Meanwhile, JJ sought out a chance to pick up 50 virtual points by being the first poly runner home at Glendale, lapping everyone on the couch/at Grasmere/etc
Glendale Show Fell Race….
When I knew we were heading off to the Glendale Show I thought I could pop my trainers in the boot, you never know when you might get a chance to run… Instead I looked on line and found out that the Glendale show did indeed have a fell race… The race was re-introduced a few years ago after a 10+ year gap. The race was out and back, the first mile was fairly flat running on grass through North Middleton. A steady climb up a farm track then takes you on to open fell, making for a giant flag at the top of Brands Hill. About 50 metres past the flag then turn and back again…
Still suffering a bit with my back (Thanks Bob Graham – leg 2)…. I found The descent difficult but was able to pick up pace again once off the steeper hilly bits. I think this was a pretty fast course for those more experienced fell runners, I would definitely recommend it. 5.1 miles of beautiful fell running.. “Jonathan Jamison, the first poly runner home’…. Not often you’ll see that headline, but today it was true.. Yes I know I was the only poly runner, but let’s leave that fact out. Bruce Crombie who organised the race said to say hello to Chris Rowe, Gary and Will Robson… He’d love to see more poly runners at the race next year?
Grasmere was where fellrunning began, with the guides of old competing to win business from the rich victorian tourists who wanted showing around. Legend has it the first races were run naked. Here’s Richard Hanley’s write up of his and Angela Green’s running of a true classic…
Whilst still nursing wounds from the BG relay attempt I had spotted a flyer on a bus at the beginning of our 2 week break in the lakes. The Grasmere Sports Show, which included a fell race!!! One, I love a good show and two a fell race, well this was looking right up my street!!!
The next step was to convince Rachel… not an issue on a normal day but still nursing an ankle injury from the Chevy Chase it’s a tough ask to ask someone watch you doing something that they would love to be doing themselves, plus we would have more family in tow by the time the show rolled into town. I needn’t had worried though as my top class negotiation skills were not needed this time, plus we had a very willing Angela with us eagerly awaiting more fell experience.
There was a major factor that had escaped me about this show being relatively novice at this whole fell thing and didn’t realise until after the event, ‘this is where it all began’. I now feel a much bigger belonging to the sport now having raced this and increased my thirst for more fell races in this great area.
So Sunday rolled around, everyone was up washed n ready from the cottage and dogs freshly groomed for the pet dog show. I’m not saying this particular event was a fix but there were some true professionals in this arena and spent more money on their outfits than I will have for our 2 weeks away. Sully and Chester though did the NSP proud though and escaped with no serious injury, maybe this could be the sport for me?
The next event up and to be honest the main reason we came, was the Blue Ribband event of the fell race… so we thought! To say I wasn’t wearing my sensible hat at this point in time was an understatement, I had spotted the senior 800m track race plus a 65yrd dash for the kids (I have no idea on the distance of the latter as a) I was born in 1978 and b) it’s not an official Strava distance).
Not being enough to race an extremely prestigious fell race we threw in a sprint race for added spice. After the kids went and ran their (unofficial) distance and did themselves proud in basically wearing just their walking shoes and whatever they arrived in it was time for me and Angela to strut our stuff. First the females then us men. The handicap system in these events was something to be desired (not that I’m one to ever question a handicap system). Basically if you wore a club vest you started off scratch and the less running type gear you wore promoted you further and further around the track. I only managed to pull one bloke back and not finish last whilst reserving energy for later but Angela being Angela finished 3rd and with a medal to boot! She did finish 2nd in our eyes though but the club vest rule must have sprung in action once again.
With legs like jelly we had an hour to remove all the lactic acid from our ourselves and prepare for the main event. Figures of 150-200 runners were expected for this race which is a fair amount for this type of event. If you have never done this race it’s basically a straight up and down with the route carved out of the bracken, couldn’t be much simpler really. But… The up bit was 250m worth of climb in a little over 1k.
So there we were on the start line where I took my usual start position with Angela at the back (I must start to change this). Then we were off!!! The camera drone buzzing in the sky, crowds on the course similar to those seen at a xc event and cracking great big hill to conquer. It’s a short run across the show field, over the road then straight up! I was slowly moving up the field but (and this is why I need to start nearer the front) the mid pack started to walk. I’m not saying I could have ran the whole thing but I knew I had more in me, but what I do have in my favour is a canny walk speed. I climbed through the field a bit but as it got steeper we all started to find our natural positions. I had no idea of Angela’s position as my eyes were firmly fixed to the floor trying to get the best line and footing.
After about 10 mins of climbing I hit a point were it flattened out a little, this is it I thought. Well one look up to see people climbing (with actual hands) over the final summit. It didn’t take me long to get there myself and just as I was about there I heard a “come on North Shields” in a friendly north eastern tone. I looked around and it was a Low Fell runner reppin’ the east coast with us. He took a place off me at the top as I composed myself for the tough descent and battle my demons from the week before. It was steep and slippy but God was this fun! The guys and girls in front were slidding everywhere but me and my new inov8’s were holding firm. I would say it was a technical descent by any stretch but the ground underfoot made me a little cautious. There was one little bridge to skip over nearer to the bottom and once over the path opened up and I could finally choose my own path and really stretch my legs for the last 300m to the finish and take back a couple of places. With the crowds still roaring on and cameras clicking this was no place to dawdle and who doesn’t like a sprint finish?
That was it I had finished… Every last bit of energy used and couldn’t even muster a reply to Rachel’s “So, how was it?” question. Now our attentions turned to trying to spot Angela and her infamous ‘Shopping Bag’ technique. There were a few “there’s Angela, no it’s not comments” before we finally spotted her and put our concerns to rest. She bettered her goal of not finishing last, but many more of these and if her current road running form is anything to go by I’m certain she will soon start to weave herself through the field.
Final finishing positions:
Richard Hanley 87th 21:50
Angela Green 146th 32:46
I like fell races at country shows, it is after all where the sport was born and this one at Dufton is one of my favourites.
Despite missing the turn off through excessive chattering, the day started off rather well for myself and Jon Heaney when the ticket man very perceptively identified us as fellrunners. Sadly this was the high point for me, well apart from the yellow sheep that is.
There were just four Poly runners at this short but not to be underrated race, Jon Heaney, Graham Lewis-Dale, Dave Johnson and Gary Robson. I was more than happy with this because unless anyone indulged in some Hanleyesque injury escapades, I would be the last of us home but would get a good haul of points for a change.
As always seems to happen at any fell race there were a few old running friends and rivals to catch up with. It was nice to exchange a few words with the evergreen Colin Valentine of Keswick as well as two old sparring partners of mine, Denise Tunstall (DFR) and Caroline Pollard (Wharfedale). Not that I keep a record of such things, but I reckoned that on these short races we were about level pegging on victories over each other. However, with my shocking level of hill fitness I had already conceded victory to them today. It was sobering to note that the last time I did this race I finished almost exactly half way down the field, but today I was seriously worried about being the last in the field! This was more worrying than you might think because I’d always said to myself that if I ever came last in a fell race, that would be my last fell race! Fortunately these gloomy thoughts were partially dispelled by the show announcer who was continually telling everyone how amazing we fell runners were. She was of course completely right about t his and apparently today our awesomeness was to be captured on film by a drone!
The race starts with a slight downhill section before gently rising until it reaches the foot of Dufton Pike, the objective for the day. Then it descends a bit as it takes you around the back of the fell. I paced Denise along this and we had a good chat about recent races until we were told off by a marshall for not trying hard enough. After just over two miles of running the real pain begins with a vicious no holds barred direct ascent to the summit. Jon Heaney said he was on all fours at this point! This was where I really began to suffer. Ordinarily I would have left Denise behind here but today she left me for dead and when I reached the top she was already a speck in the distance.
From the summit there is a gloriously fast descent, which I assume Mr Hanley would tackle by a series of dives and forward rolls, but which I could only manage by running down it. Part way down a runner passed me and I was soon quite alone and left wondering if this race was to be my swansong after all. Then a quick glance behind revealed three runners quite a long way behind even me. Relieved, I judged that I could ease up a bit to ensure I could at least jog through the show field to the finish line.
The others had finished ages ago with Gary the first home and 8th overall, followed by Jon and then Graham. Jon and I had a look around the show and we were particularly impressed by some sheep that for some reason were dyed yellow! We hung on for the presentation just in case Gary had sneaked a vets prize but there were lots of older folk in the race today and it wasn’t to be. I should mention that before the race Gary had just travelled over from Keswick where he’d dropped off Will Robson to compete for an England vest in a race up Skiddaw. For the record he missed out by the very narrowest of margins, still it was a great result for a relative newcomer to the fells and he must be in with an even better chance next time.
A fell race, an agricultural show and sunshine is surely the epitome of all that is best in our sport. And when the show has yellow sheep in it, what more could you want?
Friday 19 August, 11:50pm – Threlkeld, Cumbria: Mark, JJ, Will Powis and Barry
At last, lights! After over an hour of sitting in my car and craning my neck upwards towards the summit of Blencathra, we saw that the leg one lads were on their way. Sure, they were going to be a bit late, but none of Jon, Richard and Graham had done the leg before and so they were doing well to make it round in the gathering darkness.
“20 minutes lads and you’re on”, I ventured, but Will and JJ just carried on chatting as they were already primed and ready to go onto leg two. I got out of my car and told Barry who was kicking back in his car having arrived fresh from Tyneside. He was similarly chilled and ready.
Our Facebook messenger thread was buzzing, and Rachel was happy to read that we’d spotted them as she sat following Richard and the lads’ progress from home in Whitley Bay. They seemed to have had a great leg, starting in fine weather and getting to Blencathra in decent time.
The lights then vanished. This wasn’t right. I knew that the whole route would have been in sight from here on in. Had they fallen?!
They were still high on the mountain, descending the rocky rib of Halls Fell which can be slippery after recent rain. The lads made a decision that they were going to reascend and come down Doddick Fell, a slightly longer parallel and safer route. Thankfully, they told us via the FB message thread. This was a good call and we would still be able to see the lights.
But then, no lights. None for ages. We worried. Will and I ran up the fell side hoping to get a view of their lights. We kidded ourselves we could see them sometimes but in truth – nothing. Then Graham posted an photo of the GPS screen on the FB feed which told us they were too far east but heading back. Sending that was a great move – we could see their location and route and it explained the lack of lights. They were going to be two hours late, but safe. I began to think that we’d already been rather ambitious to expect a sub 24 hour relay ‘on-sight’, without lots of recces on all legs. Maybe we could pull it back though….
Will and I ran back to the road and after some confusion as to where they would pop out onto the road, we finally saw the lads. They’d done 17 miles on what is usually a 13.5 mile leg. Richard looked battered and they all looked tired. Richard’s chin was cut open and he’d grazed his hip. They’d clearly had a bit of a beasting up there. Jon had been navigating and making the calls. He looked tired.
The leg two lads set off in ok weather and pitch darkness – Helvellyn awaited. They knew it was going to turn.
Jon was keen to inspect Richard’s wounds in better light as I dropped them off at their hostel. Graham was still buzzing with the relief and the post-exercise endorphins when I dropped him at his campsite. I was keen to update everyone and suggest revised schedules to those souls waiting to go next and those after that…
When i got back to the hostel, the leg three lads were up and pacing the halls. It was 0230. They were anxious about the timings, the weather and the route. We tried to go back to bed.
For all of us, it was going to be a long night…
The Bob Graham Round Relay
I think it was DJ’s idea. The increased interest in fellrunning across the Poly this year has been notable and terrific, and so the idea of a weekend away running was bound to come up. Basing it around a classic challenge like the Bob Graham really caught the imagination and people were volunteering thick and fast.
The BGR is a 66 mile route that climbs 42 mountain summits as part of a circular route form Keswick Moot Hall. The route crosses roads in four places thus breaking it into five unequal legs. Our plan was to have at least two runners on each leg, handing over to the next group at the road crossings. We were to start at 19:00 on Friday evening and hope to finish sometime no later that 18:59 on Saturday before heading to the pub.
The rules are simple – start and finish at the Moot Hall, visit the 42 summits and do it within 24 hours. It is the arguably greatest challenge a fellrunner can attempt in England and certainly the most sought after. 2 from 3 attempts by supported individuals fail. It’s hard. There’s 26,000 feet of climbing and descending to do. We reckoned we could crack this as a relay. We still do…
Keswick Moot Hall – 19:00, and a bit…
We filed out of the pub and waited for Jon and Richard to join Graham and get started at 1900. They were heading over from work in Sunderland and were pushing it. Jokes about Hanley’s agonising over shoes, hair, outfits etc abounded.
They were a bit late but there was no panic. Photos were taken, GPS charged and stopwatches started. At 19:35, they were on their way.
We all knew the weather forecast was poor but held out hope that it was wrong – the afternoon rain had stopped and the sky was as blue as it was white.
We should have known better than to hope…
Helvellyn Range and Dunmail Raise (A591) – early Saturday.
Having set off on leg two, I was content that we had folks that would navigate well, remember their recces and maybe pull some time back. 2 hours in, the rain and wind started, and JJ, Barry and Will were into attrition mode. The stopwatch was irrelevant as was the schedule.
As they fought through darkness, heavy rain and winds, Scott, Danny and Chris Rowe waited in their car at Dunmail. They’d already made a two hour adjustment and were sleep deprived. The leg two lads rightly took their time and time ticked on. Another two hours were likely to be dropped on the schedule.
The lads in the car were progressively talking themselves out of starting. The weather was vile and the environment became scarcely more appealing when it got light. The winds picked up, the rain got heavier. To those of us sat in a hostel, staring at the phone in the wee hours, it was nerve-wracking. I started to think that they should not start, or have an escape route ready if they did. It was not my call to make but i decided to suggest an escape route to think about on leg three. In my heart of hearts, i hoped they would abandon.
The leg three lads worried as time ticked on. Gamely, they decided to head up and look for the leg two lads on the fell in the manky weather. They lucked out and found them on course and OK on the last fell. This meant they had a taste of the ground and weather conditions which put them in a strong position to make the call.
Thankfully, in worsening weather, they binned it. It was over 4 hours past the schedule. Put another way, it had taken 12 hours to do what normally takes 8. It was not a day for a BGR. Thankfully, we were all tuned into our smartphones and breathed deep deep sighs of relief.
The leg one and two lads had put in quite amazing shifts. Calling it off was hard for runners that are habitually able to push hard and suffer for their sport. But the fells are no place for messing about and I was proud of the lads for making a tough call, as we all were.
We were similarly proud of the six lads that got the first two legs done.
Leg two elevation profile
Leg one map and profile
Victory from the jaws of defeat
Breaky in town was a great call from Jon. There, those of us that were awake met in Keswick in the pouring rain and licked our wounds. We then learned that Jon was not happy with Richard’s chin-gash and took him to Carlisle A&E, an hour up the road, after an epic six hours on leg one. Richard had stitches put in. We took this in over breakfast and were astounded. Jon and Rich looked totally shattered.
It would have been easy to while the day away and sulk. But not the Poly. It was decided that whatever the weather was doing, those that were awake would run up and down a hill, any hill that afternoon. I realised how much i liked this running club and these people…
We chose High Tove, a little fell about 1,600′ high which was near our hostel. We assembled and set off. The wind howled. The rain was sideways. No-one else was on the hill. It was nuts. Not everyone made it out though, some people needed to sleep.
It was only a mile to the top and so it was low risk and potentially low enjoyment. But it wasn’t, it was great fun. At least one of those that had not yet run out and sampled the weather might have possibly misjudged at least half of their attire…
Danny and Amanda did their press ups on the summit and we headed down, wet but happier. I think we would have been fed up with no running and a total wash out.
This put us all in a better frame of mind for the evening’s eating and drinking. Like kids on a school trip, the boys sneaked into the girls’ dorm and we had illicit presecco.
Personally, I felt a bit low and guilty. Had my enthusiasm wasted a precious weekend of people’s time? Were they put off this idea now? It didn’t take long for people to start talking about the next attempt, what we had learned, when we might recce, when we would go again (May 2017 seems to be the consensus). I realised I was definitely loving this club.
Those that were left headed up and recced leg five. People were keen to learn and think about attempt No2, even having slept on it. I was really chuffed.
The fells played ball and we had some views, but this didn’t stop a few tumbles and wounds on the slippy rocks and grass. Not that anyone minded – we’d already established that we were rock hard and we’d be back to beat it.
I think just about everyone wants to go again – this time having recced their sections and other sections too.
We also realised that we need to be flexible regarding the weather. It turns out that a lad postponed his attempt from 2000 on Friday to 1600 on the Saturday and made it round with 15 mins to spare. He’d have abandoned for sure if he’d have stuck to Friday.
Finally, I am so pleased we ended up having a brilliant, eventful and dare I say a bit of a bonding weekend. It’s going to making cracking this in May all the more sweet….
I do love a good show race. They score precisely zero on the nonsense-ometer. The races are simple, with fell-debutant Terry Brown describing it as a ‘duplo’ version of fellrunning (didn’t stop him having a blinder, more on that later). They contrast brilliantly with the country shows of which they form a part, which are right up there as examples of good old British eccentricity with nonsense aplenty.
Show races are typically short and low-key. They go up the nearest hill and down it again. Very grand old Duke of York, without the extensive bloodshed.
Normally, you pay to get into the show and the race is free, as was the case on a gorgeous August Saturday morning at Powburn, near Wooler in deepest border country. This race had three key stages – 1) run out to the hill (about 1.5 miles), 2) run up and down it (about a mile) and 3) run back (same as 1). I like to call them ‘Sombrero’ races (see below).
No kit (meaning no kit check), no rules (other than get up the hill and come back) and no fuss – just 3.7 miles of what turned out to be really fast running. The course was a good one for those that have pace. Short grass and tarmac all the way. Proper lung busting. For those of us that like our fellraces long, rocky and navigationally demanding, this was something of a race-of-truth with only your fitness being tested.
Eight Polyfellers made it up to Powburn. The Robson’s both ran brilliantly to claim their almost customary top five places. Will made the podium in 3rd.
Next in for the Poly was Terry Brown who showed not just his out and out pace but also his climbing strength to pull away from Mark Smith who was 4th in. Terry’s debut was arguably the run of the day, although he’d hate me to say that.
Barry was clearly serious about this one, arriving entire minutes before the start. Sure enough, he had a fine run to finish 25th, making up the 5 Polyfellers in the first 25 home.
JJ was barely warmed up before the finish came, this short race being quite out of character from his usual epics. He headed up a cluster of three Polyfellers in 6 places, with Steven Heads making a welcome return to these parts just two places behind JJ. DJ wandered in looking injured in 46th. Hope all’s well DJ… 52 ran.
Rumour has it that some photos are floating around….I’ll post these when they come in…