> 2011 race reports
02/07/11 Chevy Chase - from John Telfer

Chevy Chase : July 2, 2011 - 20 miles : 4,000 feet of ascent

Around 180 runners endured a hot old day up in the Cheviots which saw honours go to Matthew Roberts and Iain Ridgeway of Eryri runners finishing within a second of one another in just under 2 hours 50 minutes. They were followed by the NFR trio of Gary Jones, Charlie Stead and Phil Sanderson. There were also many other notable performances by NFR men and women of all ages.

Meanwhile further down the field……………………..

Despite feeling a bit flaky after flogging myself at Ennerdale and the Great Lakes over the past few weeks (thought I would get that in early) a beautiful summers days amongst friends sent me off in good spirits and, by my standards, having made reasonably swift progress to Broadstruther allowed myself to think that I could be in for a good day and a crack at a sub 4 hour time.

Within the next ten minutes all delusions of adequacy were cruelly dashed as runner after runner sailed effortlessly by on the path up to the Cheviot Knee. This was made all the worse by one or two even asking if I was feeling okay so anaemic appeared my progress to those who understood that the race lasted for 20 and not 5 miles.

Strangely enough matters did slightly improve on the steepest part of the Cheviot ascent although this may have been due to the impression that I was overtaking a lot of people. This point was undeniably true but sadly for me the people I was overtaking were those either partaking in Chevy walk, were just other walkers out enjoying a nice summers day or were actually stopped having a picnic.

Despite my laboured progress the sun had retreated behind a few clouds and I actually reached the Cheviot summit 4 minutes quicker than last year. So maybe, a sub 4 hour mark (4:06 last year) was still very much on the cards.

The descent down to Harthope Burn was punctuated by the usual slipping and sliding but not for a seasoned fellrunner like myself. Instead I managed to trip on every other carefully concealed rock that was going. The hideous drag up to Hedgehope was lightened only by the appearance of Lothian runner, Andy Kitchin, one of a reasonably rare breed of Scottish hill runner who ventures south of Hadrian’s Wall, on a reasonably frequent basis (actually Andy and his wife have family in the North of England). But hang on, there are probably only a handful of NFRs who would beat Andy on a day like this, so what was he doing behind old hopalong Telfer? Closer inspection revealed that he was acting as official photographer to record the efforts of his wife, Kate. So as to make the point he effortlessly ran off to the summit to prepare himself for a few photos.

Eventually, the summit of Hedgehope was claimed but I was now only 2 minutes ahead of last years time and the slog of the past 45 minutes and the absence of any meaningful breeze was beginning to leave its mark.

Heading off to Langlee Crags my spirits got a major boost when, with the crag in sight, I noted I was well ahead of time at the next checkpoint. Sadly, delusions had given way to stupidity as I had mistakenly taken Long Crags for the real destination. As my feet sank in to one of the few boggy parts of the course my spirits followed suit. By the time the real Langlee Crags, rather than its imposter was reached I was down to 1 minute ahead of last year. The omens for sub 4 hours were not looking good.

Bumbling on to Brands Corner I took my first fall cutting the corner and was immediately ravaged by cramp up the whole of left leg. At least having had the minor presence of mind to get up as quickly as possible meant the cramp abated reasonably quickly but mentally it hit me a bit harder. Despite these misfortunes I passed the next checkpoint still a minute up on last year and with what looked like a tiring runner in front my spirits were somewhat renewed.

However, the gods of fellrunning were clearly beginning to conspire against me as I made way down to the Carey Burn. Firstly, I began to feel more than a distinct rumbling in my stomach which indicated all was not well in the digestive department and drastic action may soon be needed. Just I was pondering this eventuality yet still concentrating on the devilishly rocky path leading down to the burn my temple took a direct hit from a low hanging but rather thick branch.

The impact knocked my clean off my feet and left me sprawling with cramp again whilst simultaneously adding to my repertoire of expletives for the day. Fortunately, I was wearing a cap and the blow was slightly softened otherwise the damage to the tree could have been irreparable!

However, if all that had gone before had served to dampen my spirits this truly was the main course accompanied by a full set of vegetables and hand cut chips. By the time the road was reached I was 2 minutes slower than last year, sub 4 hour was now a pipedream and I wanted to go home, no make that I wanted to be at home.

Lifted slightly by the people gathered at the bridge who can recognise a distressed fellrunner down on his luck and respond accordingly I bashed on to Hells Path to be greeted by an all too cheery Bernard. Noting the absence of either a portaloo or a helicopter to put me out of more than one misery I trudged on up Hells Path.

The crowning glory of my day came as I manfully adopted a running posture going up the hill only to be easily passed by a runner adopting a non running (i.e. walking) gait. Rather than reducing me to a blubbing wreck I actually found this quite an amusing turn of events.

Back along onto Wooler Common in an amazing case of déjà vu I caught up Jack McWilliams at the almost identical spot as I had last year. He had, like last year, professed to having “blown up” and seemed to take my ribbing of his predicament in good spirits and thankfully none of his punches connected with me (only joking – he used a sub machine gun instead).

By now 4 hours was long out of the window and my only aim was to finish as quickly as possible. This I mercifully did in just over 4 hours and 10 minutes, if 40 seconds counts as “just over”, 4.5 minutes slower than last year when I managed not to rearrange the treescape down by the Carey Burn.

Whilst I had set no world records over the past 4 hours I doubt if there has been a swifter pace set for covering the distance from the finish line to the sanctuary of the gentlemen’s loos, thankfully unoccupied. My feelings could best be summed up by a quote from a conversation between palace guards Francisco and Bernado in Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 1) “For this relief much thanks”.

Considering that later in that scene the two guards are petrified by the appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father I think the fact that what followed for me was a very reinvigorating shower followed by a nice cup of tea I had probably fared slightly better than those up Denmark way.

Despite the trials and tribulations of the race this was a fantastic day (no doubt you had worked that one out) made possible by the efforts of the organisers who put on a fantastic race and an even better plate of rolls and cake all delivered with calmness and good humour, a set of virtues I am striving to master !!!

Back home and refortified by a couple of ales I fed my time into a computer programme I have written, a sort of Duckworth Lewis rule for fellrunning instead of cricket. It seems taking account of the fact I am a year older, only had 3 pints last night and was clearly fretting over whether my wife would like the wedding anniversary card I had bought her it appears my time turns out to actually be 25 minutes better than last year. As a certain meerkat might say: “Simples”.

John Telfer

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