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Late February 2016 news – Ultras on telly etc

Here’s the new 2016 promotional postcard, soon to be appearing at a race near you (I hope).  Many thanks to Si Berry, Karen McDonald, Injinji & Ultimate Direction for organising, designing and paying for them! You should start seeing them at races from this weekend. Please ask us for some so you can put them out at the other races you run – a lot of the Runfurther runners first got involved by picking up a postcard at a race, so they’re an important part of keeping Runfurther thriving. The photo on the postcard is of Ian Symington, and he certainly deserves that honour!

Postcard

Last night (21 Feb) the Adventure Show was broadcast on BBC Scotland, featuring last October’s Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra – the last of the 2015 Runfurther races. I’ve just watched it on iPlayer, and it’s well worth watching. You can find it on the BBC website here.
Watch the whole programme: the Jedburgh race makes up most of it, broken up by two shorter segments on the Glencoe Skyline race. There are interviews with Ian Symington (2nd) and Ken Sutor (3rd), and also a few words from Bob Nash, who was showing off his Runfurther Giraffe. I thought the programme gave a really good feel for what ultra running’s all about, and was pretty true to what it was actually like racing on the day.

Many thanks to Si Berry, Karen McDonald, Injinji & Ultimate Direction for organising, designing and paying for them! You should start seeing them at races from this weekend. Please ask us for some so you can put them out at the other races you run – a lot of the Runfurther runners first got involved by picking up a postcard at a race, so they’re an important part of keeping Runfurther thriving. The photo on the postcard is of Ian Symington, and he certainly deserves that honour!

As I write, there’s just under 3 weeks until the Haworth Hobble, and the start of Runfurther 2016. I hope you’re all training hard – I’ve just been out & done 8 miles. See you at the race!

Lastly, I’d like to put a word in for Nick Smith’s website Racelifts.org.  The idea of this website is to encourage car-sharing for races.  Race Organisers register their race, send the postcodes of the entrants to racelifts.org, then runners can send messages to other runners near them to see whether car-sharing is a goer.  Your exact postcode and email address are kept confidential until you want to share them with someone.  If you’re a race organiser, please consider putting your race up on Racelifts.org.  I think the Fellsman will be using it, and I’ll be emailing the other Runfurther ROs to suggest they might want to do so too.  It saves on costs to runners and the environment, and of course eases parking problems at the race venues.  It costs ROs and runners nothing to use it.

Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra 2015

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This was the 12th and last of the 2015 Runfurther Championship races, and it really was a belter.  The start location was in Jedburgh, and the picture above shows the view of the abbey from the race headquarters.  Noanie and Angela (the race organisers) put on a great event, so many thanks to them and their team.  There were marshals and supporters everywhere, and the reception at the finish was quite something, with everyone cheered in by name over the PA as they approached the finish, to a chorus of cheers, yelps and handclaps.

The route has great views, and is mainly very runnable.  It starts with an offroad half-marathon, predominantly on an old Roman road and then along the banks of the River Tweed.  That is followed by a stiff fell race over the Eildon hills, then another half-marathon back, mainly on the same route you came out on.  Conditions were good, despite the poor weather forecast: there was a spell of rain early on, but it soon cleared, and we even had a bit of sun later on.  It was a bit muddy in places, but we’re used to that aren’t we?

Ian Symington (2nd) & Ken Sutor (3rd), with RO Angela Barron

Ian Symington (2nd) & Ken Sutor (3rd), with RO Angela Barron

So, to the results.  First home was Lee Kemp, sponsored by Beta Climbing Designs, who was intending to try to beat the course record, which stood at 5:01:48.  He succeeded in fine style, with a time of 4:56:36.  Beta Climbing Designs are the UK distributors for Injinji and Ultimate Direction, who sponsor Runfurther, so they clearly know a good thing when it comes along.  Second was this year’s Runfurther champion Ian Symington in 5:00:01, also beating the old record.  Third was Ken Sutor in 5:06:53 – Ken wasn’t able to keep up with Ian’s pace in the final stages.  This year’s Runfurther runner-up Kevin Hoult finished 5th in 5:22:27.  First woman home was Lorna McMillan in a great time of 5:58:33, beating the Elaine Omand’s 2013 record by 10 minutes.  Caroline McKay was 2nd woman in 6:11:00, and Elaine Omand 3rd 11 minutes behind her.  Other noteworthy Runfurther finishers were (1) this year’s Runfurther MV50 winner Martin Terry, who came in 22nd in 5:58:54, and was 2nd MV50, (2) me, 51st in 6:53:26 taking the MV60 trophy.  And of course our two Grand Slam contenders, David Wilson and Karen Nash both finished, despite multiple injuries between them.  Many congratulations to both of them.  It’s hard enough running 12 ultras in a year, and a lot harder if those 12 races have been decided beforehand, so you can’t duck out of one if you’re injured or ill.

One last performance I ought to mention was Rob Reid’s run in 8:05:52.  Rob is the RO of the Kintyre Ultra, which was in the Runfurther Championship 2014, and this year he was the first ever MV70 finisher at Jedburgh.  Everyone was happy for him except possibly our own Bob Nash, who’d been hoping for that honour himself.

The full race results are up on the race website here.  Karen’s written up her blog with a  few photos, and you can find that here.  I’ve pinched a few of Karen’s photos for this news item.  My own race report is just below.  I’ll post a separate news item shortly with the full Runfurther 2015 final results shortly.  The updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

Andy Robinson’s race report

I was looking forward to this race, despite the poor weather forecast.  Many years ago I’d walked most of the route as part of a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and I’d remembered it as a particularly scenic part of the world.  I wasn’t disappointed.

I woke up in my tent suddenly, in a panic that I’d set my alarm wrong and had overslept.  I checked my watch.  It was 5:50 exactly, which was the time I’d meant to set my alarm for.  I’d actually set my alarm for 6:50.  It kept going like that all day: everything kept going right, despite my best efforts.  I got up, ate my breakfast custard tarts (what else?) and drove down to town to help Karen put the Runfurther flags up in a stiff breeze.  We walloped the poles in a bit harder than usual, thinking we could be in for some rough weather.  Half the flags went up in the rugby club grounds by the race HQ, and the others over the main road on the Grassy Knoll, where the race started and finished.  I looked round but couldn’t see the book repository or the ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald.  Then it was back to the race HQ to register and catch up with a few friends, amongst them Ian Symington, Ken Sutor, Kevin Hoult and Carmine De Grandis.  At 7:50 there was a short race briefing, and then we were off across the road to the start for a warm-up to the sounds of the Village People.  I didn’t get where I am today doing warm-ups, so I skulked at the back hoping nobody would notice.  And at about 8:05 we were off.

The first two or three miles were mostly on roads, following Jed Water north to its confluence with the River Teviot.  So we were jogging along easily, chatting, and sooner than I as expecting we were crossing Jedfoot Bridge on the A698, and climbing over the metal barrier onto the footpath that led down to the Teviot.  We were now on the route of the Roman road Dere Street, but for the next mile or so you can’t tell that, as the Roman line was obliterated by Victorian landscape design, in Tory politician Michael Ancrum’s Monteviot estate.  Instead we ran along the riverbank to the suspension bridge, which may have been runnable with only one runner on it, but got interesting when two or more tried it.  Still, we got across, and followed a winding route through the estate, carefully avoiding the main house, of course, through plantations, and eventually rejoining the line of Dere Street on the lower slopes of Peniel Heugh.

Suspension bridge over the River Teviot

Suspension bridge over the River Teviot

If you look at it on a map, the next stretch looks like it might be really boring, as it’s a dead straight line for miles.  It wasn’t like that though.  It was undulating and varied, with wooded bits, open bits, bits running between lines of scots pines.  Some of it was grassy path, some a narrow trod through thicker undergrowth.  It was all runnable as well, making for fast running.  Some of the time we could see the Eildon hills ahead, knowing we just had to get there, climb them and come back again.  We ran past the famous Lilliard’s Stone, although I doubt many English runners stopped to read the inscription:

“Fair Maid Lilliard

lies under this stane

little was her stature

but muckle was her fame

upon the English loons

she laid monie thumps

and when her legs were cuttit off

she fought upon her stumps.

AD 1544”.

Anyway, back to the race.  This was the bit where the rain came down, quite heavily for a bit.  I took the risk of leaving my waterproof in my bag, as it wasn’t really that cold, and I thought the rain would probably turn out just to be a shower.  Luckily I was right, and although I got wet through, when the rain stopped I warmed up OK soon enough.  Soon after the rain stopped we hit the road and turned right down it towards the Maxton checkpoint.  I say “down”, but I didn’t notice it was downhill at the time…

I drank water at the checkpoint and headed off through the woods down to the River Tweed.  There were sets of steps everywhere, but I was still fresh enough not to be bothered by them.  And then delightful stretches along the river meadows, and along here somewhere Karen caught up with me, as she always does on those races I go off faster than is good for me.  We ran more or less together from here, up towards St Boswells from the golf course, back down to the river again via lots more steps, and then we got to where there was a choice of paths, below Newtown St Boswells.  And there was no sign.  Up to now the route had been very well signed by the race team, and we’d been on the waymarked St Cuthbert’s Way for most of the way in any event.  Now there was nothing, so about 6 of us went the wrong way.  We could have looked at our maps, and we’d probably have sorted it out quickly, but we didn’t.  So it was up loads more steps, thinking we had to head up a sidestream to a bridge, when we should instead have crossed the bridge lower down, which we’d seen, and for no good reason, ignored.  Oh well, we soon realised our mistake, and only lost 3 or 4 minutes.  As we headed back down, loads more runners were making the same mistake.  Of course there had been a sign there, but it had been pinched.

Back to the Tweed then for a bit longer, before we left it to head steeply up a track through the woods to join a disused railway line and then to cross the A68.  This is a busy trunk road, and I was lucky in only having to wait a few seconds before the marshals waved us across.  I’d pulled a little ahead of Karen by this time, and she was held back while she watched me disappear into the distance…

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Then we were heading up the Eildon hills.  Gently at first, up a track to the Rhymer’s Stone checkpoint.  Then it was a proper fell race, steeply up Eildon Hill North, and of course Karen caught me up again here.  It’s a stiff climb, worthy of many an AS fell race.  The weather was much better now, and the views were tremendous.  How could they not be in clear weather, when you can see the Eildons from just about everywhere in the Borders?  From the top, a scamper down to the col, then another hard climb up Eildon Mid Hill, the highest of the three at 422 metres, followed by an easier scamper to Eildon Wester Hill and down to the village of Bowden, where a marshal and the local kids were on hand to make sure we crossed the chain bridge in the play area.  On the descent David Wilson came past us.  I’d assumed he’d been ahead, as he’s generally a lot faster than me, but he’d started cautiously, wanting to make sure his Grand Slam was in the bag.  He seemed to be going well, and he soon disappeared into the distance.

On the road section heading towards Newtown St Boswells, Karen was starting to suffer.  She was carrying a lot of injuries, and the important thing for her was to finish the race and so complete the Runfurther Grand Slam, not to try for a fast time.  I told her she’d still meet the cutoffs if she walked the rest of the way, and she slacked her pace off.  I pulled away from her from here, just hoping she’d finish OK and without doing herself too much damage.  Through Newtown and down past the sewage works I rejoined the Tweed and the outward route, and retraced my steps along the river.  The meadows were fine, but the steps and stiles were murder.  My knees haven’t been recovering between races lately, and they were tired before I started.  By now I was OK doing the ultra shuffle, but anything that required a foot to leave the ground by more than an inch was a different matter.

Reaching the Maxton checkpoint was now in my sights.  Please, don’t let there be too many more steps.  But there were of course, far more than I’d remembered on the way out.  Eventually I found myself winding up away from the river, and I could see the churchyard behind the wall on my left.  Round the corner, and there was the checkpoint.  I’d even caught up with David.  A quick drink of water then off up the road.  And this was where I realised that the road down into Maxton earlier really was down.  A mile of tarmac uphill is no fun when you’re knackered.  I put my brain into low gear and managed to keep trotting my way up, and at least most of the people who passed me were relay runners, which is fair enough.  At the top of the hill I turned left with relief off the tarmac and onto the muddy path of Dere Street once again.

The rest of it was fine really.  None of it was steep, and I managed to keep trotting along.  I was glad the stiles weren’t too steep, as my knees really didn’t want to bend by this stage.  As I got nearer to the Teviot I started thinking I might have a chance of getting under 7 hours, which I hadn’t thought was even a possibility, given my current decrepit state.  Climbing the crash barrier at the A698 without bending my knees was tricky, and I was glad no photographers were on hand to witness it.  I had 35 minutes to cover two and a half miles, virtually all on tarmac.  Surely even I could manage that.  So I pushed on, only running out of steam for the last mile, although I still kept a shuffle going even here.

I finished in 6:53:26, 51st out of 183 finishers, first MV60, and with a big smile on my face.  I just hope Karen’s photo of me needing help to get onto the winner’s box for the trophy presentation stays in the archives.

Isle of Man Mountain Ultra 2015 – updated

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The Isle of Man Mountain Ultra is a race of real quality.  If it was on the mainland they’d be turning runners away: every ultra runner who likes the hills should run this race at least once.  There are 12 controls in its 31 miles, each one at the top of a hill.  It’s a proper fell race from one end of the island to the other, running on trods and narrow paths, with a few pathless bits and some stretches of track.  There’s hardly any tarmac, and there are plenty of steep climbs and descents.  The weather this year was just about perfect for running: dry underfoot in the main, with a bit of haze to keep it cool for most of the day, and what breeze there was was behind us.

There were two start times, 7:30 for the slower runners, and 8:30 for the faster.  But really there weren’t any slow runners: it was possibly the fastest field of any race I’ve ever run in.  The Manx runners take their hills pretty seriously, and the visitors weren’t messing about either!  First home was local Tom Cringle in 5:18:24, second was Stuart Walker in 5:24:00, third was another local, Ben Corkill, in 5:26:29.  First woman was Rosy Craine, 6:47:51, second was local Eleanor Gawne, 7:00:15, third Isaline Kneale in 7:14:38.  Full results are on the race website here.

Karen Nash has written up her race, and you can find it and a few photos on her blog here.  I’ve added my race report at the end of this post.  The photos here are copied from Karen’s blog.

Runfurther Championship Scores

The updated leaderboard and team scores are here.  With only Jedburgh to go, the women’s winners are now decided, and so are the team placings.  Apart from Ian Symington retaining his men’s title, the rest of the men’s results are still up in the air, although it would take a miracle for anyone to beat Chris Davies to the MV60 title (that miracle would have to involve me winning outright at Jedburgh!)  Karen Nash and David Wilson both ran well, and now have only one race to go to finish their Grand Slams.

Women

  1. Karen Nash
  2. Mary Gillie
  3. Sally Howarth

Men

  1. Ian Symington
  2. Probably Stewart Bellamy or Kevin Hoult

FV50

  1. Karen Nash
  2. Sally Howarth
  3. Alison Brind

MV50

  1. Probably Martin Terry or Chris Davies

FV60

  1. Janet Hill

MV60

  1. Probably Chris Davies
  2. Probably Andy Robinson
  3. Bob Nash or Dick Scroop

MV70

  1. Bob Nash

Teams

  1. Calder Valley Fell Runners
  2. Team Krypton
  3. Mercia Fell Runners

Andy’s race report

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I’ll start at the start of the race: Karen’s already talked about what came before.  We gathered at the start by the dock in Ramsey, chatting as we waited to get off.  The weather was a bit hazy, but the forecast was good, with what breeze there was due to be behind us the whole way.  It was cool but not cold, in fact conditions were perfect for running.  The slower runners had set off at 7:30, and I’d chosen to start at 8:30.  After all I’m not a slow runner am I?  Well, as it turned out, yes I am.  We all set off through the town, up the road and onto a track uphill.  Everyone else pulled away from me, apart from one runner who was some way behind – I never saw him again.  As we crossed the reservoir dam the last of the faster runners left me for dead, and I plodded up the first of the 12 hills, North Barrule, falling further behind all the time.  By the time I got to the top they were all out of sight, and I was navigating on my own for the next few hours.  Luckily for me I’m a reasonable navigator, and of course the weather was clear, but this race would have been interesting in the clag.  Although you’re generally following well-defined ridges, they are quite rounded, and you’re often following small trods, having to join them up across pathless bits from time to time.  Even in good visibility it’s easy to miss the path and end up flogging across much more difficult ground – heather etc.

Along the ridge to Clagh Ouyr, then a fast descent to the Black Hut, where a policeman stopped the traffic on the TT circuit for me to cross (acually there wasn’t any traffic, but he went through the motions).  Next came the second steep climb – and there are plenty – up the highest hill on the island, Snaefell (621m).  I could still see a few of the other runners ahead of me on my way up, but that was the last I saw of them.  From then on I was on my own, and I suspect the runner behind me had pulled out by now, and I was Tailend Charlie for the whole event.  Over the railway line snaking its way up the mountain, then up to the top, summit number 3.  I had mixed feelings.  I was last.  I was running slowly, as I’d expected to.  My legs had done too much over the past few months, and felt tired all the time.  But, I was enjoying it.  I felt I was running OK.

On down to the Bungalow checkpoint to cross the main road again, on a very runnable path.  The views weren’t up to much due to the haze, but I wasn’t complaining as it was keeping it from getting too hot.  A very soggy trod by the road led to the foot of Beinn-y-Phott – cracking names some of these hills have – and another stiff climb on a narrow path to top number 4.  I was glad of the visibility for the next bit, down a vague ridge then bending left to climb Carraghan (top 5).  The proper paths were running out, and finding the best trods was tricky even as it was.  I’d been warned about the next bit, from Carraghan to Colden.  The descent was horrible, I’d been told, then the climb up the other side was worse.  Well I found the descent fine.  It was steep and pathless and a bit tussocky, but I found lines that were virtually all runnable, and only fell once.  So – how hard could the climb up Colden be?

I got to the Injebrook checkpoint in the valley, and two other runners appeared from nowhere.  They hadn’t been in front of me on the descent, and they soon disappeared off in front.  I never found out for sure where they’d been, but I can only assume they’d gone the wrong way earlier.  As we set off up Colden they took a line to the left by the trees, and I headed straight up the pathless heather.  It was truly horrible – a fight for every step up, using hands, knees, teeth.  I didn’t go the way the other two went – they’d already been wrong once hadn’t they?  They got it right this time though, as I found out later from talking to the locals, although their way was pretty nasty too – there’s no easy way up Colden.  Halfway up, after what seemed like an eternity in one of Dante’s rings of hell, the slope eased off, and I could see a relatively heather-free line up the higher slopes.  Eventually I got to the top, somewhat chastened.  Thankfully there was nothing else remotely like that for the rest of the race.

I soon recovered my composure, and had no problems with the next tops, along a ridge to Slieau Ruy (top 7) and Greeba (8), then a blast down to the Greeba valley.  Next was a section of disused railway line, which I always find hard in the middle of a hilly race, but it was soon over, and I got to St John’s and the start of the next climb just in time to see the shorter Mountain Race start, just as I got to them.  Deja vu.  Once more all the other runners left me for dead on the steep climb up through the forestry on Slieau Whallian.  Never mind – they had fresh legs didn’t they?  I didn’t even have fresh legs at 8:30, and they were pretty trashed now.  Still, I managed to keep the tailenders in sight all the way up, and passed some of them on the way over the hill.  Things were looking up!  The run down to the Garey Gate checkpoint went well – I was enjoying myself.  Down through the trees to Glen Mooar, and after a bit of hesitation I found the track at the bottom of the valley and turned left.  I forked left where I should have done, and plodded my way along the track up the long hill to the foot of South Barrule.  I knew this track was coming, but it’s a dreary climb with no letup.

Anyway, I got to the crossroads at last, and turned left onto the path up South Barrule.  I was back in the middle of a race again, with runners coming back down this out-and-back section towards me.  Most of them were short race runners, but a few were carrying Ultra numbers.  My first 7:30 starters, although I still had some work ahead of me if I wanted to catch any of them up.  I plodded my way up South Barrule, having a good time really.  The last big hill (top 10), and people to say hello to as well.  Up to the top, turn round, then as fast as I could down again.  There’s people to catch!  I caught up with the first on my way across to the foot of Cronk ny Arrey Laa (top 11), and from then on I was passing people fairly regularly.  I missed the path up Cronk, but it was easy enough anyway, and not a big climb.  At the top of Cronk, the route joins a waymarked footpath, the Raad ny Foillan, so routefinding was pretty easy from here on.  I scampered down to the Sloc checkpoint, ran most of the way up hill number 12 (Lhiatee ny Beinee), and along the clifftop path to the last manned checkpoint at Fleshwick Bay.

No more hills to tick off, but the climb out of Fleshwick Bay is brutal.  Head down, hands on knees, and I was still passing people.  At the top of the climb I got running again, and kept up a good pace all the way to the finish on the promenade at Port Erin.  OK I went wrong in the maze of paths on the way into town, but I got there, even if I arrived from a different direction from all the other runners.  Through the finish and a bottle of beer was thrust into my hand – that’s the way to greet someone at the end of a race.  And for a change, I finished a race feeling I still had something in the tank.

Many thanks to Chris and Carol for letting Karen and I have a shower in their hotel room.  Many thanks to Mark and the rest of the IOM team for putting on such a great race.  And thanks to about 50 bottlenose dolphins for putting on such a breathtaking display of fish-juggling just yards from where we were standing, by Peel Castle, the following day.  And just as many thanks to Mike and Barney for their company and help!

Hardmoors 60 2015

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A beautiful sunny September day made the Hardmoors 60 a delightful experience.  Until some of us ran out of steam, that is.  There are a lot of ups and downs running along that coast, and I for one wasn’t up to the task and pulled out half way through.  Plenty of others were fitter than me though, and the first three home came in within a few minutes of each other, having battled it out the whole way.  First in was Martin Murray, last year’s winner, in 10:03:50, second was Ian Symington, the record holder from 2012, in 10:10:05, and third was Steven Lord, a couple of minutes behind Ian.  Great running, but the first home was nearly 40 minutes outside the record, which wasn’t surprising given it was such a hot day.  What was the running performance of the day, though, was Kim England’s 4th place overall in an amazing time of 10:35:50.  This broke the women’s record by over half an hour and was an astonishing run given the conditions.  Shelli Gordon and Heather Mochrie, both first women home in previous races, were joint second this year, nearly an hour behind Kim.

First MV50 was Martin Terry in 11:09:14, and first FV50 Karen Nash once again, in 14:06:55.  The full race results are here.  Karen’s blog with photos is here – I borrowed some of her photos for this post.  Sport Sunday were taking photos too, and you can find them here.

The runner of the day award has to go to Dennis Potton, however, rather than any of the above.  Alerted to a child in trouble in the sea at Sandsend, just north of Whitby, he jumped in, rescued the child from drowning in the undertow, bought new running clothes in Whitby to replace those wrecked in the rescue, then finished the race.  Hats off!

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Runfurther standings

The updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

Ken Sutor had entered the Hardmoors 60, but didn’t show up.  Ian Symington did though, and his 990 points from his 2nd place has put him in a very strong position.  Ken can only beat him if he wins both at the Isle of Man and at Jedburgh, or comes very close to winning.  He’s entered Jedburgh, but I’ve no idea whether he’s going to the Isle of Man.  Stewart Bellamy looks safe for either 2nd or 3rd, depending on whether Ken runs the last two races.  Martin Terry looks safe as first MV50, provided he runs at Jedburgh at his usual high standard.

Karen Nash can’t be caught now, and will be first woman, and first FV50.  Mary Gillie looks safe as second woman.  The MV60 anbd FV60 titles are settled too: Chris Davies and Janet Hill won’t be caught now.  Ian Symington’s performance has put Calder Valley Fell Runners at the top of the team competition, and there’s every chance they’ll stay there now.

Both this year’s Grand Slam contenders were struggling with injuries for the whole 60 miles, so congratulations to both of them for finishing.  David Wilson had his shin splints bandaged up, and Karen Nash has a list of injuries as long as your arm.  Only two more races to go!  Here’s a photo of the two of them at the race, courtesy of Karen:

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Bullock Smithy 2015

Well I wasn’t there, so I can’t talk a lot about the Bullock Smithy.  I was running the Across Wales Walk instead.  Karen and Nick were there though, and were handing out Giraffe neckwear to those who’ve run 4 counters.  Nick seems to have had a very good run, and Karen, unusually for her, had a bit of a hard time – still wrecked after racing in the Pyrenees I think.  Anyway, Karen’s written her Bullock Smithy up with a few photos on her blog here.  Nick’s posted his photos to Flickr now, and they are here.  Nigel Aston’s report of his run is here, with a few of Nick’s photos in it.

Race results

First home was Neil Thompson in 9:04, second was last year’s Runfurther champ Ian Symington (Calder Valley FR) in 9:35, and 3rd was Stephen Jones (Stockport Harriers) in 9:59.  First woman home was Jayne Lawton in a very fast time of 10:30, a few minutes slower than her record from last year.  Karen Nash was 2nd in 12:34, with Lesley Sinclair 7 minutes behind her.  All these times are from the “live results” feed – the official results hadn’t been posted yet when I wrote this.

Runfurther leaderboards

The leaderboard and team board have been updated from the live feed data, and you can find them here.  Apologies for the errors in the original posting (7 September) – thanks to Nick H for pointing them out.  No end of things can go wrong when you copy and paste from a web page into Excel!  Karen Nash and David Wilson are still in line for Grand Slams – 9 down, 3 to go.

Neither Nicky Spinks or Mary Gillie ran the Bullock Smithy, and neither has entered the Hardmoors 60.  Entries for that have now closed, so I think that hands the women’s title to Karen Nash once more.  She’ll be first FV50 as well of course, and I think Sally Howarth is probably going to be 2nd FV50.  Janet Hill will be first FV60.

The men’s side of things is becoming a lot more interesting now.  Stewart Bellamy is still leading the pack, and Kevin Hoult could still pass him if he runs really well at Jedburgh.  I think they’ll both be overtaken by events though, as Ian Symington ran the Bullock Smithy, coming 2nd, and has entered the Hardmoors 60.  He’ll be in the lead after that, if he keeps up his current form, and neither Stewart nor Kevin will be able to catch him.  Ian’s going to have his work cut out to hang on to that lead though, as Ken Sutor has also entered the Hardmoors 60.  With 2 wins under his belt, Ken’s got to be the best bet to win this year, with Ian just behind him, but either could win it and they’ve not met yet this year in a Runfurther race.  The Hardmoors will see them run against each other, but the title won’t be decided until Jedburgh in October, as Ken hasn’t yet run a Medium event.  They’ve both entered Jedburgh.

Martin Terry is still on course to overhaul Chris Davies to be first MV50 – he needs to hold his form with a good run at Jedburgh to do it.  Chris can’t be caught as first MV60 – I’ve done my best but it wasn’t good enough!  And of course Bob Nash will be first MV70.

Team Krypton are currently leading the team competition, closely followed by Mercia Fell Runners and Calder Valley Fell Runners.  TK and Mercia have 11 counters each, but CVFR only have 10 and can easily overtake if they get those two counters.  Both Ian Symington and Kevin Hoult have entered the races they need, so CVFR have got to be favourites.

Race entries

The Hardmoors 60 and the Jedburgh Ultra have both stopped taking any more entries.  I think there are still places for the Isle of Man.  Don’t forget to enter the Full Tour of Pendle asap as well, as we need you at the Runfurther AGM and Prizegiving in Barley on Saturday 14 November.  Full details on the race website here.

And finally…

Congratulations to Elise Milnes on her Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge round.

Long Tour of Bradwell 2015

And the winner was…

Ken Sutor, Lose Hill

Ken Sutor, Lose Hill

Many thanks to Richard and his team for putting on such a good day at Bradwell for us, and all the other runners as well of course.  It was a hot day, and some of us were a bit slower than we’d hoped to have been, myself included.  The race was won by Ken Sutor in 5:21:15, with Es Tresidder second in 5:33:28, and Stephen Shanks just behind him in 5:33:57.  First woman home was Caitlin Rice in 6:22:58, second Mary Gillie in 6:30:53, and third, no happier with her run than I was with mine, was Nicky Spinks in 6:46:49.  The full race results are on the race website here.  The updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

SportSunday were at the event, and you can see a few of their photos above and below.  There are loads more at a higher resolution on their website here.  Please don’t copy them without permission from SportSunday – they’ve a business to run.  Nick Ham also took photos on his way round – I’ve still no idea how he manages to do that.  There are a couple of his here, and you can find the rest of his photos here.  He got some good ones this time, particularly of Mick Cottam having a bath mid-race.  Tim Budd (zephr) finished 4th, and his blog is here.  Tim’s partner Lynne Taylor ran too, running her first ultra, and her blog is here.  Nigel Aston’s report is here – he had a great race and finished 18th.

Mick Cottam, starting the descent to Edale Photo by NIck Ham

Mick Cottam, starting the descent to Edale
Photo by Nick Ham

 

Caitlin Rice

Caitlin Rice

 Runfurther standings

With four races still to go, 21 runners have now run four counters.  We were handing out Giraffe neckwear to all of those we could find at Bradwell – the others will have to catch us at one of the races for theirs, or at the prizegiving/AGM party later in the year (more details further down).

The women’s championship is looking like it could be quite close, as Mary Gillie had a good race at Bradwell, partly closing the gap on Karen Nash.  Mary still needs a very good run in either the Bullock Smithy or the Hardmoors 60 to overtake Karen though, and if Karen can manage to be first woman on the Isle of Man, Mary won’t catch her anyway.  Nicky Spinks has a much better chance of catching Karen: if she runs either the Bullock Smithy or the Hardmoors 60 and is first woman in either, or close to it, Karen will probably not be able to catch her.  Both Mary and Nicky are planning on going for it!  Karen knows she’s not as fast as Mary or Nicky, but she’s already been first woman at Calderdale and Shap, so has a lot of points.

On the men’s side, it’s starting to look like Kevin Hoult stands the best chance of beating Stewart Bellamy, although his run at Bradwell wasn’t really fast enough: he’ll need to pull a really good race out of the bag to stand a chance.  I hope Martin Terry didn’t run at Bradwell on the basis I’d got my forecast right in my earlier post here, when I said he’d have to run well at Bradwell or the Isle of Man.  My mistake: it was a Medium race he still needed to run to get the MV50 title in the bag, so it’ll have to be Jedburgh – my apologies Martin!

Oh, and Dick Scroop turned up for the committee meeting afterwards, complete with crutch.  He still says he’s going to compete at Jedburgh…

Mary Gillie, Lose Hill

Mary Gillie, Lose Hill

 AGM and Prizegiving Party

More details shortly, but this year’s AGM and prizegiving will be on Saturday 14th November in or near Barley, by Pendle Hill in Lancashire.  It will follow the Long Tour of Pendle fell race.  We should be able to provide some food this year, as well as prizes, and we’ll be in one of the local pubs.  Please be there if you possibly can – we must have enough people there to have a quorate AGM, and we don’t want to be lonely either.  The AGM should be short and not too boring.

The reason for bringing this up now is that the race is already open for entries, and it does fill up, so if you want to run as well as come to the Runfurther prizegiving, you should get your race entry in asap.  The Full Tour of Pendle is a full-on long fell race, 27km with 1500m of climbing, and is a classic event.  Full details on the race website here.

Andy’s Race Report

David Bethell, from Runfurther sponsors RaidLight, running the Short Tour

David Bethell, from Runfurther sponsors RaidLight, running the Short Tour

No blog from Karen this time, as she headed straight off on holiday from Bradwell.  Instead I’ll describe my run, which won’t be much more cheerful than Karen’s would have been – we both had a slow run.  No fault of the course though, it’s a well-planned course with plenty of hills and very little tarmac.  My sort of race really.

It started OK, running off from the green in Bradwell and up through the quarries.  A lovely sunny day, Nicky Spinks just in front, Karen Nash just behind.  As usual on long climbs early in a race, people went past me, but I’m used to that.  I often see a lot of them again later.  Finally at the top of the hill we turned left and belted down Cavedale.  Well, most people belted down the first half, but only a few of us kept it up down the wet stony bit lower down.  Brain off, watch my feet, and I got past a few there, and headed across Castleton on the momentum.  The next drag up, gradually at first, then steepening on the rough path up to Hollins Cross on the Mam Tor ridge.  Then the great run down into Edale, technical at first, then a fast run on grass and track to the valley road.  Again I was picking people off who’d passed me on the previous climb.  A flat bit next across the valley, then Karen passede me, as she often does at this stage in a race, early on the stiff climb up to Kinder.  I plodded up, and wasted a minute or two not getting the best line up to the Druid’s Stone control.

Druid's Stone control, Kinder plateau Photo by Nick Ham

Druid’s Stone control, Kinder plateau
Photo by Nick Ham

Then the next great downhill run back down to the Edale valley, ready for the next steep climb up Lose Hill.  I’m not fast uphill, but this still felt fine, and I got to the top feeling great.  Ready, in fact, for another brilliant descent, this time down to Hope.  The climbs and descents are such good ones on this race, and that’s one of the key things that make it such a great race, I think.  Sideways along the valley for a short way, and then it was up the next climb, most of the way up Win Hill, then round it on a narrow path through the bracken into the plantation above Ladybower Reservoir.  The first time I ran this race I missed the control in here and wasted about 20 minutes looking for it.  These days they mark the controls more clearly, and anyway, I know the way by now.  I didn’t get my map out once all race this time.

Down the stony track to the reservoir dam, and down to the old railway line, and by now my legs were starting to feel tired.  The run across the fields to Bamford was delightful as always, but I wasn’t looking forward to the next bit – the only climb in the race I really don’t like much.  The steep track up Bamford Clough was closed again this year, so we had to use Joan Lane and Hurstclough Lane instead.  I didn’t mind that: it’s the road section afterwards I don’t like, and the never-ending Long Causeway track that follows.  By the time I got to the top my legs had had enough.  For the second year running I was picking my way feebly along Stanage Edge while younger, fitter runners passed me by, running where I didn;t have the strength to run.  I reached the Upper Burbage Bridge checkpoint downhearted and knackered, but at least I didn’t trip and fall full-length in the road this year.

The rest was horrible.  I was running in lovely surroundings, but so wiped out I could hardly function.  Down to the Toad’s Mouth seemed twice as far as usual.  The stream down from there seemed to be running uphill.  Then Karen passed me…again!  She’d gone the wrong way, had come down with United Utilities’  water bug during the race, and still streaked by me as if I was standing still.  They said at Leadmill Bridge that there were about four miles left – it felt like 10.  I staggered into the finish having walked half of the last road section – I’d had no choice.  7:23:11, a few minutes faster than last year, but then I was still recovering from a stress fracture.  Nearly an hour slower than 2013.  Perhaps I need to do more training…

Clif Bar 10 Peaks Lakes 2015

The Race

This was my second time running in this race, and I recommended it to the rest of the committee for inclusion in the Championship this year.  It didn’t disappoint – this was a tremendous event.  The race results are up on the SI website here, and I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard.  Runfurther committee member Dick Scroop had a nasty fall on the climb up Great Gable, and had to be carried off the mountain to Whitehaven General.  He’s got a fractured pelvis and various lacerations, but seems cheerful enough under the circumstances.  He’s now well on the mend (updated 24 July).  Many thanks from all of us to John Vernon, who was with him, and looked after him until the Mountain Rescue team arrived.

So, about the race.  There are three races of differing lengths, all of which take you round the high Lakes mountain tops:

  • Short:  48km, 3200 metres of ascent
  • Long:  73km, 5600 metres of ascent
  • Extreme:  100km, 7600 metres of ascent

The Runfurther counter this year was the “Long” course, taking in the 10 highest tops in the Lake District.  The “Extreme” course is pretty close to being a Bob Graham round – a similar route, with slightly fewer tops.

The weather wasn’t far off perfect:  not much breeze, no rain at all, just a bit of cloud on the higher tops, and even that lifted by teatime.  Those who were still out overnight got some rain though.  It was warm, but not too hot for most.  I wore t-shirt and shorts all day, just putting on gloves for the cold wind on Pillar, and a thin fleece for Skiddaw as the evening drew on.  Despite these conditions, of over 100 starters on the Long route, only 65 finished.  8 out of 21 finished the Extreme route.  Of those 8, two are Runfurther members, who deserve special mention, as they won’t get any Runfurther points for their run:  Tom Hollins, who set a new record of 18:08:26, and Allan McKeown, who was 4th in 21:37:33.

The Results

As for the Runfurther “Long” race, that was won in what I think was a new record time of 10:46:17 by Ross Litherland (Pennine Fell Runners).  Second was Stewart Bellamy in 11:32:10.  Third to finish was Nicky Spinks, in a new women’s record time of 11:34:40, which I suspect only she is currently capable of beating – a great run.  Fourth was Mary Gillie in 12:39:48, again a very impressive run.  Alex van Tuyl was fifth in 12:54:59, and the rest of us took over 14 hours.  Stewart Bellamy and all three of the first three women to finish are Runfurther members (Karen Nash was third woman), and we had 13 Runfurther finishers of the 65.  I’m sure John Vernon would have made a 14th had he not abandoned his run to assist Dick after his fall.  Both David Wilson and Karen Nash finished well up the list, and their Runfurther Slam bids are going well.

I’m now able to stare into my crystal ball and start predicting who might be the winners of the Championship this year.  Looking at the women, if Nicky Spinks were to run two more counters, she would surely win.  If she doesn’t, Karen Nash is going to be difficult to overtake.  Although Mary Gillie has beaten Karen in all three of her Runfurther races this year, Karen took maximum points in two other races.  To overhaul Karen, Mary will have to be first woman to finish, or very close to first woman, in two more races – one won’t be enough.  It almost goes without saying that Karen will be first FV50 once more, and Janet Hill will be first FV60.

On the men’s side, the question is whether anyone can overhaul Stewart Bellamy.  It’s really down to whether any of Ian Symington, Jez Bragg and Kevin Hoult are going to run two more counters.  If Ian or Jez did, they’d probably overtake Stewart.  Kevin could do it too: his current points per race are the same as Stewart’s.  Martin Terry looks set for first MV50, assuming he runs Bradwell or the Isle of Man.  Chris Davies will be first MV60, and Bob Nash our first ever MV70.

More Links

Karen Nash has written up her race, and that’s now on Karen’s blog, with a few photos.  Our main photographer Nick was running in the USA, so we’ve only got the few photos Karen took before the race started, but SportSunday were there, and you can find their pictures on the SportSunday website.  Nicky Spinks has written her blog up here.

My Race

I’ll skip over the bit about getting up at 3:20, and fast forward to being dropped off by the coach at 4:50 in the morning at Swirls car park by Thirlmere.  Those already there had their coats over their heads and it soon became clear why – the midges were out in force and wanted runners for breakfast.  Luckily we only had 10 minute to wait, including RO Paul’s pep talk, and we were off, dibbing our SI dibbers and heading off over the footbridge and out of the woods.  This is a brutal start for an ultra, but what else can you expect when the whole day is all about getting to the top of as many high peaks as you can?  It was straight up the tourist path to the top of Helvellyn, with much shuffling of positions on the way.  Shorts and t-shirts were all we needed, even in the cloud covering the top couple of hundred feet.  There was a colder wind on top, but unlike later in the day, no sooner were we up than we were heading down again – the cloud covering me leaving the main path for a quicker more direct route down.  As usual I went off much too fast to be sensible, and was one of the earlier runners down to the first manned checkpoint at the southern end of Thirlmere.  One day maybe I’ll find out what happens if I take it a bit easier early on in an ultra.

The next bit climbs the boggy Wythburn valley and out of the end of it to the summit of High Raise, which isn;t one of the top 10 peaks, but is still compulsory.  The valley was drier than last time I was there, and is a pretty place really, although there were still plenty of boggy bits.  High Raise was out of the cloud and I reached it without feeling the climb too much, whihc cheered me up a bit.  I knew my legs hadn’t really had time to recover from the 62-miles of the Three Rings of Shap a fortnight earlier, and the three hill races in between the two probably hadn’t helped either.  What cheered me up even more was seeing all the runners who’d passed me on the climb running away off the summit on the main path heading for the Langdale Pikes.  I casually snaked off onto the little trod that heads down to Stake Pass, and didn’t see them again for some time.

At Stake Pass four other runners following the trod caught up with me, including two South Africans, and I ended up leading a party round Rossett Pike and up the Bob Graham route to Bowfell.  We picked the line OK, which doesn’t happen every time, to me anyway, but I always find that as long as I keep slanting gradually up leftwards I always seem to hit the ridge at the right place.  Bowfell to Esk Pike and on to the second manned checkpoint at Esk Hause is familiar ground, and we followed bits of Bob Graham racing line trod in places.  The bottom edge of the cloud was swirling around Esk Hause as we got there, and we were in cloud for much of the time from here until we were well down Scafell.  It was clear on the top of Great End though, so finding the top was easy.  Spotting the trod to Ill Crag was hard in the mist though, and we must have gone a few metres past it, even though I was looking out for it.   No matter though, as I knew where I was, and we found Ill Crag and Broad Crag without any problems.  We got to the Broad Crag col and I looked at my watch.  It was 9:52.  So what?  Well this year the National Trust had told Paul he had to let only the faster runners climb Scafell via Lords Rake (and Pillar via Wind Gap too) to keep the erosion down.  There was a cutoff, and only runners dibbing on Scafell Pike before 10:00 were allowed to go that way – everyone else had to flog down to the Foxes Tarn route, which means more descent.  So, we had 8 minutes to get to the top of Scafell Pike.  Decision time: I put my head down and went for it, and the others followed.  It took me 6 minutes and 21 seconds to get to the trig point and dib.  Result!

It would be nice to say we capitalised on this, and pulled away further from the next group of runners behind us, but no, as instead I made a couple of mistakes in the mist.  First I descended from Mickledore too early, and we lost a few minutes cutting back across to Rake’s Progress, and then after we’d emerged from the West Wall Traverse I misremembered the topography on the top of Scafell and headed right instead of straight on, and we lost a few more minutes there.  We got back on track and were near the summit when we met up with Karen Nash, David Wilson and a couple of others, who’d arrived at the Pike at 10:05, climbed via Foxes Tarn, and still caught up with us.  We all headed off down to Wasdale on the Bob Graham route, splitting up on the way, some heading for Brackenclose, and others of us taking a shorter route on the path contouring the lower slopes of Lingmell.  I ran past the pub with some regret.

And that was where my run started to fall to bits.  Two years ago the same thing happened: then I really struggled on the climb up Pillar via the very steep scree to Wind Gap.  This year we went via Black Sail Pass, or rather the variant path that branches left before the final climb to the pass.  Again I struggled, and everyone else dwindled into the distance ahead of me.  The climb up Pillar was grim.  Once on the ridge my hands got cold, and for the only part of the day I pulled my gloves on.  Even after reaching the top and I started running back down I didn’t feel good.  It wasn’t until I was on the steep climb up from Beck Head to the top of Great Gable that I started feeling a bit happier.  It’s a steep climb, but it’s rocky and fun (unless you fall as Dick did), and it’s the last climb for a long time.  The top always seems to appear sooner that I expect too, which is always good (Pillar being the exact opposite of course).  And after the top I ran slowly down the long path to Honister via Green Gable and the Drum House.  I got to the checkpoint in the youth hostel 9 minutes earlier than my time two years ago, which was good.  I had doubts about being able to keep that pace up though, as I knew I’d slowed up a lot in the past couple of hours.

A change of shoes and socks and I was off.  Not on the recommended route over Dale Head – I needed another mountain to climb like I needed a hole in the head.  Instead I followed the old toll road and then the bridleway down over the back of Castle Crag down to Grange, and took the back road along the valley to join the recommended route at the north end of Catbells.  I was still running, just about, but I had to walk anything that was slightly uphill, and I’d had to stop eating, as my stomach was rejecting anything that hit it.  By the time I got to the checkpoint at Nichol End Marina I was having trouble keeping water down too, and I couldn’t drink much.  I was still moving OK as far as the start of the steep climb out of Millbeck heading for Carl Side, and from here on it was a truly horrible trek.  I was pretty much out of it, feeling weak, light in the head, nauseous, and having to stop every few steps to rest.  It’s a long steep climb, and I was in no state to get up it.  Every now and then someone else would pass me as if I was standing still – and often I was.  After what seemed for ever, I dragged myself onto the summit ridge in disbelief.  Unfortunately there was still no relief as there was the usual Skiddaw wind blowing.  I trudged along to the trig point, dibbed, and trudged my way back until the path dropped off the ridge and out of the wind.  Nothing left for it but to shamble down the tourist path, with Nick Harper and Stuart Allen scampering past me as I wended my weary way back to Keswick Football Club.

I staggered into the finish, dibbed, and collapsed onto a chair.  I sat there, semi-comatose, for about an hour, occasionally sipping water, occasionally retching into an empty jug provided for the purpose.  I tried to chat to the other finishers, but without much meaning or coherence.  I heard someone was being rescued off Great Gable, but I didn’t know it was Dick Scroop until the following day.  I couldn’t eat anything until the following morning.  I was 18th of 65 finishers, in 15:14:35, 20 minutes slower than in 2013.  I was first MV60.  In fact I was the only MV60 to finish.  Remind me again, why do I do these things?

Three Rings of Shap 2015

This is a hard event to finish – no bones about it.  Conditions on Saturday were just about ideal for runners: there was a bit of a haze all day to take the edge off the hot weather of the previous couple of days, and the predicted rain never happened.  T-shorts and shorts until dusk, then an extra top to hold off the breeze.  Even so, of the 87 people who had entered the do the full three rings, only 28 of us got all the way round the 62 miles, and nearly all those 28 were runners.

Having said it’s tough, it’s also a great event.  It’s not officially a race, it’s an LDWA challenge event for walkers, but runners are welcome, and they were happy to have Runfurther back again.  This year there was a new RO in place – Neil Beetham – who seemed to have endless enthusiasm, and made us very welcome.  The organisation of the event was immaculate, as is generally the case at LDWA events, and new for this year was the use of Sportident dibbers for tracking the entrants, which meant the results were up very quickly, including on a screen at the finish.

Straight to the results then, which were really pretty impressive.  First was Ken Sutor, in an incredible time of 10:38:30, breaking Kevin Hoult’s record, set last year, by just over an hour.  Second was Karen Nash, in 12:43:37, breaking her own record from last year by 1h40m.  Both of these were very fast runs, leaving the rest of us with fewer Runfurther points than we’d been hoping for!  Third was Martin Terry, 14 minutes behind Karen, and second woman was Tanya Coates, in 15:14:58.  12 of the 28 finishers were Runfurther members, including 6 of the first 7.  The full race results are on the Sportident website here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

We’re now halfway through the Runfurther year, with 6 races completed and 6 to go.  So far 12 runners have run 4 counters, and two, David Wilson of Bowland FR and Karen Nash have run all 6.  They are both aiming for Grand Slams, and to be honest I’d be surprised if they don’t both complete them.  Karen is well ahead in the women’s competition, with the strongest threat probably being from Carol Morgan (Nidd Valley Road Runners), who has beaten Karen twice this year, but is averaging fewer points per counter.  Chris Davies (Saddleworth Runners) is still leading in the men’s section, but he’s likely be overtaken by Stewart Bellamy (Mercia Fell Runners) in a couple of weeks’ time as Stewart has higher points per counter than Chris, and the Clif Bar 10 Peak Lakes should give him his 4th counter.

Karen has written up her run on her blog here, including photos from the day and from recces.  Nick Ham was taking photos on the way round as usual, and they are here.  He’s also posted a load of photos from his run round the LDWA Red Rose 100 in Lancashire last month, and those photos are here.  Andrew Chester finished 7th at Shap, and his blog is here.

Andy’s Race Report

My run wasn’t as impressive as Ken’s or Karen’s, but it was a lot better than my performance last year, when I was still recovering my fitness after a stress fracture.  Then, I got round one ring OK, one struggling from exhaustion and awful stomach problems, then had to give up.  This year I got round two rings OK, then struggled round the third suffering from exhaustion and awful stomach problems, and finished 6th.  So, a successful race really, but not quite in the style I was hoping for.

The first ring heads west from Shap into the eastern fringes of the Lake District.  I set off with Karen at 8:25, after most people had already left, to avoid queues at the early stiles.  Within 10 minutes it was clear that Karen was on a mission, and she gradually pulled away, moving at a speed I knew I’d not be able to keep up with for long, however hard I tried.  Still, I’m used to that!  As last year, it was a very sociable start up the tracks in Wet Sleddale and Mosedale to Mosedale Cottage, chatting to the slower runners and walkers as I passed them, and the occasional faster runner coming up behind me.  From Mosedale Cottage there’s a pathless climb for a mile to the summit of Branstree, the highest point of the day, and as I was hacking my way up, something streaked by – Ken Sutor, who appeared to be running all the way up the mountain.  It was no surprise to me when I found out later he’d set a new course record.  I dibbed at the top, touched the cairn so I could tick the Wainwright, and headed off for Selside Pike, to touch the cairn there too.  The views weren’t great as it was so hazy, but that was no bad thing, as sunshine would have made it so much harder to run.  The ridge run to Selside was fun, but even better is the run down from there into Swindale – great running the whole way down grass then rockier paths by Mosedale Beck, in great hill scenery.  And so down to the first manned checkpoint at Truss Gap, and a drink of water.

There were still a few runners around, but it was starting to thin out.  I passed a couple more on the gradual climb out of Swindale, on a great path that slants up the hillside, over a low rocky ridge, and drops to the farm at Tailbert.  More delightful running followed, down the valley through trees and pasture to the road at Rosgill.  From here easy field paths along the River Lowther led to the ruins of Shap Abbey, then uphill a bit to the event centre in Shap once more.  First ring done, and I was feeling fine.  Karen was just leaving as I arrived, but I never saw her again, even though I only stopped for two minutes myself.  More water and it was off again at noon for the second ring.

The second ring starts eastwards from Shap, but soon turns north, following the farmland and river valleys north of Shap.  It’s the longest ring, but it’s flatter than the others.  There are still plenty of hills though, and as I was plodding uphill over and past the M6 I could see someone ahead of me, who later turned out to be David Wilson.  He soon pulled away though, and by the time I turned north at Iron Hill he was nowhere in sight, and I didn’t see another runner for miles after this.  The run downhill to Reagill was good, then it was across a few fields to join the River Lyvennet for a couple of miles.  Riverbank running is usually good, and this was no exception, but by this time my legs were starting to feel pretty tired.  By the time the route left the river to climb to Morland and on through fields to Cliburn I was definitely feeling the worse for wear.  I was still running OK, but not like I had been earlier.  The road section to the pub checkpoint at Great Strickland was a mile long, but felt longer.  Still, got to keep going.  More water and I was off along the next road section heading north.

This bit of the route is a bit less inspiring, in my view.  Large crop fields, a motorway crossing, then the big prairie/plantation landscape of the Lowther Estate.  It improves again once you reach the descent to the suspension bridge and follow the bank of the River Lowther though.  It’s a long way back to Shap from here, but it’s the home stretch of this leg, the scenery’s good and the running’s straightforward.  David Wilson overtook me on the way out of Bampton Grange, going a lot stronger than I could manage – he’d gone offroute on the Lowther Estate.  Once again he disappeared into the distance, and I trotted back to Shap, occasionally spotting him in the distance.  He was still there at the event centre when I got there, my stomach not feeling good.  I couldn’t face eating anything, but there was some excellent soup on offer, and I managed to get some of that down.  And so, much against my better judgment, I headed off out of the door to attempt the third ring.  It was about 5:30.

The third ring heads into the limestone country east of Shap, and the first half of it is really great to run or walk.  I knew I was going to struggle though.  My stomach was giving me problems, which probably meant I wasn’t going to be able to refuel properly.  My legs were no longer able to do what I wanted them to do.  But at least I knew the route for the first section, as it follows Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route, which I walked with my family in 2011.  By this time I was walking all the uphill bits, and trotting the flat bits slowly.  Every mile felt like two – I’d forgotten how far it was across here.  As I was descending from Crosby Ravensworth Fell, David Wilson came past again, still much faster than I could manage.  He’d left the hall after me, forgotten his headtorch and had to go back for it.  The route leaves the revised Wainwright route to head up Beacon Hill and across the Great Asby nature reserve – great limestone scenery here, and still very runnable, if you’ve still got the legs.  I hadn’t.  By the time I got to the checkpoint near Great Asby I felt terrible, and couldn’t even keep water down.  The rest of the way was grim, and I couldn’t tell you what the scenery was like – I didn’t notice.  A long track climbed up and over to Gaythorne Hall, roads to Bank Moor, then what should have been a glorious descent to Crosby Ravensworth on a grassy track and an access road.  It was then road followed by grassy track for ever up to Oddendale to rejoin the outward route back to Shap.  I even managed to go wrong here as it was getting dark and I guessed wrongly about which direction to head after the quarries.  Still, I only lost about 5 minutes, and sorted it out by putting my headtorch on and reading the map properly.  And down to Shap where I could stop.  I collapsed onto a chair, unable to communicate for quite some time.  14 hours 18 minutes 45 seconds and 6th place.

In summary, a great event for runners, and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting a long ultra with a bit of navigation in a beautiful area.  It’s varied, it’s challenging, and the event is friendly and well-organised.  I sat around for an hour or so, still unable to eat or drink, then drove home, with stops at two motorway services to sleep for a few minutes.  I got home at about 2:30 in the morning, said hello to the dog, had a shower, wound down by reading the paper I’d bought in Shap before the race, then went to bed.  The following day I was in no state to do anything, which is why I’m writing this on the Monday.  I’m still very tired, and still hungry.  Bring on the Lakes 10 Peaks…

The Ox Ultra 2015 – updated

About 600 runners gathered at the weekend on the Rushmore Estate in the Wiltshire countryside for a series of four races.  The location is in a huge estate park, with ideal camping fields, and the Saturday afternoon and evening were warm and sunny.  If anything a bit too hot for running, but the forecast for the main race day (Sunday) was for cloud cover, and a bit of rain.  The cloud cover we got, the rain never happened.

The more intrepid runners ran the Dark Ox race as a warm-up on the Saturday night, with headtorches, and it was very entertaining to see them all head off en masse in the wrong direction after the first 100 metres.  The rest of us concentrated on carboloading for the next day.

There were three races on the Sunday: the 36-mile ultra, starting at 8:30, the marathon starting an hour later, and a half marathon starting an hour later still.  The routes overlapped a lot and all finished together, which all worked well.  The route itself was an all-out trail route: some woodland paths, but mainly on wide stony and gravel tracks, making for fast running the whole way, despite the 900m of climbing.  It was a warm day even without the sun being out, and we needed to take on plenty of water on the way round.  Personally my legs were already shot after running 100 miles the previous weekend.  I managed OK for the first 20 miles, then started struggling up the long climb north.  The next 7 miles of track heading west seemed to go on for ever, and the last 6 miles back south were torture, even though this was the prettiest bit of the whole route – I was in no state to run that far!

We think the Ultra was won by Anthony Clark of Bournemouth AC, in 4:39:18, with Ian Hannett of Bedford Harriers 3 minutes behind him.  First Runfurther runner was Chris Davies, with James Ashworth and Carmine De Grandis not far behind.  First woman was Kate Whitfield, last year’s Runfurther winner, in 5:34:23.  We had 14 Runfurther members running, which was pretty good, considering how far from home most of us were!  There were some significant problems with the published race results, but they appear to be sorted out now (apart from James Ashworth’s time still being wrong).

The race was a good one, and I think we need races like this in the Runfurther Championship, to counterbalance the mountain races at the other end of the offroad ultra spectrum.  Karen Nash has written her blog up, and that’s here – she got a few photos around the race HQ, although she didn’t take her camera on the race.

I think we’ve settled on getting buffs for members who run 4 counters this year, and we’ll be putting an order in for them shortly.  The plan is that you’ll win a buff the first year you run 4 counters, then something else the next year and so on.  We’ve now got 6 members who are owed buffs (names in red on the leaderboard).

The Runfurther leaderboard has been updated, and you can find that here.  It includes a corrected time for James Ashworth.

We’ve now got two possible contenders for a Runfurther Grand Slam this year.  David Wilson of Bowland Fell Runners has confirmed he’s attempting it, and Karen Nash is starting to think she might too, although how she’s planning to fit that in with all her other travel plans for this summer is anyone’s guess.  See you at Shap on 13 June – there’ll be  committee meeting the evening before as well, if anyone wants to attend.

Marlborough Downs 2015

I couldn’t make it to the Marlborough Downs Challenge as I was too busy organising my own Ultra the same weekend.  Karen Nash’s race report is below, and Nick’s photos are on Flickr here.  Henry Morris has written an account on his blog and that’s here, but beware the gory photo of his megablister!  The race was won by Nathan Montague in a time of 4:14:03, 7 minutes ahead of James Donald.  First Runfurther member home was Ned Lammas of Evesham Vale RC, who was 5th in 4:36:27.  First woman home was Alexandra Cook, 12th overall in 4:52:25.  Second woman was new Runfurther member Jill Hadland of Cirencester AC, in 5:15:16.  I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard, and you can find that here.

12 existing Runfurther members ran, and we picked up 14 new members on the day, which is encouraging.  We are deliberately trying to put races in the Championship down the M5 corridor and as far as Wiltshire, to get more runners from the middle and southern areas of England involved (and Welsh runners too of course).  We’ll make sure there are some next year as well – not necessarily Wiltshire, but accessible to the runners in those areas.

Four Runfurther members have now run all four races: Karen Nash, David Wilson, Janet Hill and Dave Ralphs.  So far I’ve no idea whether any of them are hoping to run all 12 races and win a Grand Slam sweatshirt, but they’re the only ones who can now.  In any event they’ll all be getting a prize once we’ve got them ordered and delivered, as will everyone else who completed 4 counters during the year.

Thanks very much to Phil and the team for having us at the event on Sunday!

The next Runfurther race isn’t far from the MDC – it’s the Ox on Sunday 24 May, in the south of Wiltshire (Karen isn’t even bothering going home).  Runfurther members’ spot prizes will be drawn from the members who complete both the Marlborough Downs Challenge and the Ox Ultra.  See you there!

Karen’s race report

The MDC was returning to the Runfurther series after a long absence and so there was excitement about a new event, new terrain and with new people. Once we had a detailed written description and the promise of some way-marking signs we were keen to recce at least some of the route. Once the official cut-off time for the first nine miles was shortened Bob was even keener to see just how much of a challenge this might be. Arriving on Friday afternoon allowed us time to find CP1 and plan our exploration. West Woods were awash with bluebells. They were truly spectacular and we found they do have some fame. We set off on the next 7 miles and although it was muddy on some woodland paths after the heavy rain the downlands were dry and wonderfully runnable. The Wansdyke especially had lovely sweeping grassy paths. From CP3 we did not really have a plan but we now knew that we would be able to rely on the written descriptions and although the cut-off might be tight, for Bob it was doable. We decided on a route back using lanes and paths between the ridge and the River Kennet. Part way back it started raining and this then got heavier. Bob was tired and the daylight was fading. I pushed the pace, a bit anxious that we did not arrive back on the maze of woodland paths in the dark. The cloud meant an early dusk but we were back at the van before 8pm and settled in for a late meal. On Saturday we walked and jogged the last 4 miles and the first two miles with a break in Marlborough where we bought a pie each in the market and sat in the sun. A brief stroll in the woods that afternoon showed that the paths were drying out nicely in the wind.

Race day saw us up early as usual and off to meet the ROs. As we handed over Clif Bars and prizes Nick arrived and we put up all the flags and banners together. By 8am we were organised and relaxed enough to mingle and chat. It was pleasing to see so many ‘locals’ reading the RF notice-boards and also to see some RF regulars like Martin T, Dave and Kayleigh R and David W had made the quite long journey south. By 8.45 we had been herded across the road and into the grounds of Marlborough College for the start. Although the terrain was undulating I was fearful that it was flat enough to be very runnable and fast. I was correct. CP1 arrived in a flash and suddenly we were in the bluebell woods with the day rapidly heating up. It felt good to be clear about the way, especially when a couple of faster runners overtook me at CP2 having been awol.

The pace across the grassy Wansdyke was fierce and I tried to get a compromise of not letting the gap get too big and yet not going so fast that I would blow up later. Between CP3 and 4 I caught up with a guy I knew from the OMM and stuck with him all the way to Devizes and along the canal section. This made it more pleasant and forced me to run faster than I might have done if I had been on my own. Many of the runners were usually road and marathon runners. It was a shock for those of used to FRA rules to see them in shorts and T shirts carrying nothing more than a water bottle. The next section was hilly and somewhere I dropped my OMM friend. There were some dry stony tracks that started to torture my feet but the views were superb and different to what I am used to. Running up to Chernill Down and the monument I spotted a White Horse and suddenly realised that I had been here as a child. More ridge path and tracks took us towards Avebury. Here I caught other runners and managed to grab a refreshing cup of tea. There was little time to admire the standing stones and the crowds of tourists were something of a shock as we emerged through the church lych-gate onto the main street. They were though very supportive and the lines of them and runners we were catching up on the shorter 20 mile route motivated me to run up the big track out of Avebury and towards the Ridgeway.

I steadily pulled away from those I had been running with, knew I was third later and tried to catch those up ahead. The last 4 miles were almost flat but I was beat. The early pace had taken it’s toll. I could see Henry less than 100mahead but could not close the gap. The 2nd lady runner was only 100m or so ahead of that but it might as well have been a mile. I did try but there was nothing left in the tank until the final sprint. I crossed the line in 5 hours 16 and about 10 seconds behind Henry. We were presented with a beautiful handcrafted mug that was full of a welcome cold drink. It was only a short stagger to the leisure centre where a lovely meal and even more lovely showers were available. A trophy and bottle of Proseco were my reward for a hard run. Plus good points in the RF series. Once recovered I spent a couple of hours explaining RF, recruiting new members, announcing spot prizes and drinking tea. By 5.30 all runners had returned and we had collected together all the RF paraphanalia ready to transport to The Ox in a fortnight’s time. We thanked the ROs, collected the excess of macaroni cheese and went in search of a quiet spot to park the van for the night. It had been a great day out and a well organised event. I am sure we will return.