Behold, the Matterhorn of Cleveland!

Roseberry Topping might not be much of a mountain, but mountains don’t come much shapelier than the Matterhorn of Cleveland (which, frankly, is a rubbish nickname). Several races pass over its sharp little perch each year, including this little 4.5 mile beauty in May – one of the early season mid-week evening races that are such a treat after a day at work.

The Poly were represented by that Polyfeller stalwart David Johnson and the Johnny-come-lately Polyfeller that writes this dribble.

David and Mark are both experienced fellrunners and had their start line excuses working like a charm, with Mark moaning about his recent ultra the moment he saw a runner he often races¬†from NFR and David deploying the ‘been working hard on the track’ number ūüôā

The race is a joy – starting by running away from¬†the peak through wooded glades and hilly fields with the bluebells putting on a show. ¬†Then the pull up to the top and another climb to ‘Little Roseberry’ behind where a well hidden photographer lay in wait. ¬†I think it’s clear which of our party wasn’t expecting to be snapped….

After that, a 2 mile winding descent on a narrow track which was an absolute joy. Then to cap it all, a table of cake lay waiting at the end.


Mark Smith clocked 46mins 31 secs for the 4.6 mile course that had 1,000 feet of ascent.  David came in at around 56 mins Рboth well within the mid-pack of the 150 strong field.

Hard trails and Hardmoors

The Poly fell championship is now resting until June 11 and yet some of our emerging clan of off-road runners still got out there and mixed it, with this weekend’s outings being more of the rough trail rather than off-piste fell variety. ¬†That said, this weekend saw a small number of Polyfellers rack up a lot of miles and put in some serious graft (5 runners totalling 181km, averaging 36km or 22miles each!).

Hardmoors Marathon and Half-Marathon

Jonathan Jamison competed in one of the many Hardmoors events, with his ‘half-marathon’ at Osmotherley weighing in at a hefty 16.2 miles (this is why we don’t really do pbs in fellrunning!).

Here’s his account of the race…

”¬†Well My first Hardmoors – would it live up to it‚Äôs name? A half marathon, with a few extra miles which were free.. Starting in Osmotherley and taking in some of the Cleveland Way.

The run started on a hill, which was apt as there were plenty more to follow.. Up and down for a few miles until hitting a very step incline which took you onto open moorland and plenty of flagstones where legs could be stretched with some running..

Steep inclines followed by just as steep descents really tested the legs.. Course was a loop so as you struggled up and down on the way out you knew they be reversed on the way back….

Check points were regular with motivational signs like “you are not even half way yet” and “if you think that was a hill, that’s nothing compared to what’s coming up!!”


The organisation and marshalling was excellent and I can highly recommend Hardmoors to anyone who likes a trail run with some character….

My half ended up being 16.2 miles in 3hrs 15 mins… Roll on the next one.

If you like your trail runs longer then they also do 30, 50, 110 and 160 mile events too…”

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What a half marathon looks like when you’re NAILS!

JJ is building up to some serious ultras this year including a 55km Lakeland race and the Coniston Marathon – that diesel engine getting finely tuned…

Hardmoors Marathon

Not to be outdone, Paul Ridley knocked out another marathon that was actually over 29 miles at the same event. ¬†Paul had an epic, spending 7 hours climbing over 5,000′ on the North York Moors.

Awesome work that man…

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Keswick Mountain Festival races

Meanwhile, Jenny Simpson and Will Powis (fresh from his Fairburn Cup victory) tackled the Keswick Mountain Festival 25km trail race on Saturday, which took a tough but stunning route around the hills circling Derwentwater and also weighed in at 26km according to the results of some mild Strava based stalking by this blog author…

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Jenny and Will had knocked out 17 miles on the fells the day before as a warm up, this clearly being how they roll. ¬†All this effort is worth it when the start line looks like this…

The starting field

The same start line greeted me¬†the next day (at 6am!) for the Keswick Mountain Festival 50k trail race. ¬†I¬†should have known better when I assumed the race would be 50k in length. Regrettably, I suffered a wheels-falling-off moment at 48k after 6000′ of climbing when it became clear that there was still 7km between me and Keswick. Whilst that 7km was verging on purgatory, the previous 48 were simply stunning, with great weather and perfect visibility. ¬†The bluebells in Rannerdale were particularly beautiful.

Will and Jenny were surprise and most welcome supporters at 21 and 27 miles as well as being at the end and I was grateful for them hiding their ‘he-looks-like-crap’ expressions very well.

I was surprised how hard the trail race was.  In my mind, this was going to be easier that the Yorkshire 3 Peaks of recent memory because of the absence of really rough fell terrain but it was just that bit further (by 9 miles) and that bit warmer (by about 15 degrees!) and I was humbled into a time over 6 hours when I was expecting it to be nearer 5.

Trail racing is very different to fell running – no navigation needed (there were little red flags every 20-30 metres for the whole 55km!) and it gets a bit of flak from the fell purists. I can see the appeal though and although I’m a fellrunner at heart, I suspect I’ll do more of these, maybe one of the Hardmoors races…

I would certainly advocate trail running as a superb introduction to off-road running from road-running.  It might whet an appetite for the fells or it might be just your thing, as seems to be the case for more and more runners in a strongly emerging scene.


Fairfield Horseshoe

The Fairfield Horseshoe is a classic amongst fellwalkers and fellrunners alike. ¬†It is probably one of the country’s finest walks and it is perhaps inevitable that fellrunners would turn their attention to it. As it happens, Saturday’s race was the 50th running of the event.

It’s an eight summit, high level horseshoe of mountains connected to each other by high connecting ridges so once you’re up, you’re up, as it were. ¬†The highest is Fairfield at 2,867′ – higher than our local biggy the Cheviot by 200 feet and at the ‘top’ of the horseshoe, with summits leading to it and from it. ¬†It is sublime architecture and a privilege to run on.

The race stats were simple – 10 miles, 3,000 feet of ascent and descent and seven Polyfellers lining up with several hundred runners from all over the country.

Chris Lowe, Gary Robson, Jon Heaney, Mark Smith, James Hennin, Richard Hanley and sole Polyfilly Rachel Carr made the trip with only Rachel knowing for sure that 50 points were hers for the taking in the Poly Champs.  The rest of us had to fight for points, although with the pride of the Poly in Llanberis at the inter-counties, the rest of us fancied our chances. The weather was clear and stunning.

Results are yet to come in but informal times are below:

Gary Robson : 1:39:??

Chris 1:45:54

Jon 1:48:17

Mark 1:54:45

James Hennin 1:58:??

Richard 2:04:31

Rachel 2:27:00

Richard decided to give his knee a whack on the way up with Mark right behind him.  Mark did the caring, sharing clubmate bit and stopped until Richard looked ok before they resumed hostilities around the course.

Jon and Mark had a ‘blister-off’ at the end (no photos!) and Gary and Chris were up there mixing it towards the top of the field.

Rachel meanwhile easily beat her 2:30 intended target and mad the superb decision to buy chips on the way home – perfect ūüôā

More photos and info to come…

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Cheviot Pendulum

Report by Jon Heaney; photos by various

Amid weather reports of fog, wind and snow a slightly depleted band of Polyfellers set up to Wooler for the inaugural Cheviot Pendulum race. Several of the usual suspects had completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks race the day previously, and were having a well-earned rest. There was a safety briefing followed by a brief route description (up that one on the right, down again, then up that one on the left, and back again). After some motivational music pumping from the boom-box in the back of someone’s car, we all lined up on the start line, and then we were off. Scott Ellis, Chris Rowe and Gary Robson lead the charge for the Poly, with Graham Lewis-Dale, Richard Hanley, Jon Heaney, Rachel Carr and Rachel Inman following in pursuit. The pace slowed a little as the ground steepened up the lower slopes of Cheviot, but encouragement from Ian and Clare Twaddle kept spirits high, and some even managed a smile for the camera.

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Squelchy going on the first climb

As we approached Scald Law the gradient eased, and thoughts turned to the flatter section before the final climb to Cheviot. However, the ground was very wet, making the going just as tricky. Several of us ended in the bog up to our thighs, and there were reports of Rachel Inman helping pull some unfortunate soul out from waist deep trouble. Still, at least we avoided the full face plant that at least one runner was sporting evidence of at the end – either that or he was taking advantage of a peat bog facial mudpack

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Grade A faceplant

The ground steepened again, the wind picked up, and snow started to appear on the ground as we started the final climb to Cheviot. After 10 minutes of this my toes were no longer my own, but I was very glad of the woolly hat and gloves to help keep the rest of me warm. A happy soul encouraged us that it was only 400 meters to the summit, so we smiled for more photos crossing the stile. It was one of the longest 400 meters that I remember. Negotiating a narrow snowy and flag-stoned path to the summit, we dodged the faster runners who were already making their way back down.

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Rich loving it

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Yup, they are in fact sunglasses…

After touching the summit cairn and heading back to the start, the wind was on our backs. There was some good running to be had over patches of snow, steep heather and grass. Even crossing back across the Scald Law bog seemed easier. The descent back to the car park was good under foot, and some speed could be built up. This made it slightly easier to keep running past the cars at the start and begin the ascent up to Long Crags and onwards to Hedgehope.

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On the initial ascent the sun even peeped through the clouds for a few seconds as we passed Ian and Clare again. After we passed Long Crags there was another bog to run across, before the final ascent to the summit of Hedgehope.

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A wild Hedgehope summit

The going was steep and snow covered again, with an arctic blast on the summit. The return again provided some good running, back through Long Crags and down to the finish line, where it had all started two and a bit hours previously. At the end of the race we heard reports of an injured runner on Hedgehope, but thankfully she was brought off the fell in good spirits thanks to the help of Paul Hainsworth from NFR and the Mountain Rescue Team.


1 01:55:24 Harry Coates (Wallsend) – overall winner

5 02:12:23  Scott Ellis Рfirst in for the Poly

8 02:17:09 Chris Rowe
10 02:17:37 Garry Robson
20 02:32:10  Graham Lewis-Dale
21 02:32:12  Jonathan Heaney
29 02:39:14  Richard Hanley
53 03:13:42  Rachel Carr
63 03:29:49  Rachel Inman

67 ran

Yorkshire 3 Peaks – a Brutal Classic

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Interesting conditions (photo c/o Dave Parker, St Teresa’s RC, Leeds)

What do you get when you take three fell races, stick a 10k trail race between the first two and stitch them together? The answer is a classic fell race – 23.5 miles long with five thousand feet of ascent and descent taking in three grand summits: Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

Unless I’m corrected, this was the first year the Poly had any runners in this classic race, this year in its 62nd staging. ¬†Four of us began, all with various concerns about lack of experience, pace and the runners’ perennial ‘niggle’: ¬†Katherine Davis, Lisa Henderson, Chris Oliphant and Mark Smith toeing the line.

The Y3P is probably the closest fellrunning gets to the London Marathon.  800 or so runners, around ten times the average field for a fellrace, lined up with a multi-gun salute to start us off, official photographers, electronic timing and support all around the course.

And what a stunning course. Snow was still evident above 1800 feet (the three summits ranged from 2,273′ to 2,419′ above sea-level) and the fells were looking especially brilliant. ¬†Closer inspection revealed very wet and slow ground making life just that bit harder for the runners.

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Climbing Ingleborough, the 3rd peak (Mark Smith, 5th in line)

The slow ground made the race’s strictly enforced cut offs (there are two at 12.5 and 17 miles) critical for more runners than usual this year. ¬†The Bus of Shame, famous amongst fellrunners who love this race, awaits those that time out.

There’s no shame in the BoS…

Alas, our own Chris Oliphant timed out at the Ribblehead control although word has yet to reach Polyfellers Central as to whether he actually boarded the famous BoS. ¬†Next year Chris….

Getting to Ribblehead is not easy it must be said. ¬†First one climbs Penyghent, descends its sheer and quad bashing slopes before running 10k along undulating moors (hilly in normal company) before reaching the first key time out point. ¬†The descent off Penyghent is a treat, unless you have another 20 miles to run….

The ground was testing and so the weather joined in. ¬†Whernside, the highest peak and the second on the route, acquired a cap of brooding black cloud and threw up a storm of hail and snow. ¬†The route goes straight up the front, climbing 1200′ in less than a mile from¬†the base. ¬†It’s the hardest part of the route, made worse by a previously wide gap in a wall being sealed by a farmer so causing a queue to climb this new barrier. ¬†Lisa reported waiting six minutes to get over it!

The top was brutal, windy, snowy and cold but the route drops height fairly quickly and the ¬† ¬†weather also blew in and out, so it was a day for holding¬†your nerve and waiting for the better bits. ¬†Coming off Whernside is usually a good, fast and dry path (I’ve done this race six times and i always look forward to this bit) but this year it was saturated and dangerous calling for slow and safe descending. ¬†There were loads of walkers out too and runners had to be respectful of them by not running into them! Again, not a day for fast times. ¬†The ground improves further down and the running gets easier.

Ingleborough, the final climb, is always tough and the 5 mile descent to the end even more so. ¬†It’s where going off steady at the start pays you back as you pass broken people with cramp or who have just lost the will to race. ¬†This is common at all levels of ability – the judgement in this race is key.

All three remaining Polyfellers called it well and finished looking knackered but not damaged, although I won’t repeat Katherine’s one word summary of her assessment of her condition at the end…

Lisa and Katherine had fantastic debuts in a race that is easy to misjudge. ¬†It’s long, difficult and committing and Lisa, who was worried about the cut offs, recorded a terrific 5:02 and even ventured she could have kept going. ¬†Katherine Davis ran 4:19 – a brilliant time and gives her a superb platform to build on should she do this race again. ¬†Mark ran 4:17 and was pleased to get round intact this time. ¬†All three were very pleased with their runs.

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Made it!