Monday, 29 November 2010

Famous Grouse fell race. 5.2 miles with 1,240’ ascent. 29/11/2010.

As I had no event organised for this weekend, I had already decided to run my local Woodbank 5k Parkrun on Saturday, where I got my second fastest time with 23:29. (Please be advised it is a very hilly course and times are slow, so they are, to be sure, honest gov....) I finished 12th, and second in my age group. [That might sound more impressive than it is. There were only 33 runners. The frigid conditions might have put them off.] With acknowledgement to photographer Jon-Paul:

While there, another runner asked me if I would be doing the Famous Grouse fell race the next day. That sowed a seed in my mind. After returning from a party in the evening I logged onto the FRA races calendar and found it. It was only down the road and I wanted to have a go.

After another outrageously frigid night – unprecedented at any time, let alone in November, it’s even come a month earlier than it did last year – I found myself driving to the Famous Grouse pub in Birch Vale in good time to register for the 11am start. It would be my third short, sharp, furious fell race this year and my fourth ever. The sun was out, the sky was blue and the air was calm, yet Daz H's thermometer measured MINUS 16°C on the way to the race. Global warming my a*se. The ground was rock solid and lightly sprinkled with the snow that had fallen on Friday night. There was a healthy turn-out of runners – several fellow Stockport Harriers but the club most in evidence was Pennine Fell Runners with their distinctive red and yellow vests.

The race began uphill, which is how it remained for around two miles. With lungs burning and breathing deeply and heavily, everyone was running. It was good to be able to throw all caution to the wind and push to the limits all the time without having to worry about blowing up or saving something until later. This is a test I very rarely get to do and should do more often because it makes me feel so awake and alive! I feel as though I have my mojo back. With acknowledgement to photographer Mike Barry:

On that first ascent we joined the Bullock Smithy Hike route on its final climb to the ‘Chinley Churn’ checkpoint, then descent to ‘Peep O Day’ cottage (which was used many years ago for a TV drama, the name of which I cannot remember). From Peep O Day we departed from the BSH route, turning sharp left back on ourselves to contour along the hillside to eventually climb steeply to the track we climbed at the start. This was the first time we were forced to walk. I did some overtaking on this section. Then it was a sharp right turn and downhill blast back to the finish, where I got overtaken by a runner I’d overtaken on the final climb. He seemed to glide past effortlessly. I’m thankful to say my knee was not holding me back. It was simply lack of quadriceps strength and, perhaps more importantly, lack of confidence in my legs.

My time of 49:20 got me 63rd place out of 109 finishers. I don’t know if I will ever get to finish in the top half of an out-and-out fell race. Perhaps I might if I practice enough. All things considered I was well chuffed with this result. To average 6.32mph (9:29/mile) with that ascent is not bad for me with my total absence of any speed training. However, my puny effort is put into perspective by all those 62 in front of me. I never cease to be astounded at what the real, serious fell runners can achieve at these races. The first two finished in a shade under 37 minutes. It puts me in awe, quite frankly.

Apparently, this is usually a muddy race, but not this year. On its 21st running, the conditions were said to be among the best ever. Let the global cooling continue.

We finished in the pub for prize presentations and a choice of soup and roll, chips, cup of tea, and “Dobs” (a warming, sweet, watery white wine version of mulled wine is the best way I can describe it). Of course you could have beer if you really wanted it.

There were several spectators and photographers out on the course braving the cold weather. (We runners were alright because our extreme effort meant that we had our own internal furnaces going on.) See the links below for the crop of pictures that show the amazing conditions we enjoyed.

Steve Temple

Neil Coverley

Mike Barry

Richard Sieppe


  1. you look terribly serious in the shots nick!

  2. It's called concentration, Dave. If I allowed a smile I'd be at least second slower ;-)

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  4. If only such races existing down South... From a very jealous southerner!