Monday 26 April 2010

A good weekend


In a little under three weeks time my wonderful partner is scheduled to lead a group of U3A walkers over some exceedingly rough country along the Wharfedale/Nidderdale border. In order to acquaint herself with some of the more complex parts of this wild route there was a suggestion that we might just 'nip round it' last Friday afternoon. So, a little before 2 o'clock, we parked the car by Grimwith reservoir, stripped down to our running gear and set off at a gentle pace across the dam wall.

Poor Pheasant!
The weather was cool with a slight breeze, making it ideal for running. A welcoming call of wild geese drifted across the water whilst Plovers and Curlews filled adjacent pastures with their Springtime melodies. A crag high above us on the horizon, Great Wolfrey, was our first objective. We left the track and made our way uphill through tussocky terrain, bouldery in parts, squelchy in others. Considering the land around us was all part of a prime shooting estate we saw very little in the way of game birds - other than one unfortunate pheasant that had got it's head caught in an open trap. Had the pheasant not got there before me I might well be nursing a badly bruised foot!
At Great Wolfrey Crag
From Great Wolfrey, known locally as Wuffler, we headed roughly northwards, upstream, to eventually pick up a line of white topped posts which mark the Hebden Parish boundary. It was hard running over flattened reed beds, boulders and mainly dried up peat hags. Soon we reached the fence that marks the Nidderdale boundary where we turned west for around one mile to Henstone Band to pause for a drink and a bite to eat. From here on our route was mainly downhill all the way back to the reservoir though we'd to take care negotiating a couple of boggy sections.
Pause for rest, Henstone band
We crossed Blea Beck, picked up a sheep trod, then a farm track, and were soon re-crossing the dam wall over which we'd set off. My Garmin said 9.47 miles in 2 hours 24 minutes, but it tells lies. We'd actually been running for just over three hours and we both agreed it was easily 11 miles in distance. Trouble was, when we were floundering through some of the really rough stuff, my Garmin had stopped, failing to register anything because we weren't running fast enough. Ho Hmmm!


Start of 3 Peaks race
..was the day of my favourite race - The Three Peaks of Yorkshire. This 24 mile circuit starts and finishes at Horton-in-Ribblesdale taking in the summits of Penyghent (2,268ft), Whernside (2,406ft) and Ingleborough (2,373ft) through some of the most beautiful scenery in England. Long before I started racing I walked this route around 30 times, usually to get a measure of fitness into my body prior to some longer mountaineering or hill walking expedition, but it wasn't until 1991, when I was 59 years old, that I actually qualified to take part in this long established classic. Just prior to my first race Clayton-le-Moors Harriers had presented an elaborate Rosebowl trophy to be competed for annually by anyone over the age of sixty. In forthcoming years I went on to win it three times the most memorable of which was achieved only one week after winning the MV60 category in the London Marathon. On Saturday I was only spectating, but the passion and emotion felt by runners, mainly as they came within sight of the finishing line with the crowds clapping them on, inevitably got to me producing a lump in my throat and the odd tear in my eye. I cannot cheer or praise them enough. In truth, every one is a winner.

Anna Lupton, 1st lady.
Photo by 'Ady in Accy'
Conditions this year were perhaps more suited to spectators than runners for it was a little on the warm side. Some took precautions and lathered themselves with sun cream - only to be half blinded when it mingled with sweat running into their eyes. At 10 o'clock exactly shot guns were fired and the earth rumbled with the sound of pounding feet that took ages to cross the 'Start' line. An injured runner next to me, Andy Hauser, who'd previously run every Three Peaks race since 1980, remarked "They must be coming out of a hole in the ground". Soon the multi-coloured vests had disappeared into the hills and were streaming towards Penyghent. We set off in the opposite direction, to the summit of Ingleborough where we'd shout and encourage runners over their third and final peak.
Vicky's knees
There were some spectacular falls but no serious injuries. Victoria Wilkinson, a one time neighbour of ours, badly gashed both her knees and was streaming blood when she passed us, but battled on regardless to finish second lady in 33rd place overall in a time of 3.37.58. First lady was Anna Lupton in the yellow vest of Radcliffe A.C. in a time of 3.30.45. Of the 705 starters 602 made it to the finish line. Forty four of the non finishers were newcomers, perhaps having under estimated the severity of the course.Outright winner was the purple vested Morgan Donnelly of Borrowdale Fell Runners in a splendid 3.02.34.

Morgan Donnelly on Ingleborough
We jogged the 5 miles back to Horton with hundreds of runners streaming behind us and continued to clap them on their way to the 'Finish'. An old running friend of mine, Bill Wade who is well into his sixties completed his 40th running of the race in 5.46.41. One of my MV70 contemporaries, Mike Breslin of the Fell Runners Association, crossed the line in an incredible 4.57.50, one of only three MV70's ever to complete the race. Results here.

Passing through Settle we called at Booth's Supermarket on the way home for a little alcoholic beverage. We decided the blood, sweat and tears of all those wonderful competitors was worthy of a little celebration. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fantastic weekend RF. I'll have to add game traps to my list of potential dangers that await on the fells! I can't wait to get back out there running again. In the meantime, your brilliant blogs remind me what I'm missing. All the best.