> Coniston Fell Race 2002 - Andy Curtis

Saturday 4th May 2002 - 8m/3500'

I only just made it in time as the race was due to start at 11:15 rather than the 11:30 I had in my brain. That coffee stop on the M6 was maybe not a good idea with the level of Bank Holiday traffic along Ullswater and going round and round the one-way race track that makes up Ambleside. The man collecting money at the alternative car-park at Coniston Junior School put me right (went there as I thought that one would avoid the £1 at John Ruskin School). He told me the route to the registration (although the route in descent of the Old Man would have been more useful) and that I better get a move on 'as it always starts early'. Luckily it wasn't a 'no safety-pin' event so the Committee for Restoration of Safety Pins in Fell Races won't be seeking a boycott next year. The first person I met in the start field was an old rival, Rod Pilbeam, younger than me and long since retired from running, but keen 'to see what fools still were'. Well this fool was and enjoyed it. A few other fools from NFR were there as well. It was, after all, number 3 and the first medium race of our 2002 Club Championships.

The start was fast and furious but soon came to a stop as the large field squeezed through a narrow gate out onto the road. Then it was just up and up - not a clue where we went although the organiser's map showed a route up Mouldry Bank and the Furness Fells, until eventually the summit cairn of Wetherlam hove into view. We had climbed 700m in about 2 miles and I think I was flying. The ridge to Swirl How was a delight and I even sneaked a quick look around at the views to convince myself that I wasn't dreaming this fell race. The map in the bum bag wasn't necessary on such a clear day - although Dexter told me that his first run there had included an extra hill. Due south along the prominent ridge of Swirl Band and Levers Hawse takes you straight to The Old Man - a route of good running with suprisingly little rock underfoot. A Kendal runner seemed to know all the little short cuts below the ridge but following him on the way down was a mistake. My prime rule is never to follow a Bingley runner even if that's all you can see, but a Kendal should be safe on his home ground.

At the summit (803m) a gap had developed and I only had the one person to follow. Everyone else had disappeared down the screes to the east staying near the path. Our route was mainly on vegetation but with some awkward gully negotiation necessary further down near the Scraw Beck. Selwyn Wright (Ambleside) told me afterwards that there is a good route that way but as the grass was wet he stuck to the path. The map would have been useless anyway as the flanks of The Old Man have been drawn on by a host of inky Ordnance Survey spiders and it would take far too long to navigate even if I could work out exactly where I was. Earlier I had caught up with an old friend, John Marsh (Teviotdale) and had a short chat before passing him on one of the climbs. He ended up only just behind me on the road above the village. It was a warm day and I was very grateful for the stream crossing and quick drink before the fast run in to the Coniston field and more (bottled) water. This was a race in a million. I hadn't realised how much I was missing the Lakeland Fells. Only 30 minutes behind the winner and just in the top half of the field too. I was back again last Sunday for the Buttermere Sailbeck Horseshoe but fear I was even further adrift. Report to follow unless someone else wants to write one.

1 Ian Holmes Bingley   66:02
2 Simon Booth Borrowdale   66:36
3 Mark Roberts Borrowdale M40 67:55
4 Robb Jebb Bingley   68:05
5 John Taylor Bingley   68:08
6 Andy Peace Bingley   68:38
7 Ben Bardsley Borrowdale   68:59
8 Colin Donnelly Eryri M40 69:11
56 Jeff Winder Calder Valley M50 80:17
64 Andrea Priestley Ilkley L 81:01
67 David Armstrong NFR M40 82:18
102 Charlie Stead NFR   84:59
161 Mike Jeffrey NFR M40 91:45
196 Andy Curtis NFR M40 96:04
305 Steven Walker NFR M40 108:45
358 Ken Turnbull NFR M50 117:18
390 Joe Potts NFR M50 122:58
402 Eddie Watson NFR M50 125:35

418 finishers

Andy Curtis

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