My Maiden Fell Run And The Windy Hill Baptism Of Fire
Ok, here we go with my first Fellrunning blog on my maiden forage into the secret world of Fellrunning! I was always under the impression that Fellrunners wore big boots, long woolly socks and had beards! I’ve wanted to try Fellrunning for about twelve months now – luckily I have recently been introduced to one of the top fell runners in England (big bonus). Running aside, the gentleman in question is one of the nicest, most helpful and modest person you could wish to meet – an apparent trait that runs through the Fellrunning community.
My newly acquired Fellrunning friend/adviser shall remain anonymous but everybody in this sport knows him for his blistering starts and for disappearing over the horizon after the first half mile. So when he asked if I fancied trying a Fell race on Windy Hill at Littleborough, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
The night before the race I also asked a friend if he fancied it, not wanting to shirk a challenge and also the fact he had been on copious amounts of craft beer I knew the answer would be yes.
Also to join the newly formed fell runners alliance for that day was my wife and daughter who just fancied a short walk on the fells. We reached the club in good time and my anonymous friend Ben Mounsey had packed up all the equipment we needed to keep us alive, minus the hair of the dog craft beer for my friend.
Firstly, we had to get the kit checked, two people sat at a desk looking me up and down as though I was a Fellrunning piece of meat ready to be consumed by the buzzards at the top of Windy Hill. Then came the intense questioning about kit; ‘Have you got this?’, ‘Have you got that?’! Thinking they were about to take me into a back room for further questioning I cracked – final question; ‘Have you got emergency provisions?’… I bumbled out ‘Think so!’ – Ben backed me up – ‘Correct answer!’ one said, you’ll be fine, enjoy the run!
The warm-up was next to throw me off balance – I was convinced this was where the long socks needed to be put on, instead we immediately set off on a slow run up the hill. On the way up we met up with the top lady runner in the race, think I had to pinch myself at this point, me running with top quality runners at the top of their game!
Onto the actual race – I set off nice and steady after trading a few jokes with fellow runners who weren’t privy to the beard, but despite this approach I was focused on the job in hand. The initial climb up took on the “killer” lane, my wife and daughter nervously looked on probably thinking; ‘Will he make it back?’ or ‘Do we really care?’ – I did ask them after if these were the burning questions they were asking themselves, wife said; ‘No we were just wondering what time the sausage sandwiches were available!’ – Typical!
As time moved on I was really warming to the task in hand, feeling stronger by the Kilometre but always with a slight worry of the hill that was looming to the right of me! It was like a magnet drawing me closer and closer and inevitably the time came when I had to face my fears and tackle my first serious fell hill! I started off well enough and kept going for a while until the time came to admit I’m 56 not 26 – a walk was needed and in fairness this was the general consensus from most competitors at this point.
The hill in question was one of those that kept on giving, all of it elevation with plenty of thick mud and a strong headwind thrown in, anyhow to cut to the chase I reached the summit! At this point I really felt like planting a flag, this was my Everest I also had to take in a supplement which was easier said than done but it certainly brought me round for part two; which I had been reliably informed was all downhill… how the hell did I fall for that line?
Somewhere up near the top I was lucky runner number 100 (really). Onto Blackstone edge I ran, it looked treacherous and certainly didn’t disappoint, at this point the run got slightly blurry. One mystery that was answered that day was where all the flagstones that had disappeared from our local area in Leeds had gone – low and behold in sight was a magnificent stone flagged path to run on across the fell that seemed to stretch for ever. But what stood out most was the lack of downhill running I was promised – it did flash through my mind the vision of Ben (who had promised the downhill delight) laughing all the way to the finish line, probably his way of relaxing on a tense race day.
Two things I learnt the hard way on the way back was; never argue with gate latches, they hurt like hell when you run into them! And secondly, never jump into a patch of mud when you don’t know how deep it is, although the runner that was following me was laughing so loud I was so happy I’d brightened up his day! These two bad mistakes cost the lucky 100th runner 3 places at the end, but what did I take from this Fellrunning experience? Well the answer is everything that is good in the world; great people, lots of fun, running in its purest form, a test that pushed me and the realisation you don’t need to have a beard and wear long socks to fell run! Bring on the next one!
So, thanks to my two running buddies Mark Reid and awesome Windy hill champion and course record holder Ben Mounsey – it was one of those days that will never be forgotten!
Information about the Windy Hill fell race can be found here: http://runleeds.co.uk/r/windy-hill-fell-race/