This provided a rare opportunity for me for a 'short' blast in the hills. I almost got my lungs burning! It's a serious runners' event that's based from Meerbrook Village Hall and very well organised by Macclesfield Harriers. The out-and-back route climbs via a filthy, slurry-infested dairy farm near the beginning and end (I bet their milk goes off quickly, and KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT as you slosh through to keep the splashes out), up along the Roaches ridge, down the other end, across the river, up and down a lot more before climbing Shutlingsoe (a mini Ingleborough?), where we go around the trig point at the top before retracing our steps. We enjoyed a brief respite in the weather and the sun shone upon us, but it was nippy and the mud was voluminous (especially around that farm). At its worst it reminded me of a mini Tough Guy. Trying to run across that on the return leg risked inducing crippling cramps.
This must be the only fell race that puts out red carpets for us. In the early stages, as we queued at a stile near a farm residence, we caught the unbelievable sight of red carpet covering the grassy bank on the other side up to the gravel track! It was there to protect the grass from the worst of all those fell shoe studs. By the time I returned, it was rucked up and folded and serving no useful purpose. SACK THE CARPET FITTER I say!
The out-and-back format allowed a glimpse of the speedy ones on their return leg as the slower ones, destined to finish well down in the bottom half, continued towards the climb up Shutlingsloe to the trig point turnaround. They ran just within their capability that they could sustain until the end. So did I. The difference was exactly 1 hour at the end of 15 miles. They must be a different species to me.
I have no business here in such racing snakes', speed merchants' races, so despite my best, lung-busting efforts I still finished well down in the bottom half of the field. Nonetheless I was pleased to beat my previous time of 3:21 (in 2007) by 13 minutes. 3:08 - only 9 minutes to knock off to get a sub-3, then I might get into the top half. Perhaps next year? But that would require less quantity and more quality, like, lay off the ultras and do speed sessions every week. No chance! I run for fun, not for obligation.
I did not take my camera because I would have tripped up in the river and wetted it, and as we know it wilts even at the smell of dampness (although on hindsight a complete dunking might teach it a good lesson on what real dampness is). However, 'finniganjones' took some amazing action shots here, which just have to be linked. The descent to the river on the return leg was steep.
Next week is a 5-mile fell race (Dunnerdale). I have never turned out for such a short jaunt in the hills. Dare I say it's hardly worth getting out of bed for, but it precedes the Vasque Runfurther party in the evening which I must attend, so in for a penny.....
I expect to be humbled even more comprehensively. I might be last and I might kill myself in the process.