Running for DFR today: Meghan McCarthy (30th), Marie-Louise Ridley (47th) Jim Clapp (53rd), Fran Blackett (71st)
We had a good turnout of runners for DFR at the Hexham Hobble today. Given the events and challenges of the last week I think that we were all feeling extra grateful to the organisers and marshals for getting this race put on. The Hexham Hobble is a great route of about 16km with roughly 400m ascent. It is always incredibly well marshalled and, at points, flagged making it an excellent introduction to fell racing if you have never done one before. In fact, it was my very first fell race back in 2013. I ran it again in 2014 but then hadn’t returned until today. When I entered on a whim a few weeks ago I was imagining a lovely, crisp winter morning with all bogs and puddles frozen over. I should have known better. Andy always bets his left testicle that there will be snow at the Hobble. Although the weather was pretty kind (just a bit of an icy headwind on the second half…), the conditions underfoot were pretty horrific: wet, slippy mud; icy patches; soft snow (not the nice frozen kind that you can run along); slushy, FREEZING cold puddles and bogs. I was full of regret at deciding not to wear waterproof socks. The first climb is the worst, steep up the road out of Allendale and then it levels off as you turn off the road onto tracks and trods across the fell. Then it is undulating until you hit a middle road section with a steep down and then up back onto the fell before a final road section as you descend back into Allendale and the finish. As per the race organisers instructions everyone dispersed quickly at the finish so I can only assume that everyone had a great time! And the ladies managed to scoop the team prize so that was an exciting bonus!
It has been a great start to the 2021 club championship, and such a welcome relief to be racing over the fells again. As things stand, all of the remaining nominated races are still going ahead, but as with so may things over the last 18 months or so, I’ll continue to monitor them and endeavour to keep everyone up to date with any changes.
The championship kicked off with the short BOFRA Coniston Gullies race late in May. In previous years I’ve tried to keep the races accessible as possible, so I can understand a lot of folk not wanting to make the long journey over to Cumbria for a race that is over and done with in little over a mile (hopefully 2022 will see more local races back in the calendar). Denise Tunstall and Andy Blackett were rewarded for making the trip by picking up maximum points in the Ladies and Men’s competitions.
Next was the first long race, Ennerdale on a glorious mid-June Saturday. The FRA took the wise decision to leverage the race’s inclusion in the DFR championship and include it as a counter race in this year’s English Championship! There was a healthy turn-out of DFR folk; myself, Max Wilkinson and Andy Blackett toeing the line for the men, whilst Dawn Hosking and Kate Fogelberg lined-up for the ladies, setting off slightly before the men.
Once again, Andy Blackett took maximum points in the men’s competition with a fine run in under 5 and a quarter hours, followed by me 12 minutes later, and Max in just over 5 hours 40 minutes. Dawn had a great run to finish in 5 hours 43 minutes and take the maximum points in the lady’s competition, with Kate ensuring all DFR runners finished within an hour of each other, returning in just over 6 hours.
Only 4 days later, myself and Andy Blackett were once again westward bound on the A66, this time to Borrowdale, for the second short race in our championship, Langstrath. There we joined Dougie Nisbet and Denise Tunstall to make up the DFR foursome. Yet again, I proved no match for Andy Blackett as he made it round this tough, steep (and this year, entirely midge infested) route in just over 45 minutes, whilst I stumbled back 5 minutes behind. Dougie rounded off a pleasant stay in the Langstrath valley, by finishing a few minutes later. Denise was not far behind Dougie and once again claimed maximum points in the lady’s competition.
James Osborn writes about winning the Greener Miles Running Cowshed backyard ultra:
I am very happy I entered the Greener Miles Running cowshed backyard ultra and not the Suffolk one! My little jog out seems a bit insignificant in comparison. But, a week on and recovering well. I wasn’t sure at the time but I think I can now say that it was enjoyable (type 2) and I am already looking forward to doing another one.
I was a bit nervous at the beginning. Wasn’t like any start I had ever been in – no elbows out and just shuffled over the line. Stayed mid-pack for most of the duration, only led the last two laps. This is a bit different for me – my usual mode is to go off like a rocket and then cling on. Almost every lap was between 46 and 48 minutes, only a couple of exceptions at the beginning due to traffic and at the end when I was speeding up to get a bit more time at base. I did ping my knee on Saturday evening so had to manage that for the rest of the event, apart from that energy levels were good and no other problems. 29 yards and not out. Looking forward to seeing how far I can go next time!
Thanks to everyone for their support: All the runners for being a great and friendly bunch of athletes, I look forward to running with many of them again, a special mention to Paul Brunger for pushing on, even if he did lie to me! To the organisers for putting on a great event, even if the course was a bit challenging! And to all the supporters – especially my big sister Emma Benson who stayed up all night to keep my energy and motivation up. I award the Greener Miles Running cowshed backyard ultra 5* – see you next year!