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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

Firth Fell Race 2017

October 1, 2017

Its the first running of this fell race organised on behalf of the National Trust by some young volunteers – not that the NT needs the money; I saw recently that they are awash with the stuff.

Anyway, this race is an eight miler with 1,400′ of climbing and, interesting for me and others maybe, its my first race back after injury induced absence and any training over the past number of months has been on my bicycle..

And boy have I done some cycling; 6 x 100 milers on six successive Saturdays. All of them up and down the Yorkshire Dales. You can’t beat it when its dry; when its wet its another story. One hypoglycaemic experience recently was less than pleasant.

It started as a pleasant enough day but gave way to a drenching wet and cold two hour ride from Skipton to Clitheroe. I noticed the cold taking a grip from Gargrave, ninety minutes from home, and debated the options with no-one to contact in the fading light and rain:

  • I could stop and seek shelter and wait for the rain to pass. But I figured I’d succumb altogether with being sodden right through and not pedalling to keep the blood pumping.

  • I could knock on someone’s door for shelter and call a taxi but I think modern society would not understand or take kindly to that kind of behaviour

  • I could keep going where at least I was pedalling furiously for survival and gradually getting nearer to home.

Opting for the last I struck a miserable twenty miles homewards in dire conditions, the shakes affecting my steering, talking and singing to myself and, oddly, an aching jaw, as if my teeth had doubled in size and completely filled my mouth.

At 8.00pm and two miles from home I punctured and was fortunate to be just outside Clitheroe Community Hospital. Its not a proper hospital but the doors were open and only the cleaner to be seen inside. With more than a bit of luck a nurse from Blackburn just called in to collect something. She fetched me a blanket and drove me home. I had to run the bath three times to stop the shaking.

So take it from me; goretex is only good up to a point. Persistent rain will will eventually work its way through and then the cold will seep into you.

I digress – apologies.

As I said before, this race is interesting because it may answer the question of; does cycling adequately compensate for running fitness when you are injured? I, myself, have always been doubtful of this. However, my yardstick this time is a good one, I’ve asked my friend and nemesis Leigh Warby to run as well.

Before my injury absence some months ago I haven’t been able to get the better of him in any distance so we’re both expecting me to be off the pace and lacking in race stamina. Well I can tell you now that I finish nearly two minutes ahead of Warby with a time of one hour and nine minutes. That’s sizeable, that is. We’re both left scratching our heads.

Is Leigh off form? Don’t think so; he’s not done much all week and he’s been winning races in his age category lately.

Did he hold back? That’s not his nature; on race day he always wears his tiger’s eye.

Okay, his Salomon’s don’t help on the flags and rocks here but my Innov8s aren’t much better either.

On the face of it, it seems that cycling can actually enhance your running performance.

Such is my consequent delight I’ve gone and entered for the Langdale Horseshoe race next Saturday. Yes, that 12.5 mile monster. Leigh is also entered for it.

So providing I don’t get lost or succumb to hypothermia or let work get in the way; Langdale will also be a pointer to the benefits or otherwise of cycling. I really am expecting my stamina not to last the course.

Comments are warmly invited from anyone on this topic.

Its good to be back.

Btw, I read an article half penned by one time club member and elite tri-athlete Marc Laithwaite on the topic of why runners generally don’t make good cyclists; v interesting reading.

Hodder Valley 2017 results

September 13, 2017

Thanks to everyone who helped at Hodder Valley Show fell race on Saturday. And congratulations to Jenn Mattison and Carl Bell for winning.

The full results can be found here. Photos thanks to Richard Davies.

HVS 2017

HVS 2017 c

HVS 2017 b

Helvellyn and The Dodds Fell Race 2017

May 30, 2017

The perfect bumbag still hasn’t been designed, says Dave Nuttall perusing the Kong stall at Threlkeld. Not tempted by the latest Inov8 offering he puts it back; it’s just missing that Pete Bland tightening strap, he says. Dave is here not to race unfortunately but to perform his duties as Marshal Monitor for the FRA. Well done, Dave, every little helps.

Its a busy day at Threlkeld for this AL, a busy fay of fell races generally. Elsewhere this weekend there’s been Jura, Weets champs race and Hutton Roof that I can think of; and Bowland’s been represented at all of them. What a gregarious lot.

Got to mention that standout win by Chris A at Weets; how good must that feel!

Here, on Sunday, we’ve got quite a few runners who did Weets the previous day; how do people do that; why do people do that. This sport makes fools of us at times. Carl ‘I said I’d never run two races back to back like this’ Bell, third at Weets yesterday, is here and wins this race again today.

And how about v70 Ken Taylor; Buttermere Sailbeck last weekend, Foe Edge on Wednesday and a Rossendale 10k race on Friday – and he clocks a decent time in this one too. Its a part of me is this running, he tells me in the changing room afterwards. Take it away and…well, take it away and…; he can’t finish the sentence. This former GB runner winces suddenly at a stabbing pain in his stomach. I say stomach; they took it out eight years ago, he tells me, I make the most of every day now, I shouldn’t be here.

Elsewhere, Adam Perry is here, he just missed out on the most number of peaks for a BG a week ago. And the lad who was trying for a double BG aborts here as we gather. Told you, its busy.

Its just Leigh and me for Bowland, we’ll keep each other honest today. That climb up to Clough Head is a tough start to this 15 miler and I am regretting the second vest I put on, the cool start to the day is turning into a surprise scorcher. Running over the Dodds looking west I can see majestic Scafell Pike peaking through a halo of cloud. Leigh says he forgot to look as he was too intent on keeping tabs on me. I’m pleased to feel as good as I do heading up to the trig on Helvellyn for the turnaround. And here’s Leigh not 20 seconds behind. By the bottom of White Side he’s at my side and then going up Raise I veer off to the right hand trod while Leigh continues on the walkers path. Losing sight of him till I crest, I can officially confirm that his way is quicker. He’s put 50 yards on me and the elastic band is snapped. I concentrate on picking off the runners that Leigh is passing. At this rate he’ll finish a good five minutes ahead. The return to Clough Head is always a peak or two further than is comfortable and then there’s the toe banging descent; my toes still hurt. Never mind, even though this is Leigh’s strength, I’m taking quite a few places too and finish strongly; one and a half minutes behind him. Its shirts off time in this heat and dig into the wonderful spread put on by the organisers. Wow, it doesn’t get a lot better than this; sunshine, sandwiches and showers. Thanks ROs, love this race.

Stand out performances:

Mel Price v50– what a humble, non-judgemental and tough runner she is. 1st Lady

Scout Adkin – a scottish lass running for Moorfoot on the borders

Annie Conway – ran every climb on the return; stern, gritty stuff

Carl Bell – just outstanding after a tough race the day before

Ken Taylor v70 – as mentioned above

Life at the Back and other low level adventures!!

May 25, 2017

Well with all the “stuff” going on at a high level – Carwyn Phillips – Dragons Back, Leigh W, Declan, Chris Arthur flashing the orange and green everywhere, Ian R cycling from Lancaster to John O’Groats, not to mention the Cliff’s tirelessly supporting others while raising funds for MND whilst dealing with their own personal challenges.  I thought I’d bring it right back down to the end of the line.

2 weeks ago Shaun and I decided to try Sprint O.  Clitheroe Castle – involves getting a map and a dibber and finding in numerical order your quickest route around said map.  On return you are then sent out on a larger course to again get the points in numerical order.  I ran round like a headless chicken, checking into points not on the map, and generally in any order that I found them, so was not surprised to find myself being called to go on the longer course first due to my ineptitude.  However, imagine my surprise to find that next behind me was our very own orienteering great, Quentin Harding, who had kindly made a couple of schoolboy errors, just to make me feel better I’m sure.  So having calmed down a little I managed to finish the course, again not all in order and typically last but had a great time.  Fast forward 2 weeks to Williamson Park.  Home of the Ghandi tribe and they were out in force, certified champion experienced runners, event managed by Quentin, Mike and Chris Read plus numerous family members all sporting team colours, sending everyone off then charging round the course and getting back before everyone (or so it seemed).  This course I managed to get the Prologue in numerical order spurred on by an young lad of approximate age 9 who was in fine form – I think I’ve found my level!!  The main course saw me take 7.33 minutes to find the 1st control, I put this down to panic, however things settled and as it turned out Shaun and I were up against each other for the final few controls which proved to be amusing, I’m sure he tried to trip me into the lake!!!  We arrived at the finish to be cheered in by the smiling faces of Richard Davies and Ray Pickett,   For anyone never having a go at this it’s well worth it – lots of cheerful, supportive, positive people all just wanting you to enjoy it.  Can’t be bad!!

Harrock Hill series started last night with a lone Orange and Green runner – Me!!  Trying not to disgrace the colours by coming last.  It’s only a small on at just over 5 miles but has the lot, and bonus this year NO cows so Emma Aindow-Gregory no excuses!!   After the appalling event in Manchester it was right and proper that 1 minutes silence was held at the start of the race.  Giving everyone time to reflect on how grateful we were to be able to take part on such a wonderful evening.  At the back of the pack it gives you chance to chat and encourage people on.  Got chatting to a couple of nice ladies 1 a lot older than me – shock, talked about life and living it to the full as you just never know.  Rather philosophical while “glowing” and straining up hills etc but it’s all part of “life at the back”.

So my message is dust off the orange and green, get out there, challenge yourself while you can, above all enjoy yourselves and if you can manage to utter a few words whilst gasping for breath  make sure you mention  We need to raise a bit more to get to a landmark sum!!

I’ll keep you posted on Life at the Back !!  😉