> 2010 race reports
12/06/10 Duddon Fell Race - from Dave Johnson

For reasons best known to themselves, 4 NFRs, Paul Appleby, Graham Wilkinson, Trevor Wakenshaw and Dave Johnson forsook the opportunity to run at Alwinton in the heart of God's Own County. Instead they took themselves off to Cumbria, (God's first attempt at creating the perfect county), to do the Duddon Valley Fell Race.

I travelled over with Trevor the day before principally to make sure we would get to the start on time, (See Hebden 22). Mind you, just to give Mr Wakenshaw a fighting chance of maintaining his reputation we did stay in Keswick, just about as far away from the Duddon as you can get and still be in the Lakes.

We arrived in plenty of time for the start which, needless to say was rather a novel experience but it did mean that for once there was the opportunity to renew acquaintances and have a chat with the other competitors.

It was already a warm, rather humid and almost windless day as the 200 or so runners gathered at the start over the road from the Newfield Inn. I decided to take it fairly easily from the word go, just to prepare myself for the second half when I knew I'd have no option but to take it very easily indeed. Like the Anni Waltz, the Duddon starts with a long flat approach run and for me it's always a relief when you get the flat bit out of the way and start on the first real climb of the day, Harter Fell in this case. From the word go the heat seemed to take a toll of the runners and from my "preferred" position near the rear of the field, I was to see people dropping out at every checkpoint including the very first on Harter Fell. I always enjoy the run down from the summit to the road at the Hardknott pass and it's also a good run down from Hardknott summit although the enjoyment here is tempered by the knowledge and then the actual sight of what comes next. Little Stand.

I had thought that being a bit fitter and more experienced than on my first Duddon race, Little Stand would look and actually be rather less intimidating this time around. It was a fond hope as it turned out. In fact I'm sure the race committee has added a a couple of hundred feet to it since I was last here. I was just thankful that as soon as I started the climb the sun went behind the clouds and stayed hidden until I staggered on to the summit. I did go slightly wrong leaving the checkpoint but it was no big deal and I soon regained the race trod and had a good run down to the Three Shires Stone. It was here in 2008 that I would have packed it in but for some verbal 'encouragement', from some friends which, unlikely as it may seem, convinced me that staying in the race offered my best hope of surviving the day.

The climb up Swirl How seemed to go on forever, a not altogether surprising impression considering my pace at the time. Even so I was surprised at the summit to find I was now 15 minutes ahead of my previous best time and I was even thinking that a four and a half hour round was possible. Sadly this was to be as good as it got and I had to be content with those 15 minutes because from now on I began to suffer and soon it became a struggle just to keep moving. From Swirl How to Levers Hause seemed more uphill than downhill but as I started on the descent to Goat's Hause I was perversely pleased to see that there was at least one runner apparently feeling even worse than me. Up ahead was a chap in a white T shirt and I was gaining on him quite rapidly. I had almost caught him when something rather strange happened. When he reached the col he took off his shirt to reveal his true colours, a DPFR vest. This unremarkable act had a remarkable affect on him. It was like Clark Kent turning into Superman because he just powered away with superhuman speed up Dow Crag leaving me floundering in his wake. (Memo to self: never ever, forget to pack the Kryptonite). By the time I reached the top he was just a speck in the distance.

Off course by now the field was really spread out but I knew the path from Dow and I was soon trotting along the trod down to the Walna Scar track at a comfortable 5.9 (approx) mph. I was feeling much better than I had for some time but it proved to be a bit of an illusion because once the path started to climb up to White Maiden, I was made to realise how completely wrecked I was. The cup of water a marshal gave me here, really was a lifesaver.

I hated the next bit the first time I did the race and today was no different. The descent to the foot of Caw seemed to go on forever and yet the damned hill was stubbornly refusing to get any nearer. However, it has to said that Caw is a bit of a sheep in wolf's clothing because just when you despair of ever reaching it, the top suddenly appears almost within touching distance. Even better, when you do reach it, you can see what you've been longing to see for the last 17 miles, the finish of the race and better still, the bar of the Newfield Inn right beside it.

This is enough to spur any good man, or woman on although the downside is the realisation that you still have one more serious descent to cope with. I wasn't looking forward to this at all and when I lost the trod immediately after leaving the summit I seriously thought about just walking all the way down. Eventually I did pick up some momentum and even overtook someone just before the stile that marks the start of the final and flagged section of the race.

As the slope flattened out I surprised myself by putting on a rather impressive burst of speed for the benefit of a chap taking photographs. Mind you I don't think he was very good because in his picture it looks like I'm walking. Odd that. But now the end was near and soon I was running down the funnel, admittedly in a bit of a daze, thinking "Gosh what a wonderful sport fell running is", or maybe it was "Thank (expletives deleted) that's over with." I can't quite remember which so I may have to put myself through it all again sometime soon, just to try and settle the issue you understand.

Dave Johnson

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