Yesterday, there was a small but tidy field of runners for this years Howtown with the likes of Bell, Cornforth & Birkinshaw present and ready for a fast paced affair. We gathered in a field at Howtown Outward Bound Centre in Martindale with the sun burning through the few clouds present. £3 entry fee. Hard to resist!
I had noted 3 checkpoints along the course at Loadpot Hill, the second south at High Raise and a third at Place Fell off Patterdale Common. However, these were just names to me....or at least just names surrounded by a boatload of contours. There was sun cream going on and caps being broken out. I took my woollen hat which was all I could find in the car.
We set off at 11am for this 20km, 4000ft extravaganza. Most of the field went right, and up through the high ferns. Four of us stuck to a path that went left. I couldn’t decide if the other 55 runners were right or wrong, but I wanted to enjoy the run and convinced myself that a few extra miles wouldn’t hurt. When you’re behind a long snaking line of runners on rough terrain with few passing places, you are stuck with their pace. Better, surely, the long open paths, even if they are going the opposite way!
As we reached the ridge after 20 minutes of ascent I could see a few runners ahead and at Loadpot Hill, I counted 12 ahead along the old cattle track. I didn’t have a clue where in the field I was though. I could have been 13th or, maybe, near the back, so I ploughed on southward on the spongy peat and grass and easy terrain, being careful to brush my legs down every so often (bugs!).
As we made our way to High Raise the terrain got rockier and I made out the figure of Keswick’s Valentine about 40 seconds ahead, but by the second checkpoint he and his running mate were gone and out of sight. After an offering of jelly babies by the Marshall, I continued too far south and realised this when I asked a couple of walkers if they had seen any runners to which they replied ‘none’. I got back on track passing a settle runner and keeping behind a dark peaker. We worked down and along the craggy path past Stoney Rig where I stopped to scoop water in my cupped hands as the sun did its best to give us a Summers day. I asked a few couples if there were many ahead, to which one replied ‘plenty’...well, at least I knew I was on the right path.
I was caught by Duff of NFR and we exchanged a few words as he led the way downhill with an easy style. It was someway along a grassy track bordered on both sides by high ferns that I took a tumble that would have got me a 9.5 at the gymnastics, but I flipped up and was soon back on track to St Martins Church. I wasn’t sure if I was all in one piece and I knew there was something wrong when I asked a young family if ‘they knew who Treadstone was’. I don’t know if it was the heat, but I couldn’t remember a thing and was surprised and perplexed to find 4 passports and a cache of Swiss dollars in my bumbag. I caught and passed the Keswick runner who had run out of gas and, where almost within sight of the finish, we were forced up another hill to meet a smiley bloke with a clipboard.
As I ran down the hill I found a shortcut and reached the road without much thought. Another runner asked how I knew where to go, to which I replied ‘I can write. I can speak 5 different languages, add, subtract, know all the martial arts, I can make coffee and I can set up a cheeseboard’.‘Chessboard’ he replied....
Eh? I asked, gawping at himIts a Chessboard....well, at least it is in the film, not a cheeseboard’ he replied. As a ran away from him, he did have a passing similarity to Conklin (whoever he is?).
From there it was downhill and a mile along the road to the finish. It had taken 2hr 42 mins of effort for 18th place. Carl Bell had cracked it in a shade over 2 hrs. I dunked my head under a tap and then it was 10 minutes up to my waist in Ullswater with the rest of them. A fine run on a fine day.
Now have to get off to Berlin...
Now have to get off to Berlin...