Report from the 10 in 10 ultra

Saturday 15th September

Alan myself and Jon travelled over Friday evening and stayed in our caravan near caldbeck, we discussed the itenary while I knocked together a pesto pasta large enough to feed the whole population of caldbeck, then some last minute kit checking for Jon and myself before we set our alarms for 4am ughhh.

A Frantic breakfast then a 40 minute drive to the swinside inn and we were in place for a 6:02am departure, on our 12hr planned schedule (which for clarification I must add I worked out myself using map and guesswork it’s harder than it sounds)

Alan joined us for the kilometre or so that got us on the base of causey pike before retreating to the car and making his way to our first rendezvous at buttermere. Jon and I had the little matter of waking ourselves up and powering up the steep ascent up to the summit which we managed in 47 mins 13 mins up on schedule. Daylight was now good and the views of the entire route we were taking opened up in front of us.

The ridge took us over sail (6:59am),crag hill(7:22am),wandope(7:29am) and whiteless pike(7:38am) before a quick descent into buttermere at 8am a full 30 mins up on our expected 8:30am arrival, thankfully the public toilets were open and I’m pleased for the sharp arrival (enough said about that I’ll limit toilet talk as much as possible) I did read grahams message telling us to reign it in as he was probably now thinking his 7am departure from tyneside may not get him to grey Knott in time.

After taking our time at buttermere getting the refreshments required from Alan we got ourselves sorted and set off up toward dodd on what turned out to be quite a slog reaching the summit at 9:07am about 10 mins up on schedule.

A bit of a short sharp climb had us on red pike at 9:18am. From here this is one of the lakes most impressive ridge routes taking in high stile(09:31am),high crag(9:48am),seat(9:59am)and haystacks(10:12am) with superb views of ennerdale to our right and buttermere to our left.

The very tasty descent from high crag was the first real quad pounder of the day.

Graham and Alan were due to meet us on top of grey knots with some fresh supplies at 11am, due to the early time gains they decided to get up there in good time avoiding missing us. Unfortunately for them we were back on schedule, haystacks to grey knotts was a boggy drag in truth and we arrived at 11:06am approx 5 mins down, meaning they had a cold wait on the tops(sorry gents).
By this stage the early morning breakfast had done it’s job and we were both ready for some solid food so managed a 10 min stop to eat a sandwich. Green Gable(11:28am) via brandreth(11:12am) were straight forward enough. Seathwaite fell however was a little tougher the 20 mins I’d factored in from Green Gable down and back up started to look a little ambitous, we arrived at the summit at 12:03 almost exactly on schedule. Graham was now taking his job as morale booster and entertainer serious as he started to tell us all about his mountain trial race the previous week this helped take our minds off the fact the weather had taken a slight turn for the worse.

The clag was beginning to drop and this lasted through to our descent into rosthwaite via Allen crag (12:39pm), glaramara (1:08pm) and thornythwaite fell (1:22pm) we arrived at 1:47pm around about bang on schedule.

We were delighted to be greeted there by both Jon’s and my parent’s, my sister Jo (practicing her chief ground support role for the BG next year) along with Alan making his last stop before heading back home. Refuelled changed clothes and repacked bags we were ready for the off, just as we were heading Lord Barry young made an appearance in the car park assuring us he’d meet us on high spy once he’d got sorted. So off we went a little down on time after a relaxed change over but not too concerned.

The climb up castle crag was very hot and humid but we never lost any further time(2:39pm). The next hour or so were certainly the worst of the round we had a bit of a shocker finding the start of the maiden moor climb, our now fatigued bodies struggled up it using poles much to grahams disgust, when reaching the top of said climb turning left assuming the summit was that way rather than get a map out. By the time we realised we’d missed the summit by only a couple of hundred metres we were well on our way to high spy, so we begrudgingly turned back retraced our steps and found the correct summit at 4:05pm

We then continued towards high spy (4:25pm) where Lord young was infact waiting looking a little perplexed by what was taking us so long. We now looked like being 1hr down on our 12hr schedule. After staying with us briefly Barry departed via Dale head tarn and was gone as quick as he’d appeared,as elusive as ever. We started to recover a little from the maiden moor cock up and begun to chip some time off albeit only small amounts. Hindscarth(5:16pm), Robinson(5:37pm) then high snockrigg(5:55pm) all came and went fine I started to feel a tightness in my left knee descending to newlands hause but got down in one piece at 6:13pm. Again Jon’s and my parents along with Jo were waiting Graham decided to finish here not seeing much merit in running on a road so got a lift to collect his car. A quick clothes change and change of socks and shoes to road shoes for the 5 mile run back to the swinside inn.

Looking at the time and considering a 5 mile jaunt along an undulating road I didn’t hold out much hope of getting under 13hrs, to which Jon replied of course were gonna be fine just run and don’t stop. So that’s what we did, our families obviously didn’t think we could manage it either as they were too busy getting cups of tea in the pub to welcome us in 12hrs49 having managed to run the 5mile road section in under 40 mins, Barry had however managed to get back to his car and was pulling up to us on the final hill into the car park he even managed to stall the car the climb was so steep (or that’s what he’ll tell you).

The t-shirt was hard earned now Looking forward to our names making it on the results board in the swinside inn suppose that will be a good excuse to call back in for a beer, special thanks to mat and his staff for first class hospitality and an amazing breakfast maybe next time we’ll book a room instead of roughing it in the van.

The day was a superb end to a long hard summer A great experience and an event perfect for anybody wanting to practice the basics of a round pre Bob Graham.

Total distance 40 miles

Total ascent 17000ft

Time 12hrs49mins

Just in case anybody would like please feel free to make donations to the MS society no amount too small.


10 in 10 no cure always hope everyday ultra run

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I confess I had never heard of the 10 in 10 events they were set up by Yvonne Booth in 2011 as a response to her husband Duncan’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. The main aim of the events is to increase  awareness of the condition and help to raise valuable funds for the MS society. Jon Heaney brought my attention to it during our training for old county tops, knowing my history with my diagnosis of relapsing MS. He thought the everyday ultra which weaves together the three 10 in 10 walking challenge routes to take runners on a circuit from the Swinside Inn up Causey Pike over Sail, Crag Hill, Wandope, and Whiteless Pike before descending into Buttermere. Then up Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Seat, Haystacks, Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags, Glaramara, Thorneythwaite Fell before a descent into Rosthwaite. Next climbing Castle Crag, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth, Robinson, Snockrigg and Newlands Hause before returning to the Swinside Inn, a total of approx 39 miles and 17000 ft of vertical gain would be an ideal challenge to work towards leading up to my attempt at the Bob Graham Round next year (10 years post MS diagnosis). Almost like a dry run we think its about 2/3 of the Bob Graham so no mean feat.


So we set a date for September 15th and continued our hill training which led us to Alwinton four tops which was relatively straight forward, then the Wasdale Fell race naively thinking how hard could that be, it was hard so much so that by Great Gable one of our party who could be considered a man in most scenarios was reduced to a close to tears shadow of the man he is (no names)  after convincing Graham that we were nearly done and dragging him up with his dummy well and truly spat out, I was heard to be voicing how the F**k can I get round a BG I’ve got F*****g MS who am I kidding a recurring theme in my hill training rammed with self doubt at every corner. As every other time the scars don’t last and within a couple of days my enthusiasm returns. Plus we did get to meet legendary fell runner Joss Naylor at the finish so worth the tears Eh Graham.



Jon and myself have since been to support an amazingly fit Rob Brooks on leg 1 Capel Curig to Aberglasslyn (maybe names are right) of his doomed Paddy Buckley attempt horrific weather halting proceedings on leg3, this was 23 mile and 9000ft or so of elevation gain, another good training run.


So that leads us to this rather daunting but amazing route that has been put together by top fell runner and brother of Duncan, Simon Booth. I have now decided the BG attempt won’t be a sponsored run, so this seems the perfect way to give a little back to the amazing work that is carried out by the MS society. When newly diagnosed I from first hand experience can tell you its scary, there is a load of worrying  information all over the internet but the work the MS society carry out especially helping to educate then assist newly diagnosed people can be invaluable.


I’ll include a just giving page link here it probably won’t work as I’m a gimp with computers for anybody who feels they can spare a little dosh, I wont be giving the big sell that’s not really my thing, thanks in advance to anybody who does feel they can contribute its greatly appreciated.

the Bob Graham Round the journey begins


2019 will be a landmark year for me, why? I turn 40 at the end of 2018 so its my first year as a V40 athlete. Exciting, until the reality that V40 is every bit as competitive as senior hits home. No that’s not the reason 2019 is ten years since my diagnosis for Relapsing Remitting MS, the incurable illness that has loomed large over me for a quarter of my time on the planet.

This wasn’t part of my life plan I was a 30 year old fitness fanatic who had recently passed all the tests and had a successful interview to become a whole time firefighter having already been a part time firefighter in Northumberland I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life, my job at the time was industrial refrigeration engineer which would of gave me the opportunity to travel the world (basically making stuff cold on a large scale).

My running which was and still is my main passion had been curtailed overnight having not long previous completed sub 3 hrs for a marathon I was now confined to my house sofa with 2 cats for company, during early illness I remember having a GP appointment to attend and not wanting to put anybody out (also a little of my well known stubborn streak) I decided I would walk around the less than a mile to the surgery I decided to take a shortcut as was getting a little tired so cut through an estate in shiremoor (i’d not planned this and had not brought mandatory kit so no compass or map) getting lost this took a little longer than the original planned route. This was actually far too ambitous, I started to feel funny sensations or even lack of sensation in my legs i couldnt be certain but it was distinctly possible i’d pissed myself upon thorough checking this wasnt the case (It was a classic MS signal breakdown between body and brain creating weird sensations) i required a rest, at which point feeling very alone and to be brutally honest scared for what the future holds the reality hit me hard. I needed to do every thing I could to slow progression and maintain my health.


About a third of people end up in wheel chairs within 20 years of diagnosis I was determined and still am that i’m not going to be one of those statistics. Thats when the overcoming MS book was recommended to me by a mutual friend i read and divulged everything In this book and that was that along with lifelong medication I had a path to follow and have mainly stuck to the recommended lifestyle changes the plan recommends. When diagnosed I was given all the hard facts 5 years is a big landmark to help predict prognosis, but 10 years is the point most people hope to still be functioning well as this is a really good indicator of long term disability. It has been a relevant date in the back of my mind for a long time now. And now i’m here contemplating that date I feel it would be appropriate to commemorate what has become the most defining event (after Emelie’s birth obviously) of my life.

Most of you reading this know the Bob Graham Round is a challenge i’ve been considering for a little while, what better time than next year having just completed old county tops with Jon Heaney and feeling very good apart from one small nutrition blip, recovery from the event has been good also. So fingers crossed for a good year of training and continued positive health. I hope for an attempt next June/July I’ve already had a positive response from Steve Birkinshaw regarding supporting (to anybody who has read his wainrights book he has a strong affiliation to MS charities due to his close sister having a less positive experience than myself maybe raising some money towards MS charities may become an option).


I hope this hasn’t been too self indulgent I aim to blog throughout the next year about training etc but will keep the health shit to a minimum. Anybody interested in supporting let me know and I’ll try over the year to plot a support team accordingly.

Namaste polyfellers


The Wall ultra about 60 mile of roads with 9 fell/trail

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My initial flirtation with running the wall begun about 2011 while reading a running magazine and stumbling upon a page sized advert for the inaugural event. I’m going to enter that I announced to the long suffering wife and my brother and his partner Sarah (we were travelling around the Rockies in Canada at the time). There was a reasonable amount of skepticism from all of them, justifiably so as I was only a year post MS diagnosis and had been told by my consultant gentle exercise will be good for you but nothing too serious.

Looking back I was probably a little in denial my confidence was very low I had begun jogging again but every time I got to a road crossing I would have to grab the lamppost to avoid losing my balance, my vision still hadn’t got back to perfect, when exercising things still went a little blurry my feet begun to lose sensation and if it was a bad day I may have the added bonus of shitting myself (loss of bladder/bowel control is quite common in MS sufferers) but all that said I had read born to run so was now a fully fledged wannabe ultra runner. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back on the bike or feet more like it. This lead me to an amazing discovery Overcoming MS by Prof Jelinek a book that literally changed my life. So I was now a plant based whole food wannabe ultra runner.

Fast forward 6 years and a lot of hard work/training and support from my family and I am toeing the line as promised in that jeep Cherokee somewhere in the stunning Rocky mountains what seems like a lifetime ago.

The week leading up to the race it became apparent the weather was going to be a bit on the warm side. So while sorting supplies I took this into consideration and packed a good supply of salt tablets (enough for 2 every hour to be sure).

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I arrived at Carlisle castle at 6am good time for the 7am mass start. I bumped into JJ who was supporting a work colleague and promised him the pint I owe him at the finish if he was there on time failing that I’d drink it for him. Before I knew it we were off at what felt like a snails pace I kept telling myself “discipline is all that matters”.

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The first 8 miles were uneventful until I had to jump a hedge for a pit-stop and wish I hadn’t shared my baby wipes out at the portaloos at the start. I then spent the next 10 mile re-overtaking everybody that passed during my pit-stop. I made it to Lanercost priory CP1 15 miles in 2hrs 40 I was happy I hadn’t over done it just warming up. JJ informed me at least 3 ladies were in front of me of course being “chicked” doesn’t bother me thankfully as one of the three went on to finish 2nd overall.

I managed to team up with a good group of three runners now as we approached the first sighting of the wall. Although I knew I should be eating by now the heat was making my appetite none existent and I decided some small nibbles was better than nothing as long as i stayed hydrated. This section was the best off road bits of the whole course. I arrived at cawfield quarry CP 2 27 miles in 2hrs 9 mins. Mark Snowball was there ready with change of top and hat and acid reflux medication (I had opted to skip my MS meds for the day thinking I would suffer less side effects but that didn’t seem to make any difference). I didn’t hang about just changed and went.

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For the next 12 miles there was no shade quite a lot of hills and no water refills which made this one of the lowest parts of the day for me, but I wasn’t going to get too despondent. When I arrived at a water station the girl manning it explained that this was cup only not for refilling our bottles, needless to say she was politely told I would be refilling my bottles and she should radio event director to get more supplies (which apparently did happen). Mark parked up at Hexham and jogged back along the course to meet me, this was a pleasant section of the route but the midday sun was becoming relentless. On arriving at Hexham CP3 45 miles 3hrs 13mins I was greeted by family Heather and Emelie who didn’t seem too interested in a sweaty looking dad, my sister and her family along with home made banners which I confess I didn’t notice and my mother. I managed some veg soup and an ice lollie along with a shaded area breather.

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I left Hexham with Josh who had been a companion for the last 10 mile or so, but he was struggling to get running again I gave him 3 miles to try and get moving but eventually felt I had to push on with my own race. I closed on another group and paired up with Ben and Pete to get us going, we eventually got to the caravan site in Ovingham where amazing local residents had set up tables with iced water buckets lush poured over the head and plates of fruit (I indulged in a piece of pineapple which went down a treat). This section from here to Newburn was slow, Mark had now parked up at next CP and again jogged back up course to meet me as we passed the George Stephenson birthplace I suggested a jog walk strategy as we seemed to be shuffling so slow we had to think of something so we went with 2mins on 2mins off this worked well and got our mile splits back towards 11mins (how fast) Arriving at CP4 62miles 4hrs 2mins.


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Pete wasn’t ready to come with myself and Ben we didn’t stop I changed my top again and off we went, we decided the last 7 mile would go best if we kept up the jog walk strategy. This section seemed to go by quite quick keeping our splits really consistent by this stage trying to run continuously was just not going to happen my breathing was soaring as soon as each 2 mins on started but the 2 mins were at least manageable. As we approached the quayside we agreed to cross the line together but also to run the last half mile (in case any of our supporters could see us coming). It was a great feeling to be completing such an amazing journey in my home town, and was really nice to see Chris and Anna, Jon, Scott, Abbie, my sister and of course Heather. As well as my wing man Mark Snowball Love you dude your a legend I’ll repay it someday I’m sure.


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So a top 20 finish and thoughts now turn to a certain 42 peaks in the lake district, maybe 2019 in order to allow real preparation and some classic lakes races in the year leading up to it.


1 cup of veg soup

Handful of pretzels

A bite of jam sarnie

Rocket ice lollie

Mini pack of skittles

1/2 banana

14 salt tablets

14 litres of water/couple of cups of coke/1 litre isotonic drink. 







BGR. Jon Heaney with NSP and friends. 28th May 2017.

The weather for the week before the planned date for my attempt at the Bob Graham Round was fantastic.  The sun had been splitting the stones and the river beds were showing their rocky bottoms.  Unfortunately, the forecast looked like it wasn’t going to last.  It seemed like thunderstorms were going to hit at some point in the mid-afternoon of the round, just when we were due to be somewhere between Pillar and Robinson.  With 48 hours to go, a few frantic phone calls were made and we decided to postpone by 24 hours.  Unfortunately, the delay meant that some folks were no longer able to make it.  To ensure that there were enough support runners on each leg, Scott Gibson kindly agreed to move from leg 4 to leg 2 and Dave Sykes moved from leg 4 to leg 3 (but carried on for most of leg 4 as well!).  With these last-minute arrangements made, I tried to get some sleep in the bank.

With a well-laden car, we arrived at Derwentwater House Hostel at 2 o’clock on Saturday 27th May, to find that most of the support runners from North Shields Poly were already there, alongside my parents.  Final arrangements were made, phone numbers exchanged, and food & spare clothes were divided between the two campervans which we used for the road crossings.  My wife Helen was going to co-ordinate things from the Hostel with the help of our sons Sam and Ben manning the tracker web-site. I got a couple of hours of shut-eye before a cup of tea, bowl of porridge and iced finger set me up for the start.  Scott Watson joined us at Moot Hall and, at 7pm, we were off.

Leg 1. Moot Hall, Keswick to Threlkeld.

Support runners: Katherine Davis (NSP), Richard Hanley (NSP), Graham Lewis-Dale (NSP) and Scott Watson (Elvit Striders).

Shoes: Mudclaw 300.

Food: 3 mini-sausage rolls, 1 mini-cheese roll, 1 scotch egg.

In good spirits we set off, with Scott getting to know the NSP runners as we started up to Latrigg car park. The weather was good, and the views over Keswick to the central fells were great.  A runner from Keighley and Craven AC had set off 15 minutes earlier, and we caught glimpses of him and his team as we made our way up Skiddaw.  About 10 minutes from the Summit we entered dense cloud and lost sight of them.  My legs felt a little heavy on the descent down past Hare Crag, which was a little concerning.  I just tried to remember that I hadn’t been able to do much running in the fortnight leading up to the BG, and that they were just warming up.  The thunderstorm had left the ground a little damper than it had been in April, but it was still very firm underfoot.  During the climbs up the three peaks of leg one the going was pretty straightforward, so I ate whist I could.  Just beyond Mungrisedale fell we were back in the cloud again, which became gradually denser as we approached the summit of Blencathra.  After several recces, I had decided on a route along Halls Fell ridge, but the cloud became denser and I just kept to the main path.  The pace slowed in the poor conditions.  The rocks were a little slippery, but Graham and I were continuing to press on.  Half way down the ridge we waited for the others, to find out that Scott had cut his hand.  At that point, I wasn’t aware that he had hit the ground with enough force to leave some nasty grazes on his back.  I’ll certainly approach places like that with more caution in the future, and am very glad to say that Scott made a rapid recovery, and was able to run the Welsh 1000m race the next weekend.


My parents had their campervan at Threlkeld Cricket Club car park.  They had some very welcome vegetable soup and tea ready.  Scott Gibson and Mark Smith helped me to get my shoes changed.  I was over-eager to get on my way and ate the soup far too fast, which I was to pay for later on.

Threlkeld Soup

Leg 2.  Threlkeld to Dunmail raise.

Support runners: Scott Gibson (Northumberland Fell Runners), William Powis (NSP) and Barry Young (NSP).

Shoes:  Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.

Food:  2 cereal bars and 2 isotonic gels.

We made good time up Clough Head in better visibility.  I was feeling good on the climb, but realised that I was in trouble as we started the run up to Great Dodd.  I had nasty stomach cramp and found it very uncomfortable to run.  I tried to chew a few mouthfuls of cereal bar very slowly to see if I could stimulate my stomach into action again but it felt like a solid rock in my belly.  The cloud became very thick again as the gradient steepened up to the summit of Great Dodd, but Will’s expert navigation kept us on track.  Given the poor visibility, we made Watson’s Dodd without too much incident, and as we ran on to Stybarrow Dodd my stomach cramp was easing, but I was still very nauseous, and could only manage a gel. We took a good line to cut a corner to Sticks Pass, then ground out the climb to Raise.  We had a short walkabout in the cloud, before finding the path again. The Helvellyn range passed without too much event.  My stomach felt much better, and I got the rest of the cereal bar down. The visibility was so poor by Dollywagon Pike, that we left Barry at the metal fencepost, and ran out and back to the summit.  Retracing our steps, we were glad to hear Barry and see his light shining in the murk.  We missed the first half of the trod to Grisedale Tarn, but the running was nice and easy enough on the grass in any case.  Barry waited in the col between Fairfield and Seat Sandal while the rest of us went up Fairfield.  Scott waited at the last cairn on the Path while Will and I tagged the summit.  We used the same tactic to follow his light back to the path.  Scott and I left Will and Barry to make their own way off Seat Sandal, and dashed down to Dunmail raise.  We missed the path and descended into the bottom end of Raise Beck, but made good time nevertheless.  Overall, we dropped 30min off a 22-hour schedule on the leg.  I wasn’t too worried, as the visibility had meant that we were searching around for most of the summits, and by Dunmail my stomach had recovered.

Dunmail Raise.

My parents had brought their campervan up to the layby and had some baked beans and tea with shortbread on the go. I was soaked through to the bone, so did a full change, greeting Dave Sykes with my bare behind.  While we were running over Helvellyn, the mudclaws had been dried out on the engine block of the van, which was a nice touch.  I tried to remain a bit calmer at this stop, to ensure that I didn’t get stomach cramp again, and ate a bit more slowly.  I briefly wondered why we hadn’t seen Barry and Will’s torches, but it turned out that they had made a wrong turn off the summit and had headed down towards the Grasmere end of Dunmail Raise.

Scott Gbson and Jon at Dunmail

Leg 3. Dunmail Raise to Wasdale Head.

Support runners: Scott Ellis (NSP), Danny Richardson (NSP), Chris Rowe (NSP) and Dave Sykes (Lonsdale Fell Runners).

Shoes: Mudclaw 300.

Food: Half an egg & mayonnaise sandwich, bag of cold buttery potatoes, half a slab of genoa cake, toffee crisp, small bar of Kendal mint cake.

The grind up Steel Fell wasn’t too bad and there was good chat from the others who were fresher than me, but my spirits dropped a little when we climbed into the cloud again at the summit.  I had hoped that that daylight might have brought a change in visibility, and although we could see a few more feet than in the dark, I think that the return of the cloud dampened my spirits more than I admitted at the time.  The running though Calf Crag and up to Mere Beck was good, and the climb up to Sergeant Man allowed me to refuel again.  An egg sandwich went down surprisingly well given how much trouble that I’d had on the previous leg.  The section through the Langdales from Sergeant Man though to Bowfell went well and we were able to run a fair amount of it.  We enjoyed a game of ’20 questions’ on the traverse towards Rossett Pike, but I forgot to eat anything on the climb.  The visibility really closed in on Bowfell, and stayed poor through to Scafell.  The rocks on the that section were very slippery and the combination of those conditions slowed us down.  I ran out of energy going up Great End.  My legs were like jelly, and I wasn’t thinking properly.  I had read Meghan Hicks’ account of her round and following her recommendation had decided at the last minute to throw some buttery potatoes into the food bag. I was pleased to find how well they went down, and was soon feeling well again very soon.  It was on the climb up a wet gully to Foxes Tarn that I began to work out how much time that I had lost on the leg.  It then dawned on me that I was drifting outside a 24-hour schedule.  I felt physically fit, I was eating well again, my feet were ok, but mentally it was a bit of a struggle.  It had just been too hard to keep up a decent pace over the boulders in the conditions.  On the early part of the Scafell descent I decided that I was going to press on whether I was outside a 24-hour schedule or not.  Too many people had given up their time and put in a lot of effort for me to abandon the attempt.  Decision made, I enjoyed the grassy run off Scafell and the scree run through Rakehead Crags. It was mid-morning by the time that we joined the tourist path, which was quite busy with some confused looking walkers as we raced past them.  I was very pleased to see the camp-seat ready outside Mark Smith’s campervan in the car park.


I was soaked through again, but modesty meant that I kept my underwear on in the increasingly busy car park. I was back in shorts again, and a change of shirt, jacket and socks warmed me up.  I was focusing on a bowl of porridge when some runners stopped to give a word of encouragement.  They were already on their way again by the time that I registered that it was Rob Jebb, Tom Addison and Josh Jardine.  It just goes to show what a great community fell running is, that such great runners can stop to encourage mid-packers like me.
Although I’d already decided to press on, it was Mark Smith’s calm words that raised my spirits.  On arrival at Wasdale, I think my first words were “Is it still on?”.  His calm reply of “Off course, if we leave here any time before 11, we’re good. After 11, and you don’t stop at Honister”.  With that sorted in my mind, we were off again.

Leg 4:  Wasdale to Honister.

Support runners: Mark Smith (NSP), Dave Sykes (Lonsdale) – until Pillar, Lisa Henderson (NSP) – from Kirk Fell, Graham Lewis-Dale (NSP) – from Kirk Fell.

Shoes:  Mudclaw 300.

Food:   1 cereal bar, 3 isotonic gels, hunk of genoa cake

The talk on the way up Yewbarrow was of how Mark had been watching the weather clear throughout the morning.  He must have been convincing, because I believed him, even when the visibility closed in on the summit.  I realised in the Wasdale car park that I had to be ahead of the split times from here on, so asked for the split at Yewbarrow summit.  We were 9 minutes up.  I knew that I could keep up that pace.  If I could avoid any falls or cramps, and keep eating, I felt that I might make it.  Mark took a great line off Yewbarrow, and the clouds parted on the way up Red Pike.  The views were amazing, but after the hard time that I had just had up there, I didn’t feel like looking across to the Scafell range. 20170528_121817

My quads started to spasm as the ground up to Red Pike steepened, but by that stage, it just felt like another problem to sort out.  I lay on the ground and took turns in stretching them out, then had a salty drink.  They didn’t give me any trouble after that.  Dave was slowing on the climbs, so Mark and I ran on to Steeple, and re-joined Dave on the path up to Pillar.  From there we agreed to separate, with Dave heading back directly to Honister.  On the Summit of Pillar, we were joined by a runner who was looking for Tom Hollins’ team.  She ran with us to Kirk Fell, and skipped up the gully ahead of us.  Lisa and Graham waved us up to the summit, and as the sun was strengthening, I was glad of the extra water that they had brought.  The run off Kirk Fell was good, and the climb up Great Gable was a steady grind, but over soon enough. The next few peaks to Honister passed without too much incident, apart from hearing the horns of the Trevelyan Hunt.


There wasn’t much time spent at Honister.  Helen had joined my parents and a fair number of the team were also there. A quick change of shirt, cup of tea and a banana, and we were on our way again.

Jonathan Jamison had done a fantastic job of road support through the night, picking up runners at Threlkeld to take them back to Keswick, and then picking up the guys at Dunmail Raise.  He had even been at Honister since 10am, waiting for the leg 3 guys to bring Mark’s van around for him. Hats off Jonathan, I owe you big-time.

Leg 5.  Honister to Keswick.

Support runners:  Katherine Davis (NSP), Richard Hanley (NSP), Lisa Henderson (NSP), David Johnson (NSP), Jenny Simpson (NSP), Chris Waite (NSP).

Shoes:  Mudclaw 300 – Honister to Little Town.  New Balance 860 – Little Town to Keswick.

Food:  2 bananas, jelly babies, 2 isotonic gels.
The sun was getting stronger as we started up Dale Head, but a gentle breeze made it quite pleasant.  Katherine kept me ticking over with small portions of banana, and the summit came along in due course. The view up towards Keswick was fantastic, but the fatigue was beginning to set in.  I was able to keep moving, but was finding it more difficult to keep involved in conversation.  On Hindscarth I was sure that I was going to get back inside 24 hours, and enjoyed the views a little more.  Robinson tagged with a good deal of relief, and we set off for Keswick.  By this stage, I just wanted to be finished, so kept as fast a pace as I could sustain.  On the run into Little Town we overtook the Keighley and Craven runner and his team.  Rachel Carr met us at the Little Town car park, and a quick change of shoes made the road section much more comfortable.  I had thought that the little climb from the car park to Little Town itself would be tough after running downhill for so long, but it wasn’t too bad, and at the top we started a steady trot into Keswick.  Barring a few cars that tried their best to run us off the road, the run in to Keswick went well.

Moot Hall.  18:06.  23:06 total time.

It was a weird sensation to run up towards Moot Hall with not just friends and family clapping, but strangers also joining in.  I felt that I was still moving well when I touched Moot Hall, and the thought of how much longer I could keep going briefly flashed through my mind.  Helen and the boys were there, as were my parents, friends from Manchester and most of the support runners from the whole round.  There were hugs all round and a can of coke was quickly drained.  Thereafter, we disappeared into the Golden Lion for something to eat.  My dad had brought a photo of me on Helm Crag when I was 14, and made a nice comment about how impressed he was with everyone, and thanked them for their amazing support.  A couple of sips of beer however brought on nasty heartburn and I suddenly wanted to sleep.  We made our excuses and left the rest of the team to enjoy the evening while Helen and I went to find some Gaviscon and a bed.

Surprise Viewpoint.  29th May 2017.

The following day we had breakfast together at Derwentwater House Hostel.  We fancied a walk to stretch the legs and went up the road towards Watendlath.  We found the Bob Graham memorial cairn and took some photos at Ashness Bridge, before heading on to Surprise viewpoint.  It was a really nice way to end the weekend, listening to some of the team considering doing the Bob Graham Round themselves.

Keswick Mountain Festival.  9th June 2017.

The legs were pretty well recovered, so the thought of a pleasant run from Keswick, over High Seat, Bleaberry Fell and Walla Crag with Danny and Katherine seemed a great idea, especially as we had tickets for the Jasmin Paris and Nicky Spinks Q&A talk at Keswick Mountain Festival later that day.  They were inspirational, especially as like most of us, they hold down full-time jobs as well as running.  It made me start thinking of what would be next.  September has the Ben Nevis Race and a road half-marathon in store for me, but what else afterward?  Maybe another long run.

As well as all the people mentioned above who helped on the day and on the training runs, there were several others that deserve a mention.  Tim and Nicola at the Derwentwater House Hostel were great.  They set us up with rooms that were just the right size for our group, and access to a side door to ensure that we didn’t keep the rest of the Hostel awake with our activities. Phil Green was going to help on leg 2, but unfortunately the change of date meant that it was no longer possible.  Sean Maley deserves a mention for keeping my body together with advice, and sports massages.  Ron Stewart, my coach at North Shields Poly, sat down with me 6 months before the run and gave me a succinct set of advice, that made a lot of sense as the training went on, especially the stuff about food and getting bigger shoes.   Dave Waugh spent a day with me climbing Broad Stand, and was going to help rope it, before I decided to go by Foxes Tarn instead.  Friends at the Poly kept my spirits up with interest in my increasingly long runs, even though I was having to miss events like the spring relays.  Finally, my family have been very supportive.  They’ve been able to put up with me going missing all day for long runs in the Lakes, Yorkshire and Northumberland.  I now need to return that support as Helen gets ready for the Great North Run in September.

Thanks for reading this through to the end.  I have been at races in remote areas where runners have needed evacuation, and to help support the Great North Air Ambulance, I have set up a Just Giving page.  Many thanks for any donations.


Photo with kind permission of Stephen Wilson, Grand Day Out Photography.

The Bob Graham round. Hopes and anticipation…

I’ve been a bit slack on keeping the Polyfellers’ blog updated on my winter training, but now that I am between jobs, I have a bit of spare time to catch up.

 The Bob Graham Round is a challenge that has been niggling away at the back of my mind for about 10 years.  I had moved back to the north of England after several years in Glasgow, and came across Richard Askwith’s book, ‘Feet in the Clouds’.  It reminded me of growing up in the Lake District and the trips up the fells every weekend with my family and friends.  It reminded me of sitting at Honister Pass with my best mate at junior school, waiting for my dad to give some supplies to his dad, who was running in the Borrowdale fell race.  It’s been many years since I read the book, but it did make me think that maybe, at some point, I might be fit enough to give fell running a try.

 More years passed, work got busy, children arrived, and my running was very intermittent.  Eventually I realised that I enjoyed it too much to let it be intermittent, and I tagged along one night to a North Shields Poly session.  Ron, the coach, soon spotted the imposter; told me to give it 4 weeks; and then join if I was still keen.  I haven’t looked back.  I enjoyed the coaching, and started to improve, really enjoying the cross country.  I noticed that some of my friends had done a few fell races – that’s you, Chris Waite and Mark Small – and made a mental note to give it a try at the next opportunity.  Not long afterwards, Mark Smith joined the club and his wealth of experience fuelled my interest further.  I realised that the club actually had a fell running championship.  After that I knew what I’d be spending my weekends doing. I struggled at my first few fell races.  I got lost and nearly didn’t get out of Kielder forest at the Falstone Falcon race.  My fitness was lacking in the early races of 2016, but gradually it improved, and by the time the Chevy Chase came along I was feeling a little stronger.  Nevertheless, it proved harder than the marathons that I had run previously.  In the autumn, I told some of the club that if I didn’t get a place in the London marathon, that I would attempt the Bob Graham Round.

Many will be well aware of what this involves, but briefly it is a challenge to visit the summits of 42 Lake District peaks in 24 hours, starting and finishing at Moot Hall in Keswick.  As a club, we had attempted it as a 5 stage relay in August 2016.  The weather was atrocious, and after slips and lacerations on Halls Fell Ridge, gale-force winds and sheets of rain on the Helvellyn range, we abandoned the attempt.  Everyone was disappointed, but the consensus was that we would be back.  I let slip that it was something that I had been thinking about and was humbled that so many folk were keen to join me on the legs and to help with the logististics.

After my last road race of 2016 at the Brampton 10 miler, training turned to longer, hillier stuff.  Balancing this with the cross-country season was initially quite nice, but as the long runs got longer and steeper, the faster pace at races like the Wollaton Park national cross-country championship was more of a challenge. I was in with a chance of the club cross-country championship, so gave it everything in the last race of the Harrier League, and was pleased with the strength that I had at Alnwick.

I needed to recce the Bob Graham route during the early winter.  The weather was not good, and many weekends were spent in waterproofs with poor visibility.  I’m not sure if it was Barry Young or Danny Richardson who came up with the theory that I brought bad weather with me whenever I went to the Lake District, but it certainly seemed that way in December, January and February.  I am really grateful to Danny, Barry, Chris Rowe, James Hennin, David Johnston and Richard Hanley who have braved the weather with me this winter.  In some ways I’m more grateful to their partners (and mine) for letting us get away for hours at a time. 

Other Polyfellers have been taking trips to the Lakes for their own recces, and thanks goes to Graham Lewis-Dale, Will Powis, Jenny Simpson, Mark Smith, Chris Waite, Scott Ellis, Lisa Henderson and Katherine Davis. I am really sorry if I’ve missed anyone, but am really grateful.  It’s not possible to consider a BG round without support of so many people.  Scott Gibson, Phil Green, Dave Sykes, Peter Talor and Scott Watson have also been really kind in offering their support.  The chap I remembered racing down through Honister Pass 30 years ago, Dave Waugh, even offered to help rope Broad Stand.  Ron Stewart and Iain Twaddle have had some gems of advice to pass on.  Ron’s advice about getting bigger shoes has been invaluable!  I’ve been getting used to eating whilst running.  Previously, I always raced on a couple of slices of toast and trained on an empty stomach.  Now I eat all the time when on a long run, and have found a nice mix of mainly savoury treats and cereal bars to keep me going.

As well as recce runs in the Lakes, I planned a few races. The first was the Wadsworth Trog.  I’d been under the weather with a cold for the week before but the weather in Yorkshire was kinder than that in the Lakes, and it was a glorious 20 miles over the moors.  I had avoided going off too fast at the start and felt good on the final climb back to the finish in 3 hours and 18 minutes.

Photos: Dave Woodhead, WoodenTops

I managed to convince Danny to join me on the 32 mile Haworth Hobble pairs race.  It turned out to be the GB trail running trials race and the standard of runner was very high.  We made the novice error of standing at the start, as everyone else filed in in-front of us, so that we were pretty near the back as we made our way up the cobbled streets of Howarth and out onto the moors.  Again, the Yorkshire weather was pretty good.  We made our way up and down the valleys, gradually passing quite a few runners and finished a respectable 5th place in the pair’s race in 5 hours and 22 minutes. 


Glen McWilliams has described a fantastic 35 mile route around the Cheviots, linking parts of St. Cuthbert’s Way, the Pennine Way and the Chevy Chase.  In March I decided to attempt the McWilliams round.  I wanted to keep up the training regime, so incorporated into a weekend after the Thirsk 10 mile road race.  I was confident that I could get around in under 7 hours, even if it was on tired legs, but the 40 mph winds and heavy ground took their toll, and I took a slightly extended route in the final stages.  Glen was great and met me at the end as light was fading 7 and a half hours later.  It is a very picturesque route and I only saw 4 other people during the whole day, though there were herons and red squirrels.  On a nice calm and clear day at the end of April Danny and I went round in a respectable time of just under 6 and a half hours.

The Lakes Mountain 42 miler was at the beginning of April.  I’d had hamstring issues the week before and was not feeling very confident.  I’d been descending a steep fellside in minging rain and had fallen in a bog.  Having never been troubled with my hamstrings, I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up, but Sean Maley managed to get them sorted out.  After a sleepless night on Askham village hall floor, the race started at 6am.  The sunrise over the Pennines was fantastic and the running up High Street was tremendous. We could see Helvellyn and the ridges in the early morning sun.  The descent to Glenridding gave me the confidence that my hamstring was going to be ok.  By 8am the temperature was already rising, and I stripped to vest and shorts.  Credit to the race organisers for having well supplied feed stations and even some sunscreen!  I took a high line over Willie Wife Moor to the church at Wythburn.  I don’t think that there was much difference in the time compared to the lower option but I did enjoy having the fellside to myself for a while.  The climb up Helvellyn was hard going, and I slowed in the final stages, but rallied during the run from the summit to Whiteside and down to Glenridding.  Place Fell was tough going as the heat of the day wore on, but the final run into Askham seemed a little cooler and I was pleased to finish 14th in 9 hours and 25 minutes.

Last weekend was the Teenager With Altitude at Stair.  It is 15-16 miles with 7000 ft of climbing.  I’d been on holiday in Lanzarote with my family for the week before, and tried to keep the training up with some runs up the volcano behind our hotel, but the Teenager was quite a different proposition.  I was enjoying the first few climbs too much, and paid for it on the climb up Robinson.  I rallied after that and had a good second half of the race in glorious sunshine to scrape into the top half of the field.


Photo: Stephen Wilson, Grand day out photography

So now, it is only 4 weeks before the BG date.  Plans are being finalised. Nerves are rising. Most of the training is done.  I’ve another few trips to the Lakes including the Fairfield horseshoe, before tapering until 7pm on 26th May…

I’m not sure if I’ll make it, but training with so many great folk over the winter and early spring has been a great pleasure.  I’m sure that I won’t be the last of this crop of Polyfellers to take on this great challenge in the next few years.

The BG is very much a personal challenge, but I have seen the Great North Air Ambulance in action at 2 races in the past year, and this may be an opportunity to give them some support.   It helps with urgent transfers of injured or ill people, where access is difficult or time is of the essence, and relies on public donations to survive.  If you would like to support them please have a look at the JustGiving page.18077381_10207545110260926_4498654713839603155_o

Photo: Stephen Wilson, Grand day out photography

Guisborough Woods Festive Fellrace

Despite what we’re all thinking about 2016 as a whole, fellrunning at the Poly has at least seen a resurgence with more and more people having a go at the darker side of the sport (darker only in the sense of what colour your trainers end up being afterwards).  So it was somehow fitting that the final fixture of the year saw another record turnout from the Poly at a fellrace, with 17 runners (including two juniors of the Robson variety) taking part in the Guisborough Woods fell race.

It’s actually not a fell race in the truest sense, other than it appears in the fellrunning calendar and is organised by fellrunners. It doesn’t really impinge on any fells and, uniquely amongst the hundreds of fell running fixtures in the UK, it is made up of laps – 3 laps of steep and muddy ups and downs amongst some scenic woodland.  So it’s a perfect introduction to muddy, steep and tough off-road running that is somewhere between XC and fellrunning; XC on steroids perhaps, or maybe fellrunning lite?  Whatever it is, it’s still hard work.

I had said to a few that had enquired that it was impossible to get lost on this race, as it is marshalled and marked with tape at the key junctions.  Enter messers Ellis (Scott) and Robson (Will) who in a ‘serves you right for being so bloody fast’ moment, went the wrong way on the first lap, only to reappear and for Will to take 3rd and Scott to take 4th, way ahead of the rest of us.

There were returning fellrunners after some time off (messers Waite and Small) and two debutants – Suzanne Lewis-Dale and Paul Richardson who both tamed the course, didn’t get lost and put in some fine runs.  Hopefully we’ll see more of them on the fells.

Gary Robson claimed second V45 in a strong field to cap a good year and we think we may have scooped the team prize (tbc!).  Graham Lewis Dale had a great run and has really come on of late, mixing it with the likes of Jon Heaney at the sharper end of the field.  Also mixing up there was debutant Paul Richardson, proving that class is class in all forms of athletic endeavour, debutant on the fells or not.

Angela Green led the charge for our ladies (with Katherine Davies, who is one of our ladies of course, turning out for NFR today and having a strong run) with Terry Brown trashing his road shoes whilst keeping her company.

Meanwhile Richard Hanley ran strong and was very fetching in pink attire. George Adamson bought up the rear for the Poly, completing our substantial team on the day.

202 runners started and 196 finished, with our founder and fellrunning Jedi David Johnson one of the 6 retiring, in his case with dodgy ankle syndrome – experience is knowing when to bin it…

We’ll report upon the results when we have them, but it’s fair to say that we were out in force and it was just brilliant to see so many of our vests mixing it on that start line and in the front, middle and back of that race.


Natural Ability – the Perfect First Fell Race

As well as the six Polyfellers that tackled the wild slopes above Loch Lomond, a further 14 swelled the numbers at the Natural Ability race at Allenheads.  This is a perfect introduction to the sport and it is great that some faces new to the sport were there to explore their curiosity… Terry Brown’s account takes up the running…

It was a cold and blustery day that saw a massive poly turnout for the Natural Ability Fell Race – 14 of north shields’ finest turned up in Allenheads in various states of attire.  ‘Best practice’ kit was cobbled together by myself, but thankfully not needed.  The award for ‘least clothing worn on the day’ went to Paul Dodds who braved the cold and rain in the vest and shorts! I opted for a pair of gloves to complete the fetching ensemble, as we all lined up for the 11am start.  The mantra of ‘lets just take it easy’ lasted almost 2km this time before I thought ‘lets have this’ – I may learn one day, but today wasn’t that day as the running felt good.

The course measured a little over 9km with 285m of climb, and saw some stunning scenery (albeit, slightly reduced visibility because of the rain and mist), and is a nice introduction to fell running – not too technical, very well marked, and absolutely brilliantly marshalled – it was impossible to put a foot wrong, and the marshals needed thanks. I even gave a round of applause as I passed the solitary marshal at the top of the first climb for braving the weather!
The route out of Allenheads started on tarmac but very quickly got into the fields and the leaders were already starting to stretch out into the distance as the rain started to fall more heavily, and we followed a route gently downhill and along the river east allen on single track, DJ and I ducking the low branches that those in front of us seemed blissfully ignorant of! After a few hundred more metres, there was our first real opportunity to get wet by fording the river.  A bridge was offered, though I saw nobody take it preferring to take the shortcut over the river, and the beginnings of ‘the climb’ – the main uphill section of the course.
The start of the climb was on tarmac and by this point, Michael Keane was showing his current flying form and had vanished into the distance, myself and David Johnson were making good progress after fording the stream, and Angela Green was running a strong uphill ahead.  The route crosses a road and veers straight up hill and at this point, there was as much walking as running.  Passing those walking the hill in full waterproofs/ backpacks, and walking poles while wearing a pair of shorts, a vest, and by now, some very soggy gloves still makes me chuckle!  Thankfully an opportunity for me to open the stride and even when walking I managed to pass 8 or so on the climb.  Once the top was crested, the pace was picked back up and it was an undulating  trail of roughly 3km along the top above Allenheads, though some of the views were beautiful from up here, before dipping back down for an incredibly fun descent.
Not too technical, 100m descent in approximately 1k on mostly winding mossy/grassy paths.  This man got trapped behind a couple of runners (from Northumberland FR and Durham FR) who were skilfully treading the known path, so a ‘lets see if I can go wide and get past them’ nearly had me come a cropper, but you could hear their pace increase as they saw me edge past them to lead our small pack, and I managed to get over the style first and gain a few crucial seconds.  The last descent in the field was a ‘hold on for dear life and turn the legs over quicker!’ where I managed to open the gap a little, and nearly tumbled a few times, to the finish.
The goody bag, for a race of this price and size, was superb! T-shirt, water, gels, balloon (who doesn’t love a balloon!) – absolutely cracking.
The poly did brilliantly in a field of 77 with Michael Kane first man home for the poly coming 12th in 48.18, and Angela Green putting in a strong run just missing out on 3rd Vet Female coming in 54.16.  Fourteen out, and fourteen safely back in – I suspect I speak for most when I say it’s a race I’ll look forward to for next year to do it again.
The full results can be found on the natural ability fundraising site.

We’ve arrived…



I think we can now say with confidence that the fellrunning scene has a new, bona fide member in its ranks.  It’s not like the Poly hasn’t been involved in fellrunning for some time (Katherine, DJ, Barry, Chris Rowe, Gary Robson et al have been quietly practicing the dark side for various amounts of years), but our fielding of a team that more than held its own in the sport’s premier team event is definitely a movement forwards as a club.  It’s an arrival.

The “UKA Fell and Hill-Running Relays” as they are officially called (the ‘fell relays’ everyone calls them) are an annual event held in mid-October which attracts the very best in the sport. Taking part and completing them is a big deal and clubs send very strong teams – no-one is making up the numbers.  Winning them us VERY prestigious.

The format is as follows:

  • 6 person team
  • 4 legs, 2 solo legs and 2 paired legs
  • The solo legs are marked courses (requiring no navigation) and are short and sharp
  • The first pairs leg is more committing and longer, but marked and marshalled
  • The second pairs leg is a navigation challenge, with the map handed out moments before the start.
  • The order is solo – pairs (marked) – pairs (navigation leg) – solo
  • Fastest cumulative time wins

Our gallant team (below) were Gary Robson on the first solo leg, Danny Richardson and Chris Rowe on the marked pairs leg, Jon Heaney dragging along the author for the Nav pairs leg and Will Robson for a flying finish on the second solo leg.

Pre-race selfie: nerves and brews

The weather was, well, Scottish autumnal weather – low cloud and rain….and the ground conditions were wet, boggy in places and slow going.  The slopes rising out of Loch Lomond were steep and the courses that were set looked tricky.


The first leg runners, including our Gary, were piped out of the starting field and they were off.  Leg one looked short and so Danny and Chris knew Gary would eat it up in no time.  29  minutes later, they were proved right as he powered back into the starting field ready to touch hands and set the first pair off.  Gary was well up, 36th from 112 teams – a superb start. His time was 29:17, 5 minutes behind the leader (Joe Symonds, Shettleston Harriers in 24:22).

The first leg was tight amongst the leaders, with seconds separating the first half dozen.  Astonishingly, the team whose runner was second home from leg one was greeted by a pair that were not a pair, i.e. one of them wasn’t there – faffing about with kit and not ready to run.  3rd place came in, 4th, 5th, 6th and eventually they were away, the culprit still dressing himself as they started running.

Danny and Chris set off in the rain on what looked like a tough leg with a lot of climbing in a short distance – about 3,300 feet of up and down in 7 miles or so.  The last climb was over 1,200 feet in about a third of a mile – a real sting in the tail.  Even Danny, a fine athlete as we all know, had a bit of a crisis on that last climb – it really was that brutal. They were 70th on their leg in 1:46:00. The pairs legs usually attract the strongest runners as it is usually the longest (not always, as we shall soon see…) and so we put a very strong pair out.  They put in a strong run and handed over to Jon and I – very nervously watching the weather coming in.  As they ran in, we were already priming our compasses for what was going to be a hell of a workout.

Jon and I had about five minutes before Danny and Chris came in to study the map for leg three, which had just been released for us all to view.  Our first impression was that this was a long route.  14km ish?  2,800′ ascent? We were guessing but it looked very tricky, lots of wiggly contours which usually denotes confusing ground.  I’ve done 6 or 7 nav legs in the past and this already looked like the hardest I had seen.

Confession time: We knew that hitting controls 3, 4 and 5 was going to be very difficult.  We contented ourselves that control 1 looked easy to find, with tapes marking the initial outward route.  However, the descent at the end was also taped.  Guess which tapes we followed? After about 5 minutes, we started climbing steeply – too steeply.  We had ****ed up from the absolute start.  Two other teams around us did the same and we bolted through some rough ground to the correct track, feeling like muppets.

It woke us up because we hit all of the other controls just about dead-on, a few minor adjustments at the very most.  Jon and I had never navigated together before but we complimented each other well and had to use one another as a dead reckoner for compass bearings on 50 metre visibility across largely featureless and boggy ground.  We finished 68th in 2:15.

A overlay of the various route people took. Light green made the same initial error we did, but realised WAAAAY later!

I was initially a bit disappointed, mainly because Jonny and Scott from NFR totally kicked our arses on this, fair play to them!  I think we lost 5 minutes on the first error but other than that I think we nailed it.  The trace above tells us that we did pretty well…

We were still well in the pack, team wise.  All this and we had yet to play our ace card – young Will Robson was primed and ready for an insane looking leg 4 – 2000 feet up, turn round and run down again.

In full flow – Will

Will flew around in 25th on his leg – up there with some serious names.  It was great watching him fly past toward the finish.

Will moved us up to 58th overall – around halfway.  I think this is a cracking result.  That might not sound much but this was so much more that a test of running – it was committing, uncomfortable and technical.  We had greats of the sport alongside us, Jasmine Paris, Nicky Spinks to name but two you may have heard of…

It was a brilliant debut, we all learned loads and the 7 hour round trip was well, well worth it.  Thanks team-mates and next year, surely we can take a ladies team too…..?

Thropton Show – the last hurrah

After 12 races and a terrific season, the club fell championship had its final fling at the Thropton show in deepest Northumberland.  15 Polyfellers made the trip for the 6.5 mile race up to the summit of Simonside and back down again.  The sun shone, the wrestlers wrestled, the lurchers dashed and the kids emptied their parents’ wallets for want of ice creams and goes on the bouncy castle.  It was a great scene.

108 runners were there in total and the race was set to be an interesting one.  Phil Green of Heaton and NFR gave us the customary start-line speech about how to retire and added the unorthodox element regarding the waist deep river crossing about half a mile into the race (and from the end).

Suitably warned, we were off! The first half mile is a road run once the show field is left and the pace is hot.  The queue at the river made for a surreal pause so soon after starting and the ignored option of the footbridge, 150 yards distant, glistened empty and redundant.  Fellrunners, as is their way, all went the interesting way.

Fields and a steep road give way to forest tracks and only a short section of genuine fell terrain as the steep climb to the summit of Simonside eventually yielded a superb prospect, including Thropton to where we were to return.  The initial descent was very technical, but also very short, much to those of us that gain an advantage over such ground.  Mental notes were made to include more races with more of this in next years champs (more on that little update in a blog near you very soon).

Then a thunderous descent through forest tracks and soon were were back on the route out, with the Coquet no less deep and the show field no less jovial as we all collapsed back into it.

Will Robson finished third in a strong field and showed his intentions perhaps to rob his dad of the championship next time around. Gary defended his crown with a great run to finish 8th but this time they were split in the Poly ranks by Danny Richardson who was 6th and could well feature in the rankings next year.

Jon Heaney was a superb 11th and secured the overall runner up spot with Chris Rowe a strong 13th.  The rest of the standings are given below.

3 Will Robson NSP U21
6 Danny Richardson NSP SM
8 Gary Robson NSP V40
11 Jon Heaney NSP V40
13 Chris Rowe NSP V40
29 Matt Fletcher NSP SM
30 Mark Smith NSP V40
37 Will Powis NSP SM
40 James Hennin NSP SM
42 Michael Kane NSP SM
45 Terry Brown NSP V40
54 Kath Davis NSP Fv40
55 Barry Young NSP
92 Rachel Inman NSP SF
107 George Adamson NSP V60

Well done all for a brilliant championship – brig on the relays and the do on the 29th