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The Pendle Fell Race 2019

April 12, 2019

Contributed by McBourne

The Pendle Fell Race, the 2019 Lancashire Fell Running Championship race no less. As organiser. Mark Nutter said at the start of the race; “you could have gone to the Howgills or you could have gone to Coledale”, but a healthy showing of Bowlanders stood in the Spring sunshine anticipating the beginning of the annual short sharp four miler that is the very definition of a game of two halves.
As with a number of other Pendle races, it starts at Barley Village Hall, at the bottom of the road to Lower Ogden Reservoir (or as it’s more commonly known that “bloody road back to Barley” due to the slight incline afforded towards the run in at the end of the November Tour race), before a tough gradual climb up Buttock Hill. By this point winner Chris Holdsworth was a speck on the horizon to most of the field, the challenge being to make it to the top of Buttock before he was coming back down the other way.
It was very apt that the race was run on the same day as the Grand National as the repaving on the path of the first descent down to Pendle House means there are number of cross drains to ‘hurdle’, making it more of a steeplechase than a fell race. And by the time you’ve reached the bottom you then immediately have the arduous climb straight back up to the trig. For those that know the Mearley Clough race route, it’s very similar and as much fun.
One of the pleasures of running a fell race is to see the same old faces and characters that define the sport we love. I had the pleasure to follow V70 legend Ken Taylor up the climb. Well, I say ‘follow’ but he gradually got further away, egged on by endless shouts of “c’mon Ken”. Myself following Ken like that is akin to dishing up a Marmite Pot Noodle after Filet Mignon. Vegetarian options are alsoavailable.
And talking of legends. Jazz aficionados, and bear with me on this, will know the story of Sonny Rollins. A heavyweight tenor sax contender who at one point lost his muse and disappeared for three years. He only regained his mojo by hours spent solitary practising on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York. I can’t help but feel that our own Colin Whittaker is Bowland’s Sonny Rollins; months in the wilderness only to return in sparkling form on the hills of Pendle. Despite his protestations that he hasn’t been doing owt, I have an inkling that the Trough of Bowland has been his own secret
Williamsburg Bridge.
Anyway, back down Ogden and Buttock Hill we go. It is actually one of the Pendle races that does cut out part of previously harangued road and enables a lively canter/gallop back down into Barley.
“Would you like a beer?” are the first words I’m greeted with as volunteers are handing out a free bottle of Moorhouse’s to all finishers. A question I didn’t need to think neither long or hard about.
Great result for Bowland’s James Simon (overall 18 th ) and a strong run from Tom Matthew. Alan Heaton (proud dad of sixth placed Ollie), John Graham and Sarah Morris round off the rest of the Bowland presence. Give or take a few er, notable absences this Championship race apparently makes me the 108th best fell runner in Lancashire. Not too sure how I’d get on in the Grand National though.




April 7, 2019

And suddenly out of the blue it was a blue, blue sky. One word, magnificent. The opposite of my form but still flippin’ great and proof to me that no amount of gym work can get you ready for fell racing. To get good at it you’ve just got to do it.

I’ve never seen so many GandOs taking part in a race; seventeen in total. Then there were four racing at the Howgills and a further eight at Pendle. Man, we’re a club on the up. Lots of new names to me and also faces not seen in a long time – John and Jo Taylor even.

To the race, most of you will know it, you’ve got to run hard that first half mile to get your position on the first climb up Grisedale Pike. I do get frustrated at runners who jink through the rough stuff to gain a few yards and then cause a bottleneck when they jump back in. If you want that position then run harder at the off, my friend. Rant over.

An unregistered Japanese girl scoots past me on the second heft up Grisedale. Wow, can she shift! I think she must have joined in on spec as she has no bumbag and I didn’t spot a number.

Mark I is taking numbers at the top – well done, deckers – but he has no time for banter as runners are coming at him thick and fast.

Snowdrifts at the top but visibility is crystal clear. It would have taken my breath away had I any to give.

Eel Crag, Sail Pass and the Japanese girl. Yes, the stony, bouldery descents not to her liking. I wonder what her impression of fell running is if this is her first?

That long descent and run into the finish would lift the spirits of any manic depressive. It’s like a shot of good quality heroine…I imagine.

First to congratulate me at the finish is Jonny Wade. Its been a long time John and great to see you and good to see your son running as well.

There are many Bowlanders among the prize winners. Dave N, Paul N, Steve S, Chippy, and a newbie studying at the flatlands of Cambridge, Helen Ockendon (pictured with family and Nick) wins her U23 category.

First Bowlander back is a new name to me, Sandy Lockett. Well done Sandy.

From the WhatsApp messages I see that Leigh gets 1ST V60 at The Howgills English Champs race and Rowena gets 2nd in W55. Top running and congrats to both.

Coledale results

Howgill results

Pendle results


Crispin with newbie Iain Shaw

April 2019 036.JPG


Causey Pike 2019

March 24, 2019

Leigh passed me on the track and then my shoelace came undone and I had to stop and tie it up, says Tony L. Schoolboy – schoolboy.

Don’t tell Declan anything or it’ll go in his blog, says Aaron.

Don’t worry Tony I won’t tell a soul.

In the village hall at Stair a despairing runner is nursing a twisted ankle and all he can say is ‘she’s gonna go mad, she’ll go mad’. Jeez man, you’re in a bad place there.

God knows what the wife of the bloke with blood all over his face is going to say. That’s a tricky , bouldery descent on the fire road. Always snags a victim or two.

After a long lay off from these races I realise how much I miss them. Physically and mentally I’m way off the mark but here, back in amongst it all, it’s a tonic. My goal of top half just evades me. Close but no cigar.

Causey is a great race; always cheerful and lovingly organised by Carol and her cohorts. Rhys F.R. is marshalling on the tops; top bloke, top runner and gives such a lot to the sport.

Five GandOs in attendance today, Aaron, Leigh, Tony, me and Alan H. And that’s the order we finish in.

Leigh picks up the V60 prize – he’s going to be a hard nut to crack this season. Way out of my league right now.

Aaron – First Bowlander

Arron - First Bowlander            Jeff Henderson of Keswick thought the display was very          erotic     

This passes for erotica in CumbriaCausey Treats

Causey Pike 2018 March 23rd

March 27, 2018

Causey Pike 2018 March 23rd

One hundred and fifty two is just a tad too many for this short race. Most of the climb is single file so there are hold ups all the way and I’m just too mentally soft to make those short bursts to get past one or two in front. Not so Leigh who does the hard graft and comes past me on the first climb and picks off a few more. By the top he is a good 40 seconds in front and I’m similarly that far in front of Crispin. Game over, its all about the climb this race isn’t it. The steep descent and the treacherous track is short enough to keep your place to the finish. But guess what; its all change by the finish. Leigh takes a route choice that frankly is not a quick one; Crispin leathers it down the descents like a giant snowball gaining energy and speed and even allowing for my dunking while crossing the brook half a mile from the finish, I haven’t done enough to hold him off. As we contour the base of Causey you can throw a blanket over the three of us for a brief second; Cris in front of me heading south and Leigh out of nowhere cutting between us heading east. It’s really weird. But I’d shown Cris the best route back just before the race and despite a flicker of hesitancy on his part he sticks to my advice and resists the urge to follow Leigh. Damn, that was my only chance. My route is quicker and we finish Cris, then me then Warby. So I’m first v60 thanks to Leigh’s route choice, it must have cost him 45 seconds.

Richard Davis is munching on a pork pie at the start with his chum; actually he looks like he’s earned it with the beads of sweat on his forehead. They’ve mountain biked it over a fair few knolls to get here. Trust him to be on hand with his camera just as I slip up in the stream. Jebby jogs by on his warm up, like a thoroughbred, all sinew and cut glass musculature. And also hovering in the carpark is a sweaty Andy Jackson. He’s pondering whether or not to do this race despite having put a few training miles in to get here. He’s setting himself a 19 hour pace Bob Graham in May; on this form he’ll blitz that time – watch this space. Good luck in your prep Andy.

The tea and cake in the village hall is surprisingly brilliant; no particular reason why other than it just hit the spot with me. I also love the organisers totally amateur and totally efficient and friendly ways. They all seem to be women as well. Well done ladies; this is one of my favourites.

A car leaves the field where we’re parked and crashes straight into the high bank opposite. The crunching noise surely means there’s a fair bit of damage but the young driver is too embarrassed to get out and inspect it and just drives off.

In the car on the way back Crispin tells me a little of his work as a Professor of Chemistry at Lancaster University. He’s doing some serious work on finding a solution to the scandal of the plastic mountain covering our sea-beds and stifling the life out of planet earth. And he’s attending conferences in Davos and the like sharing information on ideas and breakthroughs in this field. One of his PHD students is making significant waves in this field publishing some well regarded papers and opening up new ways of thinking on the project. His research is being taken seriously on a world level and his name’s Paul and he’s 26 years old. Great stuff Paul, undoing the legacy of the selfish generation that I belong to. Boy do I feel small and insignificant in the scheme of things. That said, its great to be back and doing these races; lets hope injury and whatnot doesn’t get in the way of a decent season.

Crispin – saving the planet


Bronte Way Fell Race 2017

October 30, 2017

Burnley, Nelson and Colne. These are towns that get a bad press on the East Lancs boundary. They’re large towns that grew out of the weaving industry and are forever associated with Blake’s ‘dark, satanic mills’. They are places chosen for the cool, damp atmosphere that gives the cloth a tighter, sturdier strength. So, a painful birth for these towns and their fortunes have ebbed and flowed ever since. Ghandi’s boycott of cotton imports gradually closed all the mills and brick by numbered brick they were dismantled and erected somewhere in India.

But there are remnants, and here at Wycoller is one such; it’s a picturesque village down in a vale that also has historical associations with the Bronte sisters who lived 8.05 miles away in Haworth. I know this distance for sure because this is a point-to-point race devised by the devious RO; and, guess what: I had no idea that it was. Fortunately the very amenable Paul Walsh is here with his bro and says he’ll run me back without a flicker; top man, Paul. Saved me an 8-mile yomp back.

And back to that devious RO – a certain Mr Brett Weedon. When he isn’t strumming his guitar and gigging with Clapton and McCartney, he’s usually to be found organising a fell race somewhere on the Yorkshire borders. In terms of influence on this sport, his contribution is immense; and it’s carried out with such great humility and humour; normally out of the back of his camper van. I think I’ve said all this before – but it’s worth repeating. He also put together, runs and Moderates the Fellrunner website, so he’s intelligent as well. Is there no end to his talents and goodness – because it’s all done gratis.

A staggering 284 register for this low key race and its put back half an hour due to the crush.

It’s another bright autumnal day, a day for singlets, albeit it’s chilly down here in Wycoller; it’ll warm up as we climb out of it though. Carlos and Tom S are here too so I’ll have to be on my game with these two about. I’m intrigued by the route as I envision the very diminutive, yet hugely important, Bronte sisters taking a walk out along these paths; that’s 16 miles in those long, ground dragging dresses; sheesh! And as I splatter and splash my way along my respect for their hardiness in pursuit of a simple leisure increases all the while.

There is a lot of queuing on this route as stiles and kissing gates occur frequently and the high numbers give little overtaking opportunities for long stretches. One runner makes to avoid the queue by climbing a dry stone wall; boy do I give him a mouthful, surprising myself with my anger and invective; he does as he is bidden though, fair dues.

Yep, and here’s Carlos just in front of me, he breathes like this is hard work and that he is overstretching himself but that’s just him; he’ll finish a ways in front of me for his revenge of last week. Tom also overtakes me early doors and we yoyo one another right up to the end. While following his lead a whole bunch of us go off course and a barbed wire fence blocks our path. Well Tom just leaps it side-saddle, easy as you like; I do it all the time chasing sheep round the farm, he says. Me, and the rest of us, have to pull up and clumsily negotiate the obstacle. A barb goes deep into my hand and all the while Tom gallivants away into the distance. It’s a route for a fast runner for sure, not really my forte, but I do catch Tom back up after a couple of miles and pass him. In my mind’s eye the finish is in the car park above Haworth so I give it some welly – only to find that it isn’t. Drat! Down to the bottom and up the famed cobbles of the high street. But I’m goosed and six runners pass me, including Tom. He’s a good runner but obviously switches off if there’s no one to target. And there, half way up, amid the shoppers and the tourists and just outside a pub, is the finish. Don’t you just hate that, I have to harden up, I was the stooge for them all.

But that aside, we’re all given a chit for a beer, a pint of TT’s Landlord no less, and they’ve laid on leek and potato soup and a roll. How good is that.

Holmesy’s in the pub and I ask him how he got on; second, he says, neck and neck up the cobbles. That man is a v50 and that is remarkable.

While Paul W drives me back to Wycoller he tells me of his accident and illness 18 months ago. He got hit by a car on his bicycle, went over the handlebars and damaged two discs in his back. While recovering he contracted sepsis and it was touch and go as to his survival. Well he did, thank god, or I’d have had to walk back. But he also beats his rival Breezey who’s had too much of it his own way lately. They’re both rivals in the v70 class; jolly good show Paul.

Results: Bronte Way Fell Race 2017

Peeps, I’ll be out of action now for a few months, a wee operation beckons I’m afraid, but it would be great to read other contributions to the blog. I sometimes feel like I’m ploughing a lonely furrow here. Get running, get going, get up to some shenanigans and then get scripting – please.


P.S. Carlos has expressed an interest in accompanying us on any recce’s in the Lakes, Leigh, so could you include him in any of your expeditions. They’ve been few and far between this year but maybe we’ll get back in the swing of it next.

October 24, 2017

Clwydian Hills Fell Race 2017 6ADB&dl=1

October 24, 2017

Its the third time I’ve raced in Wales and each time has been a pleasant experience of friendliness and efficiency; here in Cilcain (Kilkan) in North Wales it’s no different.

What do I get for my six pounds; free parking, a map, soup and a roll, spot prizes, a slate coaster of the race, electronic results as they come in and the opportunity of running nine miles in glorious conditions.

As Storm Brian wheezes its last around the foothills of Moel Famau we’re not sure of what conditions to expect so 141 runners are dressed in singlets all the way through to full foul weather gear; but we are blessed, the singlet is the better choice. And visibility is 100%.

There are a few GandO vests here too, Wayne, Ian H, Jim Rhodes, Alan Duncan and Tom Smith have also made the journey. Wayne scoffs at my dithering of which shoes to wear; its Wales and its been raining and there are hills; so you’ll be wanting the pair with worn soles and not so much grip he says with a grin.

I had been out partying in Chester the night before, nobody told me what a great night out that is, but had shown a little restraint as I knew I wanted to race here today. Unlike Carlos Bedson of Cheshire Hills FR who downed half a bottle of bourbon the night before. I felt awful the whole way round, he says to me. Aah, so that’s why I just edge him out; he’ll get me back next time we meet no doubt.

Little to relate of the race itself except for that annoying walker with his walking poles tucked like a skier under his arm. He couldn’t have cared less about the runners negotiating a way round him on the slippy mud; have a care, mate.

The course has a lot of running in it despite its 3,000 feet of climbing with the only real scrambling going up Meol Famau itself which is the last climb and the bit where I pull away from Carlos; brandy ain’t so dandy seven miles into a race is it now. And the hills here abound in prickly gorse; my legs are a pebble-dash of pricks as a result.

The last couple of miles are marked but I still contrive to take the wrong path. The wind is bending a marker in two when I go by and I make the wrong choice, so I stop and retrace my steps and wait a few more seconds for the next runner to come by to show me the way home. He’s a real gent from Mersey Tri who refuses to go in front of me despite being faster on this flatter stuff and actually urges me on to stay in front of the fast closing chap behind us.

The next GandO in is Tom whom I’ve met once before at Mearley. He’s been fell running some ten years and only just joined our club. I’m Joe’s dad, he says as we chat at the finish; I didn’t know that; and this is Joe’s Bowland vest I’m wearing. When he talks about Joe its with such gusto and happiness that I feel okay to continue the subject. For those who don’t know, Joe was killed in an avalanche in Scotland near Glencoe while working up there. When training at Bowland and working on the farm we often had a beer in the Tillies together; I remember him fondly as a cheerful and handsome young man. Where have you buried him, I ask. He’s everywhere, says Tom; we scattered his ashes in all his favourite places. God rest you Joe, sadly missed but a life much celebrated by your family.

And then in comes Alan; after washing in the stream he tells me that he’s just turned 65 and retirement beckons. I’ll last the year out and then call it a day at work, he says; concentrate on my fell running. What’s Neil Shepherd doing with himself, I ask; he’s lost it, lost the passion, always finding an excuse, says Alan. Well, that explains his absence this past year or so. Pity, as Neil has always been a great runner.

Running in Wales, its always worth the effort, and its topped off with a nice slice of fruit tea bread made by the older chap ladling out the butternut squash soup and the happy spirit of the ladies who’ve made a great effort with the cakes and tea.

Bourbon and fell racing; they don’t mix – Carlos