton

The race starts with a deceptively speedy descent but before long the first of many climbs kicks in. I managed to tuck in behind my Swaledale friend and began to enjoy making my way through the beautiful countryside. The course is a kind of figure of 8 (without crossing at the centre) so at the half way mark I caught sight of my car in Dent. Much as I was enjoying the race I was beginning to tire and was aware of more hills approaching but I resisted the temptation to just jump in and drive home. Around this point my Swaledale friend slowed down to have a gel. I pulled up next to her and we chatted about other races we’ve done and plans for the future. After a couple of minutes she waved me on, saying she felt she’d started too fast. Not long before, one of the many fabulous local supporters had told us we were second and third ladies and I began to worry I too had gone off too fast.

Gareth
photo courtesy and © Andrew Thrippleton

The second half includes one very long climb and then you get lulled into a false sense of security as you approach the half marathon point with a nice descent. The 13 mile marker hails a killer little hill and the last mile seemed to go on for ever. Eventually we were back in the village and the crowds were fantastic shouting us in so I managed a bit of a sprint finish (ish). I was delighted to see Gareth and Jack who had both had great runs and after a bit of refreshment we cheered in the other Striders.

All in all an absolutely beautiful, runnable yet challenging race and definitely one I’d recommend. My friend was right it was definitely my sort of thing and I hope to be back

Castles Half Marathon, Bamburgh Castle, Friday, September 25, 2015

Penny Browell

Bringing home the Bling. Another Sunday, another half marathon starting in a castle. Seems to be becoming a habit for me. This one was on the East coast and very beautiful the setting was too starting in Bamburgh Castle and with a very relaxed atmosphere. It is one of the Run Nation series – I’ve only done one of their races before and both this and the previous one were beautiful routes and very friendly but just a touch chaotic.

There was a good splash of purple for the half marathon and a lone purple vest for the marathon which was scheduled to start half an hour before the half. Due to various mishaps with the chip mats the marathon actually started about half an hour late and the half sometime after that. Elaine and I were shivering as we waited but finally we were off. Unlike my last half I had no particular goal for this race and just wanted to enjoy it which is exactly what I did. All on road it’s not a difficult race although there were a few climbs and descents to keep it interesting. I spent a good part of the race running alongside two men and chatted to them for a while – it was all very relaxed.

After winding through the villages the route turned back towards Bamburgh and we were greeted by a fabulous view of the sea and the castle. The final mile or so was an easy descent into the village, running past the pubs and teahouses where there were plenty of people cheering us in. The race finished in a field below the castle and in contrast to my previous half I was able to enjoy crossing the line without the stress of needing to get a specific time. Ironically, despite my different attitude my times were within 10 seconds of each other.

Elaine was just behind me and we were both proud to bring home prizes for the club (second and third lady). We also had time for a visit to a lovely tea-house with great carrot cake. All in all, a lovely morning out and one well worth remembering for the future.

I see half a castle - that must be where the race gets its name.

Great Cumbrian Run, Sunday, October 4, 2015

Penny Browell

Penny I don’t usually set myself time targets in races – partly because I do a lot of hilly races where you can’t predict your pace but also because I always feel I should just do my best and see where that gets me. This race was a bit different. For the past few weeks I’d become somewhat obsessed with getting a sub-90 half marathon time. I spoke to a couple of people about it, all of whom recommended I do Redcar, the well-known PB half marathon in the North East. However as that fell on the same weekend as cross country it wasn’t an option for me. I spotted the Great Cumbrian was just a week later and although it’s far from flat it sounded like a good race in terms of atmosphere and route. So I signed up.

As race day approached I realised the target I’d set was a touch foolish. Based on previous race results at other distances there was no reason to think I’d be anywhere near sub 90. And that was before I factored in the hills. However the believer in me kept spurring me on and I have to say I trained harder than ever for the two weeks leading up to the big day.

Race day arrived and the conditions were perfect. As Pete Matthews and I headed over from Durham it was foggy but when we got there it was cool, dry and with no wind. For anyone considering doing this race it really is fabulous. You start in the castle and then run out through the city and into the local countryside. I’d been told the worst hills were in the first 4 miles so was delighted to get through these all within my target pace of 6.52 minute miles. I started to think the big sub 90 was going to happen but at 6 miles another hill appeared, a wave of tiredness hit me and I looked down at my watch to see my pace had slipped considerably. Constantly doing maths in my head I worked out what I needed to do and pushed on getting back on target. At 10 miles the Pete same thing happened – a hill appeared and my garmin told me I was losing pace fast. I knew to stay under 90 minutes I was going to have to work hard and I also knew there was one more short sharp hill at 11 miles which many people had mentioned in reviews as being a killer. The last few miles are a bit of a blur now. The 11 mile hill resulted in me actually walking for about 10 seconds while I tried to re-group and tell myself I could get back on track. The last couple of miles are through Bitts Park and whilst I’m sure it’s a lovely place to run I spent the entire time looking at my garmin, telling myself I had to do it and wishing the finishing stadium would appear.

Once I finally got onto the track I still didn’t know whether I could do it. I’d already been running over 89 minutes and I wasn’t sure how much of the track we had to run. I passed a couple of guys as I pushed on and at last saw the finish line and the clock which still started with a 1.29.. One final push and I was through as the man on the loudspeaker announced I was finishing in under 1 ½ hours. The feeling was incredible – total exhaustion and euphoria wrapped into one. Days like this are what running is all about. Pete also finished well with 1.51, a massive improvement on his GNR time. It was a shame not to have more purple vests with us as it is a really lovely race and an easy drive from Durham. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone – although I guess I would as I’ll always remember it as one of my best race days ever!

Results

Pos Name Time
1 Robert Hodgson 01:12:22
30 Kirsty Hamilton 01:25:10
81 Penny Browell 01:29:37
507 Peter Matthews 01:51:02

1270 finishers

Viking Chase Four Peaks, North York Moors, Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. 8m / 1800'

Penny Browell

Despite it being a GP race only a handful of Striders made it over to Carlton in Cleveland for this friendly and scenic race. A shame as at £8 which goes towards the local mountain rescue team it’s a bargain and the weather was perfect for it, clear and calm with a bit of sunshine but not too hot.

A reminder of those Four Peaks

I’d been warned it was a race of two halves and it certainly was. For me the first half was a chance to display my strengths and extreme weaknesses as an aspiring fell runner. With four tough climbs and descents I felt strong and confident on the uphills. I was within spitting distance of Paul at the top of the first one and near the front of the pack. However descent 1 and I was overtaken by at least 15 people, including two ladies who were to become my nemeses for the duration of the race. Up the next hill and I overtook most of those who had flown past me on the way down (including the two ladies) but down again and past me they flew again. This happened on each of the four climbs and descents. So I finished the fourth descent rather further back than seemed fair after all of my successful uphill battles (and well behind the two ladies I’d already overtaken 3 times each!).

However the race was not over and as we moved into the second half it was time to go into more of a cross country mindset as we moved from climbing up and tottering down (in my case) to more of an undulating muddy course. This half was not without its climbs but the descents were more within my capability so I dug in and set about finding the ladies. Within a mile or so I could see nemesis 1. She was doing a good pace and it seemed to take forever to catch her but as we reached a slightly steeper hill I knew it was doable and went past her slightly more out of breath than is ideal with 3 miles still to go. However I sensed her dropping back once I was past so ploughed on in search of nemesis 2. I passed several men but it seemed ages before I spotted her black ponytail and she was moving very confidently without any signs of tiring. We ran through some gently undulating bracken (I think) and I just couldn’t get closer to her. Eventually with a slight climb I managed to make up some ground and eventually passed her with about ¾ of a mile to go. Unlike her predecessor she, however, put up a fight and I felt her behind me every step of the way. Having been caught on the line at my last race I was determined not to let her get me but it took all I had to hold her off. When we finally crossed the line I was just two seconds ahead of her. We hugged and congratulated each other – there is nothing better than a good battle to the line (especially when you win!). Paul had finished well ahead of me in spite of battling a horrible lurgy and it wasn’t long before Mike and Till came in within seconds of each other. Jan looked disappointed as she crossed the line despite a strong time which won her age category. New Strider Lorna Simpkin also completed the race despite being unwell for most of it.

Four Peaks, Five Striders, how does that work? All in all it was a fabulous morning out and although the descents were tricky (for me anyway) this is a lovely introduction to fell racing for anyone thinking of giving it a go. It was well organised, friendly, raises money for a good cause and (most important of all) impossible to get lost.

Results

position name time
1 Harry Holms 01:01:39
9 Paul Evans 01:11:47
16 Penny Browell 01:14:48
24 Mike Bennet 01:16:59
25 Till Sawala 01:17:09
61 Jan Young 01:37:53

72 finishers.