Thursday, 17 May 2007

UK Inter-counties Fell Championships

Sunday morning myself, Caroline and Mike hit the road for the Peak District – Just north of Glossop to a place called Cowden – Venue for the 2007 championships. Caroline and Mike were selected for the North Wales team and I entered the race as an open runner – didn’t make any difference – we all ran it together. 8 miles and a few thousand feet of ascent over open peat bog, marshland, dozens of rivers and crags.
Over 300 fool-hardy idiots charging down a farm road and over a wooden bridge from the start line. The sound as we charged over the bridge was like a battle charge. The early nervous banter from the runners soon dies out as we run off the end of the road after only 200m and straight onto a steep muck track leading up to a dry stone wall and the first bottleneck of the race. Chaos ensues – I nip over the wall and charge up the steep grassy bank that followed, depositing me onto a well used but pathetic trail known as the Pennine Way. This was little more than a sheep trail with deep rutted grooved warn into the peat punctuated by sharp angular rocks jutting out of the ground and the sides of the rutts. Perfect for twisting ankles and gashing legs.
We contour around the valley, gradually gaining height all the while with the occasional steep climb until we level out above a small grit stone crag known as Laddow Rocks. To the non-climbers in the throng the proximity of the cliff top forces them to slow down but it’s not a bother to most with a healthy love of heights. After a while the terrain changes again to marshland and theres half a dozen river crossings before the race runs onto stone paving slabs to the summit.
Up to this point I figure Caroline and Mike and all the county runners have blasted off ahead of me and are on their way back down – Wrong – Turns out I’m in the top 50 to the summit and have beaten a load of Championship runners (nice!) – No time to enjoy the moment though – the decent – off the flagstones and onto bog again – this time it’s wet and claggy. The uneven ground and consistency of the bog slows everyone down but we’re on the downhill now so things are feeling good. Then it happens – Glass ankle syndrome! I land awkwardly a couple of times on my right foot and think I’ve come close to injuring the ankle again (Not another Cankle!!!) so I have to slow down. The ankle gives a pang of pain with every impact but theres nothing I can do now but slow down and finish it. I was about half way down from the summit when this happened so only had to keep it together for 2 miles or so. It’s only now that I can appreciate how Nuts dedicated fell runners are! They cant run uphill for peanuts – but they can sure as hell throw themselves downhill! They’re nuts!!

It’s hard to take people streaming past me but I felt happy with a good, strong run to the top (and half way back down) before I had to give in. After crossing the line it started to lash rain – didn’t matter – was soaked and muddy all over anyways! So scrambled down, under the bridge, to the river for a freezing cold splash around and washed the heaviest muck off before going back to the car and getting changed.

A good day out!

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