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Dan and Ollie’s Bob Graham Round

­Saturday 7th September 2019

The Bob Graham Round, as all fell runners know, is steeped in legend by the vast history of attempts from running legends like Billy Bland, Joss Naylor, Rob Jebb, Nicky Spinks, Jasmin Paris, and Kilian Jornet, and the list goes on! Like many runners I caught the Bob Graham bug after reading Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith. So, when my good running pal Dan said he was going to give it an attempt this summer, the itch to give it a go really kicked in. For those who don’t know, the BGR was devised in 1932 by Bob Graham, a hotelier of Keswick. It amounts to 66 miles over 42 Lakeland peaks with over 27,000ft of elevation, all to be completed within 24 hours. It is split into five legs as with four road crossings where you can fill up on food and water if you have a support crew.

Dan asked me to support him on the first two legs, so I began training hard as I wanted to make sure I was fit enough. As he is living in the Lakes, I knew he would be super speedy and strong on the hills. About a month before the proposed start date, we ran a rather wet and windy Abrahams Tea Round which amounted to a tasty 30 miles and 11,000ft of elevation. I felt good on that which showed my training was paying off, and Dan began to fill my head with words of encouragement that I would be fit enough to join him for the entire BGR. The combination of these two elements began to convince me that it might be possible. 

Another two weeks of training passed and during a successful recce of leg 3, I told Dan that I was in, and I would do the round with him. Ooo scary! I only told a handful of people that I was attempting the whole round, I didn’t want the pressure of having to succeed. However, all I actually wanted to do was blurt it out to everyone I met.

Leg 1 Keswick to Threlkeld

Fuelling on some tasty katsu curry at Threlkeld

The Friday was a rush with last-minute packing, finishing work, trying to snooze, and eating lots. Before I knew it, we were standing at Moot Hall awaiting our midnight start. Barry, who was covering Dan’s Saturday shift at Keswick youth hostel, came out to take a snap of us both and wish us good luck. It was nice to start the round without many spectators as it took the pressure off us, it felt like we were just going out for a night run in the fells, no biggie.

As we climbed higher up Skiddaw the clag set in and by the time we reached the top it was difficult to make out the edge of the path. However, thanks to Dan’s knowledge of the first leg we had no issue finding the trods that took us to Great Calva and then onto Blencathra. Even though it was pretty wet due to the mist we decided to go down the main scramble of Halls Fell as we had recently got lost trying to find a cleaner line during a recce. We were slightly down on schedule when we arrived in Threlkeld, but Dan’s parents, Kevin and Lucy, had some hot food and a cuppa waiting.

Leg 2 Threlkeld to Dumnail Raise

Coming down Seat Sandal to Dunmail Riase
A lush cuppa at Dunmail Raise

The clag was the same for most of the leg 2 and we nearly lost Watsons Dodd, but due to a bit more luck than skill it appeared out of the mist after a worried few minutes. It’s crazy how you can get turned around when the visibility is poor and you don’t pay attention to your bearing! Just as we were topping out of Helvellyn the sun began to poke its head out from beneath the horizon and we were both lost for words by the beauty of it all. This gave us beaming smiles as we bounded down to the awaiting crew at Dunmail Raise.

40 miles in and still smiling at the top of Scafell Pike

Leg 3 Dunmail Raise to Wasdale

We picked up Abel and Pete for leg 3 who were both brilliant with reminding us to eat and drink. Also Abel’s nav was spot on. It was nice to relax a bit and at some points I felt like a little lost puppy as I hooked onto the back of Abel’s heels and blindly followed his every step as he guided us through the rocky rough stuff. Some friends, Dave and Sheila, met us on Scafell Pike and were able to get some brilliant pics on the top. We all looked really cheery even though Dan’s foot had somehow managed to fight its way through the side of his shoe. This isn’t ideal when you have a 2800ft descent off the top of Scafell with a fair amount of scree running. But thanks to some trusty climbing tape the shoe held all the way down to Wasdale.

Leg 4 Wasdale to Honister

I can see why they call Wasdale the graveyard of the Bob Graham as the climb up Yewbarrow is not what you want after your legs have been jellified from that descent. Thankfully the gravedigger did not come calling as we set off with our two fresh new supporters Calum and Sam. As we summited Yewbarrow we bumped into a couple who were sipping on white wine in the sun as they had just completed all the Wainwrights in only three years: kudos to them! Leg 4 was tough, and I had a couple of low moments due to feeling bloated from all the food we had been eating. But after munching on a fresh banana I soon felt better and the miles ticked away. It was nice having Calum and Sam acting as our mums constantly giving us water, slices of pizza and sweeties. On the final descent from Grey Knotts, we both knew that completing the round was going to be possible. This gave us a huge rush of endorphins which pushed us down to Honister.

Mouths full of food at Honister

Leg 5 Honister to Keswick

After more tea and hot food, we picked up Abel again and the 5 of us headed up Dale Head in a jolly mood. Only three more tops! The sun was starting to set, and we basked in the golden light for the final hour on the fells. When we topped out on Robinson, Dan and I embraced in an emotional hug as neither of us could believe what we had just achieved. The steep grassy descent off the top hurt the knees, so a bit of bum sliding made an appearance. It’s a great idea until a load of prickles get stuck in your undershorts. We made a quick change into fresh socks, club vests and road shoes for the final 10km along the road and bounded off with excitement. Surprisingly we were all going at quite a pace considering, and by the time we hit Keswick high street we were doing a full-on sprint. What a feeling to climb the stairs of Moot Hall like so many running legends and have all our supporters there cheering and clapping. We clocked in at 20 hours and 3 minutes, over 40 minutes ahead of our schedule! There were more emotional hugs all round and we just couldn’t stop smiling. This certainly won’t be a moment I will ever forget. I did not really realise how much of a welcoming running community there is in Keswick until people I had never met before were congratulating me and Dan. One guy summed it up nicely by simply saying “Welcome to the club lads!” There is no better way of celebrating the best day out on the fells either of us have ever had than by going to the pub with good company for some food and beers.

Hindscarth: second last summit
Coming down from Robinson, the last summit, in the golden hour

I want to say thank you to Kevin and Lucy Cade for their excellent road support and for supplying some of the best cups of tea I’ve ever had. Thank you Abel, Pete, Calum and Sam for their superb leg support and for keeping us smiling when it got tough. And thanks also to Dave and Sheila for the quality photos, they captured the memories of the day perfectly.

So what’s next then?

–Ollie Roberts

Be prepared

Having recently experienced two incidents in the fells, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to remind myself, and everyone else, of the respect we need to give to the mountains and high fells, and the importance of what we need to carry and how to prepare ourselves for all eventualities.

The first incident was when Emma fell and gashed her knee quite badly on Cross Fell Race a couple of months ago. This was initially attended to by me and fellow runners who provided bandages and water etc, and then was efficiently dealt with by the race organisers who managed to get her transported off the fell and forwarded to hospital without the need for fell rescue. No long term damage, thankfully.

The second happened during a recce of Langdale Horseshoe this last Bank Holiday Monday, only around half a mile up Stickle Ghyll.  Sheelagh, Sharon, Emma and me, along with friends from Kirkstall Harriers and Horsforth Fellandale (Izzy and Louise), witnessed what became quite a serious incident, when a walker tripped and fell right in front of Sheelagh, audibly and obviously breaking a bone/bones in his lower leg.

Between us, and the friend of the injured man, we managed to make him as comfortable and warm as possible in the circumstances, with what equipment we had.  As there were a few of us, we each, quite naturally, took on our own roles.  Izzy, who incidentally is currently training to be a mountain rescuer, rang the emergency services; Sheelagh asked questions about medical history, allergies, medication etc. Meanwhile, Sharon and the rest of us were emptying our bags to see what warm/extra clothing we could use to help.  Sharon had a foam mat which we managed to slip under the injured guy’s back/bum, together with his waterproof jacket. He was actually carrying a sleeping bag in his rucksack (as he’d been up to Stickle Tarn in the early morning to view the sunrise), so we covered him with that, along with our silver foil blankets and Louise’s hat. 

Interestingly, and importantly to note, we gave the emergency service operators our “What3words” location, as well as grid reference and a description physically of where we were. It was surprising to hear that the first thing they asked for was “What3words,” even before grid reference. If you haven’t heard of this, please look it up. It is a vital piece of new technology that can locate you to a 3m-square area with a unique three word name, anywhere in the world, and apparently the rescue services love it.

The injured man was clearly in a lot of pain and discomfort, though at times was in reasonable spirits, joking and chatting (he even phoned his mum during this time, saying, “hi Mum, don’t worry, I’m up a mountain and I’ve broken my leg”!). As time went on though, it was obvious his body was starting to object to the trauma and he started displaying signs of shock/shaking/ shivering. Rightly or wrongly (to be discussed further), we gave him a Shotblok and a few sips of water, which very quickly brought him round, though thankfully a short while afterwards, the true heroes arrived.

We left the scene after almost two hours, with the knowledge that our guy was in the safe hands of the amazing Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team (gosh, it was incredible seeing what equipment they carried and how expertly they dealt with the situation). After staying with them and observing for a while, we were then advised that a coastguard helicopter was on its way to winch him off the mountainside. We said goodbye to our friend, who was very grateful to his “Yorkshire Angels,” as he kept referring to us, especially to Izzy who had held his hand for almost all the time we were there. And we went on our way, only to hear the faint sounds of the engine/rotors as we were high up on Thunacar Knott a little later.

Anyhow, I think this showed the stark realities of what can actually turn very quickly from a nice day out to quite tricky circumstances in the blink of an eye. I for certain have made a mental note of what I need to consider when venturing out (though I do appreciate we generally travel a little lighter in fell races) but when out there in small groups or alone, I think we should all:

  • make sure we have enough warm clothing. There is a reason the FRA and race organisers enforce rules: you may actually need to wear your spare clothing, even on a very warm August Bank Holiday weekend when you’re stuck in one place up a mountain for quite some time.
  • carry enough food and water for longer than we anticipate being out.
  • consider carrying a basic first aid kit, as even a very small dressing and a foil blanket may be a life-saver.
  • carry a fully charged mobile phone with ‘What3words’ and grid reference apps downloaded.
  • consider registering on a first aid course or read up on basic first aid and mountain safety.

Hopefully our injured friend will be OK and will make a full and speedy recovery.  The incident is reported on the Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team website:

Also, watch out for a Channel 4 production some time soon, as their cameraman was on the scene and interviewed Izzy.

Ed’s note: The club is very proud of you all: bravo for your quick-thinking and for carrying kit.

–Hilary Lane

Calderdale Way : the full mashings

Whilst the old adage “you can’t out-train a bad diet” is undeniably (and sadly!) correct, it’s also true that you cannot starve yourself of sleep and hope to put in a good turn when racing.

Having enjoyed recce-ing Calderdale Way for a couple of years, I was greatly looking forward to stringing all the portions together in one fell swoop, if you pardon the pun.

However, a few days beforehand events were looking to conspire against me. My baby Hope’s teething had been denying me more than the most meagre of rations sleep-wise, and when my running buddy, race morning lift and fellow NLFR newbie Stu Gall ruling himself out due to mega blisters, it was looking like I’d wasted my Calderdale Way Ultra entry fee. To add to my frustrations, I’d both over-tapered and over-carb loaded, so the scales were telling me I really needed a long day out on the fells.

The day prior to race day I was still unsure if I should still race, and decided to see how the evening panned out and either drive over early doors or go for plan B. I aimed to turn in early but that night sleep once again proved elusive and I decided to sack off the race and opt for plan B, and around midnight booked a taxi for 4am the next morning with a view to running the route but at my own pace. My taxi driver was great fun, and as it was Ramadan at the time, we had a good chat comparing hunger notes of an ultra-runner versus those following their religious beliefs. Bless him, he even offered to drop round a curry that evening so I could sample his wife’s cooking!

On to plan B. The ultra-race doesn’t follow the Calderdale Way 100% accurately. It starts at a sports centre a couple of miles outside Todmorden and then, mindful of the local community, cuts out or adds on various bits. Because who wants 500 head torches running through back their back garden at 5am?!

I thought if I could get an early enough train, I could then maybe play catch up with the race entrants. I was always more concerned about proving my knowledge of the route to myself than bagging than a T shirt and medal, so following the true route seemed a purer celebration of all of Calderdale has to offer. I also figured that if I started and finished in Todmorden there was more chance of rehydrating with a beer at a pub than at a sports centre!

I started well enough, opting to tackle Dobroyd Castle climb first. It’s a swine but it has to be done if I was remaining true to the route, and I didn’t fancy it after 50 miles. At the top I saw the official photographer who confirmed I was the last runner through, but not too far behind. Sure enough, I started to pick off a few vests. So far so good, but I did have to stop to apply Compeed in the first hour or so, just next to the farm which has a wallaby or kangaroo in a shed (a sight that surprised me on each recce).

I got talking to a guy called Andy from Halifax fairly early on and we ran most of the route together. One of his friends worked for Cannonball Events who were kind enough to let me still refuel at the stations despite not officially competing due to missing the start. In the big climb from Jerusalem Farm, Andy and I met up with my ex-clubmate (St Theresa’s AC) Emma Longfellow who was supposed to be competing as a mixed pair with NLFR’s Stuart Gall. Canonball Events once again proved themselves as flexible by allowing Emma to swap to a solo competitor at short notice. 

My wife, Nicola, Hope and mother-in-law, Angela, met Andy, Emma and me at a farm shop about marathon distance in. My legs were starting to rub but fortunately Nicola thought to pack some spare shorts with an inbuilt legging which saved the day.

Emma and I lost Andy just before Brighouse: He had planned a rendezvous with his partner to collect a MacDonalds, and I don’t think he was joking. It was Brighouse 1940’s celebration that weekend, so Emma and I were treated to a military fly-past as we passed through town.

I lost Emma when I met my family for a second time, but we caught up at the last checkpoint at Withens Clough Reservoir. Emma had suffered with her energy in the 10km or so before this, but soon came round after meeting her family. 

We parted company by the Shepherd’s Rest pub (home of the excellent Shepherds Skyline race) and I followed the Calderdale Way back to Todmorden some 50 something miles and 14 hours & 48 minutes after I had set off.

I only had a couple of minutes wait at the station before my train back, and both my phones ran out of charge by the time I landed back in Leeds, although I did manage to update Strava first to make it official, phew! However, this meant I couldn’t hail an Uber and the queue for taxis was massive as many of the drivers were back at home with their families breaking fast! Eventually I shuffled down the queue and was taken home where I was planning on devouring a meal and maybe rehydrating with a couple of beers but I just couldn’t face either (not like me!) so forced down a pint of milk. I was told in no uncertain terms I wouldn’t be welcome in the marital bed unless I had a shower which I did then collapsed tired and happy. Fortunately, young Hope let me sleep that night, and I guess it’s more preferable to get a good night’s kip after a long day out than beforehand.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this great corner of West Yorkshire (and maybe even straying into Lancs on occasion…) and thoroughly recommend Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd etc. as great places to explore from. I’ve had a  couple of attempts at the (much shorter at circa 25km) Calder Valley Round recently and plan more over the next few months, if anyone wants to join me get in touch.

–Richard Jones

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

An excuse for not running the club’s Kettlewell anniversary race

The Pennine Way extends 268 miles from Edale, in the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland National Park, ending at Kirk Yetholm, just before the Scottish border. On 6th June, in a day’s window of sunshine, we decided to do the first two legs from Edale, finishing just off route in Slaithwaite. Helen’s grandmother lives up on the moors by Deer Hill and over 30 years ago her dad and uncle hiked the route. Ever since, Helen has been keen to follow their footsteps, largely for the promise of a healthy portion of sausage casserole and rhubarb pie at the end! The route is around 50 km and neither of us had run or walked that far before. (Helen’s longest running distance was a half marathon.)

Wessenden

Anticipating a rather long slog, we were up early to run down to Leeds station and hop on the train to Edale. By 9.30am we were on our way enjoying the rolling green hills of the north Derbyshire Peak District, clambering up Jacob’s ladder and skirting around Kinder Scout. Before long we reached the panoramic views across Kinder Downfall before a sharp right at Mill Hill to follow the paved path (not turning left and ending up near Glossop and a mile off route…). Twenty kilometres in and so far so good.

Down the valley to Crowden, and bleak bleak Bleaklow Moor

Then came Bleaklow Moor along with that long-distance-running-knee-thing people talk about which began with a Superman face-plant onto the cobbles from Helen and eventually ended with a hobble into Crowden campsite for a much-needed lunch stop after 35km.

Following a breathless gobble of sugary carbs we were back on our feet and feeling fresh. We ran up to Black Hill enjoying more lush green landscapes across the valleys. Since Crowden is technically the start of the second leg of the Pennine Way, and since we set off from Crowden later in the day, we didn’t see a soul making it an incredibly peaceful stretch. At the top of Black Hill we could begin to see the tops of Meltham Moor, on the other side of which was our destination.

Helen on Black Hill

With renewed energy and what felt like a spring in our step we shuffled down to Wessenden reservoir and snaked a right at the top of Blakely reservoir to leave the Pennine Way and run towards Deer Hill. With less than a mile to go, the rain began at Shooters Nab as we galloped through the cotton grass into the open arms of a rather excited grandmother wearing a pair of binoculars big enough to see us in Edale.

More info on the Pennine Way here: https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/pennine-way

Here’s the route on Strava: https://strava.app.link/zHRgDSjMzX

—Helen Freeman and Dan Starkey

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

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