> The beginning of Northumberland Fell Runners

Peter Reed and Ruth Fletcher cast their minds back to when it all began for Northumberland Fell Runners ...

Peter Reed recalls:

Setting up NFR was first talked about at the Hobble in December 1996. Some of us from Morpeth met up with Tynedale runners in 1997 at The Dipton Mill Pub. Ray Hayes, Dave Bell & myself travelled from Morpeth to the meeting. My memory is not that good but I seem to remember John Humble, Matt Simms, David Armstrong, John Dallinson, Roy Dawson, Stewart Beaty, Angus Tait, Peter Scott & Ruth Fletcher.

We elected the committee members and chose the colour & design of the club vests and the name, Northumberland Fell Runners. When the club was official, our first race was the Fairfield Horseshoe on May 18th 1997. The first race where the club vests were worn was The Kentmere Horseshoe on July 20th 1997 (photo below).

photo: Peter Reed
Kentmere Horseshoe 1997 - first outing for the club vest.
L-R Richard Cavner, Dave Bell, Peter Reed, James Tomlin, Garry Owens, Ray Hayes
(photo courtesy of Peter Reed)

Ruth Fletcher recalls:

It was a collision of various trajectories. There were some fell runs in the area and Tynedale Harriers fielded a small but strong team. Chris Scorer and I were members of Tynedale Harriers and were keen to promote off-road running - probably more trail running than fell running - our ultimate aim a top place in the Fellsman.

We organised a run near Hexham, and with the Hexhamshire Hobble (organised by Stewart Beaty, a stalwart of the early races) and the Riding Mill Rollick we had a little series.

Then, there were the hardened few, the "proper fell runners" tattooed with peat; smelly hellies; bait buckets; terrifying tales of descents, scree, mist, cramp, bonking, eyeball to eyeball, garments thrown to the wind to beat the opposition and win the occasional trophy.

Matt Simms had defected from the Peak District, an aura of Dark Peak swirling about him. Angus Tait, a force to be reckoned with, trained by Eva, a rich, auburn brunette, who flew over the heather, hardened by long solo training runs around Allendale. Karen, excelling at road running but disillusioned with eyeballing the tarmac, any pleasure sweated out with the relentless pressure to win. And John Humble, enthusiastic, the 'Yomper of Kielder' [ - the Yomp involved carrying a 25lb pack, John won it more than once], and another force to be reckoned with, not only strength, stamina and endurance, but also speed honed by a tenacious grasp of victory. Ray Hayes was there, each tussock of the Cheviots etched on his studs. And many, many others of course bringing their tales of peat, rocks and heather.

photo: Rob

And so we met, in the pub one night,
our minds quite set on a fell running club.
We each had thoughts and hopes and plans,
a Northumberland club to run the fells
and what's in a name, we drowned with ale,
Northumberland Fell Runners
is what it must be ...

Ruth Fletcher 1951-2011

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