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Tour de Helvellyn 2014

All four members of the Runfurther committee were out on Saturday running in the Tour de Helvellyn.  This is one of Joe Faulkner’s Nav4 races, and a great event.  We talked to Joe about the possibility of including one of his races in the 2016 Championship, which would be great if we can do it.  By the way, if anyone wants to write up any ultra races, we’re happy to host your accounts here, or post a pointer to your blog site.  They don’t have to be Runfurther races.

A bit about the race first.  This was the 5th year of this race, and Joe tries to fix it as close to the shortest day as he can.  Within limits, you start when you want to, and everyone tries to run as little of in the dark as they can: faster runners can finish in daylight, but slower runners can’t.  It’s a true winter Lake District mountain race, and it goes ahead whatever the weather, provided it’s physically possible to get to the start and get marshals to the checkpoints.  The first year the going was difficult due to a lot of icy stretches, particularly the tracks, where flooded sections had frozed solid.  The second year was the year of the snow, when I had my microspikes on for both the main passes, and drifts on the way up to Sticks Pass were feet deep in places.  2013 saw gales, and runners wading through floods in Patterdale.  I think 2012 was relatively benign, and conditions this year were pretty good too.  It was wet underfoot, and there was a bit of wind, but the wind was against us on the way out, which meant it was behind us when we were knackered on the way back.  The temperature was just about ideal – cool but not too cold – and visibility was good too.  What rain there was didn’t do enough to get us wet.

So where is this race?  It starts from Askham, a pretty little village south of Penrith, east of the Lake District.  From there it follows a bridleway WSW over the moors of Askham Fell and slants down almost to the shores of Ullswater at Howtown.  A slight climb takes you to Martindale Hause, between Hallin Fell and Steel Knotts, where there’s a checkpoint by the old church.  A short quiet road section takes you to the roadhead in Bannerdale, then a bridleway climbs up to Boredale Hause (399m), getting steeper and stonier as you climb.  The descent to Patterdale is quick and easy, with Checkpoint 2 at Side Farm, near the campsite.

Take the road to Glenridding and up the valley to the youth hostel and the old mines, then a steep zigzag climb gets you out of the valley and up to the next checkpoint by a footbridge in the middle of the old mine workings.  I was a bit surprised by this, as the last time I’d been there snow covered everything, and I’d seen no signs of the mines that high up.  Steady climbing up a good path leads to the crest of the Helvellyn ridge at Sticks Pass: at 749 metres this is the highest point of the race.  The descent from here is mainly a good runnable path, down to Legburthwaite at the north end of  Thirlmere, and the next checkpoint.

Normally, the route now follows a path southwards across the slopes of Whiteside, then a path through forestry to Dunmail Raise.  This year the path was temporarily closed, so we had to run along the minor road along the west side of Thirlmere instead, which nobody seemed to find much fun, despite the views.  A quick stop at a checkpoint, then up to Dunmail Raise, a place to awaken memories in anyone who’s run the Joss Naylor Challenge or the Bob Graham.  Thankfully you don’t have to turn right and flog up to Steel Fell.  Instead it’s turn left up the steep stony path alongside Raise Beck to a pass at 574 metres, then a traverse above Grisedale Tarn to join the stony tourist path down Grisedale to Patterdale.  From there you retrace your route over Boredale Hause and Askham Fell to finish at Askham, and many runners have gone astray in the dark on the final stretch, as the paths here are confusing, and landmarks few.  38 miles and about 8000 feet of climbing: this is a great mountan challenge, with quite a bit of difficult steep and stony ground – one of the great races, in my view.

Karen Nash’s account of the day can be found here, with photos.  Nick Ham’s photos are here, and the full results are here.

How did I get on?  Well it started on Friday really, when I tripped on my own front path and hurt my foot: in fact I’m pretty sure I broke a toe.  It doesn’t look pretty, and doesn’t feel too good either, but I thought I’d probably still be able to run.  I set my alarm for 4:30am, and the less said about how I felt when it went off the better.  I drove to Askham in the rain and arrived in the dark just before 7, but at least the rain had stopped by this time.  After registering and greeting friends I queued for the kitcheck and start, thinking it’d take me at least 2 hours to get to the Side Farm checkpoint, which doesn’t open until 9:30.  I set off at 7:30, with just enough light to see my feet, but not enough to read the map.  Perfect timing, I thought, but no.  I actually ran a lot faster than I was expecting, and by the time I got to Boredale Hause I was clearly going to arrive in Patterdale too early.  I eased off on the throttle, but still got there 10 minutes early, and had to hang around with loads of other runners who’d underestimated their abilities.

So, at 9:30 the race started again, and for a few seconds I was the leader on the course.  It was all going suspiciously well really, as I seemed to be going well, and felt I could keep it up all day.  The climb up out of Glenridding was hard going, but then I’m never very fast going uphill.  Stronger runners were cutting off the zigzags, but I know my place.  I got to the top of Sticks Pass knackered but only temporarily, and after a few minutes I was moving pretty well down towards Thirlmere.  At which point a blur streaked past me that turned out to be Ian Symington who was later to finish fourth.  The road round Thirlmere was horrible, but I kept running, and even passed 2 or 3 runners, not something I’m used to doing on roads.  A few passed me on the steep climb up to Grisedale Tarn, but I got into gear on the way down again.  It’s a steep and stony track needing concentration to keep upright, and by working hard at it I managed to pass some of those who’d overtaken me on the climb.

At Side Farm I took a couple of Ibuprofen, as my back was hurting on the uphill sections.  This isn’t something I do often, but I’d been going so well I didn’t want to get stopped by anything now.  The climb up to Boredale Hause went well, considering its steepness, then I really surprised myself by motoring fast for the rest of the way.  Normally I’d expect to be struggling by this time, and going a lot slower.  I felt good and kept running and overtaking all the way to Askham – I was even lucky in having someone to follow on the last tricky navigation section.  I breezed into the finish in 37th place with a time of 8:06:04, including the 10 minutes waiting at Side Farm.  First MV60 by 90 minutes, 6th MV50, and a pb by 85 minutes.  Probably my best run for a couple of years, and I’ve really no idea why.

Next I had to do a presentation.  Ian Symington was first man in this year’s Runfurther Championship, and he, John Minta and Kevin Hoult had also won the team competition for Calder Valley Fell Runners.  None of them had been able to make the Runfurther prizegiving, so we’d arranged to do the presentation after the TdH.  Ian was already there of course, and John finished shortly after me.  I then went out to my car to get changed and bring the trophy and prizes in.  Taking my running tights off I discovered a small hole in my shin that appeared to go right down to the bone, which I’d no idea had happened, although I had tripped a couple of times on the way round.  Going back in, I asked Joe Faulkner for a dressing for the wound, and he got out a variety of first aid equipment and patched me up.  Then I did the presentation to Ian and John, fairly incompetently as I was so knackered, and Karen attempted to take photos with my steamed up camera (where were you Nick?).  I then drove home and disintegrated in a heap on the settee.

So, here I sit with a broken toe (probably), a hole in my shin, and a newly acquired cold in the head, but with a big grin on my face.  It’s days like that that make running such a joy.  A truly great challenging race, in good running conditions, with a great collection of other runners, and running my socks off for a change.  What can beat it?  Roll on the Hardmoors 30!

There are a load of great photos of the event here.

Prizegiving & AGM Report

It’s taken me a long time to find time to put this post together – apologies for the delay. A lot of other stuff had been put on hold towards the end of the Runfurther season, so I had to get on with some of that, or get in serious trouble with my family!  Karen Nash has also written the weekend up, and you can find her blog entry here.
Anyway, we had a great time on the AGM weekend. The Dark & White Mini Mountain Marathon on the Saturday was a day for navigators – 4 hours in the clouds around the rim of Kinder Scout and the peat bog that goes under the name of Brown Knoll. That meant I had a great time, whilst a lot of good runners lost a lot of time. The weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been, & we didn’t get too wet. Anyone considering running a full 2-day mountain marathon would do well to have a go at one of these events first, as it’s a good introduction. All the navigational challenge, without having to carry your overnight gear or do it again the next day.
After the race I put my tent up, had a quick shower, and then it was off to the Rambler Inn to set up for the AGM/prizegiving. We got the flags up outside, got the projector showing Nick’s photos from the year’s races, and got the beer in.
Thanks to everyone who turned up – as our members are all over the place we can’t expect that many to an event like this, but we had enough to be quorate, which is important for company law. We had some good discussions as well as the mandatory items such as electing officers. The minutes of the meeting and our financial statement can be found on the meetings page here. Many thanks to Emma David, who was co-opted onto the committee early in the year. She’s done a lot of good work for Runfurther, but has now had to stand down, as she’s too busy with her business.
The main message from the AGM was that Runfurther was very much back in business in 2014, with a successful year under our belt. We now need to get more runners involved, so we’ll be doing more publicity work. We need more help though: anyone who can help with social media in particular would be a great help to us. Any Facebook/Twitter whizzes out there? Or anything else you can help with – just get in touch.
We then moved on to the prizegiving, and after all the prizes were awarded, we had plenty of spot prizes to award, so everyone there got something, even those who were only there because their partner was there. Most of this was thanks to Si Berry of Beta Climbing Designs, who brought along lots of extra prizes from Ultimate Direction and Injinji. Thanks ever so much Si! And the moral is: turn up to the AGM and you stand a very good chance of getting a prize, even if you’re not a category winner (that’s a plug for next year’s prizegiving). Si and Karen McDonald also offered to help with some of the publicity materials for 2015, so we’ll be taking that offer up – thanks to both. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Si and Karen were part of the team organising Runfurther up to 2012.
People then gradually drifted off, while some of us stayed for a meal and more drinks. We fitted a committee meeting in at some point as well, and the minutes for that are also on the meetings page here. I staggered back up the road to my tent some time later, somewhat the worse for wear.
The next day, Karen, Dick and I were off to Totley near Sheffield for the second Mini Mountain Marathon of the weekend. The weather was completely different – clear and a blue sky. A day for runners, not hungover navigators, and the less said about my performance the better. I still enjoyed the run out though, and it was another very good event.
Nick Ham and Nigel Aston took some photos at the prizegiving, and here they are:

Prizegiving Party Location, 29/30 November

We can now announce the location for the end-of-year AGM and presentations, and we’re planning on making a weekend of it.  The more of you turn up, the better Runfurther will get.  The AGM and presentations will start at 3pm on Saturday 29 November, at the Rambler Inn, Edale, S33 7ZA.   We have planned it to follow on from the Dark and White Mini Mountain Marathon, based just a few metres from the Rambler, in Edale Vllage Hall.  The Mini-MM is a 4-hour run round the hills trying to pick up as many points as you can by finding controls, and the race will finish by 2pm.  Full info about the race is here: www.darkandwhite.co.uk/challenge-events-outdoor-activities.asp?race_id=470.

After the presentations the committee is staying on, having a meal and a few drinks in the pub in the evening, and going off for another race on the Sunday.  The more of can you join us the better.  There is another Mini-MM in the Peak District starting at 9 to 9:30am, which should make up a great weekend.  This one’s a bit shorter, with a 3-hour time limit, and it’s organised by Richard Patton, the Long Tour of Bradwell RO.  Again the location’s under wraps until a month beforehand.  The info about this one is at www.explorerevents.co.uk/.  If you’d rather something shorter on the Sunday, there’s also the Famous Grouse fell race near Hayfield – 5 miles, entry on the day, which Nick will be running instead as it’s one of his regular races.  Info on this is here: www.cs.man.ac.uk/~temples/hc/.

There are two campsites very close by, and there’s plenty of other accommodation in the area.  So: (1) get the date in your diary, and (2) book your place in one or both of the mini-MM races.  The Saturday race will probably fill up, so get an entry in now!  I’ve already entered both of them.

And the 2014 winners are…

So the Runfurther races are over for another year.  Congratulations to everyone who took part – it takes guts to run one Ultra, & a lot more to run lots of them.  It’s been great meeting so many new people this year through being involved with Runfurther – sorry to all those whose name & face I failed to tie together.  It’s going to keep on happening I’m afraid, so keep reminding me.  The same probably applies to the rest of the committee, but I’m probably the worst!

So without further flannelling, I’ll announce the winners:

Men

1st Man:  Ian Symington, Calder Valley Feel Runners, 3925 points

2nd Man:  Martin Terry, Clayton-le-Moors Harriers, 3380 points

3rd Man:  Nigel Aston, FRA, 3363 points

4th Man:  Ned Lammas, Evesham Vale RC, 3249 points

5th Man:  Les Hill, Dumfries RC, 3161 points

Women

1st Woman:  Kate Whitfield, Mercia Fell Runners, 3903 points

2nd Woman:  Emma David, Nidd Valley Road Runners, 3867 points

3rd Woman:  Karen Nash, FRA, 3765 points

4th Woman:  Helen Price, Harrogate Harriers, 3530 points

5th Woman:  Kerrie Bretherton, Trawden AC, 3171 points

Vet 50 Men

1st MV50:  Martin Terry, Clayton-le-Moors Harriers, 3380 points

2nd MV50:  Nigel Aston, FRA, 3363 points

3rd MV50:  Les Hill, Dumfries RC, 3161 points

Vet 50 Women

1st FV50:  Karen Nash, FRA, 3765 points

2nd FV50:  Janet Hill, Springfield Striders, 2917 points

3rd FV50: Alison Brind, Stone Master Marathoners, 2907 points

Vet 60 Men

1st MV60:  Andy Robinson, Helsby RC, 2806 points

2nd MV60:  Stephen Dixon, Valley Striders AC, 2692 points

3rd MV60:  Dick Scroop, Mercia Fell Runners, 2494 points

Most Points Overall, and also Grand Slams

Men:  Nigel Aston, FRA, 9492 points

Women:  Emma David, Nidd Valley Road Runners, 10553 points

Teams

1st Team:  Calder Valley Fell Runners A, 8157 points (Ian Symington, John Minta, Kevin Hoult)

2nd Team:  Team Krypton A, 7777 points (Karen Nash, Nick Ham, Elise Milnes)

3rd Team:  Trawden AC A, 7646 points (Kerrie Bretherton, Steve Spence, Peter Stobbs)

Congratulations again to everyone listed above: you’re all clearly as daft as I am.

There weren’t any FV60 women who ran 3 or more races this year.  All the above are subject to revision if anyone spots any mistakes or omissions in the results, but if I don’t hear something in the next week or so it’ll be too late!  The full results tables are in their usual place here.

Round Rotherham 2014

Saturday saw the last race of the Runfurther 2014 year, the Round Rotherham 50.  I think we were just about all surprised at the weather, as we couldn’t believe it would still be warm and dry, but yet again we got really good running weather.  It was only wet from the knees down.  A bit of a mud-fest then, but even the mud could have been worse.  The main thing that spoiled it for me, apart from my bad running form, was the amount of rubbish over so much of the course.  Flytipping all over the place, and so much of the course strewn with windblown junk.

Anyway, there were some excellent performances.  Kevin Doyle (Kimberworth) was first in 6:52:42, ahead of Ian Symington (Calder Valley) in 7:11:28.  Kevin was 2nd last year, but was 10 minutes faster this time.  Last year’s winner Kevin Hoult came in joint 3rd with Michael Hyde.  It was good to see Fraser Hirst back running again: he’s been off the running scene due to working in Warsaw.  First woman was Helen Pickford (Sheffield RC) in a great time of 8:02:55, 9th overall.  Joint second were Elizabeth Hutson and Susan Keens in 8:56:36, which was particularly impressive as their previous ultra running experience had been just one 30-mile run each.

No time for more of a race report from me as I need to get the final Runfurther standings up as well before I leave for the OMM tomorrow.  Just time to say that Emma David and Nigel Aston both ran Rotherham, so they each achieved their Runfurther Grand Slam – congratulations to both of them.

Nick’s photos of the day are here. Nigel’s written a race report and that’s here.  Karen’s written a race report, and it’s on her blog here.  And here’s a photo I pinched from it:

007

Our 2015 Races

Hello to you all, & sorry I’ve not posted anything here for a bit.  We’ve been a bit busy sorting out the races for 2015.  And, the good news is that we’ve now finalised those races.  They’ll be announced in the next edition of Trail Running magazine, which will appear in the shops on Thursday 6 November, and of course they will also appear here the same day.  We think we’ve lined up a great set of runs for you.

So, you’ll have to wait for the press launch for the race list, but I can tell you now that we’ve retained only 4 races from the 2014 Championship, brought back 5 old favourites that have been in the series in past years, and there are 3 new races that have never been in before.  Most of the races we’ve dropped for 2015 we plan to include again in the future, as they’re all great races.  We just want to make sure every year is different, and get a bigger range of races into the Runfurther world.  Have a look at the race list when we release it, & let us know what you think.  We know we can’t please everybody all the time, but we’re trying to get close!  And of course, if we’ve dropped your favourite race for 2015, the race is still on, & you can still run it.

The last race of 2014 is on Saturday: the Round Rotherham 50, so we’ll see a lot of you there.  Wish me luck: I’ve got to get round in a reasonable time to have a chance of that Runfurther MV60 title.  I’ll get the final standings up on here as soon as I can after they release the race results.  There’s a committee meeting in Rotherham on Friday evening if anyone wants to attend: details on the Meetings page.

And lastly, don’t forget the AGM & prizegiving & of course cake.  Saturday 29 November in the Dark Peak, with an optional race beforehand.  All the details are here, apart from the exact location, which will be released once the race location is announced (it’s a Mini Mountain Marathon, location secret until the end of this month).  Please come: now that Runfurther is owned by the runners, we have to have plenty of you turning up at the AGM to keep it working democratically.  And there’ll be cake.  And a bar.  And prizes.  And cake.

High Peak 40 2014 – updated

Results

The Runfurther leaderboard is updated and is here.  The race results weren’t up yet when I posted this, but will be here when Bill updates the race website.  Marcus Scotney ran a brilliant race to finish in 5:20:45, which I think was the 3rd fastest time ever.  Ken Sutor also ran a great race to come 2nd in 5:32:13.  First woman home was Kate Whitfield in 6:58:02, another great run and her 3rd Runfurther win this year.  Second woman was Amanda Carter in 7:27:53.

Runfurther standings

The championship is hotting up now as we near the end of the series.  Unlike last year it’s by no means clear who’s going to win for most of the categories.

Men:  Ian Symington will probably win if he runs Rotherham, as he said he was going to.  However, I thought he was going to run the HP40 but he wasn’t there.  If he doesn’t run Rotherham, then Ken Sutor will probably win…if he runs Rotherham himself.  If neither of them run, then Janson Heath is likely to win…again if he runs at Rotherham.  If none of them turn up then Ned Lammas could win…but again he has to run Rotherham to do it.  If none of those 4 run, then the 2 contenders for the MV50 title are also in line for the overall title, they being Nigel Aston and Martin Terry.  Nigel’s marginally ahead of Martin now, so Martin must run at Rotherham and beat Nigel to win anything.  The MV60 title depends on my performance at Rotherham.  If I don’t run well & finish then Steve Dixon will win.

Women:  Kate Whitfield will probably win the overall title, but Emma David could possibly catch her with a very good run at Rotherham.  She’d have to beat Kate though, which is unlikely.  Nobody else can catch either of them.  Karen Nash already has the FV50 category won.

Race reports & photos

Nigel Aston’s race report is here.

Nick Ham took photos and they’re here.

Here’s my race report:

I was up at 4:30 on Saturday, so I could get to Buxton in time to give Bill and his team the supply of Clif Bars to hand out at registration, and to get the Runfurther flags up.  I set off from home at 5, only to hit traffic jams!  It turned out the M6 was closed.  I was already worried about a dodgy knee, & thinking I’d be lucky to get past checkpoint 1, so the omens weren’t looking good…

Actually it all went pretty well after that.  It’s pretty hectic getting all the Runfurther stuff sorted out before a race, & I was only just in time getting to the start in the park.  We tried to line up Kate Whitfield, Emma David, Nigel Aston & Ian Symington for a photo for the next issue of Fellrunner, but Ian hadn’t shown up.  Oh well, we got 3 out of 4.  I took 2 Ibuprofen to show my knee I meant business.  8am & we all hared off through the park & up the road.

I’d decided to try to take it fairly easy to start with, as I’d been having difficulty with the second half of races since my long layoff.  I was running quite comfortably, but I soon realised I was running with people who I’d been expecting to be way ahead of me.  Off the road, over the little ridge & along the old railway track to CP1, & I was feeling good.  Down the road & along the Goyt Valley reservoirs to CP2, & I was still OK.  Mind you, I dropped out after 23 miles last year, to exhausted to carry on, so it was early days to be getting too confident.

The bit round Chapel-en-le-Frith is a bit humdrum, with a bit too much road, then there’s the long climb up to Beet Farm, where I started to struggle last year.  This year it felt fine.  3 or 4 runners passed me on this bit, but I expect that, as I’m slower uphill & faster downhill than most runners of my standard. After Beet Farm there’s a long section of high level stony track.  This can feel great when you’re feeling fresh enough, as the views are good, and you can get a good speed up as long as your feet can take the battering from the track surface.  It can also feel awful if you’re already flagging or have sore feet.  Today was a good day, & I arrived at CP5 with a smile on my face.

Next was the ridge along to Mam Tor, joining the route of the Edale Skyline for a bit (in reverse).  The initial climb is hard work, but once you’re up on top, it’s a great run all the way to the top & down again to Castleton.  Usually I’m all in by here, but I was still feeling fine, much to my surprise.  I’d been dreading Cave Dale despite its scenery, as I’ve memories of this race falling to bits for me here on two occasions.  This timr I got to the top with only 3 or 4 passing me on the way, & I think I’d past them all on the previous descent anyway.  From CP7 it’s an easy descent on the road to Tideswell, then a pleasant path in the woods down Tideswell Dale to Millers Dale.  By this time I was starting to feel tired, but I could still run, & my knee felt OK, with just the occasional slight twinge.  A lovely stretch along the river next, then the Monsal Trail to CP9.  I wish they wouldn’t route races along old railways – give me rough ground any time over flat stuff.

Well I struggled up Deep Dale #1 OK & got to CP10 OK but by this time the wheels had just about come off.  2 more Ibuprofen, then I staggered along the horrible long road section, having to walk bits of it.  Clambering back out of Deep Dale #2 was torture, & on being told as I arrived at CP11 (King Sterndale) that I looked like I could go on forever I was speechless – I wasn’t sure I could make it across the road.  Pausing to retch, I then wobbled on, & eventually finished in 7:25, about 15 mins outside my PB, so I was very pleased with that.

I’ve just re-read some of that, & noticed I didn’t really mention the weather, whihc isn’t that surprising as it wasn’t very noticeable.  Slightly damp at the start, but warm, muggy t-shirt & shorts weather.  Yet another day getting a coating of salt all over.  Never mind, soon be winter.

Now we can get back to planning the 2015 champs!  See you at Rotherham.

inov-8 Grand Tour of Skiddaw 2014 – updated

I’ve been a bit busy, but the updated leaderboard is here, now in a pdf as usual.  The race results are here, and there’s also a link to Sport Sunday photos there.  We didn’t take any of our own, as Nick wasn’t fit to run, & Karen wasn’t there either.  I’ve given up trying to take photos & run at the same time – I just can’t do it.  Luckily professional photographer James Kirby was also there and he took a really great set of photos.  He’s sent us a few to put on here, but you should also go to his Facebook page to see the rest of them, and to see them in higher resolution.  Nigel Aston’s written a race report, and you can find that here.

First James’s photos, then my race report, then a bit on the Runfurther Champs standings…

What about the race though?  Well it was a great event.  First, the venue is a really good one.  The start and finish are at Lime House School, in the middle of countryside by the River Caldew about 5 miles south of Carlisle.  There was plenty of space to camp on the school playing fields.  There was a big school sport hall for a race HQ.  There were showers.  There was a mobile café that cooked really good pizzas.  It really was worth turning up the day before the race, and leaving the day after the race: I’d have been happy to stay longer.

Secondly, we had the weather.  All weekend it was pretty good, without being too hot.  Plenty of sunshine, cool at night, and very little wind, which made a big difference on top of Skiddaw.

Thirdly, the organisation was great.  Gaynor, Dave and their team know how to organise a good event, with plenty of attention to detail.  And very friendly too.  The checkpoints were well-stocked, and again very welcoming.  Everyone was applauded in at the end, even those tailenders turning up at 3am!  And Billy Bland presented the prizes the next day.

Fourthly, the race route is a really good one, most of it following the Cumbria Way.  We started off following the river south, through the fields and meadows and woods to Sedbergham and on to Caldbeck and the first checkpoint.  All easy and a pleasant start to a race.  From Caldbeck it needed a bit more effort, climbing steadily up a minor road then open fell to the top of High Pike (658m).  All of it on good surfaces, with a little path all the way to the top, and the climb gradual.  It was a good way to gain the height, with nothing desperate.  Down the other side we dropped down Grainsgill Beck then turned right on a good track up a side valley that eventually took us to Skiddaw House.  A left turn here, and we were on an old track I’d always wanted to take but never had, that contours round Lonscale Fell before dropping down to the car park by Latrigg, well-known to anyone who’s run the Bob Graham Round, or the Skiddaw Fell Race.  Here was checkpoint 2, and a chance for a drink and some sympathy before the big trudge up the tourist track to Skiddaw summit.  No need to say much about this as the route’s well-known: eventually we got to the top, but it never feels easy.  I rang the handbell on the trig point with some relief and headed down the steep drop to Carlside Tarn, and on along the delightful ridge of Longside Edge and Ullock Pike.  This is a ridge not to be missed, although we’d have felt a bit different about it had it been windy I’m sure.  I dropped off the end of the ridge, feeling a bit knackered by this time.  Across a few fields and along a short stretch of tarmac and I was at checkpoint 3.

The next few miles follow the edge of the mountains northeast then eastwards, with no big climbs but a lot of gentle slopes to climb and descend.  They’d stopped feeling gentle to me though.  It was with relief I rejoined the outward route and ran down the road back to Caldbeck, and checkpoint 4.  From here we had to retrace our route down the River Caldew to the finish.  All pretty much flat on easy paths.  What could go wrong?  Well I thought I was going OK until about 4 miles from the finish, and suddenly I’d had it.  My legs had no more running in them, even on the flat.  Still, I walked and tottered my way across the fields, fighting with a strong urge to lie down, and I got there, in 35th place, in 10 hours 12 minutes 1 second.  I collapsed onto a chair and started retching.  Then Gaynor spotted me – I was in exactly the same state I’d been in the first time I met her, at the Three Rings of Shap!

There were some great performances on the day.  Charlie Sharpe overtook Ian Symington between checkpoints 3 and 4, finishing in a very fast time of 7:09:04.  Ian finished in 7:17:40.  Best run of the day as far as I’m concerned was from Sabrina Verjee, who came in 5th overall in an astonishing time of 8:15:07.  This was the first time Sabrina had run a race anything like this one, making that time even more impressive.  We’re hoping both Charlie and Sabrina will have a go for the Runfurther title next year.  Second woman home was Sally Fawcett, in 8:28:39, another very fast time.

Quite a few Runfurther regulars were running.  Ian Symington’s 2nd place didn’t make much difference: he needs to run the Round Rotherham to get a Long counter.  He says he’s going to, so he’ll probably win the overall men’s title.  Chris Davies returned to racing after a long layoff, but he seems to be as fast as ever, so my chances of the V60 title next year look pretty remote.  No idea why I didn’t spot him at the race – sorry Chris!  I’m still in with a chance this year though, so look out Steve Dixon.  Emma David and Nigel Aston are still in line for completing their Grand Slams, although Emma’s overall woman’s lead could easily be lost to Kate Whitfield at either of the last two races.  Helen Price won’t catch them, but she’s running very well at the moment, and if she keeps it up she should be there in the mix next year.  Nigel’s V50 lead could go too, with Martin Terry running very well now.

Asking around, a lot of other people were impressed with this race.  We’d been thinking of only including it in the Championship as a one-off, but we’re starting to think we should have it in next year too if we can.  Watch this space!

 

Long Tour of Bradwell 2014 (updated)

Bradwell’s a favourite race for many, including myself, and it didn’t disappoint this year.  It’s a ferocious route, with a lot of climbing in the first 20 miles.  The weather was good: warm, perhaps a bit too warm, but there was a bit of a breeze once we got a bit higher up, enough to mean taking a bit more care along Stanage Edge than usual.  There was a diversion on the climb out of Bamford, since the Bamford Clough track is closed at the moment.  It was a bit further, but my opinion is that the diversion was a better route: I don’t mind the steep climb up the track, but I hate the road stretch after it, and the diversion avoided this too.

First home was Ian Symington of Calder Valley Fell Runners, in 5:10:14, a minute or so slower than his 2nd placed run last year, but then there was a bit further to run this year.  A great effort.  Ken Sutor was 2nd in 5:24:49.  First woman home was Helen Pickford of Sheffield RC in 6:06:15, with Nicky Spinks second in 6:20:24.  Full results are on the race website here.  Nick took a load of photos, and you can find them here.

Nick’s written a race report, this time from a photographer’s point of view as he wasn’t fit to run.  It’s further down this post, after the Runfurther standings.  Nigel Aston’s also written a report, with a few of Nick’s photos in it, and that is here.

Runfurther Championship Standings

The Championship is now hotting up, and it’s now a bit clearer who’s in with a chance of winning what.  Nigel Aston and Emma David are still going strong with their Grand Slam attempts.  They’re also currently the overall leaders, but whether they’ll stay there is open to question.  The Championship leaderboards are here.

If anyone is in touch with John Bottomley of Totley AC, can you ask him to email me his contact details (address, phone number, email address).  He gave me a form to join Runfurther at Bradwell, but I can’t find it!

The Men

As I said, Nigel Aston is currently leading, but he’ll be very lucky to stay there I think.  The most obvious person who can catch him is Ian Symington, who could overhaul Nigel if he only walked the Round Rotherham 50.  However, Ian ‘s not entered Rotherham as yet.  Lee Knight’s another possible, but he’s still not joined Runfurther.  If he joins and runs either Skiddaw or the High Peak 40, he’s also going to overtake Nigel.  I wouldn’t rule out Ned Lammas either.  My money’s on Ian if he runs at Rotherham.  Watch out for Ken Sutor too: he’s only run two races so far, but he’s entered all 3 remaining races.  I suspect he’ll end up the winner if Ian doesn’t run Rotherham.

Nigel’s well-placed to win the MV50 category.  Mick Cottam is currently 2nd but is well behind on points and won’t catch Nigel.  Martin Terry could catch Nigel, but only if he runs a blinder at Skiddaw (he’s entered) or the High Peak 40.

Steve Dixon is currently the leading MV60.  I suspect I’m the only one with a chance of catching him, although I can only do that with strong results in all 3 remaining races.  I’ll do my best but I suspect he’ll end up winning!

The Women

Emma David is just in front of Karen Nash, and the two of them have been at the top of the list all this year.  Karen can only catch Emma now if she’s first woman home (or very close to it) at either Skiddaw or the HP40.  They aren’t necessarily going to finish 1st and 2nd though.  Kate Whitfield has only 3 counters so far, and her average score per race is slightly higher than Emma’s.  She’s entered both the HP40 and Rotherham: it’s her HP40 score that will be the important one.  Nicky Spinks can’t be ruled out either: she’s currently got 2 good counters and a comparatively poor one (I think she ran the Haworth Hobble as a social run with friends).  Nicky would have to run Rotherham though, and she’s not entered as yet.

I don;t think anyone’s likely to catch Karen Nash in the MV50 class.  Janet Hill is likely to be 2nd, providing she runs either Skiddaw (which she’s entered) or the HP40.

The Teams

The team competition is starting to make a bit more sense now.  Calder Valley Fell Runners are now top team, with only 8 counters out of a possible 12.  They’ll take some catching, as 2nd placed Trawden have 9 counters, and 3rd placed Darwen Dashers have 10 counters, so the CVFR average score per race is a lot higher.  The High Peak 40 is where the team result will be decided I suspect, and I reckon Calder Valley will have it in the bag then.

Nick Ham’s Bradwell Report

For the first time since its inception in 2009 I was not able to take my place on this event because my body was a battleground between disease and antibiotics. I elected not to give my kidneys a double hard time and played roving photographer instead. I really enjoyed watching for a change on yet another glorious sunny day with spectacular views. I got a couple of half decent walks in as well.

The 33 mile Long Tour departed from the park at 9am and the 16 mile Short Tour departed at 9:30. At around 10am I tootled off to Killhill Bridge in the car (CP7 on the Long route) and walked back up the route towards Lose Hill. The first 16-milers came speeding down as I walked up. Their route short-cut straight along the ridge from Hollins Cross to Lose Hill, avoiding the descent to the Edale Valley and up to Druid’s Stone and back which the Long Tour takes.

Many of the 16-milers had passed through before the first 33-miler – Ken Sutor – ran up to Lose Hill summit looking strong. As he began his descent he stopped and seemed to look confused. I ran back to ask what was wrong. “I think I missed the last dib point.” I explained its location at the fence before the summit. He set off back down the path against the flow of 16-milers. A couple of minutes later he was back, still with a smile on his face and he hadn’t been caught by the second place runner.

A minute after Ken, Ian Symington ran past in second place, looking comfortable and well in control. He probably got a fillip when I told him that he’d just gained on the first placed runner thanks to the missed dib.

In third place at that early stage was Jacob Myers, only another minute behind Ian.

A minute behind Jacob was Johnathan Cooper-Knock in fourth.

Another minute behind Johnathan was Chris Perry in fifth.

First woman over Lose Hill summit was Nicky Spinks, with Helen Pickford hot on her tail in second and Hazel Tant hot on her tail in third, all within the same minute. The women’s race was looking really tight at the front end.

I wandered back down to CP9, snapping the passing runners as I went. The marshals were having fun with the water supplies. Various spillages, upset water jugs and a tap that was difficult to turn off had left the ground underneath the table in a localised state of flood. The kind offer of water refills from the nearby residence was stretched to the limit.

After the final runners had passed through I drove back to base in Bradwell to see loads of the 16-milers relaxing on the grass. I passed the time chatting before setting off up the route at 2pm to catch the lead runners on their way to the finish. I was approaching the mini summit in the lane at the top end of the village when I thought I could hear the soft padding of footsteps from the other side. I switched my camera on just in time for Ian Symington to appear at the crest. As he passed he asked something about a cushion at the finish. “Bit precious”, I thought to myself. Perhaps he collapses at the end of big races like Terry Conway once did after the Lakeland 100 and needs a cushion to collapse onto. It must be an elite thing. Who am I to question? I gave the only obvious answer: “No, but there’s plenty of grass.”

With a feeling of mild puzzlement I climbed steeply through the undergrowth towards the summit, thankfully not meeting another runner on the way down. There were no passing places and I didn’t fancy getting mowed down by a tired, gravity-assisted runner. On two occasions I drifted off the main path (such as it was) by accident to hack through even thicker jungle. It’s surprisingly easy to lose the path on the way up. That could have been when I missed second runner Ken Sutor because I have no photographic record of his passing. Perhaps he took a long route back to the finish. I did see the third placed runner Chris Perry after I’d emerged from the jungle. Their respective finish times were 5:10:14, 5:24:49 and 5:30:36.

First woman past was Helen Pickford in 16th place. Second was Nicky Spinks in 21st place. She remarked in passing that she’d never had cramp force her to walk like was happening now. The Long Tour of Bradwell seems to do that to people. Third was Hazel Tant in 26th place. Their respective finish times were 6:06:15, 6:20:24 and 6:31:43.

I enjoyed an hour or two walking or lounging in the sun and photographing the occasional passing runner (they were so spread out now) before descending back down to Bradwell, purchasing a Bradwell’s ice cream on the way back to the finish (pure heaven). Back at base even more runners were lounging on the grass, one of whom was Ian Symington. I offered my congratulations to him for the win. He asked: “Did we really have that conversation where I asked what cushion I have and you said there’s only grass?” It transpired he was asking me what time cushion he had to the second place runner so he knew how hard he had to push (or not). Oops. Well, I wouldn’t have known anyway because I’d walked up from the finish and had no idea who was coming until they appeared.

It was a grand day yet again for the Long and Short Tours of Bradwell, with some impressive performances as always. Many thanks to Bradda Dads and marshals for making it happen. I hope to be taking part again next year.

Nick.

July 2014 News – Party date set!

I’ve just emailed all members today (24 July) with most of the content of this post, so if you think you’re a member and you didn’t get the email then please get in touch.  It either means the email address we’ve got for you isn’t correct, or yours may be one of the forms we lost after the Three Rings of Shap – my fault, as I was too wiped out to remember everything!
Summer greetings to you all – hot isn’t it?  I hope your running is going well this year.  I’m back in action after my 4-month rest due to a shin stress fracture, but I’ve still got work to do before I’m back to full fitness.  The rest of your Runfurther committee seem to be running OK at the moment, with Nick about to head off for the Lakeland 100.

Runfurther Party Weekend, 29/30 November

We have set the date and location for the end-of-year AGM and presentations, and we’re planning on making a weekend of it.  The more of you turn up, the better Runfurther will get.  The AGM and presentations will start at 3pm on Saturday 29 November, in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District.  We’ll announce the exact location at the end of October.  The reason we can’t announce the location details now is that we have planned it to follow on from the Dark and White Mini Mountain Marathon, and the location for that is secret for now.  The Mini-MM is a 4-hour run round the hills trying to pick up as many points as you can by finding controls, and the race will finish by 2pm.  Full info about the race is here: www.darkandwhite.co.uk/challenge-events-outdoor-activities.asp?race_id=470.

After the presentations the committee is staying on, having a meal and a few drinks in the pub in the evening, and going off for another race on the Sunday.  The more of you join us the better.  There is another Mini-MM in the Peak District starting at 9 to 9:30am, which should make up a great weekend.  This one’s a bit shorter, with a 3-hour time limit, and it’s organised by Richard Patton, the Long Tour of Bradwell RO.  Again the location’s under wraps until a month beforehand.  The info about this one is at www.explorerevents.co.uk/.  If you’d rather something shorter on the Sunday, there’s also the Famous Grouse fell race near Hayfield – 5 miles, entry on the day, which Nick will be running instead as it’s one of his regular races.  Info on this is here: www.cs.man.ac.uk/~temples/hc/.

The pub where the presentations will take place is close to the event HQ, and there is camping very close by.  There’s other accommodation in the area too, and a month’s notice should be enough to find somewhere to stay at that time of year.  So: (1) get the date in your diary, and (2) book your place in one or both of the mini-MM races.  The Saturday race will probably fill up, so get an entry in now!  I’ve already entered both of them.

Runfurther in 2015 – which races do you want in?

We’re already starting to make plans for next year’s Championship.  We’ll have more sponsorship, so bigger and better prizes will be up for grabs.  We hope to be able to have spot prizes as well.  And of course we have to plan which races to include next year.  We’d like your input on that, so please let us know which races you think should be included in the 2015 Championship, and which you’d rather weren’t in.  We can’t please everyone of course, but we’ll do our best.  One particular race we’d like your feedback on is the Isle of Man Mountain Ultra (it used to be called the Manx Mountain Marathon).  Would you do it if we included it in the Championship again?  So – email me if you have any preferences for races for 2015.

There will be a committee meeting after Bradwell, at 18:00 in the Old Bowling Green Inn, Bradwell.  All members welcome.

I’m about to go away on holiday, so I won’t be able to reply to emails until after the Long Tour of Bradwell (9 August).  I’ll go through all your replies when I get back though.  See you at Bradwell!