In only the second year of this race, the turn-out was healthy for the smallness of the venue. We squeezed onto the narrow country lane to await the send-off instructions and ear-splitting blast of the air horn to send us running back down the lane. The first mile or so contained bottlenecks with single file queuing, so you needed to set off fast to avoid getting slowed too much. I must have timed it just right because I kept moving as fast as I was able, the early queues allowing just enough slowing to recover from the early exuberance. I pushed hard to hold onto the runner in front without holding anyone up behind as we walk-shuffled our way up on the steepening inclines. Then we were out onto open fell, climbing (of course) and free to set our own pace.
I’d never been to this area before and the sunlit views were spectacular as we climbed to the summit of the course at Coombes Tor and Coombes Rocks and surveyed the rolling countryside around us. It was sweaty work in the heat. I had enjoyed a restful and healthy week to recover from the Bullock Smithy Hike so was looking forward to a good performance (for me) that would get me just into the bottom half of finishers. However I slowly began to realise that there was less in the legs than I expected as other runners steadily overtook me, including some who would normally be behind me. There was nothing in the legs. It wasn’t the heart rate this time. In fact I couldn’t get it up (the heart rate!) because of heavy leggies. After all these years of running I was discovering something new; I’d never tried to run an intense fell race the week after a tough Ultra; another Ultra, yes, but not a fell race.
Before long I found myself surprisingly isolated after many of the others had disappeared out of sight ahead. I could say that I settled back to enjoy the views but that would be a lie. I continued to push to my limits as usual with the near-blinkered, tunnel vision that comes with it, to eventually run back down that lane and on to the finish funnel at the pub in 1:07:45. That got me 60th place out of 88 finishers, comfortably in the bottom third. What a running stud (not).
The situation improved from there in the Little Mill Inn as I enjoyed a pub lunch with Will Meredith. While we were refuelling, some intrepid characters were setting off on their quadruple challenge, which consisted of this race, a run to Padfield, running the Padfield Plum Fair Scamper then wait for the piece de resistance later in the afternoon – the 25kg uphill coal sack race.
I like the sound of that. I might have a go one of these years.
Here are some pictures I took.