To be able to do the Three Peaks Fell Race, runners have to finish two qualifier races. So this time last year I started hunting down qualifier races and used them for training and to see if I was ‘ard enough for the actual event.

Jumping in at the deep end, I chose Tour of Pendle 2021. My first AL (bloody steep (“A”) and long (“L”)) race. Mud, sweat, tears (of pride at the end). Tick. Next qualifier wasn’t til March; Coledale Horseshoe. AM (bloody steep (“A”), not as long as Pendle (“M”)). I got overtaken by a chump in a cowboy hat. Less mud, more sweat, no tears. Tick.

I’d qualified. Oh shit. Now I had to enter! And even worse, run the bloody three peaks. I’d tried two of them together in February and despite copious pork pie scoffing and friendly company I had a tough time of it. Other training runs had me trotting three of the peaks in the Wicklow Mountains whilst visiting friends, stomping round the forests of Fontainbleau on a climbing trip, running from Meanwood to Harrogate Baths for a well-deserved soak, and jogging the espresso round (spoiler, you don’t get a free espresso at the end from the café, the bastards).

The Three Peaks Fell Race day came. I got round just within the cut-offs, and had lots of jolly faces to support me along the way. It was great to get it in the bag and be part of such an amazing and inspiring event. But the thing I noticed 10km in was that I hadn’t really done a single training run on my own, and I so missed having a buddy to share snacks and chats with and not worry about the time.

And so began “Chats Not Stats”.

I deleted Strava and pencilled in some long-run adventures with all my favourite running pals and entered a handful more ALs. Some highlights were the Bob Graham Round over three days with the club, the Ilkley Skyline, the Wharfedale Three Peaks, a stunning ridge run on holiday in Spain, a few very sweaty summer Lakeland and Dales races, and to finish what we started on the Espresso Round I did the Tea Round with the BGR girls.

To book-end this year of long runs, I ran Tour of Pendle again, and guess what… I did it in pretty much the same time. Which goes to show, you don’t need a year of long runs to drag your ass round an AL. Just get out there and do it!

Top 5 things I learned this year:

  1. Don’t put red sauce on your pre-run sausage butty, it leaves a funny vinegar taste in your mouth which no amount of jelly babies can get rid of.
  2. Do keep on top of your salts (I’m looking at you Emma Lane), and if you don’t like the taste go for the tequila shot method; salt, water, lemon fizzy sweet.
  3. Do bring spare dry socks to avoid white wrinkly bog-ridden toes.
  4. Do have lots to eat (Niamh’s tip is: if you’re in a grump it’s probably because you need a feed… which means I need a lot of feeds!)
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of bonhomie!

Helen Freeman