WANSFELL FELL RACE REPORT
WANSFELL FELL RACE REPORT
While on a family Christmas holiday (a cunningly disguised training camp) in the Lake District, I got chatting to a few locals to discover a local race.
Ambleside Athletics Club, home of some of the finest off road runners in the country were hosting one of their annual events, a 2.1 mile Fell race on the 27th December.
Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t go off road for anything less than a 10km, and while up here I would prefer to tick off a few summits along a ridge line over several hours. However, it’s good to try something out of the ordinary, so on the day, I rocked up at the Rugby Club with my £5 note in hand and prepared to sign up. First of all, I needed to find out what the FRA (Fell Running Association) mandatory kit was.
Full body cover waterproofs
• Map of the route
• Emergency food
All very sensible kit, although I was little surprised to find that I’d have to wear a pack for a 2 mile sprint!
Quick trip back through town to collect my map and compass as I already had the rest with me.
Off to the start line with a record turnout of 181 competitors, where I started to notice the calibre of runners...almost without exception, runners were in short shorts and local club vests with representatives from all the Lakeland powerhouse clubs, with a smattering of visitors from Yorkshire and surrounding areas. These boys and girls were here to race, there were no Christmas jumpers on show here!
The race would start with a stiff climb up a tarmac lane for around 1/2 a mile. No time to glance across the waterfall at the house we were staying in, it was head down and try to stick with the pack.
Marshall’s held a gate open to avoid a cattle grid, and soon after it was up over a stile and onto the Fell side proper. The terrain was steep grass with a man made stone path (read staircase) up through the middle of it. This snakes it’s way up the hill with runners weaving on and off of the stones in order to find the direct line, overtake and possibly vomit behind a tree.
I’d love to tell you about how I ran all the way up but there was definitely some hiking while trying to get some air to my lungs which were suddenly too small to cope.
By this stage there wasn’t a lot of overtaking going on, but a few whippet like teenagers and the leading lady went past me here.
After 1.5 miles, 1300 feet and around 16 minutes I crested the mist covered top and turned around. Excellent, I like running downhill far more than running up it! I took great strides down the first rocky section and risked a look ahead to see which way the locals were heading, onto the grass and straight into my first fall, it was more of a slide on one shin and my backside before getting my feet back underneath me. A technique that I would pretend was intentional a few more times during the descent.
A couple of the whippet teenagers surged past me here, one of whom very clearly slid a grass drop on purpose and managed to look quite cool. Another Lady bounced past me here with more style than the teens so I tried to follow her with her slightly more measured approach.
A few ducks and weaves through the trees, a stream crossing and a wiggle through a kissing gate (thankfully gate removed by the marshalls) and it was soon back on the road for the final 1/4 mile to the finish. The finish line is not back down near the start, but in fact halfway up the initial road climb, so in this case what goes up, only goes halfway down.
I manage to get past a couple of runners on the final sprint and finish in 30th place with a time of 25mins and 20seconds.
It was a cracking race, one of the most competitive events I have found myself in. I’m glad to have tried out one of these little epics, and I would suggest you have a go if you get the chance.
Grass roots racing at its very best, no pre entry, no deferrals, just turn up with a few quid without expectation of t shirts and medals. Loved it.