January 22, 2017
I can’t recall exactly why i signed up for this one. I’d not done a proper fell race before. I remember thinking it sounded interesting, but let it slip off the radar and then it sold out. There was talk of more places becoming available and I looked again, then Lee said he had signed up and it should be really good, so when 50 extra places came up and they weren’t all taken by the already long waiting list, I took the plunge, why not? … it had a catchy name.
It was an 9.30 start from the Ingram Cafe, (a lovely little place selling home made eaty and drinky things, hot and cold), which meant an even earlier start, for the hour or so drive up to Northumberland. I’d agreed to meet Lee there after usual family faffing and deciding whether my crew could stomach yet another early morning to stand around in the cold watching Dad run. In the end they all came, happily and cheerily.
We got there in good time, plenty of easy parking available on the grass field. I did a quick recce to the registration tent which was smoothly run and efficient, got my number in hand and then bumped into Lee, Kay & Amy who had picked up my crew and were heading to the tent themselves. We got sorted, debated just how many layers to wear, looked at fellow runners, deciding most were looking just as apprehensive as us. At least it wasn’t snowing…yet.
Quick safety briefing, (which we missed) and we were off. Lee heading out at a pace suggesting he either knew something I didn’t, or it wasn’t going to be as bad as anticipated. We ran past our supporters and quickly disappeared off-road into the countryside, steadily settling into a pace more suitable for the challenge ahead.
We hadn’t gone more than 2 miles when it became apparent any talk of “at least its not snowing”, changed to “jeez this is going to be tough! “, it was obviously uphill most of the way out, but I think I had hoped for a bit of flat to run on, showing my naivety to fell running. “At least the boggy areas are not too bad” I was about to say, as I went in up to my knees and had to check I still had 2 shoes on! Lee was still making excellent progress, as I did my best just to keep him in view and after an enforced toilet stop. (did i mention how cold it was?!), we rounded a crag, heading towards the only forested area and got our first glimpse of the Hedgehope summit. It seemed miles away, which of course it still was!
We determinedly ploughed on and as we climbed, the temperature dropped. I was grateful for the extra layers and quickly deployed the outer jacket just as the first few flakes of snow began to appear.
4 or 5 miles in and we had the first few leaders beginning to pass us on their downhill leg. We shouted congratulations to them and wondered by then it must be quite nice to be able to run as we could barely walk by this stage.
There were a handful of hardy marshals in good spirits along the way, despite them being stuck there for hours, (huge thanks to them all) almost at the summit and we were suddenly faced with a large section of ice covered boulders to climb up, before the last section of heather trail up to the summit. Grabbing huge handfuls of various sweets on offer at the top and a quick photo opportunity, we didn’t hang around and set off again.
The return was much quicker if thats not too much of an overstatement. I wouldn’t so much call it running than adrenaline fuelled almost falling over as the steep decent demanded constant focus and attention to foot placement. Something I almost managed but for one spectacular fall and immediate commando roll. I could hear the “where’s a camera when you need one” comment from behind as Lee was impressed with my down, roll and back up without actually seeming to touch the ground. I later learned when defrosted that I indeed did hit the ground but wasn’t to feel it for some hours yet.
We made good progress as the village of Ingram came into sight. One last surprise had been laid in store as the return path took us straight through an icy cold stream, not once but hilariously 3 times, by which time most had realised there was no reason for this other than the organisers sense of humour.
Welcome shouts of well done Dad were heard as we neared the end with Lee making a dash for the finish, while I sacrificed a sprint finish, to help an unsteady runner in the stream. One final stile to climb and we had finished. Straight into the tent to sign out, to say we’d made it safely and new finishers mug in hand, we headed to fill it up with fresh hot soup.
Completely soaking on the outside, but now warm on the inside, just time for a final photo op, before parting ways to dry off and try to get warm.
I was so glad to have brought a complete set of dry clothes and stood by the boot of the car and changed, soaking wet, freezing cold, while my 2 supporters warmed themselves on the heated seats. We called by Lee’s mam’s house on the way out to collect some free range eggs (breakfast tomorrow) and headed homeward.
A brutal course, with over 2600ft of elevation, not for the faint hearted, but hugely satisfying and a massive workout for anyone in the middle of marathon training plan.
Well done to High Fell Events for a successful event, hope they do it again next year for you all to try. Massive well done and respect to all 260 finishers, the last one in over 5 1/2 hours! I think I worked out, I would have been home and showered by then. Great running from Lee, who kept dragging me along at times with great banter, good laughs and fab company. Final thanks to Lee’s mam for entertaining my two for a while at her nearby home so i didn’t feel so bad dragging them on yet another weekend dads run.
Future High Fell Events here