Category: Results (Page 1 of 3)

Baildon Canter

(BS), 13 July 2024

Normally to merit a write-up on here you need to have completed some epic Category A fell race or ultra, reliving your day with the following likely sequence: weeks of training – meticulous on-the-day preparation – step-by-step details of each challenging element of the race – the rewards and highs of finishing and lessons learned.

On Saturday, by comparison, I had a lazy morning, chucked a few random items into a bag and left the house shortly before 2pm for a 3.15pm race start. I drove a few miles, parked the car in a free moor-top car park, jogged 5 minutes to a carnival field, handed over a fiver and got a race number for the Baildon Canter. At 5km with 500ft of ascent this may be at the opposite extreme of fell-running to the long stuff, but it’s still very much fell-running. In fact, as the blue red kite flies it’s probably the closest fell race to North Leeds and ideal if you’re thinking of trying a fell race for the first time. It’s only a little more challenging than Chevin parkrun, for example. 

Having got my number there was time to have a wander around the Baildon Carnival, in full swing in the field to the side. A typically random selection of stalls, attractions and novelties lent a lively backdrop. I wandered off to find a quiet seat so I could do the fiddly attach-number-to-vest-with-safety-pins business and found one in the adjacent cricket field, where a match was in progress. I’m a lapsed cricket fan but quite enjoyed watching a couple of overs. The bowlers were surprisingly competent with some admirable variations in pace; the batsman by comparison tried to slog everything, without success, until eventually middling one, sending the ball arcing into an adjacent back garden for 6. The resulting ball-hunt and delay was my cue to return to the race field.

By this time a gaggle of other NLFRs had gathered – Jonny (trying to define his new gainful employment of oceanography), Ian (now a guinea pig in a pre-marathon VO2 Max study), Cailum (on home Baildon turf) and Nick (often keen for a race). I was glad to see that the start had been slightly altered from my last time here in 2022 so that the course is now spread out before the narrow snicket at the exit of the field.

3.15 and we’re underway, a mad dash for the snicket. It’s still pretty awkward, with low hanging branches and some steps adding to the fun, but we get through it OK and out onto the moor. Very soon we cross the road for the first time, which is well marshalled, and begin a gradual climb towards Hopes Hill. Unlike most short fell races, which are very steep, the pace here feels flat out, more like a cross-country race. As we loop round the back of the hill the guy in front momentarily stumbles. This is enough for me to get past and he never re-overtakes. Fine margins in a short race like this.

Cailum and Jonny have disappeared out of sight but I do have Ian around 20 yards in front as a hypothetical target. However he begins to pull away on the short climb up to the top, and is faster on the mildly technical descent on the other side. As the course flattens out re-approaching the road I begin to reel him in a bit. Just before the road itself the following sequence of calculations happens in the blink of an eye, perhaps 2 seconds, while we are both running at speed:

  • Is there any traffic obviously moving on the road? – no
  • Is there a parked car blocking the path on the other side of the road? – yes
  • Are the marshals making it very obvious where the path is? – no

Ian guesses to the right of the car, I guess left. I was correct, and surprisingly find myself in front. It’s just 90 seconds to the finish from here, I don’t think I could have successfully overtaken at any other point.

Before long we are all collapsed at the finish line and awaiting the presentations as the rain sweeps in. Me and Cailum both win an out-of-season Toblerone, reminding us of the tumultuous downpour at December’s Gathering Winter Fools Relay, where we used a Toblerone as the team’s novelty baton. By Leg 4 the Toblerone was in a state of significant decomposition, and beyond edibility, although enough of it remained at the finish to prove we’d completed the course. Next time we’ve pledged to put the Toblerone in the freezer the night before, to increase its chances of survival. Today though, it was just nice to take sweets home from the fair, not least Matterhorn-shaped ones, even if this course had hardly been Alpine-style. 

NLFR results:

2nd: Cailum Earley

7th: Jonathan Coney

11th: Dave Middlemas

12th: Ian Furlong

36th: Nick Flower

91 ran

Full results:

Dave Middlemas

Buttermere Horseshoe (short course)

22/6/24, 20.8km, 1518m (AL)

Preparation for this race began in 2022. I’d pre-entered that year but had to pull out with COVID. I’d obviously done a bit of research: when I dug my OS map out last week it still had the checkpoints dimly marked in pencil.

My vague plan for the summer is to be fit enough to run Borrowdale in August, which I’ve done three times before. I’d done Fairfield (AM) in May and needed a step up to an AL. The distance and elevation of this course felt right, so those pencil marks weren’t going to be wasted after all.

Much of the story of any race is the build-up the week before. Having entered on Monday, I was faced with a whole new problem on Tuesday. A bunion appeared at the base of my big toe and was rubbing painfully. On Wednesday I went out for a jog and managed 50 yards of intense discomfort before returning to the car. Fortunately I found a knackered old pair of shoes with a convenient hole in the side which made running tolerable, although less so on the technical descents. So not looking promising for Saturday. A scour of the aisles in Boots on Thursday revealed a “bunion guard” which fits over your foot like a bandage. A final test of this on Friday was encouraging, enough to make the trip a goer.  

I’d wondered about staying over in the Lakes the night before and/or after but eventually decided to make it a long day trip. A 5am start sounds early but it’s less of an issue when it’s already daylight. I’ve also recently acquired a highly neurotic cat (Mona) who, due to neglect from a previous owner, begs for attention and food at any opportunity. I didn’t mind the feline alarm clock today.

A 6.30am departure from Bradford had me pulling into the parking field in Loweswater at 9.45am, in good time for the 11am start. This is an idyllic corner of the Lakes, all the scenery but without the crowds. It felt quiet even with 150 fellrunners trickling in.

I had nice chats with a few familiar faces: Tanya from Fellandale, Dave from St Theresa’s, Joe from Dark Peak. All three though were facing a different prospect to me, as I had entered the “short” version of the course, whereas they were doing the real thing, a 36km monster all the way to Honister and back. Beyond my comprehension at present, I was just hoping to get back before their winner did (both races start together, then the courses diverge at Whiteless Pike).

One of the appealing aspects of fellrunning is how life’s worries drift away as start time approaches, as you focus entirely on the race. I’d forgotten about the bunion now (the guard was comfortably in place) and the final decision was whether to wear a t-shirt under the vest. I’d got uncomfortably sunburnt at Fairfield and didn’t fancy a repeat. However, the sun was out and the temperature rising. Eventually, I plumped for the t-shirt, despite being the only runner in 2 layers. Maybe I should invest in an NLFR t-shirt, if available.

The start was half a mile on the road downhill, which spread the field nicely. A jog through some woods then onto the open fell up Whiteside. We were all soon down to a walk, and it stayed that way for the next 30 minutes. You could probably become a good fellrunner just by doing lots of fellwalking. Near the top, a noticeable cool breeze came in and I felt a bit smug about the t-shirt, it was nice to have it for the rest of the race.

From Whiteside, it was a jog along the ridge to Hopegill Head, with scenic views to both sides. We then took a dive down to Coledale Hause and crossed a lively beck, the first water on the route. I took the precaution of filling my fancy filtration water bottle, to complement the 500ml I’d packed at the start. Then a long drag up to the flat, grassy top of Grasmoor, the highest point on the course. A double-back for half a mile then another descent to Whiteless Pike. The way off the top seemed intuitive and I followed the obvious line towards Buttermere; however this is a potential trap for the full course which deviates here on a less obvious line towards Newlands Hause – take note.

After a long grassy descent we dibbed in Buttermere village. A couple of hours on the watch, a free jelly baby and the bulk of the course done. It had been relatively straightforward up to now and I hadn’t needed to get the map out, following the field ahead had been OK. Actually though, the race was about to change character and, on reflection, I now see it as a race of two halves.

I continued following runners on the main path out of the village, arrived at the foot of Sour Milk Gill and turned right. Only afterwards did I realise that I’d missed a different path which would have saved half a mile. Equally, as the path bent left towards Scale Force I missed a trod to the right and ended up doubling-back through tussocks and bracken, wasting another few minutes. This kind of thing can happen well into a long race.

Then the real sting in the tail: Mellbreak. An impressive and attractive fell from many angles, but this way up via Scale Knott was just a grind, very steep, no trod, just head down, put one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll get there (I was grateful for the fill-up from the stream earlier to get up the climb). Equally the descent off the col between the two tops. I just followed the runner in front and ended up on a narrow descending trod which felt a bit too technical three hours into a race. A better line may have been to have gone straight down and run in on the level track below. Either way, a recce of Mellbreak is recommended!

Mellbreak. Photo by Tim Haynes used under Creative Commons

Eventually though, I arrived at the finish in Loweswater in a time of 3:21:33, a not unrespectable 26th of 48 finishers on the short course. A massive free spread of veggie chilli, cakes and beverages was waiting as our reward, which made the £15 entry fee (with free parking) a real bargain. Having tucked in and begun to feel human again, a short while later James Harris of Ambleside sprinted in, the winner of the full course in just over 4 hours. We really hadn’t been in the same race.


Dave Middlemas

Mytholmroyd : The fell race after the night before

9am and I’m woken by Ollie knocking on the door. I’m still in my pyjamas and still in bed. I’ve been snoozing the alarm since 8.30, desperately grasping for the last remnants of sleep, all the while wondering why the hell I’d signed up for a fell race the morning after our Christmas do? I gather my racing vest and various layers from the radiators, open the door to a far-too-chipper Ollie then pile into the car to head off to the race, just about below the legal limit. 

Mytholmroyd fell race is the last of the races organised by Calder Valley Fell Runners and is a popular end of season jaunt. It’s reasonably short (~6 miles long), of middling steepness (category B) and flagged for most of the way, making it a good race for those still new to racing. It’s a good one for a December Sunday morning, getting you out in the mud and cold before returning home for a roast dinner and a curl up by the fire… or so I’d thought when I’d entered a few weeks ago. Last Sunday though, queuing outside Mytholmroyd cricket clubhouse, shivering in the cold and drizzle with my head slowly throbbing, I was regretting my hubris. “Maybe I should just wait in the car and snooze off the hangover”, I thought. 

I forced myself through the requisite kit check (and dashed back to the car to retrieve my whistle: it’s always the whistle I forget) then joined the steady jog half a mile along the canal to the start line. Here, I found the rest of the black and blues – 10 of us in total – each in various states of freshness reflecting the amount of alcohol consumed the night before. 

I half-listened to the race briefing with the coffee starting to kick in and my faculties slowly returning, then made a panic change out of my pyjama top which I’d accidentally left under my Helly-Hansen and vest an hour earlier. I chucked it to nearby Will Hall who’d come along to spectate and got ready for my first fell race since the fell relays in October. 

Look, no pyjamas

The start of Mytholmroyd is steep and hellish, but it demands a sprint off the gun if you’re to avoid the inevitable bottlenecks as over a hundred and fifty runners vie for a single track. The horn blew and I sprinted off among the front runners, who were quickly reduced to walking pace by the gradient, up and out of the Red Acre woods, through the fields on our way onto the top of the moor. I had the usual early race thoughts of “this pace is insane, there’s no way I’m not going to die” and at one point almost chucked up some of last night’s pizza. But the race calmed as it always does and once on top, I settled into my running, along well marked and runnable footpaths, catching a glimpse of Harry well out in front and leading proceedings. Here, the races-within-the-race began and I sized up who I felt I could stay with, who was OK to let go, and who under no circumstances I would allow to beat me. 

Not even halfway up the hellish start

We headed across the moor to Crow Hill, then down a furious descent that broke up any happy rhythm, dibbed, then contoured along the base of the moor, up the charming Ludden Valley. I’ve gotten into a bad habit recently of dawdling in the middle third of races, as the race breaks up into little groups and the pace softens a touch. Mytholmroyd was no exception and my thoughts wandered away from the race, back to hazy glimpses of last night’s revelry. Oh god did we do shots? Why are my arms so sore? Oh yeah, the pullup challenge.Whose idea was that?! Hmm… did we get a kebab? God I’m hungry…

This final thought was enough to get me back into the present. I opened my bumbag to fish for the gel I knew to be in there. I was struggling to feel for it with my mittens on, so stopped to take them off and have a proper look. Two runners ran past while I searched. Frustratingly, I found no sustenance anywhere. I zipped up the bumbag and carried on, three places down, no calories up. 

A set of steep wooden steps took us the direct and vertical route back up onto the moor. The drizzle had abated by now and patches of sunlight dappled the heather. I was feeling a little overdressed. Gaps opened up and I retook the places I’d lost, then set my sights on the red and white vest of the Calder Valley runner ahead. Maybe just the thought of a gel had been enough for a second wind, more likely it was the actual wind, blowing now from behind and pushing us back along the Calderdale Way to home. The final descent retraced our original ascent and was fast and furious. The gorse lined path shredded my legs, the stone slabs that followed were like an ice rink in the wet, and the final muddy fields almost put me on my arse. I loved every bit of it. I tumbled my way down to the finish line and a respectable 13th place, annoyingly pipped on the line by a local Todmorden Runner, whose footsteps had hounded me every step of the descent. Harry was waiting at the finish line fully clothed in layers and looking like he’d been back a while. “Yeah, I won” he said with a grin when I asked him. 

Aye, Harry won (well done Harry) but 13th place on a hangover isn’t too shabby

Back at the cricket club, a cup of homemade soup and rye bread warmed us up, as did the awards, where Niamh, Harry and myself won the fastest mixed team prize – a great win for North Leeds holding off the organisers Calder Valley Fell Runners. Harry won the overall and Niamh the V40 women and collected their tins of chocolates. Among the runners there were smiles all round – hard not to when you get a free beer for finishing – and gratitude to CVFR who put on another enjoyable race. I was grinning too: it turns out fell racing is the best cure for a hangover. 

Josh Day

Results for North Leeds Fell Runners:

1st Harry Kingston

13th Joshua Day

27th Oliver Roberts

40th Niamh Jackson

44th Adam Nodwell

80th Angeline Dresser

102nd Martyn Price

118th Jessica Wilson

138th Rose George

140th Liz Casey

Harriers vs Cyclists

Bingley, 19/11/22

This event is a competition between runners and cyclists with (usually) the first 10 in each category to score. The winning team holds the Fisherman Trophy for one year. The trophy is named after The Fisherman Inn from where the race starts and where the prize giving takes place afterwards. On the few occasions where a bucket of lukewarm water is not provided in the pub cellar to shift all that ground in dirt, ample washing facilities can be found in the nearby Leeds-Liverpool canal!

BIngley Harriers

The race starts at 2pm, I have just arrived at about 20 minutes to 2pm and the woman who has just given me my race number has explained that I should always bring my own safety pins. I haven’t brought any safety pins, and neither has Ian, who gave me a lift. A comedy lengthy search of Mike’s car turns up one safety pin which I stick through my vest and number.

We change very quickly in Ian’s van and run to the start line, stopping to pee along the way. Across a bridge along a canal and across another bridge into a muddy field full of fell runners and cyclists. We arrive just in time and manage to each scrounge a couple of pins in time to get into the race pen.

Dan keeping the cyclists at bay for now

Then we are off, up a steep grassy bank. The cyclists wheeling or carrying their bikes and everyone getting caught in a squeeze at the first gate. Off we go. This is my first race since the spring as I have had a prolonged bout of too much work and then injury, so I need to remember to go steady and not get too carried away.

The route is great, across boggy fields, through the woods, across streams and up to the top of the moor in the fog. By this time I have forgotten to take it easy and I am having way too much fun trying to chase down the people in front whilst also trying to avoid being destroyed by a cyclist firing down at full pelt.

Then on the final ascent up a steep and narrow ginnel I spot my friend Rob in his Ilkley vest and think it’s a great idea to try to beat him. I fire up the hill and catch up with Rob just before we cross the final boggy field home. I overtake him and victory is in sight but the bog and the sprinting down hill catch up with me and he gets back in front beating me to the finish.

It turns out I am still a bit out of practice. It’s a fantastic race with pie and peas in the clubhouse afterwards, and wonderfully organised by Andy Brown of Bingley Harriers. Was a runner or cyclist victorious this year? Results here.

Daniel Starkey


Broughton Heights, Scottish Borders

What a spectacular weekend at the fell relays. Firstly a huge thanks to our team captains Emma Lane and Ollie Roberts for getting the teams together and dealing with all the red tape. A special thanks to Emma whose team, due to the volume of entries, wasn’t able to run, yet she gave up her time to support those who could. Other thanks to those who came to support: Dan, Sarah, Emma, Emma and Dom who gave encouragement, took photos and generally helped keep up morale.

Many of us arrived on Friday evening and stayed in tents, pods and vans just outside Peebles. I camped. A hot water bottle made possible a snug and cosy night. We woke to pouring rain which sounded pretty bad in the tent but it soon stopped, giving way to sunshine and glorious views of the surrounding hills. After a healthy breakfast and last minute kit checking and faffing, we arrived at the race field to find our shiny new shelters (thanks to Emma and Liz for sorting those!).

pic by Mike Ayres

Most of the teams were already there looking pretty happy and relaxed. Well, most team members were there. Dom’s group — who set off ages before us hadn’t arrived — and they had Ellis, the Women’s Open Leg 1 runner with them.

A bit of a panic when we got news that there had been a Sat Nav error that had sent them in the opposite direction. Someone was in trouble! They weren’t sure they’d make the start so Sarah was asked to step in and be ready to run if needed but Ellis arrived just in the nick of time. The race’s navigation leg 3 with maps, compass and real people proved much more reliable than Google Maps; some justification for the FRA’s insistence on banning GPS at races.

The race HQ was in a stunning location. It was in a valley surrounded by the hills we were about to climb which were grassy and smooth, displaying beautiful autumnal shades of green, russet, and brown.

Fell running is a low key, inclusive sport. Where else could you “compete” with elite athletes in the same event? I was on leg 4 which involves a lot of waiting but it means you can watch most of the event. However, Dark Peak, the winning team were in and off to the bar before I set off on my leg.

Dark Peak on a peak. Pic by Dom Nurse

The main event started promptly at 11 and my mass start (which I was very likely going to be part of) on leg 4 would set off at 15.25. Lots of time to relax, do a bit of browsing at Pete Bland’s and try not to be too nervous (not easy for me). I wasn’t particularly fit. I’d not done much training due to a few set-backs. I’m much improved now but training has been thin on the ground.

Less of the excuses (Ed — surely “reasons”?) and back to the race. First to finish in our team was Ann Brydon on leg 1. Ann had a great run and finished 5th in our V60 category.

Ann in her favourite place: on a hill. Pic by Dom Nurse

Next up were Sheelagh Ratcliff and Hilary Lane. All leg 2 runners reported a very tough route with huge climbs over about 7 miles. Sheelagh and Hilary were exhausted but delighted when they came in: great run you two. Martyn Price and Mike Ayres were on the nav leg. They were still out when my leg started but they reported no serious errors, had a good run and finished 7th. Nervous but resigned to my fate I set off up that bugger of a hill. The weather was fine but windy as we set off. Earlier we’d watched the elites and very few were running up that hill. What chance had I? It was clear that I would be doing a lot of walking!

It was a fully flagged route with a lovely grassy descent before the climb up to Hammer which was tough and seemed to go on forever. I thought I may be able to relax after that climb but then the weather came in. It was freezing! Sleet and a strong headwind. Perhaps I should join a gym or stick to park runs if I didn’t want these conditions. I gave myself a talking to, head down and spirits up as surely this is what fell running is all about.

Hilary by Sheelagh

It felt great when I could see the marquee in the race field and hear the cheers from the club as I came down that final descent to the finish. Thanks all for that and in the rain too. It means a lot.

Our team was 8th out of 9. However, the V60 rules are different from other mixed teams who have to have a team of 3 men and 3 women. The V60 teams can have any combination including all men. Out of 9 teams in our category, four were all men; the rest had mostly one or two women and the rest men. Ours had four women and two men. So by my reckoning, had there been a level playing field, we may have won!? Thanks Team V60. It was a great day out.

— Caroline Clarke (Leg 4, Team V60)

Results here.

Pics by Dom Nurse, Mike Ayres, Hilary Lane and Josh Day.

Two Riggs

Kong Winter Fell Race Series

5.6 miles, 1130 ft.

Registration for the first race of the series was held in a barn nestled under Bram Crags at the foot of Great Dodd. It was early November, very wet and very windy, with heavy clouds just touching the top of High Rigg on the other side of the valley.

I started off quite far back within the group. Within the first 50 metres there was a narrow bridge over St John’s Beck which constricted our flow causing some tripping over heels and elbows out from fellow runners. Once over the bridge and into the fields we spread out. The ground was heavy going, soft but pitted by cows hooves threatening to turn ankles for the unlucky.

I moved to the edge of the pack and increased my speed passing runners with ease, feeling strong and thinking I should have started further towards the front, or that — considerably more probable — I was not pacing myself very well for the hills that lay ahead.

We soon reached the footpath that traverses around the bottom of High Rigg to the southern tip before turning sharply and starting the first proper climb.There were a few gates to frustrate, and slippery slabs of rock too much for even the purest of graphene soles.

The path was narrow, pinched between the hillside on the right and the river down to the left. There were few overtaking opportunities for me or indeed those behind me so we snaked along close together, in silence apart from the sound of feet pounding the wet ground. The wind was howling through the trees, sending autumn leaves churning all around us.

I lost some places on the first climb, and when it got too steep for me to run I tried to take my rain jacket off and stuff it in my bum-bag. This turned out to be harder than it sounds while trying to scramble up a hill in high winds.

Wren Crag is the top of the first climb, then the route follows an undulating series of craggy outcrops, grassy slopes and deep mud around the perimeter of little tarns too small to be named. I battled against the wind with it repeatedly pushing me off-balance and making me unsteady on any exposed rocky sections.

As often happens, I found myself in a game of cat and mouse with a few runners, who I would pass usually on a climb, before they would then catch me up and fly past me with enviable descending ability.

High Rigg is the highest point, and I felt for the marshals stood out in these conditions, even the two collie dogs who are built for it looked unimpressed. From High Rigg there was a steep descent (where I was passed by a few more downhill experts) down to a farm track and then up the final climb.

Coming off Low Rigg there was a great section of downhill through soft springy wintered bracken, I managed to gain enough momentum to hold off anyone snapping at my heels.

At the bottom of the hill we joined the flat cow rutted fields again, this time with tired legs, head-on wind and biting rain. It all sapped any remaining energy I had, but the end was now in sight. I attempted a sprint for the finish line with high-fives from my kids leaning over the wall and cheering me in.

It was a great race in classic Lakes conditions, but I was glad we were heading for a warm pub and a late lunch.

I had finished 42nd overall, 37th in my category, netting me a measly 1 point in the series standing. I vowed to try and work on my descending skills for race 2 in December.

Hefin Clarke

Carnethy 5

“It’s iconic.”


“It just is.”

“But it’s only six miles long.”

“Aye. It’s still iconic.”

I didn’t believe it. I’d heard of the Carnethy 5, but I still couldn’t understand why it had such a reputation when it was short and when even the elevation per mile wasn’t that intimidating. But my partner Neil is from East Lothian, so we could combine the race – in MidLothian — with a family visit. Otherwise there were factors definitely against me agreeing to do it. It cost £17! That’s a road race price. And it would mean a nine-hour round trip to run a six mile race, something I would normally consider ludicrous. Then there was the small matter of Storm Dennis.

But I always like to visit Scotland, and I had run once before on the Pentland Hills, where the Carnethy 5 is based (it is named for Carnethy running club, which is in turn named for Carnethy, one of the Pentland hills). The race commemorates a 1302 battle that involved William Wallace. From Carnethy’s website:

In February 1302, a messenger arrived at Neidpath Tower to ask Sir Simon Fraser to meet someone at Biggar. Sir Simon Fraser rode hard, for the person he was to meet was none other than Scotland’s hero — Sir William Wallace. The Wallace’s plan was for himself to be seen gathering together an army up north, while Sir Simon waited with the main army in the south. Sure enough the plan worked, for when the English heard that The Wallace was getting ready to attack from the north, they left their winter quarters in Edinburgh heading south — Sir Simon waited.

Randolf the English General was unprepared for a fight. His army was separated into three groups of 10,000 each, some miles apart. At Dryden they suddenly found themselves confronted by 8,500 Scots. Colmyn, Saintclair and Fraser, loyal friends of Wallace soon carried the day, and rushed on to Rosewell to meet the 2nd army. The weary Scots were again triumphant, but tired, and when yet another 10,000 men approached they were ready to flee. But Sir Simon was a crafty gent, he had been warned about the 3rd army, and had sent a few ot his men to carry two tree trunks up a neighbouring hill. Then Sir Simon shouted to his men… Well, part of the old ballad says it better:

“Look ower, look ower, on yonder hill,”
Quo’ Sir Simon lood and clear,
They blich’t and saw the lift gao ill,
Then saw a cross appear.
“Tis gude St. Andrew” cried ae man,
Then doon they gaed to pray,
“Gae to,” they heard the gude Sir Simon,
“Gae to,” we’ll win the day.”

The inspired Scots rushed into battle!

This would be the 50th running of the race, so I knew that if they could go ahead, they would. But fell races and hill races were being cancelled, and we checked the forecast regularly in the week before, and it never got any better. Depending on which metereologists I checked (I’m fond of the Norwegians weather forecast), the winds were going to be between 40 and 75 miles an hour, and that stayed true until the Friday, when we set off. It didn’t matter that Storm Dennis was going to wreak more havoc in England than Scotland: we were going. I was sure the race would be called off. I know it had been run the year before even though runners had been told at the start that marshals and Mountain Rescue would be lying down because they wouldn’t be able to stand, the wind was so strong. Even so, I was sure that no race organizer would allow marshals to stand out for a few hours in 70mph winds.

Carnethy said they would make a decision at 11am on the Saturday. If we didn’t hear owt, the race would go ahead. The race starts at 2pm, and part of the reason for the cost is that runners get bussed to the start from race HQ at Beeslack High School in Penicuik. We had to set off at 11am to get to the school in good time, and the only clue as to Carnethy’s decision was a retweet from someone wishing everyone doing Carnethy 5 good luck. Even so, I didn’t believe it was on until we got to Penicuik and the car park was full and there were many lean people wandering about in waterproofs and lycra tights. I had been advised to bring “EVERYTHING” and so I had: although I run in shorts even in snow – my legs rarely get cold – I had brought long tights and plenty of layers. The race organizers required everyone to carry full body cover, and a long-sleeved top. In practice, most people in the hall seemed to be wearing all their kit at once, including me.

I was more nervous than usual. I’d had a race stress dream the night before (the one where you can’t find your kit or shoes or something), and I’d convinced myself that everyone in Scotland was a fabulous hill runner, and that they were all Jasmin Paris (who runs for Carnethy) and Finlay Wild (who always wins the Ben Nevis race), and that I would be the lumbering Englishwoman – actually half Welsh but that’s irrelevant – at the back. Tim, a Holcombe Harrier who Neil had met a few years ago at Trapain Law race, but whose wife is from up here, reassured me. The race field is no different to what you are used to, he said. All sorts. You won’t be last.

Dom was also running the race, as he was combining it with a visit to Edinburgh. It’s not often that we remember to get team photos but here is one:

See? I’m wearing EVERYTHING. Dom kept his jacket on throughout too.

I think I made five toilet visits, only four of which were necessary, and eventually, we made our way out to wait for a bus to be driven ten minutes to the start. The kit check was carried out in the bus queue, and consisted of, “have you got a map? Gloves? Hat? OK then.”

The bus took us to a field underneath Carnethy Hill, where a few marquees were managing to stay upright. The winds weren’t too bad down here, and my nerves were slightly soothed by the piper standing on a mound nearby, piping us up five snow-capped hills.

The hills are beautiful. Robert Louis Stevenson called them his “hills of home..” We’d got one of the last buses so didn’t have long to wait for the start. I managed to warm up, but still decided to keep my jacket on. I was kitted out excessively according to my usual standards: long tights, which I’ve only ever worn for Rombald’s in snow and cold, and a waterproof jacket.

There were announcements but most were carried away by the wind. I expect they were the usual: don’t do anything stupid and if you fall over find a marshal and report back to the marquees. And then we were off. Neil, who has run Carnethy before, had given me some tips: there was a long stretch of very boggy and wet ground before we began to rise up to climb Scald Law. Stay to the left, he said. It will still be boggy but better. Also, head for the tiny hi-viz dot standing by some green bushes, which is a marshal. I squinted, saw a tiny hi-viz dot, just about, and agreed to do that. There was a gunshot, or cannon, or something, and we set off. Steady away, Rose, you will need your strength for the wind. Even so I was anxious: don’t be last, don’t be last.

So silly.

I ran as best I could, though the ground was not ground but swamp, and there was a beck crossing. So even this first half mile was hard going, as your legs are working twice as hard to accommodate the water. I felt neither good nor bad, I just kept going. Carnethy 5 has a purity to its planning: you go up and then you come down, five times.

In Carnethy’s description: “The race is over rough open hillside, through thick heather and boggy/rocky sections of ground, with minimal paths. The race involves 2,500′ of very steep ascent and descent, some of which you will struggle to run. It’s fair to say this race will feel a lot harder than a flat road race, but it is not beyond anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. As a very rough guide, the race organiser completes this race in somewhere between his road 10k and half marathon times.”

I climbed to Scald Law, I loved the descent, I climbed again to South Black Hill, I loved the descent, East Kip, I loved the descent, and then there was West Kip.

I can’t remember which hill I was climbing, but at one point I nearly fell backwards. A kind arm stopped me and righted me, and that was the nature of this race: there was kindness and people looking out for each other. The solidarity of fighting extreme elements. Neil had a similar experience except a man grabbed his buttocks to keep him upright. My assistance was more decorous, and I was grateful for it.

West Kip though was something else. This was the fourth hill, and by now I had begun to tire of the wind, but the wind knew this and decided to re-stoke its engines. I had my hood up as it was also hailing – of course – so I kept bumping into people as I could neither hear nor see them coming. We all trudged up as best we could. Towards the top, I was on my hands and knees and standing upright seemed actually dangerous. Here is a photograph that Peter MacDonald, one of the marshals on the top of West Kip, took, though how he managed to stay standing and use a camera is an enigma.

Image by Peter MacDonald

I had my phone with me, and I turned round a couple of times to look, and there were runners behind me, a trail of colour over the brown bracken and white snow of the hills, and it was beautiful but not enough for me to consider taking off my gloves, getting out my phone, unwrapping it from its weather-proof sandwich bag, wiping my fingers dry enough that the phone would recognise them, taking a picture and doing it all in the reverse. Too much effort. No photos.

I was so thankful to the marshals on top of these hills. The wind was so strong, it was an assault. I usually object to people using the word “brutal” about races, as most are not, not really. But this section, this struggle to stay upright while your pack is being blown off you and while you could fall off the hill: this section was brutal. I have run Tour of Pendle in a blizzard, and it was hard. I have run in hail so biting it gave me pockmarks. But I don’t think I’ve ever had to fight the weather as much as on this race. It got to the point on West Kip where it was so extreme that I had to laugh at it. What else can you do? You can’t reverse. You have to get off the hill. You may as well glory in the extremity of it and keep running.

We turned on the summit to descend and suddenly the wind was even more dangerous, because the descent was tricky and the wind was now behind: it didn’t get us on the top so now it wanted to push us down a steep slope. I persevered, and my legs began to enjoy the descent, steep at first then levelling out. Not flat though: I knew this because I was overtaking people and I only ever do that on descents. The final part as we descended towards the Howe, actually a house overlooking Loganlea reservoir, was a grassy muddy bank. I slipped, and then suddenly slid at great speed, so fast I didn’t know how to stop, until a bush helped me out, luckily just before the beck. It was great fun and I was laughing out loud, and quietly thankful that no rocks had punctured my backside on the way. The power of that slide! A fellow runner congratulated me on it and I agreed that yes, it was some of my finest work.

Onwards to the reservoir, then to the cut-off, which I had forgotten about. Nor had I checked my watch. The cut-off was 1 hour 15, and I think I got there in about an hour but as I didn’t even realise it was a cut-off, that didn’t matter. About 20 runners didn’t make it. (I mean, they weren’t quick enough, not that they expired.)

Up again now, for the final climb to Carnethy Hill. I was alongside a man in shorts who said he rather regretted not wearing long trousers, as his legs were blue. I got myself up the hill and then there was the joy of the final descent. Tim had warned me before about this part, that there was gorse that bit and rocks that tripped, and that the two together were rather testing. But much of the gorse and heather had been burned and tamed. There were a few sections of scree-sliding, and then a hell-for-leather how-do-I-stop careering, which was fun. For a while I couldn’t figure out why I could hear the powerful jet engines of an airliner, until I realised it was the wind in my hood.

Then the long slog back over the swamp and through the beck to the finish. A photographer at the beck got some excellent pictures, though not of me (I stayed upright).

Image by Paul Dobson

And there were the feather flags of the finish, and Neil standing waiting for me. I had a cup of hot liquid which may have been tea or coffee and it didn’t matter at all which, and a biscuit. Then Neil said, shall we run back instead of waiting for buses? And I must have been on such a high from the final descent that I agreed without question. A marshal gave us directions for the three miles back to the school, which ended up being mostly farm tracks and woodland, so it was pleasant.

Just as we approached Beeslack High School, the rain began and then it intensified, and we arrived back to a downpour. There were changing rooms and showers but with 500 entrants, including a healthy proportion of women, there was no room, so I had a wet-wipe shower in the middle of the sports hall, with the help of a judiciously placed towel. Then I headed to the kitchen for food, which was a lentil dal or a spicier vegetable curry, and it was delicious. In fact, the £17 was good value, as we had also been given a bottle of Carnethy 5 beer, a 50th anniversary mug and a beer mat.

I realised afterwards that I’d been sitting next to a woman who had run the whole race although she was 80 or thereabouts. I wish I’d known because I would have genuflected at her feet. In the main hall, Jasmin Paris and her husband were hanging out, and I got starstruck, by Jasmin as well as by her daughter Rowan, who became as famous as her mum after the Spine Race. I let them be though. Nobody wants to be bothered by genuflecting strangers, do they?

We didn’t stay for prizegiving, although I did want to see the female and male winner each get a broadsword. Me, I got my beer and beer mat and mug, and I was happy to have those as well as significant satisfaction at having run a race in actually brutal conditions, and doing alright. Do I think they were right to run the race? Yes.

I came 404th out of 503 runners, with a time of 1:38, and I’m pleased with that. Dom came 199th, in 1:20. I think I’ll be back.

— Rose George

Featured image by Peter MacDonald


Lisa Rudkin and I competed in the Penmaenmawr fell race in North Wales on Saturday 16th November as an alternative to the Tour of Pendle back in Lancashire. We stayed over the night before with Lisa’s mum who lives in Penmaenmawr. She made sure we were fuelled up on home made chips!

The race was organised by Eryri Harriers and is in its 45th year. The distance is between 9 to 10 miles depending on which pre-race information was accurate, with 1700ft ascent. There was drizzly rain, mist on the tops, a long boggy stretch, obligatory mud and pools of water on the runnable tracks and a rocky, muddy slippy descent to finish.

I finished in 96th position, Lisa 97th out of 157 finishers. Lisa should have finished higher up but took a wrong turning in the clag. Everyone received a bottle of local ale at the finish. It made a nice change to go ‘international’! 

Results are here.

Sharon Williams


Many thanks to Dave and Eileen Woodhead for finding one of the many huge puddles and taking some photos.

First puddle
Second Puddle

Final results

PosNo.SurnameFirst NameClubCatTimeM/FMPosFPosCatPos
1127AdamsTomIlkley Harrierssen00:52:51M1 1
2126WoodJackIlkley Harrierssen00:53:39M2 2
3134HowieRobinWharfedale Harrierssen00:56:33M3 3
486HassellEthanWharfedale Harrierssen01:00:15M4 4
5137CoxMatthewIlkley Harriersv4001:00:42M5 1
6139AddeyBobU/Av4001:01:53M6 2
7117DennissJonIlkley Harrierssen01:02:59M7 5
8129StirkAdamWharfedale Harrierssen01:03:15M8 6
9128LomasAdamHyde Park Harrierssen01:03:42M9 7
10114GurneyMikeU/Av4001:03:46M10 3
11140StellSamU/Av4001:05:08M11 4
12104GidlowPaulHorsforth Harriersv4001:05:35M12 5
1391LambGavinIlkley Harriersv4001:05:47M13 6
1495PageHollyCalder Valleysen01:06:11F 11
1585HartleyAdamU/Asen01:06:19M14 8
16132McCallRossOtleysen01:06:51M15 9
1784McGuireDaveWharfedale Harriersv5001:07:24M16 1
18105SmithRichardOtleysen01:08:23M17 10
1993PillingGrahamP&Bv4001:08:40M18 7
20122SmithTomBowlandv5001:09:04M19 2
2190RobertsAnnieTodmorden Harrierssen01:09:07F 22
2281FosterDaleU/Av4001:10:02M20 8
23125RussellAlanSaltaire Striderssen01:10:04M21 11
24112FurlongIanNLFRsen01:10:14M22 12
2594PillingRachelP&Bsen01:10:31F 33
26133WebbSteveValley Stridersv5001:11:07M23 3
27141ClaytonDanielU/Av4001:11:30M24 9
28119BlakelyMatthewRoundhay Runnersv4001:12:33M25 10
29103WalmsleyNicolaRoundhay Runnerssen01:13:02F 44
30118LifeAlanClaytonv5001:13:28M26 4
31138WoodHelenIlkley Harrierssen01:13:41F 55
32102CalderbankPaulIlkley Harriersv6001:13:53M27 1
33135PadillaMonicaWharfedale Harrierssen01:15:29F 66
34100BoothmanJohnBarlickv5001:16:14M28 5
35108TomanMichaelAccrington RRv5001:16:15M29 6
36107WilcockMattTrawdenv5001:17:08M30 7
37120MossMarcusRoundhay Runnersv4001:17:30M31 11
38110MartinLawrencePudsey Pacerssen01:18:56M32 13
39113CarruthersAndrewHalesowenv5001:19:12M33 8
40124RhodesJoHyde Park Harrierssen01:25:07F 77
41115JacksonNiamhRoundhay Runnerssen01:25:51F 88
4278EvansMarkM’boro & Cleveland Hv5001:25:52M34 9
4387FairburnNeilBaildon Runnersv5001:26:41M35 10
4479McMullanJessicaRoundhay Runnersv4001:27:55F 91
4592FryerCaroleCalder Valleyv5001:30:01F 101
46130SeimsAmandaValley Stridersv4001:30:11F 112
47136BennettPaulBramley Breezersv5001:32:20M36 11
4888WalkerJohnRoundhay Runnersv5001:33:05M37 12
49131YeuyDavidU/Asen01:34:04M38 14
50106ShortMarcHorsforth Fellandalev4001:34:52M39 12
51123CarnforthThomasU/Asen01:36:21M40 15
5296HarrisNickRossendalev7001:38:26M41 1
5397MyersRobBaildon Runnersv6001:38:27M42 2
5483UnderwoodHelenRoundhay Runnerssen01:39:18F 129
55101RobinsonPhilNidd Valleyv5001:39:36M43 13
5699MorleySueKnaresborough Stridersv6001:39:49F 131
57121LaneEmmaNLFRsen01:41:13F 1410
58111SunderlandJoanneRoundhay Runnersv4001:43:06F 153
5989ThompsonGeoffWharfedale Harriersv6001:47:08M44 3
60109AllanAndrewPudsey Pacersv5001:51:25M45 14
6180WoodEdnaKnaresborough Stridersv5001:53:19F 162
62116GillottRuthU/Av4001:54:41F 174
6382LavercockJulieSalford Harriersv5002:07:11F 183
6498CardinaleAntonioOtleyv7002:30:20M46 2

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