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Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race 2019 by The McBourne

October 18, 2019

“Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you”

Not that Neil Diamond is particularly my bag but I couldn’t get Sweet Caroline out of my mind as I scrambled up Stickle Ghyll. There was a lot of incidental touching of hands, not in the heavy petting type of way but due to the sheer volume of runners squeezing their way to Pavey Ark. You couldn’t avoid the odd friendly nudge here and there.

The Langdale Horseshoe is a chunky monkey of a fell race. Last year the weather was atrocious.  I didn’t do it but was on my annual Jolly Boys trip (see previous Screes Fell Race debacle report) and managed to walk from Wasdale to Styhead Tarn and back, so anyone who managed to complete Langdale last year deserves a big doff of the cap. Usually the form for Lakes races is the weather is great all week then terrible on race day. But following substantial rain during the week, we were promised ‘sunny intervals’ for the race; the one good day of the week.

A light shower greeted the start of the race but that was it really. Following those first climbs up and past checkpoint one Thunacar Knott, it was good running all the way. Despite Martcrag Moor being very boggy terrain, the views of Pike of Stickle and the upcoming race ridge from Bowfell to the Crinkles make it a somewhat enjoyable experience. I think I counted just one solitary case of AOT.

Tantalisingly scooting past an untouched Wainwright (Rossett Pike), the terra becomes more firma and gives you a good chance to increase that Jelly Baby intake towards Angle Tarn and the turn for home. I say ‘home’ but you still have the little matter of the clag and the “dreadful but right” runners trod under Esk Pike. Two choices; take your chances scuttling across slippy moss covered rock, or go calf deep (again) in sticky Lakeland mud, all nicely stodged up further by the couple of hundred runners already through. Or you could potter over the top but I didn’t see any takers this year.

I have fond memories of the route from Bowfell to Pike of Blisco from my Cumbrian Traverse in June. Good clambering to Bowfell summit, map out to take a bearing at Three Tarns before a tough grassy climb to Long Top. It’s a shame you miss out the other Crinkles although in severe weather I imagine it’s a very good option to follow the tourist path.

If I’ve learnt one important thing from running with Bowlanders it’s always listen to Leigh Warby’s route choice tips pre-race. Agreed Warby, there is no point in queuing for the Bad Step when you can shimmy down the ledge on the left. Granted my shimmying would probably plop me straight in the Strictly dance off, but it paid off as I landed in front of two runners I was previously behind.

It’s a welcome relief to finally be able to run full pelt between Great Knott and Cold Pike to the bottom of Pike of Blisco. Since Martcrag Moor there seemed to be a lot of time spent concentrating on mossy boulders. According to the race map, the descent off Blisco is the one place to recce beforehand; notorious for runners going AWOL to Wrynose. I hadn’t recced but was confident in my one mile at ninety degrees then sharp left ten degrees calculation. Bob on. All that was left was the gallop back into Langdale.

Back at the pub there was strong gaggle of Bowlanders. Nothing sums up fellrunning more than the sight of Paul Tierney dishing out the pies at the Old Dungeon Ghyll at the end of the race. Here’s a man who the term ‘legend’ doesn’t quite seem good enough. In fact I don’t think they’ve invented a word to describe Paul Tierney yet. Like many of you I had a tear in my eye watching him complete his complete Wainwright round in a little over six days earlier this year. Funnily enough John Graham also had a tear in his eye when he discovered that there was only cheese pies left by the time he came in at the end of the race. Let’s just say John had checkpoint issues. And I hate to tell you John but (adopts Gregg Wallace from Masterchef demeanour) “pies don’t get any better than this!!!”

Whilst stood in the car park field waiting to leave. I noticed that David Wilson was doing the exactly same thing as me. We were both stood silently looking at the Langdale fells in all their autumnal glory. “It’s a lovely valley” said David. I couldn’t agree more.

All together now; “Bap, bap, baaaaaaa, good times never seemed so good…..”

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