> 2009 race reports
18/04/09 Coledale Horseshoe - from John Telfer

9 miles / 3,000 feet

An exceptional day both in terms of the weather and performances from the many NFRs participants ranging from Phil Sanderson’s excellent fifth position and first MV40 right through to 70+ years young Joe Garbarino who crossed the line with bloodied nose and knee demonstrating true grit most half his age can only dream of.

And so we came, probably some 15 in all in pursuit of Club Championship points, some having their final outings before Highland Flings and Three Peaks, and others just there because the fells are there. John Duff made his re-appearance on the UK fellrunning scene after his sojourn in the world down-under.

The decision to move this race from midweek in June to a Saturday in April paid off with a field of over 250 gathering in Braithwaite, around two and a half times the usual number, some no doubt drawn by the weather, more reminiscent of summer than a spring day.

From the race field at Scotgate Caravan Park it is possible to view most of the course which only served to heighten anticipation for the run, scramble and wheeze around this classic but probably less publicised of the Lakeland Horseshoes. However, following an easy run through Braithwaite village, stark reminders of the task in hand were soon brought to bear as the initial steep ascent onto the fellside commenced. Over 2,000 feet is ascended over the first three miles, and whilst some occasional relief is achieved as the subsidiary summits of Kinn and Sleet How are reached the emphasis is on an unremitting climb ever upwards. Most of this is performed on very dry grass but the last 600 feet is a steep clamber through rock.

The ensuing descent to Coledale Hause is a mixture of rock and grass with fortune favouring those fleet of foot to negotiate around the rocky path. At around this point the effect of overheating feet bashing against rock begins to send messages to the brain that all may not be well.

Such apprehension, however, is soon subsumed by the need to negotiate the next mile of steep ascent up to Eel Crag on the opposite side of the Coledale Valley. Progress is assisted by ensuring four points of contact and hindered when the runner (scrambler ?) in front loses their foothold.

The summit of Eel Crag does mark the end of the serious ascent and affords some of the most remarkable panoramic views of Lakeland. However, the remaining four miles of predominantly downhill running actually only marks the start of some of our problems. Tired limbs and steep rocky paths on to and off Sail make for a dangerous combination, and even the traverses are unstable.

By the time of the home stretch of the run around Outerside and over Barrow is reached whatever energies are left are being directed at blotting out the pain (in my case anyway) of exceptionally sore feet with no let up on the uneven terrain until the final run in off Barrow.

In time honoured tradition the last half mile on the road back through the village seems to last forever but at last the end is nigh. Once fortified by the excellent catering of tuna rolls and flapjacks it is down to the serious business of swapping stories of reputations enhanced and shredded by the rocky paths, both physical and metaphorical, we have all encountered.

The overwhelming view is that a wonderful but fairly brutal time has been had by all, with feet having received their fair share of battering. As this had been my prime excuse I then had to seek recourse to the one about still being a bit tired after Allendale (soon blown out of the water on account of those who also ran at Allendale and Gisborough Moors the day after).

Without wanting to single out any single NFR performance, I should single out Phil Sanderson’s excellent 5th position and first MV40. Phil told me he was actually third coming off the final hill (Barrow). As I was some 4 miles behind Phil at the time I only have his word for this fact, but he looks like an honest lad so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

And so weary limbs (plus bloodied noses and knees) soaked up the afternoon sun and thoughts turned to the challenges that lay ahead, whilst next weekend’s itinerary will see today’s happy throng of NFRs take on the Highland Fling, the Three Peaks and the Cheviot.

If the weather, camaraderie and experiences are only half as good as they were today no-one will be disappointed.

John Telfer

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