> 2011 race reports
12/06/11 Skiddaw Uphill Only - from Dexter

UKA European Mountain running selection race
Skiddaw Uphill Only  [ 12.2k; 1,100m / 7.5m; 3,600ft ]

I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of turning up at a social event in jeans …. only to find that everyone else is in suits and ties or cocktail dresses?!  Well, the fell running equivalent of that faux pas happened to me on Sunday at Keswick when I turned up for this race. And there were rather a lot of GB and UKA tracksuits in evidence too. It was a quite a relief when Geoff Davis also turned up in his jeans … as did 3 other runners! It was like an invitation only party with us 5 as the gate-crashers!

When Scoffer jokingly says “I’m pleased to see you 2 here, because I was thinking I would probably be last, and now I might not be”, it hits home quite what the standard actually is. And then he followed it by “I did one of these races a couple of years ago and was 19th …. out of 19!” Mmmm, Scoffer last in a race?? And this is man who eats up the toughest Lakeland races for breakfast, and until the day before the race, when it was beaten, had proudly run the 4th fastest Bob Graham Round ever.

Nick Swinburn and Phil Sanderson were also there from NFR, but they were metaphorical suit and tie wearers, because they can both stand proudly amongst such company without feeling that others are thinking to themselves “Look at that old bloke. What’s he doing here….Surely he can’t be stupid enough to think he might get selected for the European Mountain running team!” Actually, no he isn’t that stupid. He just likes doing fell races and doesn’t mind if people laugh at him!

It looked as though the only other Vets on show were Phil, Scoffer, Martin Cox and John Brown. A pretty select group of V40’s in anyone’s book. Not rather average mid-pack V50’s, like Geoff & me!

So … 38 of the great and good of fell racing lined up on the start line in Fitz Park. Or more accurately, 32 of the great and good of fell racing lined up on the start line, Scoffer sensibly hovered at the rear of that pack, having run a Bob Graham leg the previous day …  and then there was a line of 5 of us “also rans” a couple of metres behind! By the time we had run across the flat grass of Fitz Park towards the gate, the gap between them & us was already huge. Oh dear, it will be as bad as feared!

The route followed that of the Skiddaw race, except that two laps of Latrigg (yes, two!) and Skiddaw Little Man had been added. Presumably this was needed to create a route of sufficient qualifying distance and ascent.

Within a few hundred yards of the start it was clear that in terms of a race, it was a non-event for me. I established myself in the grand position of 5th last and started to suspect that could be where I might finish, because of the significant gaps in front and behind me.  By the first lap of Latrigg, I could see up the zigzags that the runner immediately in front of me was Scoffer, and he was about 800 yards ahead on an uphill only course, so I resigned myself to the fact that there was no chance whatsoever of overtaking anyone. So I set myself the more realistic targets of running as much of it as I could manage … and not being last!

After the two Latrigg loops followed Jenkins Hill, notoriously the steepest part of the Skiddaw ascent. I managed to reach the gate half way up, before lapsing into my first walk, after 43 minutes. A mix of walking & running followed for a little while until the steepest bit was over, after which I managed to run again and continue running to the top. Sure enough I finished 5th last, in a time of 1 hr 16 mins. The best of the rest! But having managed to run around 3,200 feet of the route, it was quite pleasing and a useful training outing.

It was all a bit surreal at the top. There was no one standing around chatting at the finish, like everyone does at normal races. Not a single other runner to be seen. There were just 3 lonely marshals, recording each finisher, whilst trying not to be blown away by the ferocious wind.
But it was all still worthwhile. At least I was able to experience what it must feel like to be leading a race, because for long spells there was no-one in sight up ahead! It also prepared me for what it might feel like in a few years time when I’m an even-more-aged-V60 or V70 and hanging on towards the end of the field in most races! And I was 1st V50, with Geoff 2nd V50. A pretty impressive NFR V50 clean sweep in such a prestigious race! But there weren’t any prizes and I suspect only Geoff & I cared!

I have now seen the overall results and Nick had a terrific run to finish 3rd overall. The top 2 gained automatic selection for the UK’s European team, but a 3rd place finish must give him a fighting chance of selection too. Phil finished a creditable 24th overall, with Martin Cox, former European Mountain race champion, and John Brown, both of Salford Harriers, being the only two vets ahead of him. Well done to you both. I suspect there weren’t any team prizes recognised, but I see that if there had been, NFR would have been 2nd team behind Salford Harriers.



... and from Geoff:

Like Scoffer I too had been pacing on a successful BG round the day before and I was also celebrating my birthday on race day. On a 'normal' day I'm sure I would have been up there with Nick challenging for selection!!

Geoff Davis

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