Tag: MEMBERS REPORTS (Page 2 of 3)

Fell relays

I’ve had a pretty good year so far. I planned to train for, and then run a proper Lakes AL. From January to June I put the hours and miles in, culminating with the Ennerdale fell race at the start of June. My little training chart — compiled by a mystical computer algorithm — had a lovely upward trending squiggle. And I do love a bit of data-based reassurance. I was running well and completed my goal (albeit with a performance slightly dampened by a cold) so I promptly took a few weeks off.

My little squiggle took a downward turn, but with my desires sated, that wasn’t a concern. Training and rest must be balanced carefully if you want the scales of performance to tip in your favour, after all. But then Kentmere Horseshoe appeared on the horizon. It had been my first Lakes race the previous year and I was keen to see if I’d actually improved since then. It’s a cracking race; long and steep enough to put you to work, but not so serious as to scare you off.

A work stint in Carlisle gave me the perfect base for a bit of fitness rebuilding. I managed to make some quick hits on Scafell, Skiddaw, the Buttermere Sailbeck, and Striding Edge, to name a few, and my squiggle ascended accordingly. I was primed for Kentmere. The race brought some testing conditions, which resulted in countless route variations (or detours, depending on who you ask) but it was a fantastic day nonetheless. Placing further up the field than before, I was happy with my improvements and started to plan out the rest of the summer’s races.

I returned to my local training ground — the Otley Chevin — with great fervour, stomping up the track with great intention. Cresting the top of the climb with a newfound momentum, and pulling round the corner, my foot somehow didn’t quite land underneath me and with an horrific crunch I stumbled to the floor in a pile of curses and pain. The summer’s racing plan almost visibly evaporated before me.

A dog walker enquired if I needed assistance but I declined, either from denial or embarrassment, I’m still not sure which. I hobbled back down the track to the car. Surely it can’t be so bad if I can walk on it?
Once again the squiggle tumbles, this time for two months. Eight weeks of holidays, stag dos and weddings later, I’ve ridden that downward squiggle like a party rollercoaster. Kilograms gained, fitness lost. I might as well take up tiddlywinks.

And then up pops a little message from Dom.
“Can you run in the Fell Relays?”

Which brings me to the bit I actually meant to write about: The British Fell Relay Championships. They are organised by Ambleside AC and held in Grasmere, and NLFR fielded four teams, no mean feat for a small club. Shrouded in darkness, we piled onto the bus on a dreary Saturday morning. I was to be running the first leg, a hearty five mile romp with 2400ft of climb. I avoided looking at the route in advance, choosing to remain in blissful ignorance; I knew it was going to hurt and that was sufficient. Either good fortune or foresight had me on a fully flagged route, something I was definitely happy about upon our arrival at a very claggy Grasmere.

The marquee was absolutely buzzing with teams from all around the country getting down to their pre-race rituals. Reassuringly, everyone seemed to be juggling dibbers, numbers and maps, with expressions of less than total comprehension. This is the cottage sport of fell running not the Olympics, after all.

Soon enough the time rolls round to switch into race gear. I do the classic awkward shuffle into my shorts and vest, trying to use my hoody to shield my sliver of dignity. I head for a quick trot up the hill to get some blood back into my legs. They feel as rubbish as you’d expect after a few hours on a coach. It was a bit of a shock. Even walking the hill felt pretty hard going, and it’s only about 200m from the start. Not the greatest omen, but with the swirling fog and tense atmosphere, today wasn’t a day to let superstitious thoughts get the better of me. I trundled back down to the start with 20 minutes to go, launch prep commenced final ablutions, a quick scoosh of caffeine-charged energy gel, a swill of water, a kiss to my partner, and a saunter to the pen. The sight of a familiar face – Bill from Chorley – helped break the tension. We laughed at the ridiculousness of our nerves; it’s only a run up a hill anyway. I make the slight error of not jostling my way to the front, but before I had time to adjust position, we were off!


Races always set off fast, and so should you [really? —ed]. I don’t. Well, not fast enough anyway. The first steep climb was as unpleasant as expected but it turned into a speedy bit of track soon enough and the pace shot off. It felt great to be smashing along the winding path as it slowly gained in incline. Steady and fast for just over a mile, and I felt a touch regretful for not pushing harder for position at the start, now locked into the locomotion of runners snaking their way up the path, pace dictated by your allotment in line. This is what cross-country must feel like. The path steepened again, my heart was pounding and lungs pumping, but a cursory glance at my watch told me there was less than a mile to go. A mile to the top of the climb that is, the only marker that matters for a gravity-burdened plodder like myself.

Checkpoint one at Grisedale Hause passed, dibber sweatily fumbled into the reader, and steeply up to Sandal Seat we went. Now we were less than half a mile from the summit, but the angle and terrain were unquestionably fell rather than cross country now, my hands pumping down on my thighs (if I’ve got to lug these bloody arms up with me I might as well use them), sweat pouring from my face even in the cold, claggy air. The summit was crested with another clumsy thrust of my dibber into its target, and the sweet relief of a downward trajectory began.

The grass was slick in the wet, and the lack of pronounced tread on my shoes promptly makd this clear, traction being variable at best. Either way, I’m definitely a downer rather than an upper, so I threw myself into the descent with the regular reckless abandon. Arms wind-milling, I kicked my legs into long strides, as if I was trying to launch a football the full length of a pitch. I interspersed the long leaps with the occasional tap left or right, trying to keep the unwieldy vessel on its winding course. Questionable as the technique appears to be, I kept passing runners, so I continued, my body shaking and praying that my legs weren’t about to crumble. Even a minuscule miscalculation would send me Klinsmanning down the fell. That was brought clearly into focus when I passed a downed runner, head bandaged, surrounded by co-competitors who had come to his aid.

We rambled through the final checkpoint, and the surrounding runners and I all audibly groaned as we realised there was still some uphill left. Climbs — no matter how insignificant — always seem an order of magnitude worse when they’re near the end (a pertinent issue with The Tour of Pendle approaching). But with some heart-pounding stomps, we were up and over and on our way back along the fast track. The final steep descent, the same one that caused such concern at the start — continued to deliver, as I completely lost all grip, engaging in a full bum slide manoeuvre. Definitely not the Olympics. Still, back on my feet, and a final romp back through the starting field. Arms flailing as I dived into the pen, passing the invisible baton to my 2nd leg team-mates.

In my anoxic state, I clambered through the barrier, completely disorientated, and totally oblivious to the finishing pen and mandatory kit check to my left. It seems reasonable proof that I was trying hard at least, or that I’m an idiot, both plausible options. Redirected by the marshal, like a bouncer gently guiding an intoxicated patron, I emptied the contents of my race vest and thus validated my stint, with all the correct accessories, and we were done.

Back in warm and dry clothes, gleefully tucking into a polystyrene box full of chicken, rice and peas, I was very cheery man.

Over the day, the runners from the remaining legs returned, some jubilant, others glad to be passing the baton, sharing stories of the day’s trials and tribulations. A fantastic achievement by all, on a course with no easy legs, and conditions to match.

—Andrew Sandercock

Kentmere Horseshoe

A Soggy Story

9.8km / 12.3m
1006m / 3300ft

Apparently we have experienced the best summer since 1976, which is quite nice for the Brits. I have spent about 60% of this summer in Vienna, which has had pretty much the same heat, but the locals are used to it. Either way, I have not seen rain like this for quite some time. Skiddaw was dry as a bone only four weeks ago. At 7am on Sunday in Leeds it’s biblically wet. My first thought—though actually I say it out loud— is “I can’t be doing a fell race in this!”

I set off to Kentmere accompanied by some podcast friends Adam Buxton and Richard Herring (I’ve been on a bit of a marathon with these podcasts recently) so the drive goes by in no time and I’m soon pulling into the start field. I hope they have a tractor on stand-by, it’s still raining.

“I can’t be doing a fell race in this” I said out loud again.

Still, I’m here now, and I’m excited. I see a few familiar faces, Andrew from NLFR and a small group of Hyde Park women.

The time last year it was a heatwave, I was doing a poo 2 minutes before the start and had forgotten to change into my fell shoes. I was determined not to run 12 miles in trainers this year, or be caught short. Just before the start I knelt down to tighten my laces to see hundreds of pairs of suitable shoes manufactured by the same brand: it clearly has a stranglehold in the UK more than in Europe.

If you think this race report is unceremonious it’s nothing compared to the start of this race. I always like to giggle about fell race starts. No major announcements, no inspirational talk. Just a bloke with a whistle. Actually I don’t think he even had a whistle. Although on this occasion I can’t blame them for getting it over with quickly, it’s pissing it down. A quick “get back to the line” [Eed: had they hired Dave Woodentops?] and we were off. The weather was so comprehensively British, and something a lot of us might have not experienced for what felt like six months.

A few kilometres in we are all snaking up the climb and one by one runners are peeling off their waterproof jackets: everyone would rather be wet than hot. (It’s 17ºC). My phone is recording my time on Strava and it’s in my Salomon battle vest 2000, unprotected, but I take a risk anyway, performing the tangled ritual of stuffing my waterproof into a back pocket whilst hiking up the hill.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so used to running in the heat, and I don’t think I have done a less than desirable weather run for around 5 months. I love this weather and I have a birthday-like grin on my face, “Fuck the Alps” becomes my mantra. You cannot beat the Lakes!

I catch up with fellow NLFR Andrew. We’ve been running about 40 minutes and at one point soon after the first checkpoint pretty much everyone around me comes to a sudden stop. It’s a traffic jam of runners looking at maps. This is caused by infectious doubt, as the trail seemed quite simple, but one person’s hesitation seems to be giving everyone second thoughts. This happened a few times. Just before the second checkpoint we are suddenly heading face first into a hailstorm. I felt like I was being stabbed in the face by ants and at one point the wind caused me to collide with another runner. It was the strongest wind I have ever experienced in my life, and I forgot my goggles so it was quite difficult on the descent.

Soon after the final checkpoint we get another issue with navigation. I’ll be honest here, I had no idea where I was and I couldn’t remember anything from last year. I see runners going off in different directions and make a quick judgment on who looks like they know what they are doing. So I followed three guys down a steep slope and I was followed in turn by a train of runners, so I guess this tactic is employed by many. At this time with all the hail and wind I just wanted to get down, so I figured even if it meant arriving in a different village and having to navigate back to Kentmere I’d be fine with that, we had passed the last checkpoint anyway right? Luckily we arrived at a stile I somehow remembered from the year before so I knew we’d only overshot the path a bit and hadn’t lost too much time. I use the stile to tighten up my laces as I had rolled my ankle at least six times. This takes time as the laces are quite tough to untie when you can’t feel your fingers. In this time the train of runners has not only caught up with me but has disappeared over the stile and into the fog. I’m alone.

This is one of the sections I remember the most from last year, a pretty fast and fun descent, and I’m glad I tied my laces up for it. One thing I have learned about fell running is that sometimes the least slippery part is the wettest part. So I’m pretty much descending puddles in a waterfall until I’m out of the cloudline and I can see the bottom. I can also see a pack of runners, some coming from a completely different direction, so I kick it up a gear. This time last year in the heat I was completely ruined, but this year I am fitter and the conditions are much better. There’s no chance of me getting dehydrated today.

I get overtaken by a chap who clearly thinks by his pace that he’s closer to the end than he really is. I tell him, “There’s still quite a way to go.” It’s a legitimate warning, but maybe also a bit of subconscious psychological warfare because I am a terrible human being. Then I get overtaken by a man in road shoes. No comment.

There is a fantastic end to a dramatic race. It’s nice to see so many runners still quite close together. The weather dictates the finish to be as unpretentious as the start. Soon I’m back in the car, changed and dry with Adam & Richard on my way back to Leeds. I beat last year’s time somehow by over 20 minutes, hopefully because I’m fitter and not because I accidentally cut half the course off or had the right shoes on. I guess next year’s time will help answer that question.

And if anyone isn’t familiar with the Courtyard Dairy on the A65 between Clapham and Giggleswick it’s definitely worth a visit. They get lots of runners through their doors and seemed less impressed by my day out than I expected. Maybe something to do with their recent influx of Lakeland 100 visitors?

–Adam Nodwell


I feel a week or so is a reasonable time to let the dust settle and try to get my thoughts down about Ennerdale. The good: I trained properly, or I did the training I had planned to do: 30 miles and 7500 ft ascent a week for a good few weeks before the race. I recce’d the whole thing as I’d planned. I got round the course. The weather was OK. A week before, I was probably in the best shape I could have hoped to be in. The less good (excuses?): I had a stag do the weekend before and promptly picked up a cold. I felt pretty shit the week running up to the race. I should have taken the extra 500ml water I was considering taking.

So, the actual race. Arrive at the start with plenty time for registration. Feel good and relaxed (if a little concerned about the cold). Race starts with a mile or so on flat track, I have a reasonable pace of 8 minute miles and I can feel this doesn’t feel as easy as it should. The steep climb to CP1 at Great Borne is similar: OK but not straightforward. But it’s the first big climb. “You’ll settle in,” I tell myself. “Stay comfortable” is the mantra repeating itself in my mind. Next on the list is Red Pike. The path rides up into the clag, and I’m very much hoping I’m not going to get lost or spend the day staring at a map and compass. But there are always people to follow and I do know the route (to an extent). Regardless, the terrain is very runnable until the loose rock nearer the summit, but again, despite my very comfortable pace, I feel a little bit strained. “Stay comfortable” becomes “stay comfortable and slow down a bit just in case”. Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag all go by reasonably well and I get to enjoy the rockier sections where I’m a bit faster generally.

Now to error number one. I’d planned to keep to the simplest navigational line to make life easier but I hadn’t realised that the route follows the fence ROUND Haystacks, rather than the path OVER Haystacks. F*ck it, keep it simple, the damage is done. At this point I’m about 7-8 miles in, and I feel bollocksed. The same way I felt at mile 17 on my recce. And from here on in, the day become long. I don’t really have any will for pace other than maintaining a trundle. There’s just no horsepower, I’m not running on fumes but I’m definitely in a speed restricted vehicle. Anyway, onto Blackbeck Tarn where you can refill your water bottles. I take one look at the rather stagnant tarn and decide against it. I’m not sure exactly, but I think I’m about 20 mins ahead of cutoff at this point and vaguely concerned about it. The waddle up to Green Gable begins. What should be runnable is trundled up. They have some cups of water at the CP which I am very grateful for. I’ve gained about 10-15 minutes on the cut-off time here which is a good morale booster. I’m feeling pretty broken. I’ve mostly been running on my own and the internal mental dialogue has been one of doom and gloom, my body echoing the sentiment. But a simple “you’re doing great” from the CP marshal genuinely gets me back on track. Great Gable in front of us looms grey and sinister, its vertical walls of rock disappearing into the clouds. I feel glad to be sneaking below it rather than over it. The loose rocky descent is hard on my body, I feel it in my core and my legs aren’t over the moon either. The lad in front running with poles seems less daft now he can descend with support. He spots a small stream and I follow, not enough flow to fill a bottle but worth a good few gulps. The refreshment feels good but Kirk Fell looms. Another slog, but at least I’m going as fast as everyone around me (i.e., slowly). At the Kirk Fell CP I’ve gained plenty time on the cut-off and I’m no longer worried about timing out. A small relief. The funny thing is that even if you’d want to quit (which a large part of me does), you’re still just as far from the start anyway. The descent from Kirk Fell takes a very loose gully that has taken an absolute pounding due to its featuring on the Bob Graham route. An alternative route is suggested but no one wants to route-find at this stage, so we precariously wind down the steep, loose gully. Again, I can feel myself going slower than hoped, the impact of descent more punishing than usual. If I was bollocksed before, I’m beyond it now. My legs hurt. They properly hurt: they are throbbing and aching but there’s too long left to go to bother thinking about it. On we go. There’s only one direction home anyway. But, a stroke of luck – a familiar face catches me up on the way up to Pillar – the last big climb of the route. Being able to chat rather than being stuck with your own thoughts makes a massive difference. Something I confess and we laugh about. Suffering together seems a lot more fun than suffering alone. The climb up to Pillar is long, and slow. I was quite happy that despite my slowness, I did manage to keep a consistent pace. Slow AND inefficient was something I didn’t have the capacity for.

Importantly though, once you’re over Pillar, you’re on a downward trend until the finish. Six or 7 miles of grinding it out. However, I miss a contour at Scoat Fell, falling behind my companions and the solo trudge home is set. From here, there isn’t much to mention. The terrain is straightforward, the navigation simple (you follow a wall for miles), a bit of a climb to Haycock, over to Caw Fell, dip down, then up to Iron Crag, and along to the final climb that is Crag Fell. What is straightforward by description is actually a tortuously long slog but there’s little satisfaction in writing or reading about it. Alas, the final climb: Crag Fell, which wouldn’t get a mention if it was anywhere else on the route, but at this point it definitely feels significant. A guy in his 60s catches me up and offers me the last of his water. He says he’s been watching me wilt over the last few miles and he’s not mistaken. It’s a token gesture as we’re over the worst of it, and about half a mile from a flowing stream. I’m not turning it down either way. He passes me and I manage to maintain a run on the windy path through the trees, and onto the track leading to the finish. I’m amused to see a group of friends have turned up to cheer me in, with a sign and everything. Finish line. Done. Definitely, definitely done.

I don’t much go for gushing tales of hardship or suffering, but I do feel that it’s hard to convey how unpleasant the race was. I got it done, that’s all that matters I guess. Numbers: Ennerdale, 23 miles, 7500ft ascent, Time: 6:45, 105/135. I was 15 minutes quicker than my recce (even though I spent an hour not moving on said recce), so I’m not overjoyed at my time, but I’m also very happy to have completed the race, despite not feeling 100%. It’s frustrating to train properly and then to fall off, just as race day arrives, but thems the breaks. Two days before the race at Ennerdale, I marshalled at the Kettlewell Anniversary Fell Race,  a race which was my first ever fell race the year before. So while the result was a touch disappointing, going from a 5 mile, 1500ft race, to a 23 mile, 7500ft race, in a year, definitely seems like good progress.

Andrew Sandercock



“Do you fancy doing weets?”
“Do I fancy doing what?”
“It’s a race. Called Weets. A bit like a mini Tour of Pendle.”

Ah. That clinched it. Although I know this is perverse, I’m very fond of Tour of Pendle, maybe because I got a 25 minute minute PB on it last year on my birthday, or because I feel like a steely adventurer, Ernest Shackleton-like, when I remember the year before when I ran much of it through a snow blizzard. Even so, Weets should not have been an option: an hour’s drive to run just over five miles slightly skews the miles-effort scale that I usually operate under. (High Cup Nick is the one race that is immune to this scale.) So, up early on Saturday morning and over to The Other Side where the clubs are called Trawden and Barlick and have French in their names (Clayton-le-Moors) and they talk different. The weather forecast predicted heat, but I was chilly in the car and the sky looked overcast, so I was fooled. I didn’t apply suncream and I set off wearing a buff. Idiot. The race HQ was a small marquee in Letcliffe Park outside Barnoldswick (which I’ve only lately realised is where Barlick gets its name and that Barlick isn’t a place. To this, Jenny rightly said later, “there are some things you don’t admit to.”) The park is hidden off Manchester Road so that even when your sat nav tells you you’re there, you think you aren’t. Only the sight off to the right of juniors running up and down a hill made me realise I was in the right vicinity, and a phone call to already arrived folk got me into the ample car parking on the field in the park, which I’d never otherwise have found. See, navigation is always a necessary fell running skill.

£5 entry, which is just acceptable on the other well-known metric of fell-running, the Wallace-Buckley scale, a joint Scottish-Yorkshire effort devised by Jill Buckley and Neil Wallace, that dictates that no race should cost more than a pound per mile. This has the handy effect of ruling out most road races, so is very useful. There were more people there than I’d expected, but maybe everyone else was fond of Tour of Pendle too.

Up we go to the tarmac lane where the start is, and there is some milling. The NLFR team consisted of me and Jenny, so we had a collegiate photo with Neil, Karen and Gary from P&B where our vest sashes managed to almost perfectly reflect the race profile. (This might actually shut up the P&B comments about “your sash is going the wrong way” though probably not.)

Then from me, some dynamic stretching, also known as reminding my glutes they have work to do and not to leave everything to the hamstrings. I’ve just been diagnosed with hamstring tendinopathy, but this diagnosis, from the excellent Coach House Physio in Leeds, included the magic words:


So I did. Eck though it was hot. Muggy but powerful heat. The buff came off straight away and I was thankful that I had conformed to my usual policy of always running with water even when hardly anyone else did. Up we go, up the tarmac road, and I felt sluggish and heavy but kept going. (I’m a cold weather runner.) Lots of Barlick supporters, so many that I began to think my name was Nicola, as it was constantly shouted in my direction. (She was just behind me.) Up and up to the trig point on Weets Hill, where I was surprised to see runners coming back down, and they all seemed to be aged about 11. I cheered them on, of course, as they seemed to be winning the race, then later found out that a juniors’ race had set off with us but was just going to the trig and back. So they weren’t actually winning our race but theirs. But still, well done.

After the trig, a lovely descent, whoosh, which was so good I forgot that we’d be going up again. I’d checked the race profile and knew that there were four climbs and that we’d only done two. Still, whoosh. The next climb was definitely the mini-Pendle one. I’d drunk plenty by that point but still felt a bit drained, and even more so when I looked up and saw a hill with no end. So I did my usual technique of counting. I have an entente cordiale method of getting up hills: if they are really huge (Whernside, Clough Head), I count in French. Backwards. Having a tired brain figure out the right order for deux cents quatre vingts dix neuf gets you up about thirty feet. I can get up Whernside in 300 in French, but Clough Head was about quatre cents. For smaller hills I use English. One to ten, for as many times as it takes. It passes the time, your brain is distracted enough not to think of all the climb you haven’t yet done, and you keep moving.

There was another fine descent down a familiar grassy field (the route is an out and back with a loop, so classic lollipop), where I ran past a fellow, while exclaiming, “I like this bit!”. I took this out of the fell running handbook, chapter, Stating The Bleeding Obvious. Then up a tarmac lane, back over the fields, a bit of moorland trod running where I could feel blokes breathing closely behind me, but they didn’t ask to pass so I didn’t offer. I hadn’t recognised Eileen Woodhead on the way out as she had a big floppy hat on, but it’s hard to miss Dave as he usually yells something at me. On the way out it was “ROSE I DIDN’T RECOGNISE YOU WITH YOUR NEW VEST ON” (“new” meaning about a year old). On the way back it was “DON’T LET THOSE TRAWDEN LADS GET YOU.” I tried not to, putting on a sprint down the lane to the finish that impressed me and probably shocked my muscles into remembering when I used to be a sprinter 35 years ago.


One of the lads did pass me and the other one didn’t. I managed to put the brakes on in time, and there was the usual splendid fell running habit of people you finish around saying well done and you saying well done back. I deviated slightly from this by telling the Trawden “lad” (actually a six-foot 40ish fully grown man) not to tell Dave he’d beaten me. Then I downed several cups of squash and we went to a pub and I ate a veggie burger that was bigger than me and all was well.



Calderdale Way Relay OR the deathly duo do Leg 3

Once upon a time there were two fifty-something, experienced runners who have been racing for many a year. They were au fait with race rules, they were familiar with the route they were about to embark on and they knew themselves…or so they thought. They also knew that one shouldn’t run with a chest infection and that one shouldn’t run in the midday sun without a sun hat when one is susceptible to heat exhaustion, (especially in tropical conditions such as on the day in question).

They journeyed to the beautiful town of Todmorden in enough spare time to contemplate a little jaunt around the thriving Sunday market. Luckily they decided against that indulgence and drove past it towards the registration point a little further along the road.  This was the starting point of leg 3 of the Calderdale way relay.

The pair smugly emptied their kit bags for inspection by an illuminated race volunteer for proof of hat, gloves, whistle and compass, oh, and waterproofs. To the horror of one of the (not now so smug) couple she realised with dismay that she had no waterproofs.“We’ll just pop back to the car and get them, I must have left them in there” said one in a quivering tone. Back at the vehicle: no waterproofs! The quick-thinking one of the pair remembered they had a friend who resides in Mytholmroyd. A panicked phone call was made and after a couple of attempts to get through to the household the demand of waterproofs was almost shouted down the phone line to their Mytholmroyd mate.The pair made a few expletives while waiting for the arrival of said friend and waterproofs. Time was running out. Registration was due to close at 10:30 and it was by now 10:10. They waited and waited by the roadside and suddenly in the horizon the welcome site of the red car arrived upon them bearing the gift of the nylon equipment. This was hastily stuffed into the kitbag of the stupid one and the girls ran back up the hill towards registration. By this time the stupid one needed desperately to relieve herself from excess fluid with “desperate” being the operative word. There was no other way than to relieve herself in between two parked cars while the onlooker of the pair stood guard. They carried on up the hill when from out of nowhere the stupid one urgently needed the relief of ventilin.

When all was made good and registration passed without incident the duo set off with a mass start. The ascent of the first hill was a sight to behold, and the hill, well, was one continuous one for two and a half miles. “I can’t move my legs, my head has gone fuzzy” panicked the red-faced one.

“Wear my hat” ordered the stupid, infected one. “Have some water and take your time.”

Both members of the dying duo knew the course so knew it wasn’t a long leg, it would all be over in a jiffy. As they neared the last bend they happened upon a gnarly looking duo with words of encouragement who were on their way back to Todmorden.” Well done girls, you’re at the last bit before the last bit!”

The deathly duo chortled at the comment because they couldn’t manage anything telse. As they arrived at the foot of the final hill the red-faced, jelly-legged, fuzzy-headed one was almost kissing the ground but managed a heat-exhausted wobble to the finish line. Shade was sought and water downed. The pair needed to prepare for the jog/walk back to Todmorden when suddenly their Mytholmroyd mate approached them, like a mirage.

“You’re not driving to Todmorden perchance??”

“Hop in” said he, and without hesitation they accepted his generosity and of course they were obliged to offer him refreshment in the public house.

The red-faced, jelly-legged, fuzzy-headed one soon recovered after a brown elixir was poured thirstily  down her gullet.

Happy, the deathly duo proceeded to the shopping paradise of Hebden Bridge where cake was hungrily consumed and they deservedly purchased hippy clothing and joss sticks … and a book on mindfulness.


Team 51 NLFR women (our men didn’t field a team)

Leg 1: Lisa & Cat
Leg 2: Liz & Rose (no photo)
Leg 3: Clare & Ann
Leg 4: Sheelagh & Hilary
Leg 5: Emma & Jenny
Leg 6: Lorena & Sarah

Clough Head (English Champs)

Sunday 6 May 2018

 I write this report nearly 10 days after the race and my quads have just about recovered from the beasting they took on the descent. I know many others with a similar story. Why was this one so bad, even worse than the Ben, which is twice as far and steeper? No idea, perhaps the combination of speed, length and gradient, but it hurt!

This was the second English Champs counter of the season and a one-off AS race created by Keswick starting from by a small quarry near Threkeld. I was the only NLFR entered and bagged a lift with Wharfedale’s Nick Charlesworth and Dave McGuire.

We arrived at race HQ at Threkeld Cricket Club in the predicted glorious sunshine at just after midday with temperatures already in the mid-20s. The women’s race had already started. A few lazy saunters around the cricket pitch was about all I could muster before making my way to the start/finish area to see some of the women come in.

Already sitting in the grass was former black n’ blue, Katie Kaars Sijpstein, looking remarkably fresh in her new Keswick vest after finishing in 16th place with a fast time of 48 minutes. In response to my request for route tips, she helpfully advised that I go up to the top and come back down again. Cheers Katie…but well done for coming 24th in a British vest in the World Trail Champs just a week later in Spain. Better quads than mine, but I don’t think anyone would argue against that..

Katie’s sage route advice proved accurate and for two and bit miles I hauled myself up to the top of Clough Head, with a couple of unwelcome false summits on the way. The field was, as you would expect with a champs race, stellar, with most of the usual suspects. I focussed on my usual mid-pack battles and fairly well held my own on the ascent. But then we reached the top.

The descent was grassy, steep and runnable. For two and half miles it was all disengaged brains and eyeballs out madness as runners tried every possible line to gain some advantage. My descending skill are moderate at best and I lost at least 30 places from the top. I don’t know how some of them do it.

Image ©Stormin’ Norman (as well as the cover image)

Hitting the road at the bottom, my legs had had enough. It was all I could do to jog to the finish and keep Harrogate’s rapidly approaching Ben Grant from besting me. The finish line was next to a cool river and the next 30 minutes were spent cooling off in there and avoiding Katie asking me for my time (2 minutes slower than her).

Despite the quads, fell running doesn’t get much better than days like this. Up and down the nearest hill in glorious sunshine, cooling off in a river afterwards and some post-race banter sitting outside with a pie and a pint.

The women’s race was won by Hannah Horsburgh and the men’s by Mark Lamb, both of Keswick. I didn’t witness it, but local knowledge apparently gave them the best lines on the descent.

The next champs race is Buttermere Horseshoe. At 23 miles and over 9000’ ascent I am praying for cooler conditions.

  Dom Nurse





Buckden Out Moor and Back Again

May 5, 2018 (AS)

I agree, this race sounds like a book by J.R.R Tolkein and in hindsight it could have been. It had rocky climbs, epic scenery and new discoveries were made as well as hairy feet exposed. AS stood for ‘Ard and Sunny: it was a tough, hot day at the office but very enjoyable and highly recommended for the calendar next year.

The race was advertised as 5.1m with 1549ft of ascent, starting off at the Yorkshire Dales car park in Bucken. The route took us out up Buckden Rake to the summit of the Pike then down the disused lead mine back into the car park. The race organiser stated it would test you on the up and the down and he was not wrong.

I entered this race with very little fitness, as I’m still trying to find it, but I was looking forward to getting back out and giving it a go. As the race was only in its second year it had a very small field, 38 to be exact, and based on the two schoolgirl errors I’d made when packing, I had resigned myself to being back marker or thereabouts. The other eight female entrants were like racing snakes or very young. Annie Roberts from Todmorden won the women’s race, got the course record and was 10th overall. More on the schoolgirl errors shortly!

Anyway, having chatted with the race organiser and other runners I’d discovered it was 2.5 miles up, 2.5 miles down, with some more climbing once at the top. This was not too far from the truth with a few up and downs following the long slog to the pike. The downs were quite steep in places with some narrow paths but generally made for some good descents, though they were quad trashers.

Schoolgirl error #1. I left contact lenses at home so to had to run in glasses – not good for vision, confidence on the rocks and scores zero on the cool sunglasses look.

School girl error#2. I forgot my sports bra. This was a major concern while getting ready in my tent at Street Head as I’m not the smallest person in the world. Anyway, the new discovery was that my Inov8 back pack can double up as a bra or at least strap me down sufficiently to be able to run.

New discoveries made: The above errors must not happen again and also, I learnt what a Mangold Wurzel is.

Jenny Cooper



Anniversary Waltz

My first Lakeland race
Anniversary Waltz: AM, 18.5K, 1110m

Two years ago I joined Hilary (mum) and Clare on a camping trip to Braithwaite. I was aware that they would be doing a race on the Saturday so I decided I would go with them, have a little walk and watch some of the race. This race was the Anniversary Waltz. It was a glorious day so I walked to the top of Catbells and back to the finish to see them come in. I was totally inspired and in awe of these amazing runners flying into the finish having run all those mountains. Being a bit of an on/off runner, and having only run a couple of road races, I turned to mum and said “I’m going to do this race one day”.

Fast forward two years and I’m standing amongst a large crowd of people about to start the race thinking “what the hell am I doing here? I can’t run this. I’ll be last!” In fact, the only reason I was standing there was because it was the last year that the AW was going to be held and it was literally now or never. A few pleasant words were spoken about the late Steve Cliff, who died of motor-neurone disease in January, and his incredible fundraising achievements. And then we were off.

It was a very steady start as there were a lot of runners on quite a narrow track, though we soon spread out and I began to gain a reasonable (for me) pace on the road, leaving Hilary somewhere behind me (knowing full well she was going to catch me on Robinson somewhere). Reaching the bottom of Robinson, I left the majority of runners and cut off right up the hill fairly early. I knew I was too much of a wimp to face the steeper climb further along so I plodded on up the grass with an occasional glance behind to see if HL was also taking this route (we had discussed options before the race) but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I reached the ridge and jogged along to meet the other runners coming up the steeper section and headed towards the dreaded rock climb. Knowing HL was pretty terrified of the scramble, I looked behind me to see if I could see her, just to give her some reassurance. Couldn’t see her, had I beaten her up the hill? Woo — go me!

Emma Lane (daughter)

Hilary Lane (Mum)

I started climbing and fortunately it was quite dry, so not too difficult to manage. I looked up to see how much further I had to climb and guess who I saw? HL — ahead of me — being coaxed by one yellow and one maroon and yellow vest. Damn!(I later discovered they were Martin Bullock of Pudsey Pacers and Neil Wallace of Pudsey & Bramley). (Editor’s note: we think P&B might sue us if we don’t point out they think their vest is claret and gold, not maroon and yellow.)

After what seemed like forever, and after a few moans and groans exchanged between a few other runners, we finally reached the summit. Then downhill (yay), before the climb up to Hindscarth. This climb was reasonably uneventful and went quite quickly (or so it seemed), as I was able to jog/walk in between mouthfuls of dates and water. Reaching the top of Hindscarth, I was greeted by two female marshals in red bridesmaid dresses (one of whom was staying in our hostel and had shown us the dress the night before). This was to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Wynn and Steve Cliff (hence the name of the race).

Downhill again (yay) towards Dale Head. I saw Sheelagh on this descent and we exchanged a cheerful wave. It felt lovely being able to run properly and to feel that I was actually getting somewhere. En route to Dale Head, I passed Hilary Tucker who had walked around the route to support, and after a few encouraging words and photographs, I started heading up hill again. I knew this wasn’t a big climb so again managed a bit of a jog/walk/shuffle.

On top of Dale Head, there was a lovely group of people sitting next to the trig point singing and playing guitars; how encouraging. Shame I couldn’t stop longer.

Descent again (yey) – or maybe not so “yey”, more like “ow” – the descent off Dale Head is tough and seemed to go on forever. My legs began to turn into jelly and I started getting clumsy. I had a few slips and trips but managed to land comfortably on the padding that is my bum –- no injuries! By this point, I was bloody boiling hot. My hands had swollen up so much, I looked like Elephant Man so was very grateful when I had to cross the stream at the bottom and was able to dunk my elephant hands in and splash my face. I stood up and heard “Go on Emma!”:  it was Ann and Clare, who had also been for a long run/walk. They gave me a good boost, though this was short-lived as I began the climb up to High Spy (urgh). My legs were still jelly-like from the Dale Head descent so this was a struggle; I was definitely feeling it now.

The journey from High Spy to the top of Catbells seemed a bit of an undulating blur but the end felt near. Looking at the descent from Catbells filled me with dread. I remember it being painful when we reccied but what can you do? With my jelly legs and my elephant hands, I clambered down the rock slowly and down the grassy, agonising descent.

Reaching the gate at the bottom, there were some fantastic women cheering frantically which helped me muster the last bit of energy I could find to get down that awful road, which seems to get longer and longer every time you run it….round the corner and into the field, where mum greeted me with plenty of shrieking and a sweaty hug.

After drinking my body weight in water (I finished mine far too early on the run), I heard someone say “free beer in the village hall” Free beer? Yes please! After a couple of mouthfuls of this well deserved and well needed beer, I put it on the floor to change my shoes and knocked the rest of the glass over. Fail!

Things I learned:

– Lakeland races are hard
– Take more water
– Don’t assume you can beat your mum because you are half her age and faster on the FLAT
– Drink beer before changing shoes

Emma Lane

Yorkshire Vets Grand Prix Series 2018

The first race of the year was at Honley, hosted by Holmfirth Harriers.

It was a sunny morning as we left Leeds but by the time we had assembled on the start line in Honley it was raining lightly and the sky was looking very stormy.

This is the longest, and in my opinion, the toughest race of the series, it almost constitutes a fell race really, so it was good to get it out of the way ‘early doors.’

First there were two laps of the playing fields and then the start of a very long climb that took us up to the hilltop village of Thurstonland. A bit of respite then and along farmland fields to the hamlet of Farnley Tyas. We were rewarded with some fine views down into the Colne Valley for our efforts. Fortunately the thunder and lightning never came and the rain was quite refreshing .

A good blast downhill, though it was very muddy in places, and through a field of llamas, or were they alpacas? I don’t really know my llama from my alpaca, they’re just miniature camels really. Fortunately they didn’t get the hump with us running through their field and just stared curiously.

Sharon was 4th in her age group, whilst I need to find another gear from somewhere for the next race at Roundhay Park on 8th May. NLFR are affiliated to this series if anyone else fancies doing them.

Dave Beston


High Cup Nick

I love this race. I will try to do it no matter what. One year I did it with jetlag. Another year I’d overcome some other obstacle. This year I decided to do it while recovering from the second cold virus I’d had in two weeks. Reasonably, a friend asked if it wouldn’t be more sensible to stay in the warmth and fully recover. Another person responded by sending me a link about the dangers of viral myocarditis and how it is causing many deaths amongst young people because people are mistaking it for flu. I took this into account. But I didn’t have flu. The cold had not gone into my chest, it was on its way out, and I needed a day of fresh air.

On race day, I woke up with a profoundly upset stomach. Oh dear. I made a banana and yogurt smoothie and hoped that would work. But it was the first day for a while I hadn’t woken up spluttering. Nor had I needed to take any paracetamol, for the first time in a week. So I decided to set off and see how I felt. The race is organized by Morgan Donnelly, a fine fell runner and a fine emailer: he’d sent out two race information emails on Thursday and Friday, advising about parking. Dufton, race HQ, is a small and beautiful village with a small and beautiful village green, and quite rightly the organizers didn’t want people to park on it. The second email included information on “cheeky farm-yards” which might provide parking space and ended with “sleep well,” which is how you can tell it was written by a runner. All race information emails should finish with “sleep well.”

A nearly 200 mile trip to run a 9 mile race. But I knew it would be worth it, if I ran. The weather forecast had been chilling: 40kph winds on the tops and a wind-chill of -6. I even packed long tights, though of course I ran in shorts. We got there in good time and got priority parking in a farmer’s field, though I wasn’t sure, given how the tyres were spinning on the mud on the way in, how we’d get out again. Registration was at the village hall as usual, where there was the customary huge spread of cakes. The race is sponsored by Inov-8, which means a good serving of elite runners: I spotted Ricky Lightfoot and Vic Wilkinson before the start, in-between toilet visits and going for a short run to check my legs still worked. There were six NLFR’s running, and I managed to spot half of them though we didn’t manage a proper team photo.

We gathered on the green, Morgan made some race announcement that where I was standing was entirely inaudible, then he yelled “GO” and we went.

I set off and hoped for the best. My best, apparently, was not great. I managed to run up the first incline but felt very weak. Last Sunday I’d done hill reps in Pudsey valley and I’d not walked once, and felt really good. Now I was looking at the inclines coming up and dreading them. I very nearly pulled out in the first mile and was only stopped by the fact that I have never had a DNF and I’m stubborn. Instead, I patted my ego on its head and put it in a box, and carried on. I walked when I felt like walking, and I didn’t worry too much. The day was glorious. I was in a t-shirt and long-sleeve and perfectly comfortable. Sunshine and no wind, as we ran up the tarmac, then turned into the boggy bits. I knew from running this before that stretches that seemed flat were actually going uphill. So I splashed through all the bogs I could, and enjoyed it. The sun was out, the day was fine, and I was moving at pace through a beautiful landscape. All was well.

The race route runs along several shoulders of several contours. On each shoulder, I expected to round it and see the valley of High Cup Nick, but it took several turns before I did. So, into the valley, through more bogs, through a beck which was in a timid state and only calf-high, then the long boggy stretch up to the Nick.

It looks so benign in that photo. Such nice soft grassy ground. It didn’t feel benign. It felt like it feels every year, that the valley will never end, and the Nick will never come, and that all you have ever done is run ploddingly through boggy ground that sucks your legs into the earth like an underground triffid. Then the wind started. It had been forecast to push us up the Nick, but it changed its mind. It was a ferocious headwind, enough that I stopped to put on my jacket and nearly lost it to the valley. At least this year the boulder field wasn’t too slippery, despite someone near me saying, “ooh, this is dangerous.” I thought, wait till you get further up. I don’t have a good head for heights — and was reduced to a gibbering jelly on an ascent of Great Gable — but for some reason the Nick doesn’t bother me, although it’s steep and rocky and there is crawling.

I made sure to stop and turn round and gaze. If you don’t, it’s a waste of one of the most breathtaking views in fellrunning. I understand that elites can’t afford to stop, but I think otherwise you should or what’s the point?

At the top — after another good gawp at the landscape — there’s a run along the ridge, a couple of other inclines,  some snow and ice. I felt much better now the climb was over — funny that — and once we hit the track and the several miles of downhill, I forgot about the virus and the stomach-heaving chips, and I just ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I pelted it down. A couple of times I looked at my watch and saw with some surprise that my pace began with a 7, and a couple of times I almost fell but didn’t. I overtook a lot of people, and I stayed ahead of them, and I felt surprisingly good. The farm track goes on a long while, then ends at a checkpoint, a right turn into a field and a short climb. Actually it’s an incline, but after three miles of fast descending plus a mile of sharp climbing, a grassy incline makes for jelly legs. I walked for a bit, ran for a bit. In one of the fields, I found Phil, and he ran ahead of me to take my picture and I managed a smile and to flash my vest. Thanks Phil.

At one checkpoint, a marshal said, “well done! Last push. All downhill now.” I appreciated the encouragement  from him and all the other marshals: this is a very well organized race with copious flags and cheery marshals. But if I hadn’t been quite so tired, I would have realised: either that nice marshal doesn’t know the race route or he’s lying. There were two inclines to come, one a small but sharp one up a field, which feels larger and harder than it is. And the other in the last half mile, a track back up to Dufton, which I recognised and remembered as soon as I got to it, with a groan. But it was over soon enough, then the last effort round houses and farmyards, and back to the green. I really tried to push it and must have because Morgan on the finishing line had to put his hands up and say “Stop running!” so I did. I finally looked at my watch and was delighted. It wasn’t my quickest time — 1.43 — nor my slowest — 2.00 — but it was good enough for me. 1.53. I’m happy with that.  Well done to my fellow black-and-blues and hope you had a good run too. Results here.


Rose George

« Older posts Newer posts »