It’s Friday night and my first fell (and off-road) race looms. It’s the Burley Moor Run. I’ve spent the evening laughing, eating pizza and drinking prosecco at Mel & Dave’s house. That’s how every good race starts, right?
Except Saturday morning arrives and the rain is lashing down… Maybe that’s how every good off-road race starts?
Saturday morning is usually reserved for parkrun; today I’m going to have to give it a miss. The Burley Moor Run, starting at Scalebor Park kicks off at 10am.
Breakfast porridge: check. Cup of tea: check.
All that’s left is to now wait for the rain to pass and for the actual race to begin.
By about 9:30 the rain had stopped and I instantly felt better about the fact I was running in only my vest and a pair of shorts. Mel and I picked our numbers up early and then retreated back to the warmth until it was closer to kick off. The safety pinning wasn’t too bad and after one final toilet stop I was ready to embark on my first fell race.
We congregated on the field and after a briefing and a comical moment with the air horn we were off. So far so good. A few minor bottlenecks and a very gentle climb. How hard can it be, eh?
Quite, is the answer.
We weren’t very far in before the rolling hills were upon us and I was walking. The heavy overnight (and morning) rain had left many-a-puddle and the ground was speckled with rocks. The climb was tough and I definitely think I had under-appreciated what was required of me. A few metres behind me a chap had slipped on a rock and as I turned around I watched him tumble onto his back.
Focus now. Don’t let that be you.
By 3K my feet were cold, swimming in water and we had travelled a long way up. I was wondering whether it would just be easier to stop here and die. Of course (because I wrote this blog) I have spoiled the ending: I decided to go 007 and die another day.
I continued onwards, following the path along. It was becoming increasingly muddier. A patch of mud caught me out and instead of it being relatively solid as it appeared, my left foot went ankle-deep before I could even pull it out.
We reached the summit of the main ascent and then began a flat and gradual downhill section. My legs eventually sprung into action for this section, still reeling from Thursday night’s speed and strength session. I caught up with a couple of people as I allowed gravity to carry me down. We reached a turn, I slowed, thanked the marshals and continued on an undulating and challenging section with rocky protrusions that tested my concentration.
There was a very steep, short, rocky descent before I reached a small ravine and hopped my way across on stepping stones.
That’s stage 1 on my quest to become a hardy, wiry fell runner completed: a river crossing.
I advanced onwards and reached the final descent back to the finish line. This was the section we had run up and as such it had become very churned up for the descent. I slipped more times than I could count but I didn’t fall down. I felt my leg get snagged on a bramble but because I’m now ¼ of a hardy, wiry fell runner I continued on running.
Stage 2 completed: draw blood.
I reached the road crossing and knew I was only about a mile from the finish line. I managed to pick the pace back up for the final kilometre or so and to cheers from my Hyde Park Harrier counterparts I crossed the line in just over 1:11.
That’s stage 3 completed: finish a fell race.
Friends commented on how good the red blood splodge where my nipple had been grated off looked on the white stripe of our club vest. A cup of tea and a cow biscuit sorted me out.
I have mud and blood on my legs and I ran a fell race. That’s ¾ of the way to becoming a hardy, wiry fell runner. Now I just need to be wiry.
… and I also need to dry my shoes out in time for my next trail race in the morning!