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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!