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Long Tour of Bradwell 2017

Approaching Hollins Cross

Approaching Hollins Cross

The race

By my reckoning this was the 9th running of the Long Tour of Bradwell, and in my view it’s one of the best ultras in the country – I’ll try to explain why I think so in my race report below.  Numbers were up this year, which was good news, with 106 finishers.  We started off in drizzle, but gradually the weather improved, and in the later stages we had some of the best weather you could hope for: clear, sunny, but not hot.  It was much wetter underfoot than usual though.  First home was Lee Kemp of Waverley Harriers, in 5:03:51, the fastest time since Stuart Walker ran 4:53:10 in 2013 ( when conditions were perfect for fast running).  Second was Duncan Coombs (Hunters Bog Trotters) in 5:06:26, and 3rd was our own Ken Sutor, winner in 2015 & 2016, in 5:27:23.  11th home in 6:23:12 was Anthony Bethell of Raidlight (1st MV50), and 12th was Barney Nikolich (first U23) 5 seconds behind – I guess they finished together, but they’re probably both daft enough to have  given it a sprint finish!  20 seconds behind them was Nicky Spinks (DPFR), first woman home again.  16th & 2nd woman was Hazel Farnell of Totley AC in 6:34:57, 19th & 3rd woman was Despina Berdeni, also of Totley.  In the absence of Chris Davies, Alwyn Nixon was first MV60 in 7:06:52.  Special mention for Hannah Thom (Keighley & Craven AC), first FU23 in 7:48:46.  Bob Nash & Dick Scroop (both MV70) set off an hour before everyone else (with official approval), and Bob’s time in the results is currently incorrect as a consequence.  He finished though.  Dick unfortunately had to retire as he didn’t think he’d finish in daylight.  Full results are on the race website here.

Barney Nikolich & Andy Robinson before the start

Barney Nikolich & Andy Robinson before the start

I’ve no idea whether Karen will have time to get anything up on her blog before she and Bob head off for the Pyrenees, but I suspect not.  Karen’s running the Grand Raid des Pyrenees (23-27 August) – good luck Karen!  Nick’s photos are up on Flickr, & as usual I’ve pinched some for this post.

Runfurther Championship standings

Karen Nash didn’t improve her points score at Bradwell – she had a pretty slow run by her own high standards.  Being realistic she can only be caught by Nicky Spinks this year for the women’s title though.  Debbie Cooper will probably be second or third, assuming she finishes at Jedburgh.

Kevin Hoult, Ken Sutor and Rory Harris are the most obvious candidates for the men’s title.  They have all run 3 races, and Kevin is slightly ahead at the moment.  David Chetta has run 4 already, but can only win if none of the above 3 run a fourth race.  And he’s still got Stewart Bellamy and Daniel Page at his heels, with 3 races each and about the same points per race.

Chris Davies will be first MV60 again, and Alwyn Nixon will probably be second.  Martin Terry will probably be first MV50: he just needs to run a 4th race in any category.

Nick Ham and Bob Nash are both still in the running for a Grand Slam.

The full leaderboard is here – let me know if you spot any problems with it.  The usual issue is where someone’s name is spelt wrongly or differently in the race results from in the Runfurther membership record.  And occasionally there are two runners with the same name.  And sometimes I cock the spreadsheet up of course…

Andy Robinson & Ken Sutor, both looking pretty gormless

Andy Robinson & Ken Sutor, both looking pretty gormless

Andy’s race report

The control at the top of Cave Dale

The control at the top of Cave Dale

A bit of background first.  Last year I was attempting to run the Runfurther Grand Slam, as well as other ultras, and I bit off more than I could chew.  My legs started giving way on me during races, I started feeling faint while running, & nearly collapsed a couple of times.  I got to the point by the end of the summer that I was dreading the next race.  I had to stop for a while. I stopped training, and my last race was the Warrington Way ultra last November.  Before last weekend I hadn’t run further than 7 miles in a day since November, and had run under 50 miles in total in 9 months.

The only event I had coming up was the Across Wales Walk on 2 September: a 45-mile walking event that I’ve run every year since 2007.  This year, because I’m not running much, I rashly committed to “doubling” the AWW, i.e. doing it in reverse unsupported through the night in order to arrive at the English/Welsh border at 5am to turn round and join the rest of the walkers and runners as they start.  My rationale was that since I didn’t have to worry about how fast I was going to run – it would be slow or a walk – then it was the obvious year to have a go at the double, which has been a traditional part of the AWW for many years.  Well, 2 September was creeping up on me, and I had to decide whether I was going to walk the whole thing or try to run some of it.  Early last week I decided to try to run part of it, and to get the first leg over in 12 hours.  That meant getting some running into my legs asap, so I ran 7 miles at my club training night on Wednesday, the first time for a couple of months, then decided to run the LTOB on the back of that intensive training programme.  I’d no idea whether I’d finish or not, but I was determined to give it my best shot.  It was never going to be fast!  My PB is 6:25, from 2013, and last year I took 7:56.  I though 9 hours was probably a reasonable target for 2017 in the circumstances.

[to be completed!]

The ascent of Lose Hill

The ascent of Lose Hill: Karen Nash on the stile

 

Climbing to the shoulder of Win Hill

Climbing to the shoulder of Win Hill

 

Bamford Mills

Bamford Mills

 

The climb to Stanage Edge

The climb to Stanage Edge

 

Descending Bole Hill

Descending Bole Hill

 

The final descent into Bradwell

The final descent into Bradwell

[Apologies for including 2 photos of me this time, but at least it’s proof I was there!]

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.

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…

Long Tour of Bradwell 2014 (updated)

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

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

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

Runfurther Championship Standings

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

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

The Men

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

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

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

The Women

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

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

The Teams

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

Nick Ham’s Bradwell Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another minute behind Johnathan was Chris Perry in fifth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick.