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British Fell Relays

Each year a fell running club volunteers to host the British Fell Relays. This is an event where clubs from across the country have the opportunity to come together and run as a team to test themselves against each other. Teams have 6 members running 4 legs; 2 individual and 2 paired, with one of the paired legs being a test of navigation (the others are always very well flagged).

The relays are always a great day out with the big clubs putting out their best runners to compete for the win. This year Helm Hill hosted in the Howgills, just south of Tebay. Carnethy (next year’s hosts) took the win for the men and the hosts took the ladies’ title. This year DFR put out two teams; a men’s team who finished 66th overall and a mixed team (3 ladies, 3 men) who finished 13th of 30 in their category.

Mixed Team Report

Members: Meghan McCarthy, Fran Blackett, Denise Tunstall, Steve Lumb, Martyn Farnsworth, Andrew Stimpson

Leg 1 – Meghan McCarthy

Leg 1 was an opportunity to go up what my sister and I used to call ‘the sucker-boot sheep hill’ when we were small because we didn’t understand how the sheep could stay stuck to the side of something that steep! The climb was calf-busting and the descent complete guesswork in terms of ankle-breaking stones lurking under the slippery grass.

Leg 2 – Fran Blackett and Denise Tunstall

  • 10km 700m ascent

This was the navigation leg. As we arrived in the event field the clag was definitely down over the tops of the fells which got the nerves going – this could be tricky. However, as we waited in the holding pen for Meghan to speed down the hill and into the changeover area the cloud began to lift. In the end, the cloud stayed high enough and the navigation was pretty straightforward. With such large numbers of people there was a trail of people the whole way round. However, we were careful not to fall into the trap of just following the person in front (they don’t always know where they are going!) and kept our eye on the map and our thinking heads on. As Andy was also on the same leg for the men’s team it was pleasing to compare our routes afterwards and see that our route was 400m shorter with 80m less climbing (I take any small win I can get in our household!). The ground was rough, tussocky and boggy with a few steep ascents and descents which tested the legs. As we ran into the finishing area we had expected leg 3 to have left already in a mass start (organisers took a last minute decision delay this) so it was a very last minute sprint when we saw Steve and Martyn waiting to be tagged!

Leg 3 – Martyn Farnsworth and Steve Lumb

  • 10km, 930m ascent

Leg 3 was good fun but brutal. Anyone who knows the Tebay fell race knows the climbs. Basically this was a condensed version with all the climbs and descents and none of the flat bits!

Leg 4 – Andrew Stimpson

Andrew brought the mixed team home on the final leg of the day with a good run round the short but steep route.

Men’s team report

Leg 1 – Rory Woods

Rory had a strong start, in 2nd place for a short while! Positioning himself well for the first climb to avoid any traffic. In 50th place after the first climb and holding his position well on the descent to finish 51st and hand over to James and Andy for Leg 2.

Leg 2 – Andy Blackett and James Osborn

There had been a certain amount of pre-race negotiation between Andy and James. It was decided that if James had 2 beers on Friday evening and Andy had 3 we would be fairly evenly paced. However, Andy cheated and only had 1 beer meaning he was quicker out of the blocks than James. The nav leg has in previous years had some interesting route choice and some challenging navigation. This year it was very much a case of follow the leader with minor choices which either saved or cost a few seconds here and there. We set an aggressive pace on the first climb, James’ contribution to the nav was an out of breath ‘are you ok for me just to follow?’. Overall, we were well matched with James pushing on in the 2nd half as we passed several teams who had one member who looked to have broken down on the fell for one reason or another and leading a flat out – full beans – run into the field for the changeover to leg 3.

Leg 3 – Max Wilkinson and Dan Hoyle

Fast start, got passed on first climb to CP1, Max bringing up the rear, claggy and warm. Steady climb onwards to CP2, very steep descent to CP3 followed by hands and feet mega steep ascent to CP4. Long steady run off, passed by a few more teams. Steep climb to final CP5. Finish in sight in valley below. Sketchy, slippery bum sliding descent to finish. Handover to Tom. Dan towed Max around.

Leg 4 – Tom Dobbing

I was very cold even after warmup but decided to give it the beans on the way out, I settled down on the climb and soon warmed through nicely. The climb, steady at first, then super steep and then steady again. The ‘steady’ was an annoying gradient that didn’t quite let you run at times. Took 3 places back on the climb but unable to close any further gaps on the descent, which was a greasy steep one with little rocks ready to give you a good whack if you fell! Into the finish and whacked! About 5 and a bit K in 33mins.

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Leg 23 – Andy B and Rory

‘Don’t run the legs off each other on the first climb!’ Was the instruction ringing in our ears as we left the carpark below Rannerdale Knots on a calm and sunny Monday morning, to depart on leg 23 out of 24.  Myself and Rory wouldn’t claim to specialist in the ‘long stuff’, and we both enjoy a short blast.  This leg at around 20km, was somewhere between a short blast and the long stuff so we had to be careful how we went.  


We had both recced the leg well and knew every grassy ramp and trod, discussing each junction before we approached and always taking the right course.  On the first climb we discussed the pacing, held ourselves back as instructed and planned to give it everything if we still had anything for the last hour or so.  The leg is almost all on good runnable paths except the really steep and fun descent from Causey Pike directly towards Barrow, which 50% of our party enjoyed.


The last hour approached, and some quick calculations showed we were on to finish in under 3 hours, our best estimate had been 3:20, we didn’t know if the tracker was working due to poor mobile coverage, so were concerned leg 24 might not be ready for us.  Rory fired off a WhatApp message on the last descent “down in 5”, which got through to the waiting team a minute or so before us, leading to a somewhat rushed changeover.

Throughout the leg Rory was faster on the runnable sections and I was faster on the steep stuff, meaning at all points we each had someone to chase – the pace was brilliantly furious.  Not what everyone would enjoy, but 24 hours later and i’m still smiling about it.  One of the best mornings out I’ve ever had on the fells.



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Tracker is working again!

After a 24 hour holiday our tracker has kicked back into life.

https://live.opentracking.co.uk/dfrw21/

Scheduled to finish at Moot Hall at 4pm today (Monday).
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Tracker has stopped – the attempt continues!

It looks like our tracker has stopped working, battery was showing 9% so we had planned to charge it later today. We are assuming that low battery is the problem, but will have the technological inquest later.
Leg 15 are just about to finish on their schedule, leg 16 won’t have any tracker coverage either, leg 17 will be equipped with a charger to try and resolve the issue.

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Leg 4, Ennerdale to Wasdale, Andy B and Adam B

Leg 4 started at the rather antisocial time of 1am, as we stood shivering in the car park wearing jackets Rory and Dan ran in sweating ; clearly we were overdressed.
The first climb of Grike has little to recommend it other than it gains plenty of height which we weren’t to lose until the descent of Yewbarrow near the end of the leg.
The next section is mostly on familiar ground being the reverse of the Ennerdale race route, however it being night and running it backwards meant a careful eye was kept on navigation by Adam for the first part and Andy for the second part being the bits we had recced.
One minor nav error was spotted by Adam in the return from Pillar as Andy was engrossed in explaining the origins of the many universe theory, perhaps in another universe we didn’t miss the trod and all was well! Error quickly recovered and the climb and then losing descent of Red pike went without incident (is this the top? No, how about this one? No? Maybe the next…)
The final section was always going to be the crux, BG trod to Yewbarrow, followed by an unreasonably steep gully descent, then the climb of Knot End (not a Wainwright but right in the way), the descent of Knot End is on unreasonably rocky and bracken infested ground followed by the unreasonably steep climb of Seatallen, soon after the unreasonably steep descent of Seatallen followed by Middle fell with its unreasonably steep descent. We were both suffering at this point and were ready to be done.
Buckbarrow is in comparison to the previous hills perfectly reasonable, we descended to meet James, Graham and Martyn at the road crossing.
The weather was perfect throughout, moon and star light lit the way, barely a breath of wind and a fine warm dawn.
I hadn’t run with Adam before but we were well matched for pace, Andy learned a lot about David Bowie’s back catalogue and Adam learnt that Andy gets distracted when talking about physics.

https://live.opentracking.co.uk/dfrw21/