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Warrington Way 2016 & the Runfurther AGM/Prizegiving – updated

Warrington Way 2016

Debbie Cooper

Debbie Cooper

All photos in this post are courtesy of Lymm Runners (Nick Ham couldn’t make it!).  There are hundreds more on their Flickr site.  The Warrington race results are up on the Lymm Runners website.  Lymm Runners’ organisation was great, so many thanks to Kieran and the team for their hard work in putting the race on.

First to finish was Sean Fenwick in 5:29, 2nd was Adam Worrallo in 5:37, which secured him 3rd place in the Runfurther Championship.  3rd was Robbie Campbell ten minutes later.  First woman was Erika Lamb in 6:45, with Julie Bembridge just a minute behind her, and Karen Nash just 3 minutes behind Julie.  Karen was kicking herself once she realised she had been so close behind the other two at the finish!

Karen has managed to find time to write her run up in her blog, despite being busy packing for Nepal, and you can find that here.

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Kevin Brennan, I think

So what was the race like?  The Warrington Way race was inspired by the Round Rotherham 50, and has a lot in common with that race.  It’s a mixture of farmland and threading your way through old industrial areas around Warrington, much of them now greened over.  It was flat and mainly fast, although there were some spectacularly wet and muddy bits.  Anyone in road shoes must have had a few problems, especially in the closing stages, which were the muddiest.  It had rained for hours before the race started, but it had pretty much stopped by the time we set off at 7:30, and although there were occasional spells of drizzle, there was only one heavy shower.  And it was warm – t-shirt and shorts weather really, although like nearly everyone else I set off in rather more than that.

I’d only run 7 miles in the past 6 weeks, so I knew I was going to suffer…

Me, suffering

Me, suffering

But I managed to keep running all the way, just, although people were going past me from about mile 15 all the way to the end.

Runfurther 2016 final standings

I’ve updated the leaderboard, and you can find that here.

This year’s Runfurther winners are:

Men

  1. Kevin Hoult
  2. Andy Davies
  3. Adam Worrallo
  4. Martin Terry
  5. David Greenwood

Women

  1. Karen Nash
  2. Debbie Cooper
  3. Michelle Brooks
  4. Alison Brind
  5. Janet Hill

MV50

  1. Martin Terry
  2. Chris Davies
  3. Ned Lammas

FV50

  1. Karen Nash
  2. Alison Brind
  3. Janet Hill

MV60

  1. Chris Davies
  2. Glen Davies
  3. Andy Robinson

FV60

  1. Janet Hill

MV70

  1. Bob Nash

M under 25

  1. Huw Davies

Most points

  • Men:  Andy Robinson (6458)
  • Women:  Karen Nash (8752)

Teams

  1. Mercia Fell Runners:  Andy Davies, Ned Lammas, Huw Davies
  2. Mercia Fell Runners:  Glen Davies, Noel Hogan, Stewart Bellamy
  3. Trawden AC:  Michelle Brooks, Mick Dobson, Jim Garside

There were no Grand Slam completions this year, although two of us did try!  Karen Nash was first woman home in all four Long races, and that appears to be the first time anyone’s achieved that.  Well done to everyone who competed this year, and particularly to our newcomers and our prizewinners.

2016 Runfurther AGM/Prizegiving

The AGM was another brief and painless one.  There was a shuffle round on the committee, with Karen Nash taking over as Chairman, Dick Scroop becoming Secretary, and me (Andy Robinson) now Assistant Secretary.  This was mainly due to my time being committed for 2017 to work on walking guidebooks – I won’t have time for much racing.  Nick Ham continues as Treasurer, and Chris Davies has now joined the committee.  The AGM minutes can be found on the “meetings” page here.

Kevin Hoult - men's winner

Kevin Hoult (on right!) – men’s winner

We had sandwiches & chips & the odd beer & went on to the prizegiving.  All the prizewinners are listed above, & most of them were there to pick them up.  If you couldn’t be there & haven’t had your prize yet you need to chase Dick Scroop.  The rest of the prizegiving photos are on Nick’s Flickr site here.

Round Rotherham 2016

The Race

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Well, I wasn’t there.  I’m down with a cold & decided I’d better not run.  I went over to Rotherham for a Runfurther committee meeting on Friday evening at the Staithes, but then I came home again – I’ve been in no state to run 50 miles.  Plenty of others were though, although not everyone will have been happy with their performances I’d guess.  Andy Davies, who was challenging for top Runfurther place on the men’s side, failed to finish (I don’t know why), and Ken Sutor, the other potential challenger finished well off the pace.  Kevin Hoult, on the other hand ran a blinder, finished first by almost an hour in a 6:29:50 personal best, and also ran himself into an unbeatable lead in the Runfurther Championship.

1st:  Kevin Hoult (Stadium Runners), 6:29:50

2nd:  Kevin Doyle (Kimberworth Striders), 7:27:39

3rd:  Martin Terry (Clayton-le-Moors), 7:43:56, 1st MV50

21st:  Karen Nash, 8:35:54, 1st woman, 1st FV50

26th:  Tara Spillings, 8:51:12, 2nd woman

28th:  Lisa Walbridge (100 Marathon Club), 8:51:44

45th:  Alwyn Nixon, 9:43:15, 1st MV60

97th:  Bob Nash, 11:47:24, 1st MV70

98th:  Janet Hill (Springfield Striders), 11:48:14, 1st FV60

The full results are available on the SI website.

Karen Nash has written up her race and you can find that on her blog here.  I’ve pinched the photos on this page from her too.  Nick Ham was taking photos as well as running: you can find his photos here.  He seems to have run a lot better than he was expecting to!

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The top women: Lisa Walbridge (3rd), Karen Nash (1st), Tara Spillings (2nd)

Runfurther Championship results

With only the Warrington Way race to go, it’s becoming a bit clearer who’s likely to be winning what, although there’s still more hanging on the last race than I was expecting there to be.  Warrington has been full for ages, but it looks like the waiting list has gone now, so last-minute entries may be a possibility.

Don’t forget the AGM and Prizegiving are on Sunday 13 November, at 2:30 at the George Hotel, Youlgreave, in the Peak District.  This is timed to be after the nearby Leg It Round Lathkil fell race, and is the day after the Warrington Way race.  Please be there – we need a quorum for the AGM, and we need people to give the prizes to.  And we’ve ordered chips.  And there’ll be cake…  And spot prizes (thanks Si!)…

1st man:  Kevin Hoult.  Kevin’s run at Rotherham means he can’t be caught now.

2nd man:  Andy Davies.  Andy failed to finish at Rotherham, but he’s now guaranteed 2nd place.  Ken Sutor can’t catch him.

3rd man:  Still up in the air.  Ken Sutor if he runs well at Warrington, but David Greenwood, Adam Worrallo or Martin Terry could end up 3rd quite easily, and there are others who could get in there if the circumstances were favourable to them.

1st woman:  Karen Nash has been guaranteed this for a while already.

2nd woman:  Debbie Cooper’s likely to be 2nd, but she needs to maintain her form at Warrington to do it.  Otherwise it’ll probably be Michelle Brooks.

3rd woman:  Will probably be Michelle or Debbie, although Alison Brind would take it if Debbie doesn’t finish at Warrington.

MV50:  The first 3 places will probably be between Chris Davies, Martin Terry and Ned Lammas, although if Ned doesn’t finish at Warrington, someone else will be 3rd, probably Glen Davies.

FV50:  Karen Nash is 1st, Alison Brind 2nd, Janet Hill 3rd.  That is, unless Janet gets a last-minute entry for Warrington and runs the race of her life, in which case she could overhaul Alison.

MV60:  Chris Davies can’t be caught, with Glen Davies 2nd and me 3rd.  Unless I run a blinder at Warrington – in theory I could still beat Glen.  And if Alwyn Nixon enters Warrington late, he’s theoretically in that mix too.

FV60:  Janet Hill, and MV70: Bob Nash.  Bob may not have it all his own way in 2017 though, as Dick Scroop turns 70 in February!

Max points:  Karen Nash (women), me or Chris Davies or Dick Scroop (men).  It’s mine if I finish at Warrington, probably Chris’s if I don’t and he does.  If we both fail, Dick would still have to run the race of his life to take it.

Grand Slams:  Nobody.  Dick & I both tried, but for different reasons couldn’t finish them all.

Team prizes:  I’m sticking my neck out a bit here, but I think Mercia Fell Runners are going to be both first and second, with either Trawden or Clayton-le-Moors third.  I haven’t gone through all the possible outcomes though.

See you in Lymm, or at the Prizegiving!

High Peak 40 2016, & AGM/prizegiving news

Runfurther AGM/Prizegiving

Before covering the High Peak 40, I just need to tell you that we’ve now booked a venue for this year’s AGM and prizegiving – please be there if you possibly can.  We’ll be announcing next year’s races, providing sandwiches and chips, and there may even be cake and spot prizes.  There usually is.

Date:  Sunday 13 November, at 2:30.

Place:  George Hotel, Youlgreave, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1UW.

This  is timed to follow the Leg It Round Lathkil fell race, and is about 10 minutes’ drive from Over Haddon, where the race is based.  That link still points to last year’s info, but this year’s race is the same.  It’s enter on the day and starts at 11:30.  It’s a 7.1 mile BM fell race, with 290m of ascent, so shouldn’t be too much trouble for us Ultra runners (as long as we don’t expect to win).

The High Peak 40

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We had perfect weather for this year’s High Peak 40, with the best views I can remember – the skies were so clear.  The full results are on the HP40 website.   Here’s a summary:

  • 1st:  Robin Sanderson (Herne Hill Harriers), 6:04:46
  • 2nd:  Ed Melbourne, 6:13:44
  • 3rd (2nd equal I think really):  Nick Hart, also 6:13:44
  • 6th & 1st MV50:  Martin Terry (Clayton-le-Moors Harriers), 6:32:11
  • 22nd & 1st woman:  Helen Morley (Belper Harriers), 7:28:34
  • 41st & 2nd woman:  Debbie Cooper (Lytham St Annes RC), 8:01:30
  • 44th & 3rd woman:  Yvonne Peake (Derwent Runners), 8:07:53
  • 73rd & 1st FV50:  Nancy Bunyan (Macclesfield Harriers & AC), 10:21:02

There were exactly 100 finishers.

Nick Ham wasn’t running, as he’s got so many injury problems he’s decided to take a break from serious running for a while so he can recover.  He did turn up to help me with the flags, banners etc, and then went out taking photos.  They’re now up on his Flickr site here, and I’ve borrowed some to use here too.  My own race report is below, and Nigel Aston’s is here.

Many thanks to Bill and his HP40 support team.  We had a great day.

We’re working on next year’s race list – or rather Karen is!  When it’s confirmed we’ll announce it here.  Next race is the Round Rotherham 50 – see you there!

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Runfurther standings

I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard with the HP40 results.  With 2 races to go, it’s time to stick my neck out and predict who’s likely to win what.

First to the men, where the fight is now on.  Andy Davies (Mercia) is currently leading, and has maximum points in two races.  He only scored 886 points in his only Long race though (the Fellsman), which means he could be caught.  Ken Sutor has only run two counters so far, but he’s scored maximum points both times, so he could end up with the maximum of 4000 points if he wins Rotherham and Warrington.  Kevin Hoult could end up with 3937 points if he wins both races.  Ken and Kevin have entered both races, both are capable of winning them, and so far Andy has entered neither.  If he wants to win the Ultimate Direction race vest I think he’s going to need to race them at Rotherham.  The only other runner who could theoretically catch Andy is David Greenwood, but he’d have to be very close to winning at both races, and he’s not entered Warrington (which is full).  Second and third places look like being between these four, although Chris Davies, Adam Worrallo, Mick Dobson and Ned Lammas could come into the mix if Ken or Kevin doesn’t show at one of the races.

In the MV50 class, Chris Davies is currently leading, but Martin Terry has a slightly better points per race score from his 3 races.  Martin’s entered both remaining races, so will probably overhaul Chris.  Steve Stead may be 3rd, provided he runs OK at Rotherham, but my money’s on Gary Upstone, who’s only run 2 counters so far but has also entered both races.

Chris will of course be first MV60 again.  Glen Davies will probably be 2nd, although in theory I could catch him if I run my socks off at Rotherham.  Since I can hardly run round the block at the moment it looks unlikely.  And Bob Nash will once again be first (and only) MV70.

New member Huw Davies (Mercia) is the only one in the frame in the new under-25 category, as Mike Sellors and Barney Nikolich have been out for too much of the year with injuries.  Huw needs to finish one of the two remaining races to get his 4 counters.

And now for the women.  It’s been clear for a while that Karen Nash would be first woman once again.  Second place is now Debbie Cooper’s for the taking though – she just needs to keep up her form at Warrington and she’s there.  Third is between Michelle Brooks and Alison Brind – Michelle’s currently just ahead.  Neither has entered Rotherham yet, and neither has a place at Warrington, although Michelle is waitlisted.

Karen’s first FV50 of course, and Alison will be 2nd.  Janet Hill will be 3rd, and will be first FV60.

As far as teams are concerned, last year’s winners Calder Valley have been totally eclipsed this year by Mercia Fell Runners, who are in both 1st and 3rd places at the moment, with Trawden currently 2nd.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Mercia end up first and second this year.

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Andy’s race report

My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4:20, and I got to Buxton at 6 to find the gates of the school locked and Bill Allan starting to get worried as the caretaker hadn’t turned up to unlock the place.  He turned up eventually, and I got to work putting the Runfurther flags and banners up outside by the race finish.  I thought I was going to have to do it on my own, but Nick turned up to help – and to take photos of the race.  That was a relief to me, mainly because I’d thought we’d have no photos of the day, as Karen wasn’t running this one either, after running at Brecon the precious weekend.  Registration started a bit late, due to the late opening of the school and problems with the computer software, but by 7:50 everyone was gathered in the park for the start.

It was cool in the park, shaded from the morning sun, a relief after the very warm weather we’d been having until a couple of days before, but the sky was blue, and I was pretty sure we were in for a fairly warm race, which proved to be the case.  Those of us running in t-shirt and shorts got it right, once we’d warmed up in the first fast mile out of town.  My personal expectations were low, due to back problems, old age and general lack of fitness.  It’s a fast race, which doesn’t really suit me.  Although I’ve finished it a few times, twice I’ve had to retire before the descent to Tideswell, having gone off too hard in the first half of the race.  I was just hoping that didn’t happen again.  So I took it pretty easily to start with, up the hill out of town and over the ridge to drop down to the old railway track.  I ran along with Debbie Cooper and Daryl Bentley for a while, and at some point along the Goyt Valley Alwyn Nixon came past me.  He’s a fellow MV60, and I’d finished just in front of him at Marlborough and Bradwell, but he’d never overtaken me before – not a good sign for me.  Debbie, Daryl and Alwyn all pulled away from me, and I never saw Daryl again until the finish.  Alwyn and I kept overtaking each other all the way to Castleton though, and Debbie was in sight for a lot longer.

I was a lot happier once we’d got off the valley paths and were climbing again, over to Cadster House and slanting up to Hilltop to join the road over Eccles Pike.  As road sections go, I quite like this one.  A quick stop at the checkpoint to take on water, and then down, down, down to cross the main road at New Smithy and slog up the access road to the Beet Farm checkpoint.  It’s not a nice climb, going on for too long, but I wasn’t taking it as fast as I usually have in the past, and we got there OK.  We walked up the last climb from the checkpoint, reaching the right turn onto the contouring track with a good deal of relief, as always.  I was still feeling pretty good, and enjoyed the company of Debbie and Alwyn along here.  We weren’t really running together, but we were never far apart, and managed to chat a fair bit.

On the climb up over Rushop Edge and on to Mam Tor, Debbie left us for dead, and then Alwyn too started to pull away.  Another runner came up behind me on the way up, and we ran together on to Mam Tor, and we caught Alwyn up again shortly afterwards.  The three of us ran down to Castleton like mad things, and caught Debbie up again before the bottom – we all got to the checkpoint more or less together.  The next bit was the bit I was most worried about.  The climb up Cave Dale had been where I’d blown up twice before.  This time it went a lot better.  I left Alwyn behind here, and Debbie joined me near the top of the dale, and we ran the rest of the way to the next CP together.  Heading off down the road to Tideswell started well, but before the end I knew my legs were starting to go.  I had no choice but to slow down, and Debbie disappeared into the distance.  The rest of the race was slow disintegration.  Tideswell Dale was OK, but Miller’s Dale down to Cressbrook felt so hard, even though it’s a good track and downstream.  The climb up to the Monsal Trail was a brief relief, as I had an excuse to walk, but that was soon over, and then it was more flat stuff – I had to run along the old railway and then along the river, and it really was not easy to keep going.

At least I could legitimately walk up Deep Dale, without feeling guilty.  As I neared the checkpoint more runners were coming up behind me.  Now came the last long road section – the horror near the end of the race.  Somehow I managed to keep trotting all the way to Chelmorton, where my wheels came off altogether as soon as I left the tarmac.  The runners that had followed me up Deep Dale passed me here, after chasing me down for miles.  I’d had it.  I was forced to walk most of the way from here.  The descent into Deep Dale #2 was horrendous – my knees wouldn’t bend to enable me to step down the steep sections, or cross the stiles.  I staggered back up the other side to the final checkpoint, and nearly fell backwards off the stile after the CP.  And all the time I was expecting Alwyn to appear behind me and overtake.  Whenever I looked behind me as a hobbled my way across the fields I could see someone in a blue top coming up behind me.  They kept coming past as well, but none of them were Alwyn, and I crawled to the finish without him coming past.  I collapsed full length on the grass and stayed there for some time.  Thanks Nick for bring me tea and a pasty!  A few minutes later Alwyn came in, claiming to have suffered in much the same way as me, but he was looking a lot better than I felt!  One more HP40 completed, and they never get easier.  An hour slower than 2014, but still not a personal worst, as the HP40 was my first ever ultra, and my slowest time was that first one, in just under 9 hours.

10 Peaks Brecon Beacons 2016

Well done to everyone who ran the Brecon Beacons race.  I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you much about it.  Karen was though, and she’s written up her blog.  The photos here are hers, and Karen’s blog is here.

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First home was David Chetta (Mercia FR) in 12:27:25, 2nd was Jonathan Williams in 12:33:35.  Matt Tomlinson and Robin Carter finished together next, three minutes after Jonathan.  Karen was 12th in 15:57:48, and 1st woman.  Eluned Malone was 2nd woman in 17:09:29, 23rd overall.  Anri Cohen was 3rd woman, in just under 18 hours.  98 started but only 68 finished – it was a hard race!  The full results are up on SPORTident here.

Karen Nash - 1st woman

Karen Nash – 1st woman

The race didn’t make much difference to the Runfurther standings, so I won’t do any more predictions on those until after the High Peak 40.  The updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.  Andy Davies, Michelle Brooks, Mick Dobson, Noel Hogan and Jamie Glazebrook have earned Runfurther Giraffe neck adornments – see me at the HP40 to claim yours if you haven’t got it already.  Adam Worrallo and Nick Olszewski need to finish the HP40, then they can have a Giraffe too.

Finally, Nigel Aston ran the Bullock Smithy challenge on 3/4 September and has written up his run.  You can find that here.

See you at the High Peak 40!

Andy

Long Tour of Bradwell 2016

Darren Burns at the Druid Stone checkpoint

Daz Burns at the Druid Stone checkpoint

Race summary

Well that was hot wasn’t it?  I’ve run a few Long Tours, but I think this was the hottest I’ve done, and I found it very hard going.  I wasn’t the only one to suffer though – there were far more DNFs than the two shown in the official results, including last year’s Runfurther winner Ian Symington, and our own Nick Ham.  At least I finished!

First home, for the second year running, was Ken Sutor, in 5:21:22, 7 seconds slower than last year.  Second was Kevin Hoult in 5:34:01, half an hour faster than his time last year.  Third home was Oscar Partridge of Mynydd Du in 5:36:17.  First woman, in 13th place overall, was Lisa Trollope in 6:50:57, 2nd was our own Karen Nash, 7:12:27 (1st FV50 as well), 3rd was Brenda Phillips in 7:21:10.  Fraser Hirst was first MV50 in 6:03:05, Chris Davies remains undefeated as 1st MV60 with 6:51:10, and Bob Nash finished last but was 1st MV70 in 10:18:35.  Congratulations to all 64 finishers.  The full results are on the race website here.

RO Richard with winner Ken Sutor

RO Richard with winner Ken Sutor

Photos and race reports

No report from Karen Nash this time, as she was away on holiday as soon as the race finished.  Nigel Aston has written his race up though, and you can find his report here.  I’ve finally got round to writing up my race too, and you can find that at the end of this post.  Nick Ham didn’t finish the race but he still took loads of photos, including the ones I’ve used here.  You can find the rest here.

Runfurther standings

That’s 8 out of the 12 Runfurther races for 2016 completed, so it’s time to have another stare into my crystal ball and try to work out who might be this year’s winners.  Andy Davies is looking good for 1st man, but Kevin Hoult could well catch him if he runs well at either the Brecon Beacons or Rotherham – I don’t know whether he’s planning to run them though.  If Andy runs either Long race, he’s got a good chance of shutting Kevin out though, as his Short and Medium scores are better.  Stewart Bellamy is likely to be 3rd if he runs the HP40 or Warrington.  Chris Davies can’t realistically be caught as 1st MV60, but he can be as 1st MV50.  Ned Lammas has run all 4 Short races, beating Chris at the Hobble.  If he runs a good Medium and Long it would be a close call.  Bob Nash will be 1st and only MV70.

Karen Nash is not going to be caught now as 1st woman (or 1st FV50).  Second and third places will probably be taken by Michelle Brooks and Alison Brind, with Michelle more likely to come out ahead as she’s beaten Alison twice this year.

Mercia Fell Runners look like they’re going to win the team competition, and if Stewart Bellamy runs the HP40 or Warrington that would make then just about unassailable.  The updated Runfurther leaderboard and team results are here.

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Andy’s race report

The morning before the race I was in the south of France with my family.  We took the tent down, packed the car and started driving.  At 3am I got to bed at home, trashed.  At 6:15 my alarm went off and I was on my way to Bradwell.  It wasn’t really the ideal race preparation.  Two weeks of wine and cheese, a day of crisps and driving.  And my right knee was swollen, and hurting a bit from time to time, just from the occasional early morning 5k with the dog.  Still, it was the Long Tour of Bradwell, one of the great races.  I always suffer, but I always enjoy it.

9am and we were off, up the first long hill to the top of Cave Dale.  I headed off pretty slowly, knowing I’d be hurting in the hot weather later.  Up through the quarries, along the stony track, and it felt OK.  The run down Cave Dale I always love, although a lot of runners hate it.  Technical at times on greasy limestone, you’ve got to watch your step carefully on some sections.  Down to the Castleton CP, where I drank plenty of water and poured a cup over my head too, setting my pattern for the rest of the race.  The lane out of Castleton always seems longer than I remember, even when I remember that fact (I think this is a corollary of Hofstadter’s Law).  We plodded our way up to Hollins Cross, and I passed Linda Murgatroyd on the way down the other side, after seeing her ahead of me for most of the race until this point.

So, through the Edale checkpoint, and now it was the second big climb, up Ringing Roger to the Druid’s Stone.  I was feeling it now, and I think I climbed most of the way chatting to Lisa Trollope, the eventual women’s winner.  Needless to say I couldn’t keep up with her the whole way up, and by the time I reached the self-clip she was long gone.  The steep descent to the valley I always enjoy, but then the climb up the other side was horrible.  Clouds of flies, and it was just too hot.  I was relieved to reach the ridge, for the relatively gentle climb up to Lose Hill.  The easy descent into Hope was, as always, a relief.

From Hope I struggled the whole way to the end.  Dave Orbinson came past me by the caravan site, and he kept pulling away from me on the climb up over the shoulder of Win Hill.  The forestry path was fine, but the railway went on forever.  Bamford to Stanage was horrible, just much too hot.  Once up on the Edge it was a lot better, with a cool breeze, but my knees are no longer up to running across those rocks once they get a bit tired.  Four or five runners passed me across there, and it was such a relief to get down to the road.  The Burbage Rocks track has a good surface at the moment, which was just as well as I was in danger of tripping over just about anything by this time.  I’d passed Albert Sunter at the start of Stanage – no great feat as he was stopped admiring the view at the time.  He caught me up by the time we got to the Toad’s Mouth and we ran together for a while.  It was his first time round the Full Tour, and I showed him the route to the elusive Bole Hill self-clip and down to the river.  I felt OK on the way down, but as soon as we were back on level ground I knew I was in trouble.

Along the river to the Leadmill Bridge checkpoint I tried to keep running, but I just couldn’t do it.  I resorted to alternate trotting and walking.  Even this was too much for Albert, and I pulled away from him.  The climb up the road from the checkpoint to Tor Farm went better than I expected, but only because I was going so slowly.  Once off the tarmac my legs just weren’t able to keep me running on anything but smooth grass – the stony bits were too much for me, even when I was going downhill.  Still – nearly there.  A plod up to Abney, then the awful road section up to Abney Moor, round on the level track, across two fields.  Now the steep descent into Bradwell, and I went down there so slowly, on the point of collapse.  Even when I reached the village I couldn’t run more than 20% of the time.  I staggered along the road and collapsed at the finish, lying on the ground for quite some time. 7:56:47, 30th place, and (I think) a personal worst.

It really is a great race, but it is a really hard race too.  Over a week later and I still haven’t been out for a run since.  It’s taken me a week to be up to writing the race up, and I’m still pretty tired.  I’m missing the next Runfurther race, so I’ll see you at the High Peak 40.

St Cuthbert’s Way Ultra 2016 (& other stuff!)

This will have to be a quick & brief post, as I’m running out of time before I go away for a couple of weeks.  The St Cuthbert’s Way Ultra was as stunning as we expected, although personally I can only speak for the first half, as I was at the point of collapse by the time I got to Morebattle & had no prospect of completing the race.  That’s my Grand Slam attempt scuppered then!  Dick Scroop had no such problem, completing his 7th Runfurther race this year – only 5 to go Dick!

David Wiseman and Nick Green were joint winners in 11:32, with Nick Hart 3rd in 12:49.  The first 3 women were 7th, 8th and 9th overall:  Karen Nash in 13:25, with Antonia Johnson 2 minutes behind her, and Katey Foster another 7 minutes back.  The full results are here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

No Nick Ham at this one, but Karen and Bob Nash were taking photos, so at some point I may get the chance to update this post with some photos.  I’m sure Karen will be posting something to her blog soon too, and you can find that here.

Nigel Aston had another go at the 100-mile Leicestershire Round last month, and beat his previous time.  He’s written the run up, and you can find that here.

We’ve decided the date and the approximate place of the AGM and prizegiving, so put Sunday 13 November in your diary.  It will take place in the Peak District somewhere near Bakewell, timed to follow the Leg It Round Lathkill fell race.  The race is a 7 mile BM fell race, very popular, with entry on the day only.  The link only shows last year’s details at the moment.  Note that this is the day after the Warrington Way Ultra, the last of this year’s Runfurther races.  The Warrington race is already full.

Next race is the Long Tour of Bradwell on 6 August, and we’ll see you there.  I’ll be getting home after a drive from the south of France at about 2am, getting about 4 hours sleep the setting off for Bradwell, so don’t expect much sense from me there!

Pennine 39 2016

Race Summary

This turned out to be a brilliant event – many thanks to Joe and the rest of the NAV4 team for putting it on.  We had good weather, ideal conditions underfoot, and Alston Youth Hostel made a great base.  Numbers were limited, but we’d expect quite a few more runners to take part next year.  Highlights were High Force waterfall on the Tees, Cauldron Snout waterfall higher up the river, the amazing view from High Cup Nick, and the relief on reaching the top of Cross Fell, the highest mountain in the Pennine Chain.

Andy Davies (Mercia FR) set the pace the whole way, finishing in 5:54.  Neil Ford (Vegan Runners) was 2nd in 6:31, and Chris Davies (Saddleworth Runners) was 3rd and first MV60 in 6:46.  Karen Nash was 6th and first woman in 7:04, just in front of Andrea Priestley, who went astray through the last few fields.  Karen’s stomach problems just beat Andrea’s cramp in that battle!  3rd woman was Louise Burt (Fife AC) in 7:32.  The first 3 women were all FV50s!  There were 46 finishers.

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Wynch Bridge, River Tees

Full race results

1 Andy Davies 5:54
2 Neil Ford 6.31
3 Chris Davies 6:46
4 Tom Hepburn 6:46
5 Stephen Edwards 6:46
6 Karen Nash 7:04
7 Andrea Priestley 7:08
8 Scott Morley 7:15
9 Michael Sellors 7:25
10 Glen Davies 7:27
11 Ian Williams 7.28
12 Ross Gilmour 7:31
13 Bradley Gurney 7:31
14 Louise Burt 7:32
15 Andy Robinson 7:39
16 Richard Kent 8.14
17 Michelle Brooks 8.15
18 Mick Dobson 8.15
19 Michael McKenna 8.16
20 Sandy Mackenzie 8.18
21 Noel Hogan 8.18
22 Hailey Fletcher 8.19
23 Eddie Fletcher 8.19
24 Mick Cottam 8.21
25 Mark Roderick 8.25
26 Stuart Hurst 8.26
27 Michelle Creed 8.26
28 Alison Brind 8.26
29 Nigel Ainsworth-Barnes 8.27
30 Robert Hartley 8.29
31 Colm O’Cofaigh 8.42
32 Clare Holdcroft 8.47
33 Ros Blackmore 8.49
34 Neil Bowmer 8.49
35 Jenni Cox 8.53
36 Nick Ham 8.54
37 Geoff Pettengell 8.55
38 Andrew Harrison 9.54
39 John Dawson 9.56
40 Alison Cutts 9.56
41 Robert Nash 9.56
42 Andy Johnson 9.56
43 Wesley Evans 9.56
44 Dick Scroop 9.57
45 Gareth Wallis 10.02
46 Tim Welch 10.31

Runfurther standings

Andy Davies is currently first man, and looking a strong contender for this year’s overall winner.  Similarly, Karen Nash is looking very strong in the women’s contest.  Chris Davies is once again looking unbeatable in the MV60 class, and may still be in with a chance of first MV50, but that depends on whether any of the faster MV50 runners end up with four counting races.  Dick Scroop, Nick Ham and I  are the only runners to have run all 6 races so far, and Dick and I still hope to complete all 12 races.  Mercia Fell Runners are starting to look unbeatable in the team competition – they could even take the top two places the way they are going.  The updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

High Cup

High Cup

Photos and race reports

Karen Nash has written her blog up, and you can find that here.  Hailey Fletcher’s blog is here.  Nick Ham took photos, including the ones on this page, and you can find the rest here.  There are a few more photos on the NAV4 Facebook page here.  Robert Campbell (TeamFans.com) was taking photos, and they’re for sale on the Racing Snakes website here.  20% of the sales of Robert’s photos are donated to the Mountain Rescue Association, and he’s also kindly let us use some of his photos to accompany an article on the race that we’re preparing for the next issue of The Fellrunner.  Jim Imber was also taking photos and they’re for sale on the Racing Snakes website here.  I’ve written up my race, and you can find that below.

The finish at Alston

The finish at Alston

Andy’s race report

The day started well, with a leisurely breakfast at Alston Youth Hostel, hosted by race organiser Joe Faulkner.  I stuck to toast and tea, but there were porridge, boiled eggs, freshly brewed coffee available.  It felt more like being in a well-run B&B than a normal pre-race registration venue.  By 8am we’d all wandered down the lane and onto the coach to take us south to Teesdale.  The race start was by Bowlees visitor centre near Low Force waterfall, and we milled around there for a while, queuing for the toilets and sniffing out the weather.  It appeared to be pretty much ideal conditions, seeming almost to good to be true.  Cool but not cold, no wind to speak of, no sign of rain to come.  Like a few others I made a last minute decision to set off in just t-shirt and shorts, and it turned out to be the right option, feeling good all day.  We all posed for a few photos at the start, and then at 9 we were off across the first field and down to cross the Tees.

The scenery on this race is second to none, and it was great right from the start.  The bridge over the river was a narrow suspension bridge, making running across a tricky business as it wobbled all the way.  Then we turned felt and followed the river upstream, through flower-filled meadows, past Low Force and the spectacular High Force, which had been the scene of a drowning accident only a few days before.  Curlews and oystercatchers were calling along the valley.  And I was running too fast.  A handful of faster runners started to go off into the distance, but I tried my best to keep Karen Nash, Chris Davies and then Glen Davies in sight.  I shouldn’t have done that.  Eventually they all got away from me, and I was taking too much out of my legs.  The climb up the valley was very gradual, but was still uphill most of the first half of the race.  Up the Tees, then a brief diversion along Langdon Beck to the next bridge, then back to the Tees and up the wide valley.  For the first few miles it was very easy on the feet, on grass and easy tracks, but then the ground started to become rocky approaching Cauldron Snout, and I had to be a bit careful crossing the stones.  Round a bend and suddenly the Cauldron Snout gorge and waterfall appears on the right – you don’t see it until you’re there.  It’s a spectacular waterfall, and the route climbs up beside it, heading for the first checkpoint at the bridge above the waterfall, below Cow Green Dam.

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Cauldron Snout

A fast farm access track followed, to the remote Birkdale Farm, then a mile along a newly-surfaced gravel track was a bit less pleasant.  It was a relief to leave the track at a Pennine Way signpost and head down to Maize Beck and the footbridge on softer ground once more.  It was lovely running.  I kept on gradually up the wide valley bottom on a good path, until the lip of the pass was clear ahead.  I knew High Cup already, but it never fails to astonish, particularly when approaching from the east.  The top of the pass is between the wide gradual valley you’ve just run along, and a huge glacial u-shaped valley on the other side that drops precipitately away in front of you, with views way off into the distance.  The Pennine Way doesn’t drop down into High Cup, but instead skirts it to the north on a stony path that eventually turns away to join a track down into the pretty village of Dufton.  As I ran down I was thinking my legs were feeling the strain.  I was running down OK at reasonable speed, but I was only too aware of the big climb to come.

I had a good drink of water at the Dufton checkpoint.  I was nearly halfway, feeling OK, but not too confident that I could keep up much speed from here on.  Scott Morley (Lichfield RC) had passed me before High Cup, but he was still at the CP when I got there, and we left together to start the climb up to the mountain tops.  It starts easily enough, up a delightful overgrown lane to the ruins of Halsteads farm, then more steeply on moorland, then becoming steeper again, to the top of Knock Fell, at 800m.  Scott disappeared into the distance as I struggled my way up at a slow plod.  I greeted Stuart the marshal at the Knock Old Man cairn with relief, and tried to run the rest of the way to the summit cairn, but was reduced to a walk before I got there.

I revived a bit after this.  It’s an undulating route across the hilltops from here, mainly on good paths and easy ground, until the final climb up Cross Fell.  On the way I caught up with Scott again, and also Mike Sellors, both of whom had taken the wrong direction when leaving the Great Dun Fell road, thanks to a misleading signpost.  I was following photocopied pages from Wainwright’s guidebook, and my own memory, and managed to find the right route all day.  Still, Scott and Mike were still faster runners than me, and they pulled away on the final climb, never to be seen again.  I got to the top of Cross Fell, highest point of the Pennines, with great relief, tired legs and a pain in my stomach.  I struggled down the path to the Corpse Road, as every time I tried to run the pain got too great.  I wasn’t too worried though, as it had happened before and I didn’t expect the problem to last.  And in fact by the time I reached the Greg’s Hut checkpoint the stomach was OK.  Unfortunately the legs weren’t.

Greg's Hut bothy

Greg’s Hut bothy

The Corpse Road is a stony track, a difficult surface for tired legs.  You’d think, since you’ve just come off the highest mountain in the vicinity and you’re heading for the valley, that it would head downhill.  But no.  Instead it traversed the hillside for over 5 miles, with as much up as down.  By the time it turned downhill for Garrigill I was absolutely trashed.  A couple of other runners went past me – I was lucky it wasn’t more.  I’ve never been more relieved to reach tarmac.

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Garrigill Checkpoint

A quick drink of water at the CP and I was ready for the last four miles to Alston.  I knew it would be straightforward running but might need attention to the routefinding, and that turned out to be right, as a few runners did go wrong along here.  I trotted along as best I could, just hoping nobody else would come past me.  It’s another lovely stretch of running, along the South Tyne riverside path for a lot of the way, before leaving the river to cut a corner off, which is where it’s easy to go wrong.  My trusty Wainwright didn’t let me down though, and I found the right route back to the riverside path.  At last the flags we’d put up the night before appeared on the path ahead of me and I staggered up the Youth Hostel steps and into the finish.  15th out of 46 finishers in 7:39.  And I was only 3rd MV60!

It was a great race, and I’m hoping to be back next year to do it again.  I was too wiped out to do anything the next day, and I’m still tired now, six days later.  Well done everyone – it was a challenging route, even in good weather.  6 races down, 6 to go.  Bring on St Cuthbert’s Way!

Northants Ultra 2016

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Race results

It always seems to be a sunny summer’s day when we finish the Northants Ultra, and this year was another where we could sit around on the grass at the end, gradually recovering and clapping in the finishers.  There was a mist all morning, keeping the temperature reasonable until the sun came out at 12, but the mist had burnt off by then, and the afternoon was a hot one,without being too hot for running.  Conditions were great underfoot as well, and the winner, Stephen Marks of Rugby and Northants AC, set a new course record of 4:12:29.  181 started the race, and 171 finished.  Runfurther runners were first MV50 and first MV60 – Ned Lammas and me respectively.  Ironically the race didn’t give either of us any Runfurther points though, as we both got better points scores at Haworth and Marlborough!

Many thanks to Steve Adams and his team – the event was as immaculately organised as ever.

Key finishing times:

1st  4:12:29  Stephen Marks, Rugby & Northants AC

2nd  4:14:48  Keith MacIntosh, Wimbledon Windmilers

3rd  4:16:52  Jon Ellis, Ealing

7th  4:46:37  Dougie Robinson (1st Runfurther member)

10th  4:58:07  Ned Lammas, Evesham Vale AC (1st MV50, 2nd Runfurther member)

15th  5:05:05  Mick Dobson, Trawden AC (3rd Runfurther member)

20th=  5:12:41  Amy Sarkies & Sally Baker, Rugby & Northants AC (1st & 2nd women)

29th  5:33:15  Rachel Dench, Tri King (3rd woman)

30th  5:34:21  Andy Robinson, Helsby RC (1st MV60, Runfurther)

Full results are on the race website here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.

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Runfurther standings

Northants didn’t give many additional pointers to who might be in the running for winning at the end of the year, but Ned Lammas has been putting in very strong performances in the short races, and at the moment he looks like the man to beat in the MV50 class.   Both Andy Davies (Mercia) and Chris Davies (Saddleworth) are running in the Pennine 39 on 18 June, and I’d expect them to secure top Man and top MV60 places respectively on the leaderboard as a result, assuming no wheels come off in the race.  They’ll both be hard to unseat after that, I think.  My money’s on Mercia for the team title this year – if both Stewart Bellamy and Ned Lammas run four counters they’ll have a points score that will be very hard to catch.

Photos

Nick Ham was taking photos again, and you can find them on Flickr here.  There are also photos to buy on Adrian Howes’ website here.  The photos on this page are Nick’s, apart from the one of me finishing, which is Adrian’s.

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Andy’s race report

I’d run this race twice before, the last times it was in the Runfurther Championship in 2013 and 2014.  Both times it had been hot, and it looked like it could be again.  The forecast was for the hot sunny weather to return, with the cloud due to burn off by late morning.  That turned out to be a correct forecast, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so cold first thing.  The race begins and ends in the beautiful grounds of Lamport Hall, so there’s no shelter.  Usually that doesn’t matter, but this year before the start everyone was huddled into fleeces and down jackets, and I had my gloves on.  Despite this I was going to travel light – I was pretty sure it would be warm enough once I got going, and t-shirt and shorts were the order of the day, as it always seems to be for this race.

Even though it was so far from home there were still a fair few people I knew to chat to – one of the benefits of Runfurther.  Nick and Dick were there early, and we got the Runfurther flags and boards up.  We equipped the registration desk with Romneys Kendal Mint Cake to give away, handed over the Runfurther prizes to RO Steve, and then had time to talk to some of the other runners, including Mick Dobson of Trawden AC who’d also made the long trip down.  Ned Lammas and Gary Upstone were a bit closer to home, so I wasn’t surprised to see them there.  Both Gary and Nick Ham had run the LDWA Dorset 100 the previous weekend, so weren’t expecting fast times – Gary’s usually quite a bit faster than me, and had completed the 100 in under 23 hours.

My hope was to get round in under 6 hours.  I thought it should be possible, as I’d managed 5:36 in 2013, but then I was going well in 2013, and I’m now 3 years older.  2014 was the year I got a stress fracture in my shin in the January, and the specialist told be “no running until June”.  I’d already entered the Northants Ultra, which was on 1 June that year, so my 2014 time of 6:53 was down to it being the first run of any sort for over 4 months!  I then checked through the past years’ results, and it looked like the MV60 course record was 6:14, although the 2009 & 2010 results didn’t have age categories, so I can’t be sure of that.  Anyway that gave me something to aim at too.

Nearly all the 181 starters lined up at the start, and at 8:30 we were off, or nearly all of us were.  As we ran past the toilets, there were still one or two emerging and heading for the start, including Gary.  He’s a keen runner, but I don’t think he’s that bothered about where he finishes compared with other runners, and he often sets off slowly.  Despite his 100 I was still expecting him to sweep past me later, as he had done at Marlborough.

My plan was to set off slightly faster than I was comfortable with, to get as many miles covered before the sun came out as I could.  I was expecting to struggle in the last few miles as a consequence, but I thought it would be the best plan for getting a fast time overall.  That’s pretty much how it worked out.  This race is flatter and faster than my usual type of terrain, with a lot more road than I’m used to. I .don’t generally run at such speeds for long, as steep hills and difficult ground generally slow me down.  Not so at the Northants Ultra – there’s no respite at all.  The first 3 miles are fields and tracks, almost to CP1 at Cottesbrooke, then the first long road section starts.  No need to stop at CP1, and I pushed on north to Haselbech, where the current leading woman pulled up and retired.  I continued, now in the company of three other runners, two of whom were the eventual winning women, Amy Sarkies and Sally Baker of Rugby & Northants AC.  For quite a few miles we ran pretty much together, with them pulling away from me uphill, and me overhauling them again on the way down again.  All the villages on the route are on top of hills, and they generally got to the villages first!  I was still going well, through Naseby and Thornby, and with some relief off tarmac along the track and across the fields to West Haddon.

Another mile across the fields and we reached CP3 at Silworth Lodge, nearly halfway round.  By this time my legs were starting to feel the pace I’d been keeping up.  On the long flat section around the field edges towards Long Buckby I could feel my legs slowing down a bit, and I finally lost touch with Amy and Sally on the climb up to the village.  Still, I was now over halfway, and still running OK, if not quite as fast as I had been.

The next long road section to Great Brington felt so much better than it had in 2014, which was hardly surprising, but did work wonders psychologically, and I still felt very positive about the run.  I got to CP4 at Althorp at about 12, and now the sun was starting to come through and everything warmed up.  Still, I managed to trot my way up the hill to Harlestone OK.  I suppose it was on the next stretch north on the paths to Holdenby that I started having to watch my feet a bit more, as my gait became  bit less steady and I was no longer lifting my feet up as well.  I managed to keep running up the hill to Teeton, but only just, and for the first time, on the steeper hill into Creaton, I was reduced to a walk.  Still, I’d made good time so far, and had high hopes of a time around 5:30, if only I could keep going.  I crossed to main road in Creaton, took two steps down the alley behind the pub, and promptly tripped on the tarmac path, falling headfirst.  I managed to roll with it OK, and got away with grazes on my shoulderblade, hip, knee, elbow and a couple of ripped fingertips, one of which dripped blood for the rest of the run.  I got up, checked quickly for damage, and got running again.

It’s a stiff climb up the field edge out of Creaton, and I couldn’t run that either.  At the end of the field I caught up with a couple of runners who didn’t know where to go next, so they then followed me for much of the rest of the way, although they took off once they were close enough to the finish.  I was in no state to talk by this time, just gritting my teeth and trying to get the last few miles done before I fell over.  I always get a great feeling of relief reaching the road crossing near CP1 on the way back, as that’s where you join the route out, and to me it feels like the start of the last bit of the race.  I managed to keep running up the long hill to the covert, but only just.  Right turn after the covert, and then the next stretch to the old railway went on for ever.  It always does.  Even the railway itself seemed twice as long as it appears on the map, and then, at last, the right turn and the final climb up the field to the A508.  Dodge cars along the main road, turn left though the gates, round the corner on my last legs, and across the grass to the finish.  5:34:21, a PB by 2 minutes, and probably about 40 minutes off the MV60 course record.  It was my fastest Ultra run ever, averaging 6.1mph.

I was just in time to catch the end of the men’s award ceremony, with Ned Lammas being awarded the MV50 trophy for his time of 4:58:07.  I didn’t even get a chance to sink to the floor before I was clutching the MV60 trophy and posing for the camera with Ned.  No idea where the photo’s gone, but if I find it I’ll post it here.  I won some Injinji socks too, courtesy of some outfit called Runfurther!

Gary Upstone ambled in 11 minutes later, having found his legs a bit tired after the 100.  Nick Ham finished an hour or so later again, claiming his legs were fine, although I’m sure he’d have finished a lot quicker given a couple of weeks more recovery time.  I had to go then, so missed Dick Scroop finishing a few minutes later, in his best time since 2012.

So, two weeks to recover and then it’s the Pennine 39, which I’m really looking forward to.  No chance of getting first MV60 for me there, as Chris Davies will be running!  If I finish within an hour of Chris I’ll be happy with that.

Here’s a photo of me finishing…

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Marlborough Downs Challenge 2016

The Race

Runfurther went down to Marlborough again this year to take part in the Marlborough Downs Challenge on 15 May.  33 miles across chalk downs on a really well-designed route, varied underfoot with little tarmac.  Marlborough Running Club organises the race, and did an excellent job of it too.  Many thanks to Phil, Angus and the rest of the club.  The weather was spot-on too.  The sun was out most of the day, but the air temperature was fairly low, and there was a breeze on the hills.  When we were out on the downs in the sun, the breeze cooled us down just enough, and down in the valleys we were generally sheltered from the sun by hedges.  The views were great, and it was the first time I’d seen the white horse cut into the hill.  It’s a very runnable route, with most of the hills being gradual ones, and most of the running on short grass and reasonably smooth tracks.  A good first ultra in fact, and I met at least three people running it as their first.

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There were 10 Runfurther members in the 119 finishers, which wasn’t a bad number considering how far it was from most of our homes. It’d be nice to have had more members there, but that’s always true of course.  Our members were 1st, 5th and 14th, and we got 1st MV50 and MV60 too.  Congratulations to Andy Davies and Ned Lammas (and I’ll give myself a pat on the back too).

  • 1:  Andy Davies (Mercia FR)  4:17:18
  • 2:  Matthew Dowse  (Vegan Runners)  4:21:16
  • 3:  Wez Jones (Stubbington Green Runners & AC)  4:34:29
  • 5:  Ned Lammas (Evesham/Mercia FR)  4:43:42  1st MV50
  • 14:  Gary Upstone (Thames Valley LDWA)  5:17:26
  • 21:  Naomi Ross (Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners)  5:26:57  1st woman
  • 25:  Andy Robinson (Helsby RC)  5:32:37  1st MV60
  • 33:  Michelle Blower (Calne RC)  5:39:50  2nd woman
  • 35:  Corry Ravenscroft  5:40:07  3rd woman

The full race results are here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.  Nick Ham was taking photos on the way round, and they’re up on Flickr here.  I’ve pinched some of them for this post too.

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Runfurther standings

Andy Davies is now leading the Runfurther men’s table, and is a strong contender for this year’s title.  He wasn’t quite as fast as Ian Symington, Ken Sutor and Kevin Hoult at the Hobble though.  Ned Lammas is likely to give Martin Terry a run for his money this year in the MV50 category, and that contest is worth keeping an eye on.  Ned’s also switched over to the Mercia FR team this year, which probably means they will be difficult to beat.  Not much changed on the women’s side at Marlborough, with only Janet Hill and Rachel Bennett running.  They did well for Runfurther points though, as the first woman to finish was more than half an hour slower than last year.

Only 3 runners have completed all 4 races so far, not too surprising considering we’ve already had two races only a week apart, and Marlborough being so far south.  And, they’re all Runfurther committee members: Dick Scroop, Nick Ham and me (Andy Robinson).  Nick says he’s not attempting the Grand Slam this year, so I think that confirms what we thought, that there’s just Dick and myself daft enough to attempt it this year.  That’s par for the course: one or two each year is typical.

Andy’s race report

This was my first time running this race, and I hadn’t had the ideal preparation.  The previous 6 weekends had involved:

  1. Catching this year’s cold
  2. Running the Calderdale Hike with said cold, drugged to the eyeballs
  3. Running the Fellsman, still coughing
  4. Organising a stag party in the Lakes
  5. Being best man at a wedding, then running the 33-mile Sandstone Trail to check the route out for problems (a personal worst, still coughing)
  6. Organising the Sandstone Trail Challenge event (a 5am to 10pm non-stop day)

I hadn’t run properly since before the cold came on, but for the first time in weeks I actually felt like running, and was looking forward to the event.  I drove down on the Saturday afternoon and set up my tent in the campsite in the woods just above Marlborough town.  It was sunny and seriously hot, and I started to get a bit concerned about how hot it would be on the run the next day.  We had a Runfurther committee meeting in town, had a meal, and I drank far too much wine, finally feeling able to relax properly after such a hectic few weeks.  And so to bed, at about 9.

We had to get up early in the morning to put the Runfurther flags up at the finish, and to give the race organisers the prizes and the Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake for registration, so we then had plenty of time to socialise before the start.  I dumped my lightweight waterproof in the car – it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to be a lot of use.  Suntan lotions was getting splashed on all over, but I didn’t bother, and I got away with just minor red bits on the side of my neck.

9am and we were off and up the first hill and into the woods.  Some years all this can be very muddy, or so I was told, but this year everything had dried out, and there were just a few places where we had to take care.  The sun was shining, and it was warm.  A bit of a contrast from the temperatures at the Fellsman!  I passed Nick Ham fairly early on.  Checkpoint 1 came much too soon to be useful, then we headed up through Gopher Wood and along the ridge to Knap Hill and CP2.  Glorious views.  Then the high level trail just keeps on, for miles, joining the medieval Wansdyke ditch and embankment, heading west to CP3 and on to Roughridge Hill, where we dropped down left to join the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath and follow it into Devizes.  This was easier running, and I couldn’t keep up with the other runners I’d been running the hills with: I just don’t have the pace on flat ground.  Where we joined the canal we had to cross a swingbridge, and I had a bit of luck, as someone was just opening the bridge to let boats though as I got there.

That was just as well, as now I was beginning to feel the miles.  I don’t usually like the flat bits much, and although it would have been very pleasant to walk along, the run along the canal seemed to go on for ever.  By the time I got to the next checkpoint, runners were coming up behind me.  Let’s face it, yet again I’d gone off a bit too fast.  I was expecting to find myself in the middle of a town at CP4 – just look at a map and you can see you’re geographically in the middle of Devizes.  I just don’t notice it though – the way in on the canal and the way out up a track back up into the hills screened us off from the town very effectively.

A lot of the next few miles were on wide unmade vehicle tracks, not my favourite ground, but there was a more varied bit between CP5 and CP6, and now I was well into the second half of the run, which always perks me up a bit.  The run up to the Cherhill Monument and the white horse was a good one, and I felt fine heading down the other side and along the Old Bath Road, an old track along the hill crest parallel to the A4.  I even started pulling away from some of the other runners along here.  We crossed the A4 and headed into Avebury, running past the day trippers and the standing stones.  I kept passing runners, then the same runners passed me, then I passed them again.  We were all getting tired, and having good moments and bad moments.  Gary Upstone went past me at CP7, running so much faster than me that I didn’t expect to see him again until the finish, and indeed I didn’t.  We started passing slower runners on the 20-mile event now, so it was had to track how well I was running compared to the other 33-mile runners.

From Avebury I just put my head down a kept going, noticing a lot less.  Eventually we ran along the tracks through the horse training grounds, along a couple of field edges and dropped down to join the track leading into the finish.  I was running slowly but still running, and still felt good.  It seemed like ages since I’d felt good at the end of a long run, and I finished with a smile on my face rather than my usual grimace.  Less than two minutes after I finished Alwyn Nixon came in behind me and asked whether I was a V60 – unknown to me he’d been trying to catch me up for most of the race, and he nearly managed it.  So I won a trophy and a bottle of Prosecco – result!

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The Fellsman 2016

The Fellsman results are up, and you can find them on the Fellsman website. Konrad Rawlik was first, in 11:31, Simon Bourne 2nd in 12:13, and Stewart Bellamy 3rd in 12:40.  First woman was Karen Nash in 15:45, 2nd was Josie Greenhalgh in 18:04, and 3rd was Allison Skillicorn in 18:32.  The Vet 50 trophy went to Kevin Perry (13:08), Vet 60 to Chris Davies (13:39), and the new Vet 70 trophy was won by Bob Nash (27:39).  Congratulations to all of them, and to everyone else who finished.

I’ve updated the Runfurther leaderboard, and you can find that here.  Nine members have run all three races so far, and so has Justin Bramall, so if anyone out there knows him, nudge him to send a membership form in.  He’ll get a free buff if he runs another race!  First woman so far is Karen Nash, first man Chris Davies, but it’s early days yet.  Clayton-le-Moors currently lead the team competition, with Team Krypton hot on their heels.

I’ve written up a report of my own race (see below), and posted a few links to photos and other blogs.

The race was awesome – for me anyway.  One of the hardest races I’ve ever done.  Six of the seven Runfurther committee members ran, and all of us finished.  Both Bob Nash and Dick Scroop damaged their backs in falls/swamps, but both managed to finish despite this.  The weather was great, as long as you had warm clothes on, but the bogs were atrocious.  I couldn’t get my shoes off at the end, as the laces were frozen solid.

Karen’s written her blog up and you can find it here.  Adrienne Olszewska’s posted a short report on the Clayton-le-Moors site.  Trevor Burton’s posted his on the Fellsman Facebook page.  Stolly’s blog is here.

There are plenty of photos up.  Aleks Kashefi took a few, including the one below, and they’re up on Facebook – go to the Fellsman page to find them.

Gregareth (by Aleks Kashefi)

Gregareth (by Aleks Kashefi)

SportSunday were there, how could they not be?  Racing Snakes were taking photos too.  Giles Thurston took some really good ones, including this great one below of the sunset on Fleet Moss.  You can find the rest on his website, and I think he’ll get a blog entry on there too shortly.  There are plenty more photos on Facebook too.  Nick Ham’s photos are here.  Mick Armitage’s photos are on Youtube here.

Sunset over Fleet Moss (photo by Giles Thurston)

Sunset over Fleet Moss (photo by Giles Thurston)

Andy’s race report

I have to say I turned up for the Fellsman in a state of some trepidation.  Usually I’m looking forward to my races and raring to go, but I have to confess I didn’t really want to be there this time.  Why?  Well, I didn’t think I was in a fit state to run it.  I was tired.  I’d run the Calderdale Hike the weekend before, with a cold and a cough, and I was nowhere near recovered from any of that.  I’d had dental work done too, and had a really busy week.  I’ve been organising an event myself, and I’ve still got a list of things I should have done but haven’t.  But, I’ve already entered all the Runfurther races.  I’m trying for the Grand Slam this year.  I had to run.

But, I also had to finish.  Last year was my first attempt at the Fellsman, and I only got as far as Stone House, less than halfway round.  I’d got too cold and wet in the sleet on Blea Moor, and couldn’t warm up again.  I couldn’t let that happen again.  And yet there was snow forecast for teatime, and very low temperatures too.  These were the thoughts going through my mind as we gathered on the field in Ingleton ready to set off.  I was already wearing a thermal top, a fleece, a Runfurther Giraffe round my neck, a woolly hat and gloves.  In my pack were a second pair of running tights, two more pairs of gloves, another thermal top, a GoreTex walking anorak and more.  I wasn’t going to be caught out by the cold this time.

And yet.  The sky was blue, it looked like we were in for a great day.  And that’s pretty much what it turned out to be.  I struggled a bit on the long climb up Ingleborough, but I was expecting that.  My legs were still tired, and I’m never that quick going uphill, particularly early in a race when others have fresh legs.  As we approached the summit plateau there was some snow on the ground, but not enough to slow us down, and it wasn’t icy.  The first bit of the descent was pretty horrible, as usual, and I took it easy.  And then I started really enjoying myself.  What a beautiful day to be out in the Dales!  Down to the road, then the plod up Whernside, in the company of Nick Ham and Ian Hodge, although they soon pulled away from me on the climb.  Once on the ridge, faster runners were belting past us coming the other way: Karen, Dave Ralphs, Mick Cottam amongst them.  I wondered whether I’d see any of them again before the finish.  My expectation was that I wouldn’t – I expected to slow down to a crawl, and my objective was just to finish, not to perform additional heroics.

The ridge seemed to go on for ever, but eventually I got to the top, only to find two friends from Delamere Spartans on the top, recceing the Three Peaks.  A quick pause to exchange banter and for them to take an embarrassing photo, and it was my turn to race down again, past the next batch of runners on their way up.  Again, I wondered how many of them I’d be seeing later.  The run down to Kingsdale is a good one once you’ve turned off the stony ridge, and I was going better than I’d expected.  The Runfurther apprentices (Mike and Barney) caught me up on the descent, but that’s the last I saw of them, and they didn’t come past.  Fit young lads, or they were before they both got injured.  I’m not sure the Fellsman was the ideal comeback race for them, but they both finished anyway.

I quite like the climb up Gragareth.  It’s only the last bit that’s steep, and it doesn’t take too long.  Hands on knees, keep the back as straight as you can, and keep motoring!  I got my tally clipped by the hermit marshal on the summit (see Aleks’s photo above), and then followed Aleks along the ridge.  Somehow I got ahead of him, although I’m not sure how that happened.  Great Coum came eventually, and then we all yomped merrily down to Dent.  This year I missed the short cut at the start of the village, but it doesn’t really make much difference anyway.

So, off up the road out of Dent, and I still had a spring in my step.  The track that follows was OK too, although I was starting to feel the miles in my legs by now.  The we cut off left on the pathless stretch across to the Blea Moor CP.  This was where the sleet got me last year, but this year the sky was blue – so the bogs got me instead.  OK there had been soggy bits before this, and it was all much wetter underfoot than last year, but it was approaching the top of Blea Moor that I managed to go in up to my thigh in one of the many swampy bits.  The first of many.  I made my way down to Stone House a bit soggier than I had been, but still warm enough, although until my gloves dried out my fingers got cold for the first time.  Doen to Stone House then, a quick drink of water, and this time I could keep going, up the track under the railway viaduct, and turning left up to Great Knoutberry.  I didn’t know this stretch at all, but there were still plenty of people around to follow, and it’s not complicated.  Out and back to the top, jumping the boggy bits, then due south to Redshaw.  By this time I was feeling that it was time to stop.  I’d run over 30 difficult miles, and it was hard to face up to the fact that I wasn’t quite halfway through the Fellsman.  Following the fence round to Snaizeholme I passed the halfway point at last, somewhere out there in the swamps.  Only another ultra to go then.

I found the trek across to Dodd Fell and up to the top quite easy really, although my legs were no longer capable of running any uphill at all, even on the easy track.  The way off the hill was pathless but easy enough as we could see where we were going, and I reached the Fleet Moss CP in plenty of time to avoid being grouped.  It was getting a lot colder though, so I put on my jacket and added a second pair of gloves.  For most of the day I’d been taking off my Giraffe and gloves whenever we’d dropped off the tops, but from now on it just got colder and colder.  Before Fleet Moss I’d already lost felling in most of both feet, thanks to frequent soakings in ice-cold bog water.

A group of five left Fleet Moss just after I got there, so I followed them out.  I’d recced from here to the end, but that was over a year ago, and I knew the next bit was a bit tricky to follow, although I knew the general idea was to contour round the hillside.  Visibility was so good that it would have been easy enough on my own, I think, but as it was there were plenty of runners to follow.  I thought maybe I’d stick with the group I was following, but I got a bit of a second wind along here, and overtook them, catching up with Andrew Elwood and Kevin Smith, who’d gone past me a lot earlier, looking a lot stronger than I was.  Now they had settled into a fast walk, with very occasional bits of jogging on the easiest stretches, so I thought that would probably suit my pace pretty well for the rest of the way, as I was sure I’d be tiring again soon.  We stayed in touch all the way to Cray, and although we weren’t running together all the way it was in the back of my mind that I should be OK if we go grouped together.  In fact we caught up a few other runners on the descent down the track from Hell Gap, and a crowd of us arrived at Cray together, just before 9, as it was just starting to be dark enough to need our torches.

We ended up grouped as a 7.  Me, Andrew, Kevin, Dave Ralphs, two runners who’d finished just behind me at the South Shropshire Circular in February, and a 7th runner I haven’t yet identified (I don’t think I chatted with him).  As it turned out it was a good grouping, for me anyway.  Andrew knew the route pretty well, and one of the others was using a GPS, so I didn’t need to worry about routefinding.  We kept moving at a fast walk with no faffing around, and I managed to keep the pace up on the way up Buckden Pike.  I then put my head down and started following the heels of the man in front of me.  Was it on Buckden Pike we hit the icy stiles for the first time?  I think so.  Wooden ladder stiles, where earlier runners, feet wet from the bog, had made the stile steps wet.  Then the water had frozen, and the following runners had added further thin layers of ice, until the whole stile was covered and tricky to cross.  Then there were the wooden pallets, placed in front of one stile so you could cross a very boggy area.  They were completely iced over too, and one was on a slant as well, making reaching that stile the most difficult bit of the whole day.

I was becoming more and more out of it, and it seemed to take forever to reach Park Rash, where I dried my gloves out on one of the gas fires, after yet another bog soaking.  Everything was icing up, the bogs had a crust on them now, although nothing like enough to hold our weight.  On the way up Great Whernside we took a line too far left, avoiding the boggy ascent, but meaning we had to traverse right across steep ground to regain the path higher up.  I struggled here, and for the first time the others had to wait a minute or two for me to catch up.  My legs no longer had the strength to cross difficult ground, or to climb at any speed.  My brain gave up now too.  I was no longer capable of making decisions, I just wanted this to end.  On I plodded though, doing my best to keep up with the others, and generally managing it just about.  Years later we saw the lights of Yarnbury, then the CP itself.  That’s it, all finished bar the shouting.  Ungrouped, the others all disappeared down the road, at a speed I couldn’t dream of.  I jogged down, feeling so relieved I couldn’t put it into words.  Through the sleeping village, over the bridge, up the hill and there was the school.  In the door, mumble out my number, someone cut off my tally and I sank onto a chair, incapable of speech.  An angel brought me a mug of tea.

And that was it, I’d run the Fellsman.  It was 2:15 in the morning, and my official time was 17:44.  It was an amazing experience, and it pushed me to my limits.  And the Grand Slam’s still on track: three races down, nine to go.  I drank the tea and shuffled to the gym/dormitory.  I struggled to get my shoes off, as my feet were still numb, and the laces were frozen.  I forced myself to keep going, and managed to have a shower, before taking painkillers and getting into my sleeping bag.  At this point the feeling started returning to my feet, and I realised my left foot might give me a bit of bother.  I fell asleep anyway, too exhausted even to let pain keep me awake.  The next day I drove home, trying to avoid changing gear, as whatever I’d done to my foot made it agony every time.  Even now, six days later, two of my toes are still swollen and partially numb.

Marlborough Downs Challenge on 15 May?  Bring it on!