Almost immediately as we drew near to the Shepherds Skyline route, we arrived with signs that this would be a special fell race. The ominous Stoodly Pike overshadowed us as we arrived along the extensive Lumbutts Road to The Shepherds Rest Inn. The sound of cattle bells rode the wind as we were greeted with the sight of the juniors tackling their big ascent in their respective race. There was only one hardy Clayton junior here today, last years U8 race winner Christopher Brown. He has moved up the age category this year though and raced in the U10’s for the first time. He did fantastice to come in an amazing 3rd place on what i have heard described as ‘a proper fell course’ with lots of mud thrown in!
Runners from all clubs began to warm up on the beginning climb, testing their mettle on the forthcoming hills. The runners gathered at the start line, where only the braver Clayton members remained in their shorts and club vests. The race began and the sun emerged whilst the racers ahead all tussled and fought to find their footing among the narrow early steep passage.
Although the path is narrow, there are avenues in which you are able to pick off the other runners should you get pushed back in the starting rush. Though be warned, make note of some the steeper cliff edges for the way back down! I almost had to be rescued by the Calder Valley runner I was trying to stay ahead of in the finishing decent.
After a steady climb the race levels out onto the boggy moors as we made our way over to Stoodly Pike. There you will find yourself hurtling down a decent, which is not for the weak ankled! After a steady flat, a fell necessity of a demonic, thigh burner of a hill was to be tackled with many runners resorting to the fell running shuffle.
We were then thrust back upon the route from whence we originally ran. Here the downhill descent battle’s begun to emerge between runners from Chorley, Calder Valley, Glossopdale and myself. I was pushed all the way to the end, tacking a tumble and a few ankle jaunts along the way whilst managing to finish in at 28th and a time of 50:44. There were also great finishing runs from Sean Clare in 57:32, whilst Simon Stansfield pipped fellow Clayton member Mark Nutter by 2 seconds and both impressively finished under the hour mark.
The elements of the route, the runners and the weather teamed together to create a fantastic atmosphere for this fell race. One that I definitely intend to partake in again!
Thanks To Chris Holdsworth for this report!