> 2009 race reports
18/01/09 Lamb's Longer Leg - from Jon Robinson

On a cold but fine sunny day, groups of local fell runners descended on the Lamb Inn, halfway between Hayfield and Chapel-en-le-Frith, in Derbyshire’s High Peak.  As numbers were collected for this pre-registered race, pleasantries were exchanged and rivalries renewed, as the 2009 season got under way.

This is the first race of the popular Hayfield Championship, a six race series hosted by Hayfield-based Pennine Fell Runners, taking in routes around Kinder and the surrounding fells.  The Lamb’s Leg is the shortest; a 3.5m (950’) blast up and down the slopes of Mount Famine and South Head, with a testing descent and lung-bursting climb up rough tussocky slopes, before winding along and down to the finish.  Besides being a real gem of a race, packing in just about everything the area can offer in a short loop, this is typically a well supported event, often with some of the best local runners competing for prizes.  On a personal note, this was my first ever fell race 4 years ago but, after pretty much 3 months of injury, I knew I would be hard pressed to manage a top ten finish, in what would be my first outing in NFR colours.

The usual coloured vests gathered at the start.  Pennine’s red, yellow and black; Dark Peak’s brown; handfuls from other neighbouring clubs such as Macclesfield, Cheshire Hill Racers, Glossopdale, Penistone, Fat Boys, Goyt Valley and Congleton…….. and NFR (!?!).  To the fore, Simon Bailey and Lloyd Taggart finished their warm-ups, the latest bout in their local rivalry, promising a fast and furious pace at the front as the race got underway.

The usual suspects followed in the wake of Messrs Bailey and Taggart, with Stuart Bond challenging strongly.  My plan was to follow the also-rans from the start, and to simply hang on for as long as possible.   Up the farm track, through the boggy field, and within half a mile we were over the stile and climbing steeply up slippery, but runnable, slopes towards the Pennine bridleway between Mt Famine and South Head.

The walkers, bikers and various supporters were out in force, cheering the runners on. I was jostling between 7th and 10th and, despite having to wrestle with my seemingly habitual desire to retire early on, I felt some satisfaction that we were pulling away from those behind.  However, Simon Bailey was well and truly clear by the top of the first climb, striding imperiously ahead, a real class act possibly showing his intent for the season.

Over the stone wall, onto the bridleway, for the short level section before the sharp turn left, following the rough muddy track dropping down into Dimpus Clough with Mt Famine looming above to our left. Fine views of the Kinder Plateau lay ahead for those willing to take a risk, but by now my eyes were streaming in the cold breeze, and ankles were fighting to stay upright amidst tussocks and debris from collapsed stone walls.

I managed to squeeze past previous winner Darren Dunn halfway down, conscious I needed to press home any advantage now before he got the better of me on the climb to come, and had opened a gap of a few seconds at the short river crossing in the deep hidden gully.  400m of contouring along the upper Sett Valley followed, before turning sharply to the right, following the marker flags steeply up the main climb, where those ahead were by now all walking.   I was suffering now, and had been caught by Darren.  However, with head down, and a real effort to keep my breathing controlled, I managed to stay within striking distance to the top of the climb.  The ground became increasingly tricky as the gradient eased, tussocks and bogs demanding full concentration, before hitting the stony bridleway once again, with only the odd frozen puddle to contend with.  By this time, I was content to hang on without losing any further ground, lactic acid coursing through my leg muscles, my limited speed training not paying dividends just yet, before slipping and sliding back down the initial climb, looping round water-logged fields and bounding through thick heather before finishing with relief in the field behind the pub.

Not such a bad effort, after all, as it happens.  I finished in a semi-respectable 9th place, recording exactly the same time as last year (29:28), albeit last year’s race ran in the opposite (arguably slower) direction.   Simon Bailey won again after finishing runner-up last year to Lloyd, with Jackie Lee winning the ladies race as usual.

So, if any NFRs fancy an away race, I fully recommend this and other Hayfield Championship races.   It’s a bit of a trek from the North East, but you can be sure of some tough, but rewarding, racing.  See http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~temples/hc/ for details.


Jon Robinson

(NFR’s Derbyshire correspondent).

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