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