> 2010 race reports
30/05/10 Helvellyn Fell Race - from Chris Winter

Sunday 30th May 2010

The Helvellyn race this year was blessed by some pretty decent weather as well as a throng of eight of the finest NFR runners – Phil and Chris Sanderson, Paul Appleby, Chris Little, Graham Bingham, Peter Reed, Dave Johnson and myself. This 11 mile race goes from Bram’s Crag Farm in the often driven through but not stopped at St John’s in the Vale.

On arrival many of the pre race conversations seemed to be about just the one thing – the steep bit. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you were to look up the word steep in a dictionary and simply find a picture of this slope. This was the very slope that I’d dreamt about the night before!

The start takes you along a narrow path to Fornside. It’s then route one up to Calfhow Pike directly above you. The race map says that over half of the total 4,500 ft ascent is covered on this one slope. It felt like much, much more. Immediately the hands are on the knees and not long after people begin crawling up the slope on all fours. It felt a bit odd to be on my hands and knees dragging myself up, being looked down on by the people next to me who were still on their feet. My apologies also go out to the unfortunate people behind me who copped some extreme close-ups of my lucky blue racing pants. This risk factor may well make an appearance on the disclaimer forms for future fell races.

After about 10 minutes of clambering you begin to feel the slope ease off. This is one of those parts of a race where you begin to pray that the person in front of you doesn’t start running again just yet. Soon enough (too soon) they do though.

At Calfhow Pike it’s a sharp right and onto some more than runnable grassy footpaths skirting between the various Dodds (Great, Little, Watson’s, Ken) and eventually up to the second checkpoint on Raise. It’s hard to keep on the footpath all the time with such amazing views to take in and Helvellyn ominously looming in the distance. After Raise I followed the runners in front of me and contoured round the edge of Whiteside. One slip here could easily have seen you slide a few hundred feet down into Keppel Cove below. I was glad it wasn’t raining. It’s then a final push, dodging the bemused walkers, onto the summit of Helvellyn, where you are promptly pointed off back in the direction from whence you came.

Somehow there seemed to be as many uphills on the way down as there were on the way up. The route takes you back through the same checkpoints, only this time with the niggling dread of the final descent. ‘Here goes’ I thought as I approached the top of the slope.

If they ever filmed people running down this hill for the TV they would definitely have some crazy banjo music playing to accompany it. There’s legs and limbs (and other bodily parts) flying all over the place. The guy in front of me used the sit down method to descend much of the way. The runner in front of him opted for the fall down approach. I have to admit I bottled it and kept telling myself my wife would kill me if I broke a leg two days before my summer holiday – an excuse I plan to use at least once a year.

I managed to stick close to two of the (approximately one hundred) people who overtook me coming down, passing one of them as we got to the bottom. This however left me with one of the worst situations to find yourself faced with in fell running – having to race someone for the finish line. Sometimes I hope my opponent is far faster than me so I don’t have to bother for too long before giving in to the better athlete, but this time we were evenly matched. However, luck was on my side today, with the poor fellow taking a tumble about ¼ mile from the finish. I made myself feel less guilty by thinking that one day that will be me.

Then for the highlight of the race. This is not actually crossing the finish line but is in fact entering the barn where refreshments (and somehow amazingly results) are provided. There I was greeted by the truly awesome spectacle of a table covered in more cakes than I have ever witnessed in my life. Both myself and the person stood next to me were for a few seconds utterly speechless (the drool may have had something to do with this). On collecting my two pieces and an accompanying cup of tea I sat down outside to watch the other finishers. This was possibly the most undignified part of the whole day as I had lost all the feeling in my hands from the cold wind during the race. This meant I was only able to shove the cake directly into my mouth using the palms of my hands – in a manner not dissimilar to that of a person who has not eaten for a week. It tasted great though.

Further proof of how good these cakes were came from Chris Little. On finishing I pointed out that he was stood next to a barn chocked full of cakes but wasn’t eating any. ‘No’, he quite convincingly said, ‘I never fancy anything like that after a race’. Sure enough next time I saw him he had the plate held up to his mouth shovelling in a huge slab of lemon drizzle.

Another great days racing courtesy of the Lake District.

Paul and Chris chat about which cake they liked best - photo: Chris

Chris Winter

results on Keswick AC site (club news section)

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