Lakeland Fell Races.
By Nigel Eldridge.
Tuesday 21st August saw four Harriers take part in the ‘Shipman Knotts’ Fell race, situated in an idyllic valley in Kentmere, just North of Kendal. The team consisting of Myself (Nigel), Rosie and Jimi Eldridge and also the fell machine that is Rodney parker, who by chance was just passing on his way to the mountains of the Isle of Skye.
Registration was at a quaint dry stone built cottage called Maggs Howe where Rod and family had managed very conveniently to secure a room for the night, we then trotted down the lane to a small triangle of grass at the road junction that doubled as a start line.
After a quick saftey briefing we were off. Having started in a modest position we felt able to push forward up the hill, although at the same time wondering what was yet to come, luckily this turned out to be an area of open moorland.
As this was an (AS) grade race, meaning short and steep, I knew this pleasently runable moor wouldn’t last. We were soon redirected left up onto the mountain proper and faced with steep steps turning to a craggy rockface scramble. After 40ft of climb the rock gave way to a reedy peat bog that we crossed to reach a final rock strewn rain gully of a climb up to the summit turn around. Whilst ascending this gully we had a handful of frontrunners flying down past us but we had had a tip off from the hosts ‘Helm Hill Runners’ that there was an alternative route down and I had caught glimpses of runners on the grassy ridge above the gully.
At the Summit I ran round the marshal to be greeted by Rod parker hot on my heels. I saw some Helm Hill runners dissapearing into the mist down the ridge so I picked up pace so as not to loose them and their local route knowledge.
High on the euphoria of descending and the cockiness of missing out the rocky gully, I completly forgot about the rock face, that was until I found myself slamming the brakes on to stop myself descending it in one mighty bound. I reset my mind and started hopping down to the relative safety of the track below. It was then a dash back across the moor and down the hill to the finish to be once again greeted by Rod Parker, who had managed to pass me unoticed via a slightly different route. Next in from the Harriers was Jimi Eldridge later followed by Rosie.
We were made to feel very welcome by Helm Hill runners who also laid on Tea/ Coffee and Cakes. A real fun evening and we highly recomend it.
Next for team Harriers (minus Scotland bound Rod) was the Grasmere sports guides races. This is a race that I have wanted to do for a long time due to it’s 150 years of history and legendary tales of heroic battling between some of fell running’s star runners. First up was Jimi Eldridge in the under 17’s race. He set off behind the lead runner keeping a good distance so as not to get into an up hill battle but kept a steady pace, fending off any attack from behind. I felt sick with nerves partly due to seeing my son ascending into the mix of grass, rocks and mist with a chance of a podium place or perhaps some broken bones on the way down and partly because Rosie and I had to do the same in an hours time. The lad in first place Thomas Marshall (Grandson of Grasmere’s legendary descender Tommy Sedgewick) then showed that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree by performing, what can only be described as foot assisted falling, putting a 3 minute gap between himself and our young harrier. jimi Managed to hold second place to be announced across the line by the one and only Pete Bland and greeted by Tommy Sedgewick ( I must say I shed a very manly tear or two). Jimi received a Silver medal, a sum of 40 pounds and bragging rights for life. All that was left now was for Rosie and I to compete in the slightly longer and technical senior race. The initial climb was steep, over a stone wall, turning into a calf burning climb up to a craggy summit, a brief run across a ridge to a second marshalled turning point, we then had to descend diagonally across the muddy hillside. To call this part of the race carnage would be an understament as runners repeatedly slipped over, some disappearing off the path into the undergrowth below, we were then back onto grass with a hurdle in the stone wall and a down hill dash back into the show ground, to be welcomed by a rain soaked marching band and soggy bystanders. This was our first visit to the Lake Disrict but it sure won’t be our last. It’s a beautiful playground for the outdoors type.