Pennine 39 2021 – updated with Karen’s race report

The Pennine 39 is a great race, and I wish I was still running.  I’d have loved to have been there this year.  The race results are here.  Rory Harris won by miles in 5:28, Philip Withnall was 2nd in 6:01, and nearly an hour later Paul Hodgson came in 3rd in 6:53.  Karen Nash was next in 6:55, with Claire Nance 2nd woman in 7:16, and Nina Mason 3rd in 7:58.

The Runfurther leaderboard is here.

Cross Fell summit

Karen’s race report is up on her blog, and I’ve copied here too (see below).  Nick Ham was there and running, which is good news after the physical problems he’s had recently.  And as usual he was taking photos.  You can find them all on his Flickr pages, and I’ve borrowed a few to use here.

Cauldron Snout

Karen’s race report

Nav4 Pennine 39

 Not sure why 39 as it is less but what a superb weekend. Love these guys and it is never just a race but more a whole weekend of friends, banter, great food, drink  and superb scenery.

As usual I wandered p the M6 crazy early. It was sunny when I left Preston and I thought I might get a walk from Hartside on the way.

No such luck; by the time I passed Shap there was thick cloud and the Pennines had disappeared. Hartside when I reached it was a bit grim in the rain and cloud so not enticing for a walk. I had a quick chat with Mick who was resting there (in his car). We had not seen each other since early in the first lockdown when I cycled to his house to deliver his Runfurther mug! The YHA at Alston was wet and midgy so I sheltered  in the car until things improved.

It didn’t take long to put up a few flags and banners, including the two on the finish path that are such a welcome sight and guide us in and up the steps. I had even beaten Joe but YHA Linda invited me inside.  Many hands made light work so once Joe and Sandra arrived with the mini bus we soon had registration set up, gazebo erected and a kitchen full of food and drink. I manned registration leaving Joe free to tour rail way stations to collect arriving runners whilst Sandra started cooking. I also got first pick of beds in our room- happily chose a bed close to window for fresh air and away from others. Didn’t spot the big water pipe behind my pillow though! Not the best night’s sleep.

With only 50 odd runners registration was easy- except perhaps for allocating people to buses. Too many wanted to go on the early minibus for various reasons and in the end I felt I was bullying some onto the main big bus. Nick kindly walked to the chippy and got our tea and by then the YHA was filling up nicely which made for a sociable evening catching up with friends.

Even though I was nominally on the late speedy people bus I was up super early thanks to bird song, the water pipes and people moving around. The forecast was some heavy perhaps thundery showers so I opted for 3/4s not shorts (and then regretted this). I also opted to start in a short sleeve and a long sleeve which was far too warm for much of the time. A leisurely breakfast and I still had loads of time and so went to catch the big bus with the masses. There was plenty of space and only about 4 runners left for the late bus.

The early bus- Mick, Ian, Ken, Jenny. Photo- Nick Ham

Learning from my last race here I was determined to do my own thing and not get pulled along to fast at the start. Easily said! Phil W went off like a rocket and Ilkley man was in close pursuit for a while. Phil’s partner Clare was just behind me and I knew from Bowland challenges that we were a similar speed. The Tees was in good flow and the waterfalls were spectacular even though there was no time to stop and look properly. As we swung away from the river the runners were well spread out and I was pleased that I knew the way. The first few miles along the Pennine Way are easy running and pleasantly grassy. By Falcon Clints I had slowed on the slippery rocks and Clare caught me up. I took a tumble here a few years ago and am now rather cautious. They were over faster than my memory suggested and we were scrambling up the rocks next to the impressive Cauldron Snout.

Photo Nick Ham

No real CP here this year due to Covid, just a cheery marshall to take our numbers. Then it was a section on the stone track for a few km. Passing Birkdale farm I grimaced at the memories of Hadrian 100 and the state my feet were in after the epic crossing of cross Fell and having been wet for so long. No such issues today. By now we were catching runners from the early bus and without realising I pulled ahead from Clare. The sections both before and after Maize Beck bridge are wonderful and very runnable (no rock) and we made good time. There is a sneaky short cut as you approach High Cup Nick and this put e a little further ahead.

Photo Nick Ham

The view is one of the best in England but I have seen it many times and so did not loiter. Suddenly I spotted Ilkley man ahead and so my aim was to see if I could catch him by Dufton (without doing anything totally crazy). By now it was raining quite steadily; strange how this can happen almost without you knowing when it is warm. I contemplated my cag but didn’t want to stop and felt OK as I was moving at a fair pace. Approaching Dufton I passed Ken and Jenny plus two others. The CP this year was next to the village hall and there was a little crowd. No melon in the sunshine today.

Photo Nick Ham

I provided plenty of entertainment as I tried to drink my box of custard too fast and ended up with a fair bit of it around my face- ah well, it made Mick laugh. I grabbed a couple of items from my drop bag and got my water refilled before heading off out of the village just before Clare arrived. I passed Nick and others and then caught Ilkley man (Colin) as we made our way up the big walled track. I was grateful that he kept trying to run as it spurred me on. Clare cannot have stopped at all at the CP as when I turned around on the lane she was following me up hill. Oh bugger- keep plodding. On this big climb to Knock Fell I usually run out of water and have to use the stream- no such problems today. I managed to pick off a couple more runners before the summit and then as I turned towards Great Dunn Fell massive stomach cramps kicked in. Too much custard? Luckily my emergency loo stop was just compete as Rory came flying past- the first runner from the late bus. I had no hope of staying with him but decided to try to run when he did and walk when he did (just more slowly). The radars came and went as did Little Dunn Fell.

Photo Nick Ham

By Cross Fell Rory was out of sight and I couldn’t see anybody behind me either. Part was up the hill the cloud got a bit thicker – not a serious issue and I could still see a couple of hundred metres. the two tall cairns appeared and then the trig and stone shelter. On the Hadrian 100 in the dark and awful weather we almost missed this trig and didn’t see it until we virtually walked into it. Hoping I could remember where to turn for my little trod I set off for Gregs Hut. I didn’t quite get it right but did manage to cut the corner and found a trod of sorts. As I filled up at the pipe the marshall came out to take my number and to let me know there was another runner a few hundred Metres ahead. I think it had stopped raining now.

From 2019 Gregs Hut

The first year I ran this race I was convinced it was all downhill from Gregs Hut to Garrigill. Lesson learnt and I now know very different. The track drops and climbs several times- none are very steep and if you are expecting them not too bad at all. After the disused mines area the track is now much better and easier to run on.

2019 The track to Garrigill

I didn’t run every step but more than I used to perhaps. I wasn’t going to race the guy ahead as he must have been on the early bus but it was useful trying to slowly reel him in.  Fortunate for him too that we reached Garrigill together and I shouted him back knowing that the CP was off down a side road. Glancing at my watch told me that I was on track for my usual sort of time and could finish I about 7 hours. A quick yell of Hello to Angela and I was off to find the river side path. I ran this whole section seeing nobody either in front of me or behind. I couldn’t remember exactly how many miles it was so just concentrated on going as fast as I could without blowing out. The little turning up right was very overgrown and I hoped not too many runners would miss it. Then nice grassy running led to the final tiny climb and the gravel path into town. The flags were soon in view and so spurred me on to a final effort. Reward was a PB of 5 mins and my first time under 7 hours. 6hrs 55. Happy with that.  I think I have done every P39 now except the very first one which might have been invitation only for Joe’s birthday.

Suddenly I was chilly and the midges were out. Time for a shower and fresh clothes before refuelling with lots of soup, bread and cake. The whole evening them became a long session of eating and drinking as we chatted to friends and cheered in later runners. A big curry, apple crumble, beer, wine… and late to bed. So pleased to see many people finish in great times. Rory won and knocked a minute off his PB. Nick smashed his estimate and even beat his time from two years ago. Oh and England won the football match- no TV but radio updates which in some ways was actually more exciting.

Despite the late night I was up early and the flags and banners were down before most people had surfaced for breakfast.

On the way home I stopped near Tebay to explore a hillside that we frequently drive past but I have never been up despite the lovely rocky scarp slope and a hill with a trig point behind.

I wasn’t disappointed. Steep and pathless at the start but wonderful grassy paths on the top and great views into the Howgills. Only a very short walk/run today so I need to go back and explore further.