In a quest to add more variety to my running, build up a bit of strength and most importantly to stop beating myself up about pace, times and speed I’ve taken to Fell Running this year. This has happily coincided with my running club initiating a first off-road championship to run along side the regular one. It consists of 7 races varying in distance and difficulty with us posting our 4 best results. I started surprisingly well with the easy stuff but it has become clear that in this first season a number of us are being ‘groomed’ into the ways of fell running. First was a trail race which finished with a nasty climb up to a beacon and the 2nd was a short dash up Rivington Pike and back with most of the running on tarmac. I started with 2 wins and the ever improving Rob just behind me in both of them.
3rd race was manic: Mount Famine on the edge of the Peak district. Not particularly long but all steep either up or down. No flat stuff and the downs were so aggressive little old novice me couldn’t relax, enjoy or benefit from them in any way.
Eddie’s revenge a few weeks ago was more like my kind of Fell Race. Local, midweek, not too long, several climbs but no one of them too long and the terrain was fairly firm and true. Rob had taken first place in the 3rd and 4th races so last week at Lee Mill, Bacup we were level on points and with the 2 remaining races being longer and playing to Ultra-runner Rob’s advantage I really needed to win to have a hope of securing our club’s first off-road championship title.
So this was the 5th off-road race of the season and I think it’s the one I have enjoyed the most. The course was varied and had all the components I have come to expect in a Lancashire fell race: Gradients both up and down to contend with, one section of up requiring the use of hands and a section of down just too steep to be enjoyable. There was a flat bit too, although it had mild undulations and “bog holes” which provided a kind of runner’s Russian Roulette: once every few minutes I’d hit soft ground and a leg would sink down with stinking liquid rising above my knee.
I was still just inside the top ten as a sequence of 3 bog incidents sapped my strength and knocked my confidence whilst a group of runners behind me seemed to avoid all the worst stuff at my expense. I let a couple past and tried to keep with them, trying to follow in their footsteps but their pace was increasing and I couldn’t match it.
I had lead the PAC runners for the first couple of kilometres but stopping to tie a shoe lace had allowed Rob to pass me (though denying him the pleasure of passing me properly) and the 15 second gap I gifted him evolved into a 3 minute margin by the end of the race.
Then there was the steepest section of decent which was as hazardous for its uneven terrain as it was for its gradient. I was over generous in moving off the recognisable path onto more uneven group in order to let a couple of runners past and this soon turned into 5 or 6 runners. My heart and lungs were okay but inexperienced legs were a little wobbly and I didn’t want to tumble.
As we approached the end we went through a quarry, a point at which I should have been accelerating into the last kilometre but again the uneven ground caused me to back off. There wasn’t anything to play for as Rob was well ahead and I couldn’t see the next PAC runner behind me.
I was delighted to finish without incident other than a scuffed shin from one of my bog hole incidents. I paddled in the Irwell to clean myself up and then tucked in to a chip butty. A pint would have just rounded things off but I was driving and unlike most of the other races this one didn’t start and finish outside one.
I was happy to concede the off-road title to Rob who finished a fabulous 7th from 91 runners whilst I was 21st. I have left it too late to enter the remaining races at Pendle and North Wales but will be happy to find more local midweek fell runs and reckie some races to suggest for our PAC 2017 diary.