A longer than usual 7 miles (with >1,400' of ascent) for an evening race, this one is organised by Kinder Mountain Rescue Team and is an important fundraiser for them. The route goes from Hayfield up to and along Cracken Edge (touching some of the Bullock Smithy Hike route) before descending back to Hayfield. It follows a figure of 8 route but you don't go straight on at the crossover point at New Allotments; you turn right instead to effectively make two loops joined at their points.
Persistent showers had just about cleared away in time for our start. The evening was cool and pleasant. It was great to see Barny Crawshaw and Will Meredith there. Will ran the 59 miles to Dalemain on the Lakeland 100 just 4 days previously. For Barny this was his comeback race from an ankle fracture since the Kinder Downfall fell race in April (where he lent me the (non)essential kit to pass muster).
As part of the Hayfield Championships, this was my one and only chance to complete the four races required, so lurgy remnants or not I found myself standing at the bottom of a big uphill start with the keen racing hoards, heart beating 20bpm faster than it should have been to await the send-off speech and release. The uphill run soon had me gasping, lungs gurgling and cough spluttering involuntarily until I felt as if I might pass out. Then I allowed others to overtake as I treated myself to a brief walking break.
The race melted into a survival blur with tunnel vision, every second pushing to the brink of collapse (or so it seemed at the time). I figured if it didn't kill me at least it would blow the cobwebs out. The steep climb from the old quarry workings up to the top near Chinley Churn (the reverse of the Bullock Smithy Hike) brought us to the high point, where Andy Howie was snapping away merrily with his compact. After that it was mostly downhill to the finish. The return took us down technical, muddy, root-ridden paths through woods where it looked as though someone had turned the light off. It was dark in there. I'd been chasing a female runner (Jane Mellor as it turns out) for most of the descent but I just couldn't catch her. We ran the big grassy final descent to the finish in the field, Jane in 1:05:53 and me 8 seconds behind. Will finished 8 seconds behind me. Barny did well on his comeback race to finish in 1:07:15.
My lungs were as clear as a whistle for a few hours afterwards. The cobwebs were cleared and I survived to see another day. Whoopee.