Monday, 10 June 2013

On Safari: The Alwinton Fell Race 2013

I ran the Alwinton Fell Race on Saturday. It was a 14 mile, 2500ft safari in the sun baked Cheviots. I had made it my target to run this. I didn't agonise over the distance or the terrain. Never gave my knee trouble a thought over the last few weeks. Just assumed I would run it and get through it. Didn't count on the heat though. The last fell race was in Fife all those months the snow.

 The 'Alwinton' is a race that's suffered in the last few years, clashing with other races, but it used to pull in a very respectable field. This year, Traprain was on, north of the border, and the Blaydon was on the following day, so it did well, this year, to pull in about forty runners.

The prizes are hand-crafted mugs. They're worth the £6 entry and pasting yourself all over the hills for (if you're, in any way, in contention).  Too often prizes are forgettable.  I shouldn't carp really. I'm not a pot hunter.

I've ran this twice previously. The first time I got well lost with another lad while up with the front runners. This year, I was slower but surer of the route. One or two runners floundered around me momentarily as forest tracks split or markers were less than obvious, but I ran with an air of nonchalance casually pointing left here, right my sweat soaked orange bandana....It would have been nice if I could have ran a bit quicker,  though.

Keith Cooper organises this to coincide with a walk that takes in the course and so there's no shortage of folk on the route or Mountain Rescue volunteers manning the various

With the sky a deep blue and the sun beating down and pushing up the mercury into the 70's, I made sure I stopped for a proper drink at every water stop. I even stopped at the stream on the way back. I ran on the way out with a lad from Moorfoot. Its up and up along the grassy Clenell Street and then onto rough gravel tracks along the side of the woods northward. After around 5 miles it takes an east turn onto the heather and hummocky grass. It' blidy hard work. The peat was crusty but with a soft centre and I lost my footing frequently and spent plenty energy trying to pick my way along the best line I could find up Bloodybush Edge and Cushat Law.  By the turn,  the Moorfoot lad had pulled well ahead and I had been caught by unattached Mr Spanner. We yo-yo'd for a while and made good speed down the forest track off the hills.  I'd felt my hamstring tighten down the backside of the Law and knew not to push too hard, given that 2 hours is as long a run as I can manage in the hills without beginning to cramp.

The coarse cobbly, scorched and angular surface was hell on the soles, but it didn't last too long. I told unattached I was stopping for a drink from the stream. He ran on. When I started again, he had pulled a little way ahead, but up the last rise, his progress stuttered a little as he was unsure of the route, but he didn't let me get close enough to give him proper directions...there was a lot of mid distance shouting and pointing. I'd run ahead, then he'd start to run, ensuring he kept his distance. Once he realised he could see the village, he took off like a hare. I was happy to let him go. Young and eager.

Crossing the line I sat in the stream for a good while. Later, I celebrated with a shandy and won myself a nice mug for 1st in category.  Legs suffering from a bad case of Doms this morning though.  Nice event. Stunning views.

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