Whaley waltz

the water 'jump' courtesy of Myra Wells
the water ‘jump’
courtesy of Myra Wells
drying off courtesy of Myra Wells
drying off
courtesy of Myra Wells

This was a hot day, so being enabled to cool off in the River Goyt before completing the final 300 m was very welcome.  I believe some did jump – I was nervous of possibly twisting my ankle so preferred the almost full immersion.  Then straight home and off to a brass band concert.  Which was very good.

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.  So – OK, it was 13.10.  But it’s British Summer Time; really it was just after 12.  There were 200 runners filling the main road in Whaley Bridge.  On a hot day.  Nothing moving.

This is another club championship race completed.  In the High Peak District in Derbyshire.  9.3 km, 274 m of climbing.  And I think I did alright; ran most of it, any I walked others were walking too, and I got past 7 on the way up and only lost 2 places on the way back down.

The race was tied in with the Whaley Bridge annual gala.  The main road was closed to traffic; we watched the procession including several rose queens, a brass band and a kilted bagpipe band (from Manchester) then after a bit of a wait we were off up the main street with the crowds applauding.  Not a lot of shade, but basically a straight up and down race, so when the up was completed, it was a steady and cool run back down.  Two stiles each caused a long wait, which can be a bit off putting.  And an opportunity to cool off just before the finish.  Didn’t get any cakes though.

32 to do.

37 – Eddie’s Revenge

I’ll start this time with an evocative picture of the previous race – Tom Tittiman on Sunday.  You can see I’m trailing a fair number of runners  But maybe I’m running too.

courtesy of Dave & Eileen Woodhead
courtesy of Dave & Eileen Woodhead

Tonight’s race was in the South Pennines.  Used to be in Lancashire, close to the West Riding of Yorkshire and also to Cheshire; since 1974 in Greater Manchester.  Specifically, it’s in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, and only just outside Rochdale.  Old industrial area – especially quarrying and coal mining.  All of the industry had disappeared by 50 years ago.  Crompton Moor is now recreational area primarily, with a good deal of tree cover.  So quite possible to devise an intricate network of routes, string them together, and create a fell race

Which is what Middleton Harriers have done.  And done very well too.  To my mind it’s more of a trail race than a fell race, but there you go.  6.1 km, 323 m of climbing.

And I did, with some success – first V65 tonight.  And my loyal and ever growing group of readers will not be distracted by scurrilous rumours that both V70s were ahead of me, and I was the only V65 in the race,  whether true or not.  Anyway – we’d been shearing our sheep today.

And there were cakes.  First race for a while where I can say this.

A bit of uphill tarmac, then a fairly steep and stony track, then a downhill spurt, then more uphill track, but not as stony, then a bit of a drop followed by a steady uphill to the highest point.  Apparently there was a good view from there in all directions, but I was intent on trying to keep in front of the lady I’d not long passed; and failing.  Steady downhill then a steep but runnable drop, and back to the initial stony uphill track.  A sharp left bend on the level, a bit of downhill, and a sprint to the finish in an old quarry.  A welcome drink of water – poured over the head – and a second and third which I drank.  A bit hot and sticky tonight – would have benefitted from a drop of rain.

Only 33 to do.


Tom Tittiman

3rd of 3 weekend races.  Better conditions than yesterday, with no clag.  Ground soft & runnable.  But I still walked too much.

6.7 km 230 m of climb.  Up a track, narrow steep path through the bilberries (called wimberries around here) onto the moor and steady climbing to yesterday’s trig point,

courtesy of Dave Woodhead BEM
courtesy of Dave Woodhead BEM

straight back down, then a short sheer drop through more wimberries, down a track for a while, a steep climb back up, fairly level running (some of which was too steep for me at that stage and reduced me, but others too, to a crawl) and finally a gallop back down the initial track.  Nearly, but not quite, caught the chap in front.

Fairly satisfied with my run.

Didn’t get a prize, but everybody who completed the 3 day event got a nice commemorative mug.  Not bad at £10 entry (total) for the three races.

But the bad news is that Bill is having difficulty negotiating permission for this event; he had to modify the routes in order to accede to the new requirement that the whole of each race route sticks to paths.  Part of the point of fell running is route choice, which includes striking out across the moor.

Bill may not be able to organise this next year; or may have to arrange it for a different time of year.  Some memorable fell races have disappeared recently, and it is getting noticeably harder to get the relevant authorisation – perhaps from landowners, perhaps from organisations such as Natural England.  Hope they never succeed in pushing us all onto the road.

That’s 36 – only 34 to do now.

Reservoir Bogs

Here’s a picture from last night.

Wicken Hill Whizz courtesy of the Woodheads BEM
Wicken Hill Whizz
courtesy of the Woodheads BEM

Today – fine drizzle.  Creating a mist which certainly impeded visibility.  And quite a bit of the race was at that height.  The clag was sufficient to allow maybe 50 – 100 m of visibility.

emerging from the gloom courtesy of the Woodheads
emerging from the gloom
courtesy of the Woodheads

Bill changes the route of this race each year.  So when you register, you get a map of this year’s route.  Some navigational skills needed therefore.

This year he left out the knee deep sucking mud down by the reservoir, so, at first sight, from the map, it seemed a more benign race than some.  Not so.  Although there was not a lot of bog, it still seemed quite hard to me.  I’m only aware of one navigational error; that’s possibly better than quite a lot of the other runners; then as I reached the finish there was a whizzing noise from behind me and a younger man piled in about 0.5 seconds behind.  No idea where he came from.  Should have been well ahead of me. Reassuring, therefore, that I was definitely not last.

12 km, 450 m of climb.  I didn’t do a lot extra distance, but I did do some extra climb.  Up a track, then a queue for a stile, up a field and a couple more stiles, then onto the moor.  Fairly flat and therefore runnable – unfortunately the group I was trailing found it more runnable than me.  Over a good deal more moor, losing contact all the way despite my best efforts; needed to get the map out shortly before check point 3 to suss out where it was.

After which I was on my own.  This is where I made the error.  The reward came in the form of a really beautiful stile in a wall as I was climbing back up; been in the area often but never over this particular stile.  A semi circle of 3 big stone steps coming down off the wall.  A real find.

Pushed on to checkpoint 4; then tried a straight line (horizontal) rather than staying on the path (down then up).  Probably worth it despite the tussocks and the heather.  My speed on the path just before this was modest to say the least.  Then back up into the clag to checkpoint 5 at the trig point and highest point of the race; good job I know it; despite this there was a little demon  whispering to me that I must be going the wrong way.  I wasn’t.  Then a downhill scamper (doubt it actually looked like that) and found checkpoint 6; apparently quite a few didn’t, and had to go back there from the finish, then back to the finish; and a painful slight uphill followed by a downhill spurt to the finish.  After which my legendary navigational skills kicked in & I set off resolutely the wrong way back to the pub.

Happily they called me back.

I won this event a few years ago at V60 level; can’t win this weekend, unless my nemesis fails to turn up tomorrow.

Anyway, I did get to the show, albeit briefly.  Like to see the sheep, and there were plenty there.

35!  Halfway.  Just the run in now.


Midsummer madness

Madness? Certainly feels that way.  Extremely cold wind all day; doesn’t feel like midsummer.

A royd is a clearing; Mytholmroyd is the clearing where 2 rivers meet.  Scene for the first of 3 races over the weekend courtesy of prolific organiser Bill Johnson.  Bill has recently moved down into Mytholmroyd from his home in the hills.  And the Friday evening race is the Wicken Hill Whizz, 4.5 km 320 m climb.  Not sure I did a lot of whizzing, though watching the leading runner coming back downhill certainly fitted that bill.  Steep up through the wood, even steeper up the hillside, relentlessly up through very scratchy gorse, 100m on a level road, then up on a circuit to the trig point; complete the circuit going down and pell mell back the way you came.

I walked too much and ran too slow but apart from that I did OK.  Glad I shed the long sleeved top, at the last minute; shorts and a vest was plenty, and the wind on the top was actually moderate, and quite warm.

And home for tea in the daylight.

Hope I do equally well (or better) tomorrow & Sunday.  Might get to Tod Agricultural Show tomorrow too, with a bit of luck.

That’s 34 – very nearly half way.

Back and running

Barnoldswick.  Former cotton town.  Home of Rolls Royce.  It’s in Lancashire.  Has been for 41 years.  Since Local Government reorganisation in 1974.  But not everybody’s content with that.  For it was in Yorkshire.  In the West Riding no less.  So the local roads have plenty of signs up ‘Historic West Riding of Yorkshire’ or, going the other way, ‘County Palatine of Lancashire’.  And the school is West Craven High School.  Would be – it was a West Riding School, in existence before 1974.  Good, according to OFSTED, according to the big sign outside the school.  Though the Catholic youngsters generally attend Fishermore High School in Colne.

I’d done the Weets fell race once a long time ago.  At that time it started in town.  I knew the start location had changed.  It’s at Letcliffe Park.  So, in the centre of town, I asked directions.  Oh yes, said the chap; Letcliffe Park – ‘up that road, there, just keep going.  Up.  And up.  And up.  Till you get to the park’.  Entirely accurate directions.

Barnoldswick is now in the Borough of Pendle.  The Borough has 3 peaks; Pendle, Boulsworth and Weets.  And I’ve now run over all of them in the last 12 months.  Still don’t know what Weets means.  Wet, perhaps?

They’re displaying last year’s results.  A chap I know well came last.  And he’s running faster than me these days.  Doesn’t sound good . . . .

Anyway, we’re off.  Facing 8.8 km and 500 m of climb.  Shorts and a vest.  It’s quite hot, overcast, sultry – with a bit of luck there might be a bit of drizzle.  It rained a fair bit last night, after a period of hot sunny weather.  Not that that makes any difference on the first 500m – it’s tarmac (and, mention it not, a bit of concrete) and a steady uphill, and I even walk a little of it.  Then turn right onto the moor, and it’s pleasant that the turf is a bit springy.  A delay at a stile – about 15 runners already waiting when I get there.  But no more delays at subsequent stiles.

Some up and down, then over a stile and right turn past a house – and we’re running downhill.  That’s how it’s going to be 500 m of climb.  Rough tarmac with gravel and potholes.  I overtake.  That is a surprise.  Generally others run faster downhill than me.  And the downhill goes on for quite a while; then a U turn through a gate on the left and up the sheep field.  And up and up.

actually running this time - both feet off the ground courtesy of Dave & Eileen Woodhead - who have just been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen's birthday honours list, for services to fell running
actually running this time – both feet off the ground
courtesy of Dave & Eileen Woodhead – who have just been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list, for services to fell running. Richly deserved.

And I lose a couple of places.  And I’m finding it hard.  And the front 4 runners zoom down the hill past us – they’re rejoining the outward route from the right.  And we keep climbing, and finally we’re at the top, a big dilapidated cairn., then the trig point and turn to the right and steep downhill and I overtake 2.  And into a stream and back up the other side and a lung bursting climb and I overtake another 2.

And a left turn and now we’re going back down the outward route.  I lost a couple of places on this climb; now I lose 3 places going back down it.  Something wrong with my training?  Or still the virus?  The U turn and back up the broken tarmac.  And I get all 3 of them.  Back past the house and onto the up and down.  And onto the last 500m of paved road.  My legs are tired.  Someone’s about to overtake me.  When she does, I’m surprised who it is: I’d thought a different lady was just behind.

Kindly, she tells me ‘come on!’  To my surprise, I respond.  Can’t quite keep up, but her command has spurred me on and speeded me up.  So I keep the other lady behind me.

3 minutes faster than my friend managed last year.  Even though we had no rain to cool us down.  Don’t know what the conditions were last time.  But I’m 2nd v65 today and well away from being last, and pleased with my run, and the virus hasn’t prevented all this, so it must be on the way out, and I’ve done 33, and there are only 37 to do now.

A good morning.

Here’s another picture.

The top. Pendle Hill in the background. Courtesy of Alan Bateson
The top.
Pendle Hill in the background.
Courtesy of Alan Bateson



Bloody things.  Probably only one, in fact; but millions of the little beggars.  Bunged up, coughing, sneezing, pyrexial, light headed, weak, tired.  Bet you’d all like to meet me today.  So I’m trying really hard not to distribute them to all and sundry.

So Thursday was a lovely day; spent quite a bit of it asleep on the lawn in the nice warm sunshine.  Don’t think I did all that much of anything else.  Certainly did not do the Hebden Bridge fell race.  Real pity.  It’s a Tod Harriers organised race.  It’s near home.  It’s a nice route.  On a lovely evening.  The ground still soft – won’t have dried out yet.  9.6 km, 350 m of climbing.  Done it a few times, and marshalled it too.  There you go.

So here’s one of our runners in the race.


And here’s the high point of the race.

Stoodley Pike - high above Toldmorden
Stoodley Pike – high above Toldmorden

And Friday was spent much the same way.  But I wasn’t as miserable as on Thursday.  And today, after a fairly good night’s sleep, I’m confident the little blighters are on their way out. But it’s windy, and in my current somewhat debilitated state I’m hardly fit to go out in this wind.  Did walk to the Post Office this morning – about a mile there and back – blew away a few cobwebs.  But stayed inside since.

So I’ve not done Kelbrook.  Another pity.  A local race – haven’t done it for a few tears, but it’s a good route and another excellent day.  5.5 km 213 m of climbing.   Often a bit of mud.  Gets you high up with decent views.  Anyway, there’ll be plenty more.

Still 38 to do, then.

Littleborough 5k

Another John Lloyd production and thanks to his excellent organisation, I can announce from the start that, in this race, I was 1st v65.  John states ‘at Cannonball Events we pride ourselves on a speedy accurate results service. We aim to always (assuming we have a mobile phone signal) have provisional race results up within an hour of prize giving’.  And he did.

Starts very near here.

Littleborough station courtesy of Robin - Littleborough escapes
Littleborough station
courtesy of Robin – Littleborough escapes

After recent poor weather, this was a really pleasant evening.  John has improved the route; ‘our new route utilises the cycle path that runs from near the start to Smithy Bridge Road and this takes out a busy main road and traffic at the initial part of the race. It also makes the route flatter and straighter, which means faster times. The race still retains the Hill on Smithy Bridge Road, but this is counteracted by the amazing downhill steady descent to the finish’.  The only thing about the cycle track is that there is some mud, there are some puddles; fine for someone like me, but, I imagine, not so fine for purist road runners.  And it did not lead to a faster time for me.  But I did manage to run all of the Hill (preceded by the foot tunnel under the railway).

Perhaps I was handicapped by my heavy cold.  I wasn’t so sure I should run (and, a day later, I’m still not sure; I won’t be doing my planned race this evening).  So I started near the back of the 150 runners, and stayed there, only getting past about 3 others in the whole race.  And I had no kick left, to accelerate down the amazing steady descent to the finish.  However, a nice route, a sunny evening with a light breeze, a passable run, and success at the end.  And a friend has kindly called by with my prize this morning.  Does alcohol defeat viruses, I wonder?

I was intending Hebden Bridge fell race this evening; hope I’ll be fit to do a race at the weekend.  Possibly Kelbrook fell race.  We’ll see.

32 done – nearly half way.  Only 38 to do.

Edenfield Fell Race

Village north of Manchester, now commuter territory; nothing to do with Eden, most probably, but rather Ayden, so, land by the farmstead by the river Irwell.  Population 2000+.  Race based at the cricket club, and most years competitors actually park on the cricket pitch.  Not this time, and especially not after last night’s rain.  The race starts with a circuit of the cricket pitch, where startlingly large amounts of water were kicked up by the runners’ feet.

10.3 km, 477 m of climb.  A bit destabilised by actually getting lost during my warm up before the race; quite flustered at the start.  Never done that before.  Very wet underfoot.  A bit of wind, and, at times some drizzle; but nice conditions overall.  One competitor had run Duddon fell race yesterday (29 km, 1830 m) and went on to run Saddeworth fell race at lunchtime (4.8 km, 290 m).  Puts my running into some perspective, even if he is 20 years younger than me.

Up a paved track, some fell, muddy track, more fell; then a level muddy track, up a hill to the trig point, a helter skelter back down and a runnable (sort of) muddy wet track/path; up a steep climb, then a long steep slithery downhill.  Went past a chap in unsuitable shoes – he got me later, on the track.  I was thinking we then turned left to run home, when I realised we still had a real lung bursting climb ahead of us, up from the stream.  Made up some ground, but no places, then lost it all again on the run home.  A good morning out.

31 done; 39 to go.