Pennine 39 – leaderboard updates & write up.

The results have been processed and the leaderboards updated on the results page. Karen’s blog of the event is reposted below:

Pennine 39 (37 really)

 One of the best weekends in my racing year again. No Ts, no medals, no stress just a great route, wonderful people, lots of food, drink and banter. Thanks Joe and all at Nav4.

It’s my 8th time at the race and it always a little different. No need to worry about sun cream and running out of water this year as grey skies were pretty consistent. After we had collected more mint cake from Romneys we moved on for a damp walk around some Kentmere Wainwrights. It was quite nice to explore these at just a fast walk and to revisit lower ‘lumps’ that I would often dismiss. By late afternoon we were in Alston to claim a space at the garage car park area.

Photo from Stu Smith- love these guys

We wandered up to the YHA only to find the whole Nav4 gang and extended family were already unpacked and drinking tea. It didn’t take long to put our flags and banners up and then to join them. Bob was going to cycle and help at CP1 near Cauldron Snout and then explore more on his bike afterwards.

A decent sleep in the van and we awoke to very grey skies and ‘damp’ but not quite raining weather. Not really what either of us wanted but not cold either. Bob got dressed in multiple layers before heading out on his bike. I debated layers and shorts before walking up the YHA for the toilet and to chat. Before 8am we were starting to gather by the garage ready for our coach. It felt quite strange not really knowing almost any of the other female runners. It meant I had no idea what to expect but I did know that Claire, Despina and others were missing so hoped my Runfurther points would be good. Nick and I bagged front seat which helped me not to feel travel sick and also meant we could wave at a very soggy Bob as we passed him. The drizzle turned to rain over the high point near the County Durham boundary but then ceased again as we reached Bowlees.

We were gradually herded across the field and over the delicate bridge to the start area and a chance to take the obligatory waterfall photos at Low Force. It was now warm enough and dry enough to stash my cag. As is the usual way with Joe there was a quiet ‘Off you go’ and we had started. Steve Jones led for his usual 2 mins and then Rory and Phil slowly started pulling further and further away. The first section is easy and very runnable path but I made myself hold back rather than risk arriving in Dufton blown up. A few blokes overtook me but that was fine. There was no time to worry about diverting for the view at High Force as we followed the Pennine Way westwards.

The rocks below Falcon Clints were very damp and greasy so I slowed even more here and decided that losing 10 mins in the race total was better than an uncomfortable fall. It was a joy to reach the end and to start the mini scramble up the side of Cauldron Snout to the marshalls waiting at the bridge.

No blue skies today

Bob had made it and had time to get changed and warm. A quick kiss and I was on my way. He promised to let me know how far behind me the next woman was. Before long I caught the first back marker from the early start. It was Dom so I slowed for a quick chat as we went through the gates at Birkdale- the highest inhabited farm in England. I then worked on reeling in ‘white shirt’ man who had overtaken me on the rocks. I had the luxury of knowing the way having done the race many times before and just ignored the ‘damp’ as I headed towards High Cup Nick. I overtook some more early starters here. The low cloud parted enough for the spectacular view but I didn’t stop for a photo today.

Today’s view was much more cloudy but still impressive

I found the lower path and had to slow again briefly for greasy rocks but was soon onto better ground and running down the grass edges. I saw Jenny up ahead- it had taken me a long time to catch her and we had a brief chat as the gates off the fell. I then concentrated on chasing two faster men all the way down the track and then tarmac into Dufton.

Photo from Stu Smith

I helped another early starter find the village hall and our first real CP. I was eager to grab food but not waste much time. I had hoped to see Siobhan and ask her to update me on any rival but she wasn’t there. I grabbed cheese and melon before leaving with an oaty date cake. I didn’t even have time for a quick Stu hug. Orange shorts man had an exploding water bottle but collected the bits and led me up the lane and back onto the Pennine Way. It was muddier than I can ever remember on the walled path and it was a relief to reach the first stream and start on the long steep straight track. It also gave me a chance to look back. There was nobody in sight, not even white shirt man. I caught an other early runner and was glad of his shout when I lost concentration at a path junction. I could hear him behind me as I climbed higher onto the open moors amongst the tiny streams, old mine workings and hushes. The climb has a series of flatter ledges  and I tried to run when I could.

By Knock Old Man I had caught another early starter and decided I needed to stop and put my cag on. It was breezy but not knock you off your feet windy and the rain was more of an annoying drizzle than real hard rain. I ran hard towards the road knowing it would keep me warm. Climbing to Great Dun Fell was strange as the low cloud reduced visibility to about 50m and so the radar domes were hidden. Many of the flag stones were under a fair amount of water but they did not seem slippery and I ran fairly well down to the col and up over Little Dun Fell. I passed a pair of female runners here and was surprised they had opted for the early bus given the progress they were making. Heading to Cross Fell the visibility deteriorated a little but I wasn’t too bothered and could still see the tall cairns and then eventually the trig and shelter.

Visibility about 50m today

I picked up the main path heading north no problem and then debated about taking the short cut trod. Just before it I bounced across an area of very bouncy bog and as I slowed spotted the trod. Perfect. Today I got the line perfect and decided I must usually head too far right. The grass on the trod was a different colour and so easy to follow. It brought be out a little further back on the main track but was easier running than my usual line.

Gregs Hut seemed deserted until a head poked out the window. I shouted my number and ran straight on by. Knowing to expect the worst of the next section helps. The yellow brick road has mellowed a little and is now easier to run on plus I no longer expect it to be all downhill. I stopped to take my cag off now I was out the worst of the wind and predictably the drizzle started again. I could see orange shorts man up ahead and worked on not letting the gap grow at all. I had time to check my watch and do some maths. I could be on for a PW – the greasy rocks, my slow steady start and running alone with no real incentive to race hard had slowed my pace. I tried to make up some time on the descent to Garrigill but knew it was going to be some way off my fastest times.

There were no marshalls in the road and so I could not just shout my number and had no choice but divert to the village hall. Siobhan and her boys were there. I quickly refilled water, grabbed a banana and left. Running through the village I suddenly realised I had not asked about the possible diversion. This last section along the river back to Alston is only about 5km but in some years it has seemed to really drag. This year it sped by. The bridge had big CLOSED notices but was not locked or barricaded so I crossed. Later I found others had continued and crossed at the ford. I could see no runners and was surprised not to see Orange shorts man.  Deciding to make the best I could of my ‘slower’ time I ran fairly hard on the nice grassy paths but cursed the many stiles, especially when I bashed my shin on one. As I reached the little climb up to the woods and final path I had clawed back a little time and so ran knowing the flags would not be far. The short flight of steps to the YHA are always a shock to the legs but I had finished. Not quite a PW, 1stF and 1stM/FV60, in fact even 1st M/F V50 and 5th overall. Reasonably consistent since 2016 with 7.04, 7.26, 7.06, 7.00, 6.55, 7.21, 7.04 and now 7.23

Bob was there taking photos. Rory had won and was already on his way home.

Phil had resolved his car charging issues and was now patiently waiting.A few minutes later orange shorts man appeared he had missed the turning near Low Scilly Hall and ended up down near the river.

Soup and cups of tea revived me and I did not feel too bad at all. Clearly running just that bit slower had been kind to my body! I soon felt good enough to go for a shower before returning outside for more food.

Race time 7hrs 24  although my watch says 7hrs 23

The smoking fire pit kept the worst of the midges away and we were able to loiter around outside, cheer in the next runners and swap tales form the race. David N, jenny, Nick, Steve and others all finished. In fact ALL the runners who started did finish!

With almost all of the runners back we helped reorganise the dining room ready for our evening meal. There were 28 eating so it was cozy and a bit noisy.

Photo Stu Smith

Dom finished and as last runner got tremendous applause. He had spent a long day on his feet! The food was excellent and the wine flowed freely. It was sad to learn that Joss had died the night before – so many memories, he will not soon be forgotten.