|They're off - in the U/10's fell race at Burnsall (Click to enlarge).
No's 26 and 27 were boy and girl winners and the
little lad in red socks was first boy U/8
Race day was a big disappointment, mainly due to appalling weather conditions but secondly because most BOFRA (British Open Fell Runners Association) runners had chosen
to boycott Hebden in favour of a championship race at Reeth in Swaledale, many miles away. So our fields were somewhat depleted, to say the least, with just 39 runners in the top four categories - six U/12's, eight U/14's, four U/17's and 21 Seniors. There should have been 23 Seniors but two were still warming up somewhere when the race started a little before its scheduled time - everyone by this time wanting to get the hell out of it to escape further drenchings. After the last of the seniors had been counted over the crag you can take it from me, the course was de-flagged and cleared in record time and the rising beck allowed to go on its way unheeded.... Unfortunately, no results are available for the Hebden races.
|Yulan Brosse, one of four U/17's in the Hebden Crag race
after competing at Burnsall two days earlier
|Matt Whitfield leading the Burnsall 10 mile race from
Mike Jefferies of Billingham Marsh House Harriers
Two days earlier, Burnsall were exceedingly lucky with the weather, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze bringing ideal conditions for both road and fell races. As last year, I felt more than a twinge of nostalgia as 146 runners set off in the 10 mile road race - without me. I last ran it two years ago when I was 80, the oldest person ever to have completed it and, perhaps unwisely, decided to rest on my laurels. Some of my old friends and acquaintances - M70 Bill Wade, M75 Don Stead, M65 Antonio Cardinale, to name but three - still had the guts and enthusiasm to line up and take part, making me feel a bit wimpish. Maybe next year? The race was won by Matt Whitfield of Bristol & West A.C. in a time of 54.22. I'm told Matt is a serving Squadron Leader in the RAF and, if so, lived up to his rank in leading the race from the start and opening up a gap of nearly 1½ minutes by the finish. Sarah Cumber of Halifax Harriers was an easy winner of the ladies race in 1:02:52. Full results here.
From clapping home the road runners I set off up the fell-side to shout some deserved encouragement at juniors and
seniors in the hugely popular fell races culminating in the Burnsall Classic. Compared to Hebden's junior entries there were 30 U/10's, 37 U/14's and 10 U/17's (results here) whilst the Classic race attracted 123 senior runners. Local farmer and Wharfedale Harrier Ted Mason scored his second win in the Classic, leading from start to finish to storm home in 15:01, 59 seconds ahead of William Neill of Mercia Fell Runners. Mel Price, also of Mercia Fell Runners, was first lady in 18:57. (Full results here). The 'Classic' race involves an initial trog up fields of reeds and rushes, a narrow stony shepherd's path zig-zagging to the top of the crag, a steep descent over heather-strewn rocks, a 9ft drop on the landing side of a wall before scurrying back down the rough fields - altogether around 1½ miles with 900ft of ascent. I was only once brave enough to pit my skills against this tough course, back in 1996, and finished 2nd M60 in 21 minutes. I vowed 'never again' and have since left it to hardier individuals....
|Ted Mason, local winner of Burnsall's 'Classic' Fell Race
|Meanwhile, among the bracken and bog, a mini epic was unfolding...
For fear of embarrassing my wonderful partner I'll not say too much about Sunday's six mile run when, for quite some time, we thrashed around in some boggy morass with not a clue where we were. For the very first time in our 23 year relationship we came close to arguing, me wanting to go one way and she the other! Of course, we'd no compass. Who needs one when only a mile and a half from home, if that? We did have a map, a large scale 1:25:00 marking every wall, but the walls on the map didn't match up with the walls on the ground which was odd, given how they were very old walls and our map was comparatively new. Ordnance Survey don't usually get things that wrong. Eventually, after much floundering about, we struck lucky in locating a boundary stone clearly marked on the map, so were able to pinpoint our exact location. From thereon we could confidently set off running again, laughing at our ineptitude... Back in Hebden, nothing seemed different, all the houses were still in the same place and we'd no problem finding our back door. As I was saying, who needs a compass?