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.
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
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.
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.
A surprisingly pleasant February morning saw me rock up in Ilkley for the race.
My race diary (yes, sad I know!) tells me this is the 13th time since 1998 I have entered it. Nothing much changes, an absolute mud-bath of a course. The first mile up to the Cow and Calf rocks is the usual bottleneck with gnarly runners with their sharpened elbows trying to manoeuvre past slower runners (like me, I guess).
Despite running the course many times, the steep, rocky descent down to the bridge at Backstone Beck fills me with dread, one slip or trip either here or in Rocky Valley which is a bit further on and you will undoubtedly end up a bruised and bloodied mess. We received a buff with the race map printed on it for our efforts and it told me that the Crocodile Rock is situated in the aforementioned Rocky Valley, can’t say I had ever noticed it before but I have heard Elton John singing about it many times.
The section from Keighley gate back to the finish was a struggle to stay on your feet with the muddy, steep descent and those pesky bramble bushes conveniently placed just for you to fall into. For comedy value I lost my shoe in the mud 100 metres from the finish line and finished carrying it over the line!
As is tradition on Ilkley race day we enjoyed an afternoon pub crawl and I am pleased to report, many fine pubs now exist in the town, where as in days gone by the place was a bit of a desert for decent boozers.
John F had a good run, whilst we can gloss over what kind of run I had.
A very wet and windy affair at Windy Hill Fell Race
I decided to cross the border into the Greater Manchester/Lancashire area to do this category B Medium fell race 9 miles/1281 ft. I fancied a change from the Dales and the Lakes and I didn’t encounter any traffic problems during the 50 minute drive on the M62.
The registration was at Littleborough Rugby Club down the road from the pretty setting of Hollingworth Lake and country park, near Rochdale. There was a strict kit check which revealed that my trusty but hardly ever used Montane trousers were only windproof and not taped at the seams which meant no run unless I could borrow a pair. It was frustrating because they were only going to stay in my kit bag but I understood organisers’ concerns about runners’ safety and potential hypothermia. Panicking, I spent about 20 minutes wandering around the rugby club trying to borrow trousers from other runners, then an angel in the form of John McDonald from Trawden A.C. lent me his spare pair which saved me a wasted trip back to Leeds. Next running purchase will be a pair of taped seamed waterproof trousers!
There was a healthy turnout of runners despite the atrocious weather and lots of comments on the start line about what else would we be doing on a Saturday morning, from watching cooking programmes on TV to lazy lie-ins. The latter being my preference. Even trudging round the White Rose Centre felt appealing as we stood in the mud-sodden field with the rain lashing down. These conditions more or less stayed the same throughout the race.
The front runners dashed off whilst I went out steady, unsure of my fitness for the distance and climbs. I expected a hilly start as you do in fell races but after leaving Littleborough rugby field we ran along a runnable track until we went over the first bridge crossing of the M62. We would later cross over and under several motorway bridges during the race which felt strange for a fell race. Fortunately I like a race with variety! I didn’t have much of an idea where I was running and followed the pack as usual. I thought I was in Lancashire but another runner commented that the race was mainly in Greater Manchester and that Saddleworth used to be in Yorkshire before the boundary changes in the 1970s. I couldn’t see too far ahead of me because of the clag and you couldn’t on avoid getting soaked to the skin, with a cutting wind in your face. At one point I couldn’t blink and thought I might have lost one of my contact lenses. In a masochistic way I settled into being uncomfortably comfortable. I know what I mean.
I was surprised how runnable the route was as we ran along some of the Pennine Way, a climb up the old Roman Road up to Blackstone Edge, another motorway bridge, a hard muddy and boggy slog up to Windy Hill mast, then an undulating path and along the Rochdale Way, then the usual scattering of runners running around or through crater like puddles, icy rocks before the descent, along more muddy filled tracks, under another motorway bridge, a fast runnable rocky path and back into the rugby field to the finish.
The race was well marshalled and flagged so it would have been difficult to go wrong en route, although I’ve learnt anything can happen in a fell race when the wind and rain are blurring your vision and you have got your head down! It was very runnable and the climbing manageable which suited me as I have been doing a few Park runs for speed work and hadn’t been running long distances or doing much hill work. I think a bit of cycling, gym work and swimming helped me tackle the tricky icy, wet, muddy underfoot conditions as I felt stronger as the race went on.
I would definitely do the race again and it was suitable for anyone who hasn’t done many fell races or who is making the transition from trail and road to fell running. There were a lot of fast times and good performances, particularly from some of the female vets. I was second in my age group but a good 12 minutes behind first place F50. It was good to see Karen Pickles, now running for Pudsey and Bramley AC, finishing third woman and 1st F45, taking home a couple of nice long-sleeve running tops. I had my eye on the bumper size Toblerones…. maybe next time!
At £12 EOD or £10 pre entry it seemed pricier than the usual fell race but there was an extensive prize list and 5 year age group prizes. There was also chip timing which I assume adds to the cost but results were speedily available once you crossed the finish line.
I’m looking forward to crossing the Lancashire/Greater Manchester border in the future.
Winner Shaun Godsman M45 CVFR 1.01.57
1st woman Alice Swift F Chorlton Runners 1.16.33
121 Sharon Williams 2nd F50 NLFR 1.37.47
The race was organized by Cannonball Events, full results here.
Images by Paul Taylor. Full gallery available here.
Wow, what a race! It’s an epic. A whole sheet of an OS map! And a race for the older person: more than 60% of runners were over 40. Place names like Pudding Real Moss, Soldiers Lump, Shining Clough Moss, Old Woman, Wool Pack, Fox Holes to name a few. What more could I want? So, a run from Marsden to Edale, taking in the trig points at Black Hill, Higher Shelf Stones and Kinder Low. Straight line measurement is 20 miles but actually around 24 miles with 4000 ft of climbing.
I first ran the race in 2015 and what stood out was the amount of navigation choices to make, the cold and the often poor visibility. This year I really wanted to nail the route and be confident and ready for the clag, and if all going well perhaps make up a few places with some choice navigation. I trained throughout October, November and December exploring different lines and establishing bearings. Some beautiful, snowy and cold outings; returning back across the moors by torchlight. Fantastic.
So we (Caroline, Dave, Anthony and I) arrived at an already heaving Marsden cricket club at 7:30am. Kit check, some chit chat and then at 8:30am set off on our way by Nicky Spinks. The first 10 miles or so over Black Hill down to Crowden were fine. There was a spring in mine and everyone else’s step.
However, heading up to Lawrence Edge someone said to me “oh the race … it starts now”. True words. As soon as I get to the top of the Edge, stinging cramp got me. Very disappointing. This meant from there on I had to take it steady across Shining Clough Moor. All that training and sorting my lines out! Let alone the fact the visibility was absolutely clear and the check points were marshalled by Woodhead Mountain Rescue people all wearing bright red. There were moments when I felt a touch, I’m ashamed to say, hard-done-by.
Heading from Snake Pass the race goes off the Pennine Way to the site of an old plane crash, which required 20 minutes of trudging through the heather. I did notice though some people make it look easy. I could only look on in my just-cramping-trudging state. After that, the race goes around the edge of Kinder to the Kinder Low trig. Along this section it became bitterly cold, with frost blown grass, a luminescent fog down below and a lot fewer people around. Quite eerie. I needed to stop behind some rocks to get more clothes on and my hands were so cold I needed to ask a passer-by to pull my zip up. At Kinder Low there is a choice of continuing on the high route around Kinder or on the low route along the Edale valley. I continued along the high route and as the end neared picked up some energy and finally dropped down from below Grindslow Knoll chatting with another runner into Edale. Miraculously my cramp had disappeared. All good.
Soup and cake in the village hall with the prize giving and finally to the Ramblers Arms for warmth, catching up and hot chocolate.
Winner 3:28, Anthony 33rd 4:26, Dave 85th 5:09, me 138th 5:47, Caroline 161th 6:17 and 173 finishers.
This was a strange race this year as it was the first one not organised by Dave / Eileen Woodhead aka Woodentops. It was first hosted in June 1984 apparently. However, the registration was as efficient as ever, the race start was the usual mass gathering 300 metres in front of the official start line followed by the stampede out of the quarry. I did miss Dave W shouting “get back you lot, get back”.
For me it was a tester to see if my two weeks of regular running and swimming had done anything to my fitness levels. Two weeks earlier I did what I call “died on my ass” at Auld Lang Syne and was blowing by the time I hit the Beck, ended up crawling the last few miles. To my surprise this time I felt better all the way round and even managed to locate my gears for a sprint finish.
As most of you will know, Penistone Country Park comes with its own micro-climate and weather conditions can be harsher than the underfoot conditions. However, the weather was kind and visibility good. The route was the true “splash route” and was certainly splashy underfoot in parts especially over Sladen Beck and around Ponden Kirk.
Anyway, back to the race, I just avoided getting lapped by the race leaders but did manage to see that it was Ian Holmes who was in the lead at the passing point near Birch Brink. However, Jack Wood took the win overall in a time of 45.44, with Ian coming 2nd, 1st Vet and 1st MV50 in 46.04, Robin Howe 3rd. The women’s race was won by Ruby Sykes in 54.38, with Annie Roberts 2nd and Jo Buckley in 3rd. Wharfedale took the Men’s team prize and Todmorden took the Women’s.
As for NLFR we were down in numbers due to this race clashing with the Ilkley Skyline presentation event. However, Andrew Byrom did 1.17 followed by me in 1.22, much improved from ALS. Onwards and upwards for 2018.
I’ve not run a fell race since June, due to focussing on the Dublin Marathon. So it was great to get back out on the moors. I drove over with Jenny Cooper and a friend from Pudsey Pacers. The forecast wasn’t great and on arrival the sheet ice on the car park gave an indication of what the course would be like.
Because of the ice, the route had been changed to a 4.2 out and back around the Stoop stone. I was a bit disappointed with this but it gave an opportunity to watch the leaders coming back down the hill as I was going up. The conditions made for tough running especially on the track from the road which was sheet ice the whole way and made runners stick to the verge, this spread the field out quite a bit as passing was virtually impossible.
My complete lack of hill training showed and it was slow progress up the hill. I was pleased though with my downhill form and I got up a decent pace and managed to stay upright. From the Stoop I gained 6 places and only lost 1 in the final 100m so was pretty pleased with that.
I got round in 53.02 which was reasonable. So the end of an era looms with the final ever Woodentops fell race taking place on 31 December, with the Auld Lang Syne. I’m looking forward to this and it looks like there will be a huge turnout from NLFR so it will be great to meet more club members. — Andrew Byrom
The Ben is rightly one of the premium races in the fell running calendar and you have to be on your toes to get a place on the 600 runner entry list when entries open some nine months before in the January. I ran in 2013 and this year managed to persuade Hilary, Sheelagh and Ann to enter, with the promise of good weather, an unrivalled view and a great post-race night out.
My promise looked on dodgy ground as I drove with Sheelagh through a rain sodden Glencoe on the Friday afternoon. But it cleared as we got to Fort William and arrived at a sunny Glen Nevis campsite where Hilary and Martin were based with their camper van and most English runners appeared to be staying. We looked at the lower Ben slopes and all the runners stretching their legs in readiness for the following day and decided we should get some pre-race preparations in – two pints at the site pub and a special energy meal of burger and chips.
Bright sunshine greeted us on race day morning with the cloud high and the summit clear. By mid-morning the race HQ at Claggan playing field, about 1 mile from the start of the tourist path, was buzzing with a large turnout from clubs like Clayton, Rossendale, Wharfedale and Ellenborough. At the sharp end the talk centred on whether Ricky Lightfoot would beat local runner Finlay Wild who had won the race 5 times in a row. I was hoping to get a sub 2 hour time, whilst Sheelagh and Hilary wanted to avoid the cut offs and finish the race within 3 hours 15 that would avoid being excluded from future entries.
At 1pm the race started and we had a lap around the playing field before a mile of tarmac up to the mountain’s path. Ricky Lightfoot set off like an express train sprinting ahead of the rest of the field. It was hot and I settled into a reasonable pace amongst those I normally battle with and felt comfortable until the end of the tarmac and the climb started. For the next 10 minutes of the climb I kept my place, but the injuries from Borrowdale and Carrauntoohil, that had kept me from training, took their toll and I started to drop – like a stone. I can’t say I enjoyed a large part of the rest of the climb. The highest, steepest ascent in the UK is no place to be when you are not fit and the sun beating down did me no favours. I took a big drink and a gel at Red Burn, which is the half way point and trudged on, all hands on knees walking. The gel and water kicked in and I stopped losing places. Feeling a bit better I pushed on and even took back a few positions before the never ending climb started to flatten out and we could run to the summit.
The terrain on the mountain is pretty much all cannon ball sized boulders after Red Burn. Not easy to run on, but you eventually find a way that suits and with quick feet most runners seem to scamper across. Race leader Finlay Wild flies past going down. We all stand aside to watch, his feet barely seeming to touch the slope and legs at an incredible cadence. Rob Jebb was next, but several minutes behind and picking his way more carefully through the stones. The challenge from Ricky Lightfoot doesn’t materialise, I am not sure why, perhaps he set off too quickly, but he looks well within himself as he follows down in fifth.
This year I actually lift my head at the summit to look at the clear views (apparently only 40 or 50 days a year) – and immediately lose a couple of places. So its head down after handing the band into the marshalls and into the leg trembling descent. There is nothing like it. Steep, rocky, relentless and requiring absolute concentration. It goes on forever and I lose places to better descenders as I worry more about falling than my time and position. Eventually I hit the road at the bottom, the place where everyone’s legs traditionally turn to jelly. Yet this year I’m not too bad. My lack of effort on the ascent and lack of bravery on the descent means I have a little left in the tank to run properly on the road, re-claiming about 20 places before turning into the finish field and the final lap.
I finish in 2 hours 10, which is 2 minutes outside my 2013 time and well off the sub 2 hours I had been aiming for. But better than I would have settled for half way up the mountain.
Sheelagh and Hilary both looked strong coming in, beating many others and will not have any problems doing the race again. We had a great night out after the race and my head was sorer than my legs the next morning.