> 2008 race reports
12/06/08 Beacon Hill Fell Race - from Rob Stephens

Philip can't wait to get up front - photo: Rob
Philip can't wait to get up front

Warm in the summer’s evening sun, it’s a relaxed atmosphere for a small and friendly group of runners as we meet up at Lordenshaws. Plenty of familiar faces, and alongside the purple and green vests, a car-full of red & white hooped vests of Saltwell, and also red & white hoops of Calder Valley – the only lady runner. After their recent epic runs, Peter Moralee and Steve Walker are here to stretch their legs and hope to put some ‘spring’ back into them. A few Blaydon Race tee shirts about and some hoping for a cooler run than Alwinton last Saturday.

After a laid-back start, we’re suddenly leaning forwards into the abrupt first climb to The Beacon. Philip Sanderson follows no one: keeping a vigilant eye out for the tapes, he’s away, quick as ever. First time for me on this course but I got the run-down from Paul and know the area pretty well. First time for a few others too, as they miss a tape on the climb to Dove Crag and have to be called back.

Philip steams ahead - photo: Pat
Philip steams ahead

Garry and Geoff, all smiles - photo: Pat
Garry and Geoff, all smiles

Largely dry, the going’s pretty fast on the flat sections and gaps open up quickly, only to close again when we hit the next climb back up to the crags. Philip is way ahead on the skyline as the chasers pull themselves up the narrow heathery trod.

picking our way up on the second climb - photo: Rob
picking our way up on the second climb

Before long we’re running around the edge of the crags. A fantastic evening to be at this Northumberland beauty spot and something of a treat to have it more or less to ourselves. Peter Reed (marshalling) shows us the way down the crags (same point as in the Thropton Show race): a thrilling drop requiring absolute concentration as we negotiate boulders, slippy path and dragging heather.

deep in concentration - photo: Rob
deep in concentration

A little later, the descending rocky path through the pine forest keeps feet nimbly dancing before we can ease off a little on a stretch of forest track. A gradual climb for a while and with no one in sight in front, scraps of tape are high on my list of ‘things to look out for’ in this enchanting part of the forest.

Up to the mushroom-shaped stones, ‘Kate & Geordy’, hidden amongst the birch trees, before breaking into the sunny open once more to follow the magical winding path to Ravens Heugh with panoramic views to the Cheviots.

bathed in evening sun, the trod to Ravens Heugh - photo: Rob
bathed in evening sun, the trod to Ravens Heugh

Now heading for home, it’s a fast dash back along the knobbly path to the foot of the final steep climb up Simonside, where I just catch a glimpse of the runners in front (Garry and Alistair MacDonald) as they pull over the crest. Hands on knees and boulders to the top, runners behind cluster once more and I’m in danger of losing place here to a fit young Rob Shepherd.

Peter makes sure we don't skip this next detour  - photo: Rob
Peter makes sure we don't skip this next detour

Rob’s right on my tail for almost the entire run along the tops and in the best spirit of competition, makes it all the more fun as we push hard over the terrain. It’s quite a different venture on to Simonside these days with the recent paved sections but at least it makes for an interesting running style! The paved steps on the descents are perhaps the most tricky for the fellrunner and it seems easier to turn an ankle on them, but on the positive side, it makes for a very exciting eyeballs-out descent to the finish line!

one way to deal with the midgies! - photo: Pat
one way to deal with the midgies!

In this now low sunlight, the midgies may itch like crazy, but spirits are high after a superb race. Philip Sanderson has won his first fell race and by nearly 5 minutes, so is understandably pleased. Sue Mitchell (Calder Valley) will be pleased she came too! Blood streaming from his knee from a trip-up, David Beaumont is still beaming a smile (at least for now!).

I think this is a brilliant race, exciting and testing and on an evening like tonight, absolutely superb. Many thanks Paul and Wendy and all the helpers for putting this race on – it ranks very high in my favourite races.

route map from memory, click for larger version


Rob Stephens

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