It wasn’t until I woke on Sunday morning that I decided to run Cronkley. First time for me. A straight out and back fell race of 10.5miles and 1700ft of ascent over the Yorkshire Dales in Teesdale. It starts at the Strathmore Arms, 3 miles up a dead end near Middleton in Teesdale but set in a beautiful craggy limestone landscape with short cropped grass and gravel tracks.
There were fifty who started and running 5 miles straight into a stiff headwind, it was a grind. I tried to initiate a bit of work and take turns peeling off with a couple of runners, but this failed miserably and predictably, so I ploughed on and soon we were all strung out along the moor. The wind was so strong I felt my cheeks billowing and stretching like I was on a roller coaster or maybe going through a worm hole in a star trek film.
After the coarse gravel track it was onto a boggy stretch with thick reedy grass and we had to pick our way over a couple of rocky streams. I managed to get pretty close to the runner ahead as we climbed up onto Cronkley Crags, but let him slip away on the sometimes rocky descent to the turn at the River Tees. My number had blown off so I decided to stick it in my bumbag rather than run with it in hand. I crossed the river, wading unsteadily over the slippy boulders which lined the river bed. The marshall with the clip had a good laugh on the other side. As I turned I was shocked to see 3 others right behind me and also already coming at me through the brown peaty water. I had thought, mistakenly, that I might have had a gap. Obviously not the case. drat.
I took off back up the climb to the Crags, but decided to walk and thought if I got passed...well, good luck to them. One of the three was Graham Burns of Durham Fell Runners and my V50 competition. I was passed halfway up by the young Elvet runner and then at the top a rangey Pudsey runner came by. No sign of the DFR dangerman though.
With a strong tailwind, I was hanging on in behind Elvet and as Pudsey came past with his big strides, I decided he was going to get us home quicker, and off I went. I was running behind him so fast that I could hardly keep up with my legs and was furiously scanning every step to make sure I avoided the grey boulders poking their angular heads through the short grass.
With around 2 miles to go, Pudsey moved on and I never got back to him. My speed dropped. I teetered dangerously on a boulder in the stream and almost lost my foot down a rabbit hole, but was soon on the unforgiving gravel track and it was up along Ore Carr and then down to Holwick Crag and the finish. I allowed myself a quick look back near the finish and there was no one in sight. Crossed in 1:28 (8th) and after having a light hearted moan to the organiser about the gratuitous river crossing at the 5 mile mark, thanked him and left, having a lunch to attend to back up the road.
Some great photos on display at www.fellandforest.co.uk. Results at the DFR site. Absolutely wiped out last night.