In my report for last year’s race I promised ‘Mist over Pendle’ for 2019. How wrong I was! Despite having freak hailstorms the day before the race whilst I was putting out some of the controls it was, yet again, a case of factor 50 suncream!
103 runners set off following the flagged section through flat fields taking in the lovely aroma of bluebells from the neighbouring woodland of the Downham Estate. Appearing to lull the runners into what they might have seen as an ‘easy day out on the fells’ they soon realised the severity of the race as they reached the fell gate and met the climb up Burst Clough – the first of eight climbs. With bumbags laden with full ‘FRA Kit’ and the sun blazing down it was going to be a tough day on Pendle.
After around 45 mins the leading four were within seconds of each other at CP3 at the bottom of the ‘Big End’, but by CP6 at Ashendean Clough this was reduced to the trio of Iain Embrey (Bowland), Nick Leigh (Horwich) and record holder Tom Brunt (DkPk). Iain and Nick were pushing strongly into Ogden Clough and then up Boar Clough to the summit of the hill, whilst Tom was struggling to maintain the fast pace set by the leaders. Once reaching the summit it’s a 2 ½ mile downhill dash to the finish, but not forgetting the check point at Robin Hoods well (which some struggle to find!) on the way. It was a sprint to the finish line, which comes into sight for the last 200 meters, and it was Iain who managed to just hold off Nick by 1 second. Tom finished in 3rd place just over 3 minutes behind, although he managed to hold onto the course record of 2.04.20 which he set in 2012.
In the ladies race it was Sarah Littleman (DkPk) who showed an early promise with a lead of nearly two minutes by CP3 at the bottom of the ‘Big End’. But Jean Brown (Clayton-le-Moors) had her in her sights by CP5 at Stainscomb and managed to overtake her en route to CP6 at Ashendean Clough and powered on to win with nearly a two minute margin. Full results.
The top 20 were the lucky finishers who managed to get changed before the unforecasted downpour, with the remaining runners finishing wet, but still happy!
As usual the finishing area was crowded with runners pouring over their maps discussing their routes, or deciding which bottle of Moorhouse’s beer to choose, which all runners received as the race was sponsored by Moorhouse’s Brewery.
Many runners commented how much they enjoyed parts of the route which lacked footpaths and took them to places seldom visited on Pendle. Despite it being tougher than some expected, they all promised to be back next year.
A huge thank you to the marshals and helpers, the landowners and farmers and you, the runners, for making this race a pleasure to organise. Tell your mates about how much you enjoyed it this year and bring them back with you next year for a great race and some more Moorhouse’s beer.
One year we will have ‘Mist Over Pendle’ so you’ll be glad you found your route in clear weather this time! Next year’s race will be on Saturday 9 May 2020. See you all there!
Mark Nutter, Race Organiser
The Bob Graham Round
by Will Herman
Much has been written of the Bob Graham Round, by better writers and better runners than me.
I will not attempt to emulate them. It is too soon for one thing.
One week after completing the BG, I am still absorbing the experience, recalling moments on the mountains that I think of as home, moments with friends, moments of discomfort, of pain, of joy and of simply being. To run on the fells for nearly 24hrs is an experience few will ever know. It is one I will never forget.
It is impossible to say where the journey began. The Bob is something that has occupied my mind, at times wholly, for at least five years. It is something that I was aware of, and held muted aspirations towards for many years before that.
It was, I think, while waiting for friends beneath Rossett Pike to support an attempt in 2015, that I acknowledged my own desire to make a serious attempt. I watched three or four groups come through that day, though my friends never arrived, a knee injury forcing a halt on Fairfield.
Two years later and I found myself running up Skiddaw on my first attempt. As darkness fell, so the clag descended and from there on things got steadily worse. Leg 2 was run on bearings throughout in appalling visibility and strong winds. On Fairfield, after hours of intense concentration in dire conditions, I accepted it wasn’t meant to be and we called it a day at Dunmail. It was the right decision.
But The Bob is a journey once begun, that needs closure.
Late in 2018, I started to make serious preparations once again. Long runs in all weathers, hard days on the fells in full winter conditions, painful physio sessions, a more disciplined stretching routine than I have ever stuck too in the past…
To the dismay of some, I continued racing until the week before, recording some of my best results to date – 8th at Eskdale Elevation, 8th at Pendle Cloughs – both tough AL races covering some rough ground. Racing is perhaps not the best training for a BG but it gave me confidence. And that confidence is key.
And so after months of preparation, at 7.05am on May 18th, I set off for a second attempt, running anti-clockwise in the Clayton-le-Moors tradition, which suited my schedule and body clock.
The first two legs felt easy enough, and while it was a little harder to get going again after a rest at Wasdale, leg 3 never felt overly taxing and I arrived at Dunmail feeling confident. Leg 4 was hard. Fairfield was dispatched in short order but after that things went awry. Dizziness and nausea plagued me passing Helvellyn and for the length of the Dodds. By the end of Leg 3 I was an hour ahead of a 22hr schedule, but on leg 4, moving more slowly than I realised, the buffer I had created disappeared.
Climbing out of Threlkeld, Blencathra hidden in the clag, I clawed up the ridge for what seemed like hours. By the time we reached the summit I had other problems. My left knee was becoming increasingly painful and the descent towards Calva was a blur or darkness, clag and pain. Worse still, we were not in fact descending towards Calva. The pain in my knee was forcing me off the traverse onto a more direct descent which put less stress on the joint. By the time we arrived in the valley we were seriously off route.
There followed a nightmarish traverse, leaping through huge spongy tussocks covered in 3ft high heather, to regain the trod beside Wiley Gill. Somewhere along the way, the pain, nausea and tiredness turned to raw determination and, as though racing, I ran and paced hard up Calva. A fast descent pulled enough time back to ease off slightly on the last climb of Skiddaw and approaching the summit, choking back unexpected emotion, I stood in the bitter wind, trying to understand there were no more.
The descent was long and slow, secure at last in the knowledge I would make it to the Moot Hall within 24hrs.
After nearly 70 miles, 42 summits and some 27,000ft of ascent, at 6.52am I touched the green door of the Moot Hall, completing the Bob Graham Round.
Could I have gone faster, stopped less, taken a better line off Blencathra? Yes. Will I run it again, try for a ‘fast’ round? Maybe. But first there are the summer’s races to come. And then, maybe, Ramsay’s Round.
For now it is enough.
So many people helped along the way, not just on the weekend of the attempt, but in the months and years leading to it and I am hugely grateful to all, for the advice and encouragement given and the confidence shown.
A special vote of thanks must go to Andy Laycock who ran legs 2 & 3, and then turned out again in the early hours to run the final leg in poor conditions. And to all of the support runners, more than one of whom also ran more than one leg and whose support and enthusiasm for my attempt was humbling.
Leg 1: Russell Clarke, Matt Perry, Chris Snell, Richard Briscoe
Leg 2: Andy Laycock, David Bagot, Peter Coates
Leg 3: Hayley Evans, Andy Laycock, Andy Webster
Leg 4: Ralph Baines, Andrew Priory, Mark Nutter
Leg 5: Hayley Evans, Andy Laycock, Ralph Baines, David Bagot
And last but far from least, thanks to Sarah Robertshaw for ferrying bags and bodies around Cumbria and making sure everyone was where they needed to be.
Thank you all.