Category: Race Report (Page 3 of 8)

Abraham’s Tea Round

Saturday 10/08/2019

This brilliant round starts and finishes at the doors of the George Fisher shop in Keswick. It takes in all the tops that can be seen from Abraham’s café window, which sits above the shop, and amounts to 30 miles and 11,000ft of ascent. The tops you cover are: Catbells, Robinson, High Stile, Red Pike, Sand Hill, Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag, Grisedale Pike, Eel Crag, Crag Hill, Sail, Causey Pike, Rowling End and Barrow.

My good running pal from Uni, Dan Cade, is currently living in Keswick, so I decided to pay him a visit to attempt the round. I had first heard of it last year and have been wanting to give it a shot since then. We were both feeling quite fit, and as Dan had already run it solo last month, we knew we would be able to give it a good bash. However, as the weekend approached the weather forecast was not looking promising: constant rain, poor visibility and 50mph gusts predicted on the peaks. Over a beer in rainy Keswick on the Friday night we discussed our options and whether we were mad to even attempt the round. Should we go out? What happens if lightning starts? Could we do a low level run instead in a bid to avoid the worst weather? But it seemed such a shame to drive all this way and not give it a go. So why not, let’s go for it. It doesn’t matter if we get wet because skin is waterproof right?!

After a cooked breakfast and a cuppa to warm us up we headed out into a drizzly and rather empty Keswick. The approach and climb up Catbells was quite pleasant, there was hardly any rain or wind. What had we been worrying about last night? The weather forecasts must be wrong. But as we topped out on Catbells we were hit hard by rain drops that turned to needles, and winds that tried to rip out my contact lenses. Ah well, at least the first 20 minutes were pleasant.

We dropped down into Little Town and then began the climb up to Robinson and into the clag. It’s bilberry season so I helped myself to a few as we climbed. As we dropped down into Gatesgarth we passed a few other runners clad in full waterproofs and looking pretty cold. We later found out that they were also attempting the round but bailed due to the weather. The climb up to High Stile was epic, the little streams had turned to torrents and the waterfalls gave a tremendous roar. We slightly lost the path and so had a fun and slippery scramble. The flat-ish ridge connecting High Stile to Red Pike provided our first nav challenge. Due to the thick mist, rain and wind we really had to trust the bearing even though it seemed totally wrong. The descent down to Buttermere was one of the sketchiest descents I’ve ever done. It might look like a lovely stoned staircase but when it has turned into a river it’s incredibly slippery.

The long slog up to Sand Hill and Hopegill Head was tough on the legs and the waterproofs which we were wearing weren’t really waterproof anymore and I began to feel the cold. After putting on my spare layer and chomping down some more food we both started to feel better and pushed on to Grisedale Pike. Those 50mph gusts hit us as we topped out meaning our hoods whipped and rang in our ears. Whilst clinging on to the rock, we managed a quick high five as this top marked the last “big” climb of the round. We got down as quick as we could before we were blown off. It’s funny how mad conditions like this gets the pair of us: we were singing and whooping with enjoyment!

The scramble up Eel Crag to Crag Hill and Sail came by quickly. It’s crazy how different it was up there compared to the Coledale Horseshoe race back in April. Two figures appeared out of the mist on the top of Crag Hill, these were the first people we had seen in over two hours. It was nice knowing we weren’t the only mad people out on the fells. As we dropped down to Causey Pike we popped out of the cloud and had our first view of the afternoon. The heather was in full bloom which wrapped Rowling End in a purple blanket. Feeling excited as we were nearly finished, we shared my secret supply of Kendal Mint Cake which gave us that final boost for the gentle climb up Barrow. The descent down to Little Braithwaite delivered as always, giving us the momentum to chug out the final few road miles back to Keswick.

After only seeing a handful of people all day it was quite a shock to fight our way through the crowds in Keswick centre. We wanted to shout, “get out the way, we are running against the clock!” We clocked back in to the café in a time of 7hrs and 12 minutes, knocking off 38 minutes from Dan’s solo attempt. We couldn’t believe we managed to get around in those conditions and knock that amount of time off, so we rewarded ourselves with a pub dinner and beer. What a day!

— Ollie Roberts

Ilkley Half Marathon 2019

This was the inaugural Ilkley Half Marathon, held on 14th July. It was my first road half marathon, with the added spice of my eldest son also running it. Obviously no familial competitiveness there! Training had not been as intended when I registered last year, as I had a bike crash in September with multiple broken bones, a torn cruciate ligament in February and a broken arm in May. So I was just happy to be outdoors doing some exercise.

While I await surgery to repair my cruciate ligament I am confined to road running, which would not normally be my choice and the training is, in my opinion, a little dull compared to the Moor! Nonetheless, this was a magnificent and most enjoyable event. There was a large event village and the race was completely oversubscribed, with more than 1600 runners. The route was perhaps not the most picturesque but made up for it in spades with atmosphere as the local crowds lined the route through Ben Rhydding, Ilkley and Addingham, cheering and banging cowbells.

There was great camaraderie in the runners and just as energy was flagging, the huge crowds on the finishing line gave an incentive for the sprint my legs would normally deny me. I came in at a little over 1.32, about 90 seconds after my son, who I had only seen in the distance from the moment of the klaxon sounding.

However my parental competitive disappointment was softened by a time that I was very happy with, 79th overall, 5th Vet 50 and just a great day out. The event was superbly organised (by Sportsshoes), great fun and the beer was cheap and good quality afterwards. Highly recommended and worth trying to register early as it’s likely to sell out again. It would be great to get more NLFR vests out there!

Simon Everett

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2019

I have been wanting to run the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon for a few years now, but due to summer holidays and work commitments I have never been able to fit it in. So this year I booked on early, and I also managed to persuade my friend Josh to take part in the Kirkfell class with me.  This class involves a linear route with an average of 56km, 3300m of ascent and approximately 14 hours of running time over the two days. However, this can change depending on how speedy and how competent you are at reading a map so you can choose the best lines between checkpoints.

For 2019 the location was in the Howgill Fells where neither Josh nor I had visited before. I talked to other people who knew them though, and the main gist of the conversations was “it’s bloody steep”.  So, on Friday 5th July we drove out to the start and camped at the race headquarters. Looking up from the campsite I could see that they were not wrong.

On Saturday morning we double-checked all our kit and headed out to the start, which to our joy(!) was 2.5km away up a hill.  At precisely 8:25 we set off and after 10 minutes of marking the checkpoints on our maps and planning our route we headed off into the hills.

Camp at race HQ. Those are baby hills.

We were blessed with sunny weather and excellent visibility which meant finding the checkpoints came with little difficulty.  The only problem was the steepness of the terrain which meant contouring was painful on the feet. The heat meant we chugged through our water quickly, but thankfully there were many cold and refreshing streams to quench our thirst.  As the hours ticked on, we started to feel the distance and elevation in our legs.  At hour 7 due to tiredness and lack of water we had our first nav error and entered a gully too low down, then had the painful realisation we had to climb back up to the top to get the checkpoint.  But after a sugar hit from some very sour and sweet rainbow laces we were back smiling and the last couple of checkpoints went relatively smoothly. 

After 8hrs, 24miles and 6261ft of elevation gain we clocked in at the overnight camp. After the first day we were pleased to find out that we had come in 16th. The camp was located in a small and quiet farmer’s field by a cool river which provided relief to our feet after the battering they had received that day.  It was great to relax in the sun, fill up on the lost calories and catch up with old running pals from Sheffield.

Filling up on sticky toffee pudding
View from the overnight camp

On Sunday we woke up early, refuelled on porridge and got out running as soon as we could due to the swarm of midges that had descended on the camp.  It was tough to get the legs going again but they soon warmed up. Thankfully the route setters were kind on the second day and the checkpoints came by quickly.  Due to the mass start in the morning we spent the day leapfrogging a few teams, each of us taking slightly different lines.  On the last hill of the day we both dug deep, and we found ourselves opening up the gap between the teams we had spent day with.  This gave us the boost we needed so we gave it all and plunged down the final very steep bank to the finish.  Even though we were knackered, Josh still managed to pull his classic move of a sudden sprint finish to the line.  We managed a cracking time of 4hrs 39mins for 15miles and 4192ft of elevation gain.  This second wind enabled us to come in 8th meaning our overall ranking was 12th. Not bad like!

Josh and me at the finish line: we made it!

Ollie Roberts

Corsica

Corsica, whilst strictly a French département, is actually a fiercely independent island, closer to Italy than to France, a few miles north of Sardinia. Wild, mountainous, great beaches, potent cheese and improving wines.

It has not been the easiest place to visit in the past, usually entailing Easyjet (Liverpool) or Jet2 (Leeds) to Nice or Marseilles, then Air Corsica to Calvi (northwest), Bastia (northeast), Ajaccio (southwest) or Figari (southeast). However, since last year, Air Corsica have run two (excellent) flights a week each week from Stansted to and from Figari. Right through the summer. So, whilst the drive down the A1 is a bit of a drag (three hours from Leeds/Wetherby), the possibilities of a short break are far greater than previously was the case.

There is a vibrant trail running community in Corsica and, therefore, a lot of good races to choose from during summer (Corsicans are not great winter competitors). I will mention a couple here, in case anyone would fancy building a short break around them.

First, chronologically, is E Nivere. This race starts and ends in the lovely village of Cardo, in the hills outside Bastia. It is usually on or around the first weekend in April, so a great warm-up for the 3Peaks. The weather at this time of the year in Corsica is really changeable: I have run E Nivere in 28 degrees of gorgeous spring sunshine, and in 12 degrees of pouring rain. But it is never really cold, not like the 3Peaks can be.

The main race is about 25K with 1500m of elevation. Essentially, there are two big climbs, stunning views of Bastia and good runnable terrain. As with all Corsican races, the trail is marked, not brilliantly, but enough never to need think about taking a map out. E Nivere, again as with most Corsican races is low key but very well supported by local villages, who usually raise funds for local causes.

The only big Corsican races take place in Corte in July, when they have a festival culminating in the Ultra de Restonica, about 120K.  It is very easy to do E Nivere if you are staying in Bastia which, as the largest town in Corsica — this is not saying a lot as Corsica’s entire population is less than that of Coventry — has plenty going on.

Next is the Trail du Lac d’Ospedale.  This is always at the end of July in Cartalavone, a tiny hamlet near beautiful Ospedale which itself is in the hills outside of Porto Vecchio (served by Figari airport). The Trail du Lac is a much shorter race, it’s only about 12K with 450m elevation. It is very runnable through beautiful larici pine forests around the Ospedale reservoir. It is such a nice race, with a great atmosphere, and always stunning weather. And it’s always short enough not to occupy a huge chunk of your day. Also there are loads of food at the end, and it takes place next to a fabulous restaurant, Le Refuge. Cartalavone is only about 30 minutes drive from PortoVecchio, which is a cracking town near to the best beaches in Corsica (which is saying something).

Finally, there is the Trail di Monte Cardu. This one takes place near to Corte in the middle of the island, where you find the most spectacular scenery. It is a bit like E Nivere but, given that it takes place towards the end of August, it will usually be brutally hot. This is another decent-sized course, similar in length and elevation to E Nivere, but it feels tougher because of the time of year. Being so far inland, away from the resorts, this race route feels the most like real Corsica. Some of Corsica’s best trail runners live in the area such as Lambert Santelli, Thomas Angeli and Guillaume Peretti. who held the record for GR20, beating Kilian Jornet’s time and only losing the record a couple of years ago to Francois d’Haene.

Now that Corsica is a lot more accessible than it used to be, I would certainly recommend combining a holiday with a race. It is almost certainly the case that you will be the only non Corsican/French competitor, apart from the odd 2REP paratrooper, who could be from anywhere in the world, and the Corsican trail community are a pretty friendly bunch, so you would be made welcome.

It’s very easy to enter races via Corse-Chrono. You’ll need your UK Athletics card on race day [ed’s note: always check the race instructions, many French RO’s require a medical certificate] or considerable ability to charm your way into being allowed to compete without it.

Also, if anyone is just interested in nice running trails in the south of the island let me know, as I have twisted my ankles on most of them.

–Ian Sampson

Coniston

8.7 miles, 3494 feet

The Old Man of Coniston was the first ever Munro I remember walking up with my parents. This is despite the fact that it is neither a) above 3000ft, or b) in Scotland. Having grown up North of the border, with parents who would occasionally drag us haphazard gang of children up the odd hill, asking if something was a “Munro” was simply a way of gauging how long and awful the day’s outing would be. It didn’t have specific criteria that must be met to earn the badge, it was just a way of figuring out if our efforts would include a really big hill. It wasn’t until I was far too old for it not to be embarrassing, did I realise that The Munros were a defined set. Anyway, the memory of slogging up to the slate mine in sweltering heat, while pouring with sweat, is very clear in my mind. The steep rocky path seemed neverending. Chimes of “are we nearly there yet?” rang in the air almost constantly. I remember the twisted and rusted metal relics of the old mine and how impossibly cold Low Water felt. I even remember my disbelief watching a Speedo-clad old man happily wade in before pushing off for a swim. I couldn’t keep my toes in the water it felt so cold, never mind popping in to do a couple of lengths. I’m not sure if we even made it up the Old Man, but in my mind, we’d definitely climbed a Munro.

I ran the Coniston race for the first time last year, and I’d been mightily happy with my result. I’d come much further up the field than usual and I simply assumed that the race must’ve suited me really well. In reality, it was because there was a championship race the next day, which had massively thinned out the field. Ignorance is bliss. I had run well though, by my standards at least, managing the steep descent straight off the Old Man and hanging on to the speed right until I ran straight past the bridge I was supposed to cross in the final kilometre. The guy who had been just in front suddenly appeared on the other side of the river about 10m to my left. I instantly recognized my mistake, but enthusiastic descending left me unable to run back uphill to the crossing. In the heat of the moment, I dashed straight down the mini ravine separating the two paths and scrambled back up the other side. I’d lost 10 places and a couple of minutes but at least I’d never make the same mistake again. It’s not a route choice I’d recommend.

An old man of Coniston (John Ruskin, not a mountain).

Race day this year was warm with promise of colder winds higher up, ideal conditions. It went as it always does, heads bobbing up the road in waves before the turn onto the fell. I felt great going up this bit last year, but my legs couldn’t be bothered now. It kept coming. Step, step, step, occasional scurry over a flatter section, step, step, step. Reaching Wetherlam was a relief as I joined my running mate Bill. I was glad to have someone to run with, but also cursing the pace. We leapfrogged back and forth, gaining and losing distance as the terrain pandered to and protested against our merits and shortfalls. Up and over Swirl How, and it sped up again. I was trying to gauge our contours correctly, aiming to skip unnecessary summits without shooting too wide. I’m on the fence about the efficacy of our strategy, but that happens no matter which way you choose. Coming off the Old Man, Bill took the rightward line directly east, and I took a crap line sort of north-east and so we parted company. The steep and tufted grass was hard to descend with its jutting rocks and uneven surface. I found myself cutting sharp turns as if I was skiing moguls, twisting left and right, highly focused on not going arse over tit. The crapness of my line was made clear as I rejoined the path at the disused quarry. I’d barely saved any distance on the path, and I still had most of the awful flagstones to descend. I was however fortunate enough to find myself in sight of people better acquainted with the route, so I followed them as they minimized their time on the unforgiving rocky path. Flying down, last year’s missed turning was at the front of my mind, as I crossed the bridge and joined the path back to the start. The steep and feet-slapping tarmac made my battered feet wince, but I still had enough beans left for a sprint finish.

The rest of the day was spent with a quick visit to the slightly bizarre Ruskin Museum, with its interesting juxtaposition of information about the humble origins of life in the Lake District, and Bluebird, the jet-engined hydroplane. Informed, if a little baffled, we sauntered along to the pub to enjoy a great post-race pint of Bluebird X7, and to chat running-related nonsense with the other runners.

–Andrew Sandercock

Lothersdale

3.6 miles, 591 feet

Lothersdale has all the makings of a great mid-week fell race. It’s short and steep, costs £3, and you get a bottle of beer, a feat which not only seems to defy the laws of economics but also firmly hoists the flag of virtues that I associate with good races (cheap, no frills, fun and booze). It is held on the Wednesday after the Yorkshire Three Peaks race, so I was under no illusion of hoping for a decent performance, but the sun was out, and the small village hall was bustling with runners. The standard plod up and down the road to shake some life into my legs was met with quite some resistance from my being, but the promise of a short course pushed any concerns away. It’ll be over before it’s even begun, I foolishly convinced myself. Chatting at the start line, I offered the advice I was given from a friend regarding races under 5 miles “Go as hard as you can, and try not to blow up.” That strategy was about to sabotage me a few minutes later.

The race set off up the steep and narrow path and my legs almost instantly shit themselves. I’m very aware that’s not really physiologically possible, but I can’t bring to mind a better way to describe it. My chipper enthusiasm was replaced with dread. Not real dread, like the feeling on a Sunday before the return to school, when booking a dentist appointment, or checking your bank balance after an exuberant night on the piss, but more like the kind of dread when someone unsheathes a bottle of vulgar and exotic spirit when you’re casually drinking cans. It’s dread with a wink and a chip-toothed smile, one that provokes fear with a dash of intrigue. Everything felt wobbly, my legs had gone to jelly, my lungs were puffing harder than the Flying Scotsman, and I seemed to be moving no quicker than a mobility scooter with a flat battery in a swamp. The quick pass through the fields and up a track then pulled down, to my dismay, onto a downhill concrete path. The hard ground and downward trajectory had me praying to the Gods of Quad to keep my useless pins from folding under me. I always thought it’d be some giant leap over boulders in the rain that would gift me my first downhill clatter, but this little concrete track in the Parish of Craven had other ideas. I rambled my way down, miraculously avoiding full body contact with the deck and regain the upward path. The gradient was frustratingly runnable and offered no excuse for breaking into a walk and any hope of momentary respite. The disparity between perceived effort and tangible output was laughable, like revving a car to the red-line but leaving it in first gear. I’m sure my exhaust gasses weren’t too dissimilar either.

The summit and its turnaround was reached and wobbled through. My legs were joined by pretty much every other part of my body in the customer services queue to complain to the manager, as I thumped my way down on the solid flagstones. The brief descent on the way out was back again to cause discomfort on the way back up it. Again, the course was too short to justify walking and this tiny stretch jeered at me to falter, and only with oxygen starved exasperation was the tiny mound crested. The final 200m is steep downhill as you’re funneled into the finishing straight, gripped with fear as small children pop out to encourage you, worried that a wrongly placed stride may land you with some difficult explaining to a parent as to why their little darling is now a lot flatter than they used to be. Thankfully the finish line was crossed without issue and I was able to crumple into a heap without any steamrollered children on my conscience.

Safe to say, I don’t think I’ll find a better way to spend £3.

–Andrew Sandercock

Calderdale Way Relay 2019

Calderdale Way Relay is the biggest off-road club event, organized by Halifax Harriers. There are six legs that cover the 50 mile run, and teams run in pairs. We fielded a women’s team.

Leg One: West Vale to Cragg Vale, 10.55 miles

I hadn’t done Leg One for a few years but it was the only leg I could even vaguely recall. Cat had done it the previous year so reccying wasn’t required (this is a plus for a non-driver / someone dependent on others). We still got lost on the way to the start though. Once there, there were long queues for registration and generic portable loos [edited to comply with a trademark request!] the last more important when you need more than just a wee. This is where the plumber’s van and buckets are handy. The start was in Clay Park and began with a section of grass running to divide the hares and tortoises before the climb up through woods until Norland Moor. I asked Cat, “Best if I go in front or stay behind’, not sure whether that made me a considerate running partner or a patronising one? She advised that the worst was still to come, as the second part of the 10.5 mile leg is much hillier and also has a few miles on road. I’m not a fan of jumping over rocks on flat moorland so hills and road seemed safer to me.

By halfway we were overtaking a few and our pacing was good. At the top of the climbs and hitting a mile of road I’m sure the info said good views of Stoodley Pike could be seen (it was later on apparently but I still missed it). There were only a few miles to go once on the tops. The hard work was done, there was a nice flattish grassy bit and then a downhill. Cat told me she’d tripped and fallen along this bit, but I didn’t see it, which I felt about but at least spared her blushes.  Downhill to the finish and we encounter some Hyde Park women who have taken the wrong turning. We did shout out to them as we nipped down in front of them to the single track then the final descent to the finish. We shouldn’t have told them, as the youngsters (well with faster mobility) outsprinted us to the end. We arrived a few minutes short of the cut off time but we’ll put it down to Cat coping with an iron deficiency (and still managing a great run). We’ll crack it another year.

—Kate Bell

Leg Two : Cragg Vale to Todmorden, 8.46 miles

Organizing a relay makes herding deaf and blind cats look easy. So for Hilary Lane to get a women’s team out of our boutique-sized club is amazing. But of course as is always the way with relays, there were injuries and illness and obstacles along the way. For all these reasons, it turned out the best option was for me to volunteer to run two legs, so I’d be running Leg 2 with Eleanor and Leg 5 with Hilary. Weirdly, though you’d think there would be plenty of time between the two, there wasn’t, if registration was open for a limited time as it was on our leg (it closed at 9, though the mass start wasn’t until 9.45). In fact, there was so little time that Eleanor and I couldn’t afford to do the usual two car drop (leaving one car at the start and another at the finish) because I would have to get my skates on to get up to Wainstalls, Leg 5 start, in time to register. In short, I began to have relay-organizing stress dreams (as did Hilary) and was weirdly nervous on the morning of the race, but that might be because I had to wake up at 5.30am, a time so early even my cat was puzzled. We made good time to reach the finish at Todmorden, and I’d organized a lift to the start, thanks to the good and kind hearts of Nick and Clare Greenwood of Pudsey Pacers, who had answered my Facebook appeal. Seriously, the transport logistics of relays make running them look like child’s play.

We arrived with plenty of time at the start, unlike last year when Liz and I were strolling down Cragg Vale road, about half a mile from the Hinchcliffe Arms HQ, when we realized we had about four minutes until registration closed. Nothing like a warm-up. There was the usual kit check. I was carrying even more than my usual picnic and camping set, as I had to carry everything I needed for the whole day, including a change of clothes because I would have time to cool off before I ran again, and chilly sweat is not nice. I couldn’t quite fit in a warm hoodie and joggers though, so Hilary was going to bring a pair for me for the finish. We had time for a coffee and a Tunnock’s tea-cake in the pub, which counts as very classy pre-race prep. There were the usual several toilet visits, and then we went to loiter outside, as we thought Kate and Cat had a good chance of making the cut-off. They didn’t though (see above) and so we set off with the mass start, which is good for navigation purposes and also takes some pressure off. We shouldn’t have needed the navigational help, as I’d recced and run the leg last year, and Eleanor had done the Halifax Harriers group recce, but both of us were a bit hazy about the last two miles up and down Tordmorden. Eleanor was worried about her fitness and that she hadn’t been doing much running, so she walked – very speedily, ultra-runner-style –up the long drag to the reservoir. Then she hit the flat and boom! She was off and I was struggling to keep up. In the end, we balanced each other out really well: I had more on the hills and she was Usain Bolt on the flat. Up to Stoodley Pike then a lovely careering descent where it was odd to see absolutely no-one go off-piste but stick to the technical path. I did, fully expecting to encounter some hidden pot-hole which must be the reason all these people were sticking to the path, but I survived. My right knee was grateful for this as it still has three holes in it from an encounter with a rock on Simon’s Seat during Charlesworth Chase.

One of the great things about relays is how quickly they pass because you’re in company. On we went, finally dropping down into Tod where the race route cruelly immediately sends you back out again and via a bloody big hill. At this point, I remembered I had chocolate-covered mint cake in my copious pack, and even better – as Eleanor is vegan – it was dark chocolate. By ‘eck, it tasted good.

We made it to the finish line in 1:22. Then, Wonder Woman style, I did a quick change in the portaloos, emerging not with a gold bustier but a fresh-ish vest and shorts, and we jumped in the car and headed to Wainstalls for the next leg.

—Rose George

Leg Four: Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls Road, 9.36 miles

I knew this leg was going to be tough, one for the fell runners I have heard. I was also partnered with Ann Brydson who has been flying on the fells recently and earned a well-deserved age group win at the Dick Hudson fell race. 

We were in the mass start which was very informal, so informal there wasn’t a countdown or whistle, we just ran off after the rest of the runners. Ann led the way for the whole leg, which I expected. It started to feel hard going up Pecketts Well and the merciless climb that came after that until we were on the moors. I am usually a steady strong climber, but had to walk the climbs at times. Ann skipped up all of them like Bambi! Dave Woodhead was taking the obligatory photos. I commented to him that I was struggling, as I did to his wife, Eileen, who was taking photos further along the moor. At this point I was able to have a breather from the relentless climbing, long stretches of flat running, then we were descending down path, road and woods.

I was dreading the last batch of climbing and Ann cajoled, encouraged and verbally dragged me to the finish… at a sprint! Ann and I made the right decision to run in trail shoes as the route was virtually dry. I was surprised we finished in 1 hour 43.36 which was over 30 minutes quicker than the organised reccie by Halifax Harriers that I went on the previous weekend. I wasn’t happy with my performance but proud that the club were able to field a women’s team. 

—Sharon Williams

Leg Five : Wainstalls Road to Shelf, 7.55 miles

(Rose again!)

Eleanor dropped me off at Wainstalls Road which was a huge help as people were parked at least a mile all the way down it. I’d worried about registration closing but they were relaxed about it, and I was pleased that it was my favourite fell-running kind: numbers dispensed out of a car window. I got there about 12.15 and the mass start was at 1pm, so I had time to spend in the very long toilet queue (that’s not a complaint, I’m grateful that Halifax Harriers had portaloos at every changeover). I wasn’t quite sure how best to prepare. Should I stretch? Dynamic stretch? Warm-up? But wasn’t I warmed up already? Or had I cooled down enough in the car? In the end I didn’t do anything but went to the toilet and milled about. I wasn’t hungry either: Aly G from Kirkstall had given me a packet of crisps at the finish in Tod, and I didn’t want anything else. Hilary was very solicitous about whether I needed fuel or drink, but I felt fine. Again, we thought Sharon and Ann might arrive before the cut-off but in the end they didn’t, so we trooped over the stile, familiar to anyone who has done the Yorkshireman, gathered round and then with little ado, we were off. I felt fine, and Hilary and I were well matched. I knew the first few miles from the Yorkshireman but after that I was totally in Hilary’s hands, and she was an excellent navigator, telling me what was coming up before it came up. I was really enjoying myself, partly because it’s a nice route. Then we got to the section of the route where it diverts from the Yorkshireman. We ran down past a little hamlet and I noticed a man hanging over his fence holding a pint, then we reached a table where a man was offering drinks pouring something pale and fizzy out of a jug. Great, I thought, apple juice. I took a cup and a big gulp – the weather was warm – and only after drinking half the cup I realised it was beer. I’ve mostly been teetotal in recent months, and the last bit of alcohol I had was half a pint at the end of Charlesworth Chase. Maybe I am condemned to only drink alcohol while running. I wouldn’t have drunk it had I known it was beer, as I’d be worried my digestion would strongly object. But it was too late now and I was thirsty, and it tasted good, so I finished it. And mostly, my digestion accepted it with good grace.

Hilary had known there would be beer, but I hadn’t read the Leg Five instructions. Mistake. I can’t remember much of the rest of the route, there were twists and turns and tarmac which Hilary didn’t like but on my getting-tired legs seemed like a bit of relief. I mostly felt surprisingly good, and that I was operating on Three-Peaks-training fitness, but then I began to flag a bit on the hills. At one point on a steep climb up a road Hilary put her hand on my back and pushed me up. I was surprised as I hadn’t heard her ask if I wanted her to do that, and I’d never had it done before, but it felt great.

Hilary ran really well, and we got to Shelf in 1:25 which I was pleased with. Then, we jumped into the car and drove to the finish where – thank the lord – they had provided cheese pasties as well as hot pork pies (and a vegan option, of sorts), which was an excellent end to a very long day.

Well done to all our runners, I’m really proud we have such a hardy and dynamic women’s section. In the end we came 78th overall out of 97 teams, with a total time of 09:27:22. But – very impressively – we were 9th women’s team out of 16.

Bradford next?

—Rose George

Dick Hudson’s

My friend N. doesn’t do much fell running, but now, after marshalling for a few years at Three Peaks, has decided to do it in earnest. She began looking for qualifiers right after the race last weekend, and found Black Fell. Pre-entry but a guaranteed entry for elite runners. She asked a reasonable question: is this normal for a fell race? Isn’t it a bit, well, elitist?

I agreed that it was. And that it wasn’t normal. There’s none of that at fell races usually, I told her. Your changing room is the boot of the car in a freezing car-park on top of a windy hill or in a wet field, you might get a wash in a river if you’re lucky, there are no airs and graces, and no elitism when you can mix with Brownlees and their ilk in the pub afterwards.

N. had run Dick Hudson’s last year and decided to do it again. It was my first time running it. I wasn’t sure my legs were up to it as they’ve been sore with DOMs all week, but by Thursday that had worn off. And who can resist a race named after a pub?

The weather didn’t look promising, and it didn’t sound promising when the rain pounded on the skylights in my house just before we were due to set off. I suspected Wharfedale Harriers wouldn’t require full kit but I took it anyway, and we headed to Ilkley. We found Hilary, Emma, Ann and Clare already in the car park, and set off up to what Wharfedale calls the Barrier car park (but I and Google call the White Wells car park). There, for N, was a perfect fell race set up: numbers being dispensed out of the back of a van. I reckon there were about 150 by the time we gathered at the barrier (I was 100). The rain had stopped, my jacket had been put away, and we were off. I was carrying water and a jacket; many runners had no kit at all.

N. had told me that everyone goes however they like up the ridge, and I watched people go up two different routes, both of which looked short and steep and soft underfoot, but I followed the people going the conventional way up to White Wells. I thought I’d be walking most of this climb but my legs did an extraordinary thing and kept running. I kept Ann in my sights because she’s such a good climber, and managed to stay with her until the top of the moor when it flattened out and she zoomed off. I’d looked at the map before setting off and knew it was an out and back and that we went past the Twelve Apostles, but I couldn’t remember ever running the route to Dick Hudson’s before. I know the moors of Ilkley and Rombald enough to recognise paths, but not enough that I can’t get lost. Even so I didn’t pay much attention to where I was heading but just followed the Otley man in front of me. There were a few miles of nice gradient, though it was rocky and tricky. I heard someone fall behind me and turned to look, but she had people helping her so I carried on. It turns out it was Clare, who twisted her ankle and had to walk back. (Hope you recover quickly Clare.)

It was raining by now and I was cold but I was running well enough that I decided to run through it. I’d had a tough time at Three Peaks with cramp, so I was taking advantage of the months of training that were in my legs. Onwards, and then a strange thing started happening, and a few people overtook me who seemed to be young, quick men. I couldn’t understand why: were they just having a bad day? But I dismissed the mystery and perservered, all the way to the final steep field and the descent to Dick Hudson’s pub, where I shouted my number to the sodden-looking but cheerful marshal, touched the gate, turned round and set off back.

I got through the gate again and there was Rowan from Kirkstall coming towards me. This made no sense. He is tremendously quick. But sometimes he likes to float around races so I thought perhaps this was one of them. Perhaps he had chosen an uphill route to the ridge that had been really long? But I put it out of my mind because I had to concentrate on what was feeling like a slog, because it was (nice long descent = not so nice uphill return). My legs were heavy and I was cold. But the time and distance passed, and we got to the flagstones, and I managed to get some places by hurtling down the flagstones. Then it happened again, that much faster runners were overtaking me. I gave way to a couple, as I could hear their speed was greater than mine, and by now we were on narrow trods, as I’d followed people going the softer way back past the conifers and bypassing White Wells. I didn’t much want to be hefted into the bracken by someone who couldn’t control his momentum so giving way was self-preservation.

I enjoyed the descent, although my contact lens was giving me trouble, making it harder than it should have been to see all the rocks and obstacles, particularly now the evening was turning to dusk. But I stayed upright until just before the path, when I apparently decided a bum-slide would be better. Then a quick pelt downhill to the finish, which in good fell-race tradition was someone taking numbers at the barrier.

With the post-race milling around, I learned the answer to the mystery of the improbably quick yet behind-me blokes. They had all got lost.

What? On an out-and-back?

Not that I can laugh, having got lost on Ingleborough out-and-back. But I’d got lost in thick clag. And these moors were our local ones. And Wharfedale Harriers had put a map on their website. Straight out, straight back. I heard a couple of varieties of lostness: Rowan said he’d ended up at a barn (maybe the shooting hut on Burley Moor?). Others said they turned left after Twelve Apostles rather than going straight on, which would take them to Horniman’s Well. Most had done a mile and a bit extra, including David from Chapel A, who I have never before beaten in a race and never will again.

I really love evening fell races, and this was a beauty: the gathering twilight of the moor, the silence studded by the sound of thudding feet and sometimes a bird, the feeling when you finish that you can’t think of anything else you’d rather have done with your evening, then the satisfying fatigue that comes from effort, that rolls you into your bed, where you run the race all over again in your dreams.

—Rose George

Heptonstall : the return

This was my third year of running Heptonstall Fell Race. The first year it rained all the way round. The second year I got lost. And here I am again on the cobblestones, listening to a kindly vicar say actually very sensible Christian things (I am an atheist but think there is a lot of sense in the Bible). He said he had tried to find quotes appropriate to what we were about to do, so he wished us perseverance, and also — though I forget the exact phrasing — to go forth and find fellowship while running. It was nice, and I was grateful for it, because I was dreading the race. My nerves were all over the place, and they weren’t calmed by me setting off for the toilets 15 minutes before the start and realising I had forgotten to put in my contact lens. I would still have been able to see, but my lens helps me pick out tree roots and rocks and I knew there would be plenty of both on the route. So I had to run quarter of a mile up the road to the field of car parking, put in my lens in a state of panic, which is the state in which it usually takes me 10 minutes and several lenses to get it right, then run down to the start and hope I didn’t need the toilet again.

What was I nervous about? I’d run the Yorkshire vets race the day before. (Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association, not animal doctors.) I don’t normally do double-header weekends, but I hadn’t done many vets races last season, and they are friendly and fun. They are also oddly encouraging because when you are passed by people 20 years older than you (you know this because you wear your age category on your back), it is inspiring, not demoralising. It’s my last year in the F45 category, and it’s going to get no easier in F50 because there’s some fiercely good over-50s. Also inspiring.

The race was only five miles long, and it was around Middleton Park, which is a nice wooded area of Leeds. But I found it very tough. I ran most of the hills, but still, I had heavy legs, and I was slower than I’d expected. I can explain some of that. As part of HRT, I have to take progesterone for 10 days a month. This is the progesterone time, and it always makes me depressed, dopey, bloated and ravenous. Taking progesterone for 10 days is like being prescribed PMT for ten days. Fun.

So I was worried I’d feel like as sluggish as I had at the Vets. And I had usual pre-race nerves too. In short, I was really good company. At registration, the women handing out the numbers complimented me on my handwriting (I was probably the only person who’d filled out the FRA form with a calligraphy pen) then asked if I minded having number 13. I said no, because how could things go worse than last year?

There were lots of people I knew also doing the race — I spotted fellow NLFR Adam, Andrew and Martin variously in toilet queues and doing pre-race warm-ups though as often happens we weren’t organised enough for a team photo — and we gathered together at the start. Amongst them were Louise and Izzy, who like me have been getting run coaching for the last eight weeks from my partner Neil, who is now fully qualified as a coach and has set up as Run Brave coaching (website to come, Facebook page here). We have all noticed major improvements in form and understanding, and we have all been getting really good race times. When I ran Rombald Stride, I felt great, and ran all the runnable bits, which doesn’t normally happen, and got a 20 minute PB over a 23 mile race.

But that seemed a long way off as we waited on the cobblestones for the vicar to blow his horn (that is not code). The race organiser gave his announcements and said that the route was more flagged than last year, which was good news for me. And then we were off. And as soon as I started running, I realised:

This was going to be OK. I felt good. I felt strong.

And I felt strong nearly all the way round, for 14.8 miles of tracks and trods and bogs and fields and hills and becks and paths, and 2,905 feet of climb. We had done a recce of the route a few weeks earlier, but although I could remember parts, I couldn’t remember which order they came in, and there were long stretches I’d forgotten, and only remembered when I got to them. But I knew that after the climb up the cobblestones, there was a short sharp descent into the woods, then, immediately, a steep climb back up to the top of the valley that we had just descended. And that is the joyous perversity of Heptonstall all over, and I love it. I knew I was going to be OK when I found myself running up the fields. I deliberately use “found myself” because it seemed like an impulse that was not a decision. It happened again and again: my brain said, you’re tired, but then my legs started to run. A strange but wonderful feeling that I remembered from Rombald Stride. Here is a good illustration of how I felt on Rombald’s:

Heptonstall has cut-offs, a phrase I usually dread, but they are more generous than the Three Peaks ones, so I put them out of my head and just resolved to do my best. FRB, trying to calm me down before the race, when I had made a comment yet again about getting lost, advised me to keep my map handy and look at it whenever I was walking uphill, and locate myself on it by remembering the checkpoints. Of course I forgot to take my map out of my pack. And for the first three checkpoints, there were plenty of people around, and throughout the race, an extremely generous amount of flags. I knew though that things would get stretched out at CP3. Before that, there was what felt like a very very long nav section over open moorland. It was flat/undulating, but the bogs sapped the legs, and we were only a couple of miles in. It felt like it would never stop.

But it did because it always does. We passed a standing stone, where a cheery fellow was dispensing “well done”s to everyone (a fact I appreciate when some supporters only cheer for their own club mates), then to the trig, round the trig and off to a delightful descent. At this point during the recce I had fallen over, and so I decided to do the same thing. I was trying to overtake a man in front, but just as I approached him, my brain said, “he’s wearing a green t-shirt, I wonder if he’s a Chapel Allerton runner” when it should have been saying, “there’s a cunningly hidden tussock there, watch your step.” But I didn’t and I went flying, nearly taking out the man in green. It was a soft landing though — my brain had planned that bit right — so apart from some scraped skin and muck on my elbow, I was fine. Bounce, and back up. I’d worked on my bouncing skills on Rombald’s, where I fell three times, once on ice, twice over my own feet. On the third fall, Louise had said with admiration, “you actually did a commando roll.”

I can’t remember the next stretch, the time passed, the moor rose up to meet me, and then we were descending to the beck, and up a steep road to a steep hill. I knew the road because it’s part of the Widdop fell race, so I steeled myself to run up it. I turned the corner and there, like a vision, was a mass of Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, red-dressed angels perched on a wall. They were fantastic. They are fantastic anyway because of what they do, but here they were cheering everyone and being a big puff of sheer goodwill, and I thought they were great.

Up a very steep bank, onwards, and then I can’t remember the next stretch until the reservoir, and I remembered to cut down through the grass, because I’d gone wrong there the first year, and then there was a long long track up to High Rakes, and I ran and kept running, and still felt good. I had the usual picnic with me, and I made sure to fuel. But actually I didn’t have much over three hours: a mouthful of raisins, a gel, a small piece of Kendal mint-cake and a jelly-baby. Ahead of me was Aileen, a really impressive 60+ runner from Stainland Lions. She is super steady, so I followed her. FRB had asked me what my tactics were, and I had come up with “not get lost” but look, here I was being tactical. As in, hang on to Aileen.

Later, we got to the dell where I had got horribly lost the year before. There was no chance of that this year, because I had learned during the recce where the route went, and even if I failed to turn on the right bridge, as I’d done last year, I knew how to find the route and most importantly where it was. We’d only been about 100 metres away from it the year before. There was also no chance because the marshals were on the crucial bridge this year. Some of the marshals were scouts — thank you scouts — and one of them was sitting on a rock with a clipboard, asking quite quietly for numbers, and when I first saw him I thought he was a woodland sprite. Over the stream and up the steep bank, along the track and keeping an eye for the flag on the left that signalled another steep climb.

I will mention my shoes, because I ran on plenty of hard surfaces during this race and they should have been hurting but weren’t. Two weeks ago I’d fallen for the hype around Inov-8’s £140 Graphene Mudclaws. Graphene for the extraordinary lugs, a Kevlar upper. My friend Chris had got a pair and worn them on the recce and kept saying with wonder, “they’re like slippers”. It’s difficult to imagine a pair of shoes built for serious mud and bog and rocks could feel like slippers. Another friend had got a pair and said she was thinking of wearing them for the Three Peaks because the cleats were so big, they were actually really comfortable on hard surface (of which there is plenty on the Three Peaks route, a race you could probably do in road shoes). I’d only worn mine for the first time the day before on the Vets’ race, and the toe box was narrower than I was used to, and I worried my wide feet would start to suffer. But I decided to wear them, and they were brilliant. I got a sore little toe, but otherwise: superb grip, and comfortable even on hard tracks. Not quite slippers, but not far off.

(I’m never going to wear those gaiters though.)

Also I managed to keep them on my feet. Heptonstall includes an infamous bog, where fell runners have disappeared and not been found for centuries. Not really, but it is deep and it is wide and it is boggy. The official advice had been to sweep round it from the left, but I followed the people in front as they didn’t appear to be sinking and went straight through and it was barely a bog at all. By that I mean, I got wet to my calves but no higher, and I kept my shoes to myself.

The shoes were a conversation starter too because as I went over a stile somewhere or other someone behind said, “are those the Graphene Mudclaws?” and we struck up a conversation and stayed talking more or less for the rest of the route, finishing together. Nice to meet you Nick.

I had a couple of weak moments where I looked at how many miles had gone by and how many miles there were to go. At one point Nick tried the “there’s only a park run to go” and I responded as I usually do to this, with, “but I don’t want to do a park run.” I passed a family of walkers, with youngsters, and tried to distract myself by asking the sister and then the brother whether they were going to be fell runners. The sister said nothing and ran up to her brother for sanctuary. The brother said, “no.”

Right.

Another example of my conversational skills: I am very grateful to marshals who stand out in all weathers, and I too have marshalled in all weathers. I try to convey my compassion by saying, “I hope you’re warm enough.” For the first time, when I reached this man on top of his knoll, the conversation went like this:

Me: I hope you’re warm enough.

Him: No, I’m not.

Me: Oh.

*Runner pauses, desperately thinks what to say to make things better*

Me: There’s not a lot I can do about that. Sorry.

*Runner runs off, perfectly warm.*


The weather: the forecast had been for 10 degrees, not too much wind. But this was the proper tops. At registration, the air was biting, and FRB, as hardy as they come, was questioning his choice of bringing only a vest. I ran in a vest and long-sleeves and I was fine. Afterwards he said he was fine too, but he has more body hair than I do.

Something odd happened in the last few miles: I got better. I overtook people, including Aileen (this rarely happens). And I still felt good, and my legs still moved by themselves.

The final mile is particular. You run along a beck, along a conduit, and then reach the Stairs of Hell. I hadn’t had to climb these last year because I’d got lost way before then. And in 2017 it was pouring so hard all the way round, the stairs were a relief from the weather, no matter how steep they were. (They’re actually steps not stairs but by the time you are halfway up you won’t be thinking about vocabulary except the swearing kind.) They are definitely steep, but they passed soon enough. And I knew that what was to come would feel harder even though it wasn’t, because there were two fields to get up on exhausted legs, before the finish field. Heavy legs and grass: it’s funny how many race organisers end their races with that sapping combination. But the inexplicable strength continued, and I ran where before I would have walked, and then there we were at the finish field, and I’d had such a nice time that I didn’t even mind seeing all the dozens and dozens of people quicker than me who were already strolling back to their cars. But I put on as best a downhill sprint as I could, and encouraged Nick to do the same. Later, some friends said, “we were urging you to beat that man you were running behind”. But I didn’t need to: because he’d been very good company, and because he had arrived too late to register so he was running as a ghost and it didn’t matter whether I beat him or not.

I got to the finish, my lucky 13 was cut off me, there was Neil looking fresh though chilly (he’d finished with a superb 15-minute PB in 2 hours 35 minutes so he’d been there long enough to be on his third flapjack). I didn’t know what time I’d done until later, but when I did I nearly fell over although I was sitting down. 3 hours and ten minutes. That is, 24 minutes quicker than I’d done in 2017.

Twenty-four minutes!

My fellow Run Braver Louise had got a PB of 25 minutes, and Izzy had had a storming run on her first attempt. The moral is: structured run coaching is very good for you.

I don’t think I ran faster. I think I ran more. Everything that was runnable, I ran. I ran more of the inclines where before I would have walked. I remembered to think about my form and technique and when I did remember, to make adjustments to make things easier: to remember to move my arms when I’m tired, to lift my knees when my legs are knackered, to hold myself high on hills and use shorter strides.

It worked. I had a wonderful time. It is a fabulous race route with beautiful scenery, and afterwards they give you flapjack and more food. I’m very proud of myself and conclude that I should now only run races that are blessed by vicars. See, coach, I do have tactics, of sorts.

Wadsworth Trog 2019

The Wadsworth Trog is a 19-mile category BL (hilly and long) fell race over Wadsworth Moor near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. It is known for its energy-sapping boggy and muddy terrain. The only thing sapping my energy on this occasion was the snow covering the frozen ground, with the occasional surprise foot-in-bog.

Most people start the year with the intentions of making a fresh start. Upon reflection 2018 was the most successful running year ever, over 2280km (+62000m elevation) compared to 2017’s 1466km (+29000m elevation). For some reason, rather than feeling ultra-pumped for another year of mileage I found coming into 2019 a rather daunting affair. So much so that I pretty much relapsed from the off with plenty of high mileage in terms of drinking and eating but very low running mileage and very little interest in going outside.

I guess it’s hard to explain but this lack of belief and diluted fitness turned into quite lacklustre performances in both PECO cross country races I took part in, followed by a slightly disappointing Stanbury Splash, a race I had been looking forward to for two years. I guess it’s easy to blame the cold spell, the weather or whatever, but in any other race I would have embraced everything that was put in front of me, I just wasn’t really enjoying my running.

This may come to a shock to a few people as on the surface I’m generally a positive and sociable chap who generally won’t shut up.

Looking back, if January was there to serve one purpose that would have been to be to set the bar low, the absolute lowest. I was determined to take it as the stand-out worst month of the coming year, I couldn’t let it get worse than that.

Being invited to take part in the Wadsworth Trog after being on the waiting list was a huge relief for me. Judging by the popularity of that weekend’s three local sold-out races (the other two were Rombald Stride and Mickleden Straddle) I’m guessing this “get the hell out of January with a tough race” attitude is the same for many other people.

So here we are, on the second day of February. On Friday night I’m packed up and tucked away ready for an early drive over to the Happy Valley. Punxsutawney Phil must have predicted an early spring, the weather is absolutely amazing. Despite being around freezing I can feel the heat of the sun through the car window and the sky is blue and almost cloudless.

So we’re two happy campers driving over for the 10:30am start, except, well it’s a 10am start and the runners are lined up and ready to go as my co-pilot Jonathan of Kirkstall Harriers and I are waltzing into the cricket club getting our kit out for inspection and registration. Note: I swear I checked the website and saw 10am the previous evening, but considering I was the only one, that may have not happened! Not only that but I soon discover I am lacking a pair of waterproof trousers. That’s my first ever kit check fail. (To be clear as soon as I found out that I was missing kit I knew I wasn’t racing, no arguing: Dom can you have a look in the back of your car please?)

Jonathan is all ready to go and runs over to the start as the runners are setting off whilst I’ve pretty much given up the idea of racing and I’m thinking now I have time to go to the toilet and will go for a little jaunt. On my way back from the toilet the race director hands me a race number saying that one of the tail runners has a spare pair on him. How awesome is that?

So I set off, it’s 10:15 and I have a 6-minute handicap, I’m following the footprints of the 186 runners in front of me. How many can I overtake? That is the new goal for the day. Up the first hill around 2km is where I first see the pack, black dots on a white canvas, the tops look like a big white cake; it is such a nice day, and at a few points in the race I wish I’d brought sunglasses.

Another excellent thing about this race and its marshals is that when I catch the tail runners who are unmarking the course ahead of me, they have clearly been informed, and before I know it, the trousers are in my pack. As slick as an Olympic relay. Race on, I’m legal!

I hit the first steep descent which is where I catch the rest of the field, not the ideal situation but I carefully (and politely) overtake the back group of around five runners. Soon after the trails become narrow so pretty much all the overtaking can only be done at opportune moments, usually requiring me to go off piste in the six-inch-deep sapping snow.

The first 10km goes by and all is good. I have had problems with my hips and hamstrings recently due to transitioning from heel strike to forefoot style, but the constant buzz from overtaking the field is driving me at this point. So much so that an hour and a half has flown by and I had more or less found my place in the field with the first instance of being overtaken at around the halfway mark, oops, I have been overdoing it!

Once I find my feet the field around me starts to see-saw, some people overtaking me on the uphill, then slowing on the downs and vice versa and at one point a large group of us get lost after checkpoint 11 and have to heather-hop back on course. At this point I slow a hell of a lot and my left hamstring isn’t feeling too good, I think it’s gone and I am reduced to hobbling.

The thought of having to walk the final 5k of a fell race in freezing conditions doesn’t sound appealing, and the irony of having to put on the emergency trousers enters my mind. No, this is only a bit of pain, I can carry on, maybe I’ll do a big stretch later, come on!

Fast forward to the final few kilometres and I’m back in the game, not sure what happened there, and after a few near falls on treacherous trail I finally take a fall, on the road. A two-metre power slide followed by a lovely cramp in my left calf bites me hard, I let out a ridiculous scream that startles a couple of nearby runners.

“You OK?”

 “Yes I’m fine, keep going, sorry I’m a very vocal runner.”My fuelling strategy for this race was to use Tailwind power/water mix with a single Torq Bakewell-tart-flavoured gel halfway. It was my first time using Tailwind and through the entire race I felt pretty good, and it was only really muscle fatigue that slowed me down towards the end. I think using this in longer distance runs is preferable to gels, though in very long trail/ultra-distance real food will always win. Jelly babies count too, and thank you to the marshal who left the Jellybaby box out, it was well received!

Speaking of tail wind, I feel like I have one on the final climb, I am still able to run up that last hill overtaking a few chaps before entering the cricket ground for the victory lap. Maybe that burst came from was knowing I was close, although the marshal who told me we had a mile to go should be punished, it was at least two! 

Official time 3 hours and 55 minutes, 118th place. Had I been on time I’d have done 3 hours 48 minutes, that would have got me in the top 100. There’s always next year.

I’m absolutely knackered and so relieved to have completed the course. I feel like this event really helped me exercise those January daemons and I am so thankful to the organisers and volunteers for making it happen.

—Adam Nodwell

—all images by Woodentops

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