I've only ran the Windy Gyle Fell race once. Last Year. It's advertised as a nine miler with 1800 ft of ascent, but its a gently rolling fell race which is all runnable and scrapes into Scotland, which can't be a bad thing. The start is located well up a valley and well out of the way of the public. Only people meaning to be around here ARE around here...and today that meant some of the army, a bunch of fell runners and a handful of walkers, most of the latter in civilised groups carrying more gear on a summers day than some of the infantry.
Before the start the organiser gave me a medal from the 2009 Northern Championship which had been warming itself for 2 years in his drawer. As we warmed up I noticed the absence of the usual suspects who, unusually, weren't around.
As we set off after warnings of a bull in a field I cantered across the hay meadow and began the steady climb to Barrowburn. It was breezy, dry and warm and it was nice to get going. At the top an HBT runner took the lead and began to pull away from a younger lad possibly from Sheffield who looked like he was holding back abit. I looked back and saw a bunch of eager, hungry faces just behind and thought I'd better get on with it. As HBT powered away the Sheff runner was about 10 seconds ahead and seemed to be slowing a little up the ascents. I caught him shortly after the second one. As soon as he slowed to a walk going up, I slowed, but it was only the power of suggestion and after a while I told myself he might have been tiring and we were going to get caught by the others unless we upped the pace. The trouble was he took a sack load of time out of me on the descents without any effort as he opened his stride, and, as the last mile or two is downhill, I resigned myself to being third as long as I could hold off the pack behind me.
With most of the hard work done, I shadowed him along the ridge down from Black Braes and along the Street, all of it firm and runnable and we pulled some time out of the runners behind. The distant thumps of artillery punctuated the otherwise peaceful sound of lungs and heart working in grumpy unison.
At the last short rise of Hindside Knowe, Hallam went for the stile and I leapt over the gate and then I was in front and before I knew it Sheff was metres behind. I had to stop and check a couple of times if I was going the right way, but by then I could smell the unmistakable whiff of a velvet clad podium place in the valley below and it was double quick time down to the Sheep pens and 2nd place in 1:07. Chuck won. I didn't get his surname but he said it was his first win. Sarah Lister of DFR was first lady. It was a lovely day and warming all the time so I spent the next 30 minutes slouching in the stream with camera.