Sunday, 4 December 2011

Gravy Pud fell race 5+mi. 04/12/2011.

As I drove towards Tintwistle with my headlight beams cutting through the dim light and pouring rain (it was mid morning, incidentally) and the hills disappearing into cloud, an inner voice said: "What on earth are you doing? Turn around and go back home, you fool." Before I'd had a chance to act on this 'advice', another 'voice of reason' replied: "Don't be nesh, suck it up and just get on with it. You can't back out now you've blabbed on your blog." I continued to Tintwistle as planned. By the time I arrived, the rain was now only 'spitting'.

I had nearly an hour to register, chat and keep warm in the Bull's Head pub. It was good to meet Ian Winterburn and Will Meredith once again. By the time we ventured outside for the 11am start, it actually wasn't raining! I was chatting with Percy, who had only found out about this race yesterday. This was his first race. I was impressed by his keenness for turning out on such a day. I couldn't give him any advice because I was also new to this race.

The turn-out of 168 was particularly impressive, given the weather conditions. It had rained all night (for most of the weekend in fact) and the forecast for today was bad. It was turning to sleet, hail and snow as the weekend progressed. People who had travelled over the Woodhead Pass had to negotiate wet snow on the road.

The 5 mile (approx) route was well marked and marshalled and ideal for first-timers. As most of it was on tracks and paths (most of them swilling with liquid mud today) with only a short off-path section for the hands-and-feet climb to the top of Lees Hill, it was more runnable than usual. The addition of the obligatory ups and downs made it a right lung buster (but aren't they all?).

I never cease to be impressed by the speed and fitness of the faster runners in these fell races. The leaders sprinted off up the track from the start, while I settled into my usual survival jog with a steady stream of other runners gradually overtaking. I was breathing hard and could not have gone any faster. It wasn't long before Percy caught up with me on an early climb and pulled ahead a little, but as soon as the gradient eased downwards again, I let gravity do its thing while my legs maximised the effect by braking a little here and pushing a lot there. I made up some places.

On the climb of Lees Hill I was detecting a rapid reduction in light levels. At the highest point of the course, the hail started to fall. This didn't bother me because hail bounces off without wetting you. It soon turned to rain though, and continued in that vein until the finish.

The second half of the route is not all downhill by any means. There are plenty of ups as well as sharp turns, always with a marshal to point the way. It was alright for us because we were running to keep warm. They were standing to get cold. Thank you marshals for your sacrifice on our behalf.

I was mostly holding my own in the second half, with one or two catching me and me re-overtaking or catching one or two others. Percy was still somewhere behind but I had no idea whereabouts. I could only hear anonymous pursuers near and not so near by their heavy footsteps splattering in the muddy puddles or their laboured breathing hissing through their teeth.

By the final run back down Arnfield Lane to the finish I was giving it all I had but I seemed to be moving so slowly considering the runnable downhill cobbles that were now passing beneath my feet. I'd given my all out on the course and now I had little left to give on what should have been an easy downhill sprint to the line. It felt like those dreams I used to have where I am trying to run but making no progress, as if running through treacle. The effort had left my legs feeling weak and clumsy. I felt as though I was bumbling haphazardly to the finish barely in control. For some time I had been hearing footsteps and heavy breathing from several pursuers. Now they were getting closer. I pushed a bit harder to hold them off and hoped it would be enough. I just about made it to the line before turning around and seeing Percy right there behind me. Give it 10 more yards and he would have had me. Well run Percy. You'll surely beat me next time.

The Bull's Head was crammed and buzzing afterwards as tea and cake or beer and chips were consumed. This is the small room:

There was a bring-a-cake competition for post-race sustenance. I gawped in wonderment at the creations by runners and their other halfs. Mmmmm, cake:

During the prize presentation the pub dog raced backwards and forwards barking loudly every time a round of applause went up. Many thanks to nblg for putting on such a well organised run and getting the results out so quickly. What a slick operation you run.

I was happy to finish more comfortably inside the top half than ever before in a short sharp fell race.


  1. Hi Nick,

    Lovely cakes!!! we were off @ 9.30am in the thick of that bad weather and done by half ten. The benefit however being a couple of 1lb puds!! It looked good in the pub though!

  2. wish i'd done it now..changed my mind the night before in favour of a longer outing (which was nice)

  3. Good to meet you yesterday, Nick. I enjoyed my first ever race - and chuffed to have come in the top half of the field! Hopefully see you on another one sometime.

    Percy (they spelt my name wrong on the results list!)

  4. Well done Nick - a good run and nice to see you. Sorry I had to get off at the end.
    (well done Percy too).


  5. Why don't I do more of these shorter events???!? Get outside, get muddy, get done, get changed (and warm again), eat cake! Brilliant!

  6. Mike, it sounds like nice spoils after your race.

    uc, not to worry. You got out and enjoyed yourself, which is all that matters. :-)

    Percy, I did wonder about that spelling. All corrected, in my blog at least. :-)

    Percy and Will, I'll see you at another one before too long. I like the sound of a possible reverse route that's been mentioned on the forum.

    Dawn, they are really good. Do you have plenty of local races to choose from (weekends in winter plus additional evening races in the summer)?

  7. I wish I had these types of races on my doorstep but sadly not!! Those cakes were simply awsome.

    Well done on your parkrun PBs btw Nick :-D still plenty of life in the old dog yet!!

    Are you registering for UTMB? filled my application yesterday!! So excited but knowing my luck I'll miss out in the ballot. But you gotta be in it to win it!!