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17/05/08 Fairfield 2008 - from John Telfer

Despite the competing attentions of the Old Counties Tops, a Championship race in Wales and the following day’s Windermere Marathon the lure of doing battle with an old foe has guaranteed a good turnout for this classic Lakeland horseshoe race. Despite a brooding forecast the heavens contain their wrath and content themselves by blowing a cooling breeze across the fells. Only Fairfield sulks in the cloud in the hope of enticing the directionally challenged to an excursion towards Patterdale.

The initial stampede out of Rydal Hall and up on the farm track suggest this race is a half mile sprint with the usual assortment of flailing of elbows as people jockeyed for position seemingly believing a couple of places gained in the first half mile would have a material bearing on the overall outcome of the race. Soon enough the open fell is reached and order is restored and runners settled down to a regimented walk in crocodile formation up and around the twisting path up to Nab Scar. For most people they are content to get their heads down and admire the ankles and shoes in front.

From Nab Scar it is clear that the paths are pretty dry and that it will be feet and not the ground below who are going to take a bit the worse pounding. The route up to Heron Pike is runnable but as it gains over 500 feet in just over half a mile many elect to walk the steep bits and conserve a bit of energy for later on. Onward to Great Rigg and the same height is gained but over a one and a half mile stretch meaning there is more good running to be had on wide paths. Then it is the final mile up to the checkpoint on Fairfield’s summit. Despite the mist being down there are so many people around you can’t (shouldn’t) go wrong.

The descent to the col before Hart Crag and the subsequent descent towards to Dove Crag is a challenge over greasy rock with walkers sent diving for cover or just standing still to avoid injury as runners come at them from all directions like swallows catching flies in the sky. They appear to take it all in good humour and offer encouragement whilst questioning our sanity in equal measure.

From Dove Crag it is time to slip anchor and put the pedal to the floor as it is moreorless downhill all the way back down. As ever there appear about half a dozen options from Low Pike down into Rydal Park. Go the longer way and avoid the rough and steep ground seems to be the lesson that not enough have heeded.

The final plummet takes you down to the pathway near to where the cars are parked which heralds the last half mile to the finish. Legs that have only had to run downhill for four miles are suddenly called upon to re-engage some other muscles and in many cases this requirement is not met with enthusiasm or the muscles are just not willing.

At last the finish is in sight and the final short but yet deadly little clamber through the trees and bushes and the end is reached. As the pain subsides, the ability to speak returns and life begins to course through lungs and limbs as the recuperative powers of standing still and a gallon of orange squash go to work.

Then order is returned to the fells. The fledgling bracken is left to grow and sheep graze in peace whilst walkers are once again free to go about their leisure safe from the whirling dervishes in vests…..until a Saturday in May 2009.

John Telfer

NFRs Jamie Wilkinson, Paul Creighton and Trevor Wakenshaw ran this race too.

results on Ambleside AC website

photos on Borrowdale FR website

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