> Fell Running for Fun? - John Duff

The track to the aptly named Hellpath seemed to be going on for ever. Runners from the fast-start streamed past with seeming ease and my legs refused to go any faster. I tried to remind myself that fell running was supposed to be fun, and wondered why I was running the Chevy Chase anyway.

It had all started 2 years ago. When out for a jog in the Cheviots, I had bumped into Ray, Garry and Tommy who had suggested that I tag along with them. It was a memorable day. We took the path to the mountain rescue hut at Yearning Saddle before dropping over the border to Buchtrig. From there we headed back via Greenhill and the Street. Afterwards over a debriefing drink in the Newcastle Arms, I learned about NFR and duly signed up.

Foot and Mouth put paid to plans last year, so my fell running debut was at this year's Alwinton Fell Race. The day was cool and blowy with scuds of rain sweeping in from the west. After a steady pull up Clennell Street the route headed over a very boggy Bloodybush Edge and Cushat Law. Walkers on the Alwinton Round came past the other way, glancing rather incredulously at the runners struggling up the hills. After a steep descent down a forest ride there was a bone jarring descent on a rocky track through Kidland Forest before a final sting in the tail - a climb back up to Clennell Street. Morgan Donnelly took the honours with Garry Owens just being pipped for second place by the local shepherd. A convivial drink and prize-giving in the Rose and Thistle rounded off a good day.

My next foray in the fells was at the Windy Gyle Fell Race. Another dreek day made for pleasant running conditions, but still couldn't compensate for the initial lung bursting climb out from Barrowburn. Several runners missed the top of Windy Gyle as the path split confusingly just below the summit - somebody suggested a map for Andy Curtis at the prize-giving - but it made littler difference to the overall result. A fine traverse along the Border Ridge led to an undulating descent down the Street. 31 runners were glad to see the finish as rain swept in over the fells at the end.

And so to the Chevy Chase. There was a good complement of NFR in both starts. After the initial gentle pull to Broadstruther the climbing set in for real up Cheviot. The crossing to Hedgehope was rough, but after that there was a reasonable track to Langlee Crags. The going got rough again at Brands Corner, and then tough up the rocky path alongside tle Carey Burn. Highlights of the day were the panoramic views across the Cheviots, seeing an owl at Long Crags and hearing the Northumbrian Pipes which denoted that the finish was, at last, at hand. Tea and sandwiches restored the spirits afterwards in the Youth Hostel.

I'm not a member of the local running club, though I do compete in some of their races. Usually no-one talks to you and you come away wondering why you bothered. So it's a novelty when people actually bother to have a word after a race - keep up the good work NFR.

John Duff

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