Crocs at Cronkley 26 June

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Ross on the Run – as Iain believes he’s just about made the summit.


The only fell event in the Upper Tees , run annualy by Durham Fell Runners , saw 2 of our ageing fellers take on the rocky terrain up beyond High Force.

This is a fine race but sadly not supported as well as it deserves . It is also quite ideal for anyone contemplating a first fell run. The course has a mixed bag of tarmac , track , moorland and some bog , with hard broken rock on the plateaus and a couple of ‘water features’. It is an out and back route and is well marshalled by DFR . You really can’t get lost. DFR are one of the top fell outfits these days and the race gives you a rare chance to run past some of the region’s leading fellrunners who were out in force on the course ! ( In fact you can run past all of them twice – except for Duncan Archer – who only gives you 1 chance).

It is  8 years since I last ran the race – coinciding with another Inglund disaster in the Euros . So it was good to enjoy some real sport before settling down to the comedy. Unbeknown to me (and unknown to me before the race), Iain Ross had also made the trip. Iain was keen to get some mountain miles in his legs for the upcoming Chevy and the Cronkley provided a good mix with the prospect with 17 k or so of distance. In fact the initial climb out of Holwick is not too dissimilar to the lung belter  at Wooler.

We soon settled down once the legs had warmed through into groups that we would run with for the event – and with sharp visibility you could more or less track the leaders making their way to the Tees. Approaching half way , the outbound leaders return and then you face the deluded belief that you can’t be too far off the front …until you count the minutes to the return point which is at the Tees just below Cauldron Snout.

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Never smile at a crocodile – but the banter from the marshall is woth a laugh.

The halfway point required a crossing of the River Tees – and up and onto the far bank. Purely to keep Duncan Archer entertained , he’d been asked to man (as Crocodile Duncan, no doubt) an inflatable crocodile while recording numbers. The ‘game’ was to cross the river and smack the croc on the snout….this led to a heated exchange on the near bank about my  allergy to reptiles (developed while the Miliband brothers were in political office) as seconds were wasted about the need to make the crossing. Duncan seemed oblivious to all this like one of those genteel ladies who blissfully ignores her chihuahua fouling the pavement. He may have had a rubber inflatable – but didn’t have a rubber ring for those in danger of drowning – claiming instead that the water level was ‘low’ this year.

Racing on – and was personally pleased to make up a few places on the return , even avoiding getting passed on the final descent home. Iain came in soon behind to be shortly awarded a prize as best looking vet in long socks (so they came in useful after all). In typical fell club style , DFR’s receipts for the race were hastily evaporated in  alcohol prizes.

cronk ross
While Mark Smith may have brought some good ideas from Cheshire to the local fell scene , his 5 a side football look with long socks and shorts isn’t one of them. Iain seems to have adopted this Cheshire Cat fashion as he seeks ways to keep his socks dry while traversing the rapids. I really can’t see this ‘look’ catching on with Chris Rowe or Gary Robson somehow .

This is a very interesting area botanically (so good for vegetarians) and geology (for the rock hard) and lies close by Middleton in Teesdale . It is worth making a day of it with a picnic. Iain and I made do with a steak pie and chips at the inn at the end of the road.  Hopefully more can make the journey next time. Thanks to DFR for the photos – they took lots of them.

The race winner came from Kenilworth ! Results in full here :

Saltwell Harriers Fell Race

Seven Polyfellers rocked up at this stunning evening race on the moors of County Durham, north of Stanhope.  Three of our number (Katherine Davis, Graham Lewis-Dale and Mark Smith) were on ‘Chevy Legs’ from that 20 mile beast three days previously and had their excuses primed and ready. The remaining foursome of Scott Ellis, Gary Robson, Chris Rowe and John Baty were looking in rude health as we lined up at the start.


Saltwell is indeed a well seasoned six mile race with fast running, technical descending and also with two quirks which sound entertaining in the pub but are quite a trial when underfoot.  The first is a ‘number punch’ which is a mandatory requirement to clip your number at a stream crossing, which means entering the water to waist depth, or more if you’re shorter than average or if you’re John Baty, who went for the immersion tactic.

Descending steeply to the stream

The second is that most cursed of traits: an uphill finish.  It’s evil and horrible and somehow supremely satisfying.

I really like this race – although I’m not sure if it’s despite or because of these quirks.

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Uphill finish hell

Scott Ellis was 6th home in a strong field and first in for the Poly.  Gary Robson and John Baty were well up (waiting for results I’m afraid) and next home for us, followed in quick succession by Graham Lewis-Dale, Mark Smith and Katherine Davis – all Chevy Legged and toughing it out. Chris Rowe did an ankle and gamely limped on, making it home safely having been well positioned before his mishap.  All ran well, and prizes were duly awarded.

Beer trophies

Katherine was 3rd lady (we think), another prize for a fine runner in good form.

Respect was duly given at the start of the race for NFR’s Karen Robinson, who won this race for the 11th time and was here for the 21st time.  Nice that the Race Organiser recognised both her commitment and talent. Chapeau Karen.

Chevy Chase: Fliers, Heroes and Finger Clickin’ Goodness

The Chevy Chase is a classic.  In my short time living up here (18 months), it’s already clear to me that this is the most important fell race in the region.

This was its 60th year and it’s clear as soon as you turn up that this event means a lot to a great many people.  Longer fell races generally attract the stronger end of the fellrunning field but this race pulls in fast runners, mid-packers and those who are typically much nearer the back than the front in shorter, easier races. The Chevy is one of those races for which completion is the only aim for many.

It’s tough as well as being iconic, taking the highest two fells in the region: The Cheviot (2,676 feet) and Hedgehope Hill (2,344 feet).  It’s 20 miles long and much of it on rough or boggy terrain. It’s essential for one’s running CV, so much so that even those not normally tempted by the dark side find themselves drawn towards it.   This year, no fewer than 16 Polyfellers were so drawn which was brilliant to see and surely a record turnout from our illustrious club?

With so many runners, it was always likely that stories of athleticism, derring-do and pure grit were going to emerge and our tribe did not disappoint.

Jon Heaney led us all home in a terrific 12th place and a very rapid 3hr 32.  Next in for the Poly was Katherine Davies, 3rd lady overall and having a fantastic run in 3:46.  These were the two standout performances from an athletic point of view, but it must be said that anyone getting around that course deserves a huge heap of respect.


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Elevation profile – zero flat bits!

The performances of the day for me though were those of two gentlemen that summed up both the sport of fellrunning and the spirit of our club – take a bow John Brown and Paul Morris.  Both men were outside the 5 hour mark, but their time included a rescue of our very own Rachel Carr, who fell and sprained her ankle.  Paul and John carried Rachel off the fell to the mountain rescue post before climbing back up out of the valley to resume their races.  It’s easy be in race mode and forget what’s important but these boys showed us what it’s all about.  Rachel is on the mend, thankfully.

The ‘hard-as-nails’ award for the day goes to Rachel Inman, who (and I’m wincing as i type this) dislocated her fingers part-way around the course.  She decided to pop them back in again (as you do) and completed the course before heading home and going out on a hen night so I’m told.  Rachel, we salute you (don’t salute back, just keep those fingers still!)

The full results of the Poly runners are tabulated below. Everyone deserves a huge pat on the back for completing this tricky and difficult race.  It finds you out physically and mentally and I think that this, more than anything, is its main appeal.

See you next year!

Jonathan Heaney 03:32:15, 12th overall
Katherine Davis 03:46:14, 3rd lady
Mark Smith 03:57:39
Graham Lewis-Dale 03:59:46
Michael Kane 04:14:10
Richard Hanley 04:15:33
Lisa Henderson 04:18:37
Chris Oliphant 04:30:05
Peter Atkinson 04:59:19
John Brown 05:12:26, inc heroism
Iain Ross 05:14:21
Paul Morris 05:16:09, inc heroism
Rachel Inman 05:35:41, inc finger-gate
Lee Gwillim 05:35:47
George Adamson 05:46:18
Rachel Carr Retired hurt