Lakes March 2015

The English Lake District in Spring.  Romantic and attractive.  Three years ago we had a weekend in Langdale.  Last weekend in March.  About 10 of us, family and close friends.  Glorious spring weather.  Walking.  A bit of climbing.  Sitting outside with a drink after dinner.  Glorious.

What could be better than to repeat it this year?  Off we went on Friday.  And we had a nice walk up and round Stickle Tarn and Harrison Stickle.  A bit of scrambling for those who like that sort of thing, and a snowfield to negotiate for the rest.  Back down on a path directly above the waterfall of Dungeon Ghyll.  Marvellous.

Saturday?  Buckets.  Absolute downpour.  On and on.  Well, we went to Coniston and visited Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house, and in the afternoon went down the slate mine at Honister Pass.  Both well worth doing.  John Ruskin was, among other things, a social reformer who managed to ameliorate some of the worst excesses of British 19th century capitalism.  We could do with someone as effective as him in these days of zero hours contracts and the like.  Honister was reopened by Mark Weir 15 years ago and provides much needed local employment.  And we did not get completely soaked getting to and from the car.

Sunday also appeared somewhat inclement.  However Little Langdale beckoned, followed at 13.00 by the Elterwater fell race.  4.7 km, 396 m of climbing.   The weather had dried up.  After the junior races, around 100 runners, straight up the hill and then straight back down.  Hands and knees stuff going up, then an exhilarating and in parts somewhat frightening descent.

setting off courtesy of Beth Woolley.
setting off
courtesy of Beth Woolley.

The main steep section came about halfway up.  I do enjoy going past other ‘runners’ on this stuff, and I managed to get past about 7 or 8; then the terrain levelled off for quite a while and I was sure they would get me back, but no one came past.  After this, I actually managed to get past one lady on the way back down and only two runners passed me on the descent, so I was pretty pleased with that.  Guess the family cheering me on must have helped.

Rather sloppy underfoot, which is OK when it cushions your fall, but which adds to the anxiety when it’s a surface with lots of smooth slippery rock.  The conditions were rather like Friday – some wind, good visibility, not raining.

64 to do.

Race no. 5. And corrections/clarifications.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The clocks go forward this weekend, and the midweek races will start.  Andy O’Sullivan MBE, jumped the gun tonight with his first midweek race.  And it was indeed a short one.  The Tony Lavin Memorial Brownhouse Reservoir 5K Race at Rochdale.

This 5k trail race was organised by the former policeman and prolific race organiser; Andy has raised thousand of pounds for good causes, by organising races throughout the year.  Always good value – tonight was one of the very few occasions when I have come away from one of his races with nothing more than a Mars Bar.

Up a dirt track, quite steep in places, then twice round a little reservoir, and back the way you came.  I managed to get onto the reservoir just in time to be overtaken by three very fast runners on their second lap.

Another friendly pub, good beer, and pleasant company.  Just a touch cold, but a lovely evening.

And some good news – I WAS NOT LAST ! – on Sunday at the Heptonstall fell race.  You can forgive me for thinking I was.  Accompanied to the finish by a marshall, who removed each route marker flag as we went past; the finish team heaving a sigh of relief when I got there, and starting to pack up; but when the results came through, there was a wonderful man who came in 14 minutes behind me.  Thankyou!  I’ve still not finished last in any race.  And there were more runners timed out than I thought – more than a dozen.

Heptonstall fell race - view by a runner Courtesy of Richard Butterwick
Heptonstall fell race – view by a runner
Courtesy of Richard Butterwick

Also I failed to describe the start of the race.  227 runners filling the cobbled main street in Heptonstall, receiving the blessing  from the village minister, who waved us off, then was present later to welcome us all back.

Nor did I mention that the runner who was 48 seconds ahead of me at the Sweatshop 10 in Blackpool (the previous week) will be celebrating his 80th birthday in August this year.  I had gone past him at about 2 miles, but he came past me again at about 8 miles, and I could not catch him.  Maybe next year.

Only another 65 to do.





Heptonstall Fell Race done!

Slept well last night.  4 hours of exertion.  And a football match to watch on the telly.

Heptonstall is a large village or small town on a Pennine hillside.   Historically a centre for hand-loom weaving, it was also the site of a battle in 1643 during the early part of the English Civil War.  The foundation stone of its octagonal Methodist chapel, the oldest still in continued use, was laid following the visit of John Wesley in 1764.  In the 19th Century, with the coming of the canal and the railway, the population centre moved down into the valley, forming the, now much bigger, town of Hebden Bridge.  Heptonstall is well worth a visit – somewhat like Howarth, but without the commercialisation.

The race climbs the cobbled road to the top of the village, drops right down into the clough then climbs right back up to Popples Common and onto the moor.  Thence over Standing Stone Hill, more moor (see last year’s photo) and a fast runnable descent to the road at Blake Dean, a little short of the Packhorse pub (‘The Ridge’).  The next checkpoint is at Greave Height; the route description states ‘take a minor grassy Land Rover track which eventually peters out but you don’t, powering on remorselessly on the same line until you reach the wall at the top’.  Next another runnable downhill, then crossing a reservoir dam, up the other side, and onwards until eventually another descent to Walshaw.  A kamikaze descent down into the bottom of Hardcastle Crags, path along the river, then a massive climb to regain all the height lost and re emerge at Walshaw.  More climbing over Shackleton, another drop, a different valley, and down it until the final lung bursting climb to get back to Heptonstall.

24.8 km, 966 m climb.
Good parts for me –

On the moor after Popples Common
On the moor after Popples Common

– lovely spring day, sunshine, moderate temperatures, no wind.  Ran fairly well for the first 2 1/2 hours.  Ground largely quite dry – did go over my knees, but only once, and that was water.  No mud above ankle depth.  Friendly supportive marshalls all the way round.  Fabulous reception at the end – excellent flapjacks and drinks.  Hot soup.

Bad parts – as expected the leg failure did kick in.  Walked/hobbled for a further  1 1/2 hours, with a finish time of 3.59.40, thereby losing almost 30 minutes on the teammate with whom I had been boxing & coxing all the way.  43 minutes slower than 2011 (I can’t find my result from last year).  And the finish team had to wait a fair time for me to arrive; they said that was OK, but I’m not entirely sure.  Never been last in a race before (though about half a dozen runners behind me were stopped for missing a cut off time).

(Did my first road marathon faster than that – 3.59.19 in 2001).

So that’s my last ever long fell race.  Once I’m 70 (next year) the fell competitions I enter do not require a long race.  So unless the leg problem starts to kick in earlier, or I run far more slowly, in practical terms it won’t bother me again, when I’m confining myself to short and medium races.

Now – on to the remaining 66.  Next one will be short.



Thanks for yr interest.

When the results are in, often the Race Organiser will go thro’ them looking for runners from the same club, and assigning them to teams, generally 4 men to a team.  This is largely of interest at the top end – on occasion, Tod Harriers men’s team may be the winning team in a race.

This Race Organiser went right thro’ the results in this way.  I was the third of the four men in my team.  Blissfully unaware of this till the results appeared.

Done 3


A taster for next week - a flat section at Heptonstall last year.
A taster for next week – a flat section at Heptonstall last year.  Courtesy of Dave & Eileen Woodhead

15 March 2015

Pleasant weekend.  Weather OK for March.  Won the football tonight.  3rd race completed.

I hate concrete.  5 miles (8 km) each way along the front at Blackpool.  Going south – on the upper promenade – tarmac – fine.  Going north – on the lower promenade – concrete – not so fine.  Long stretches of concrete are really really hard on the legs and I suffer.  And from the point of view of scenery, pretty much a total washout.  Once you’ve clocked you’re at the seaside – that’s it.

The route was car free and the organisation excellent.  Friendly and encouraging marshalls, a banana at the finish, then soup and a bread roll, and a stuffed goody bag.  I could not beat 9 minute miles.  I already knew my days of 8 minute miles (5 minute km) were over, but I’m a touch disappointed with 91.38 for an essentially flat course.  I guess I need to blame the concrete.

And it turns out I was in a team – 3rd counter out of 4 for the Tod Harrier’s men’s B team in 16th position.  Don’t usually manage that.


Onward to race 3

Friday the 13th Mar 2015.

Wednesday’s Tod Harriers packrun from Luddenden was fine; an initial steep climb for possibly 2 km, a run in the open, high above the countryside, a downhill scamper then a long gentle run into Sowerby Bridge, a climb up to Sowerby, back down into the valley bottom and a short climb back to where we started.  Probably about 10 km.  We’re lucky to have such lovely surroundings.  Followed by a pie and a pint in a nice pub with good company.  Can’t beat it.

The coming weekend is settled, too.  I’m not going all the way to Shropshire.  Because I can do the club championship race on Sunday, and still get away well in time to watch a football match.  So it’s off to the flatlands of Blackpool for the Sweatshop 10, two laps, 10 road miles (about 16 km) with a lot of very fast runners way ahead of me.

This may not be much help as preparation for the subsequent weekend.  Again just one race, again in the club championship, the Heptonstall Fell Race.  24.8 km with 966 m of climbing.  Not sure how they get it so precise.  I’m struggling to complete the long fell races these days, and didn’t complete any in the club championship last year.  I did do Heptonstall (we put different races in our championship each year) but found it extremely hard.  Hopefully I’ll find it not as hard this year.

Peter Ehrhardt

This was me last year - just holding off another To Harrier
This was me last year – just holding off another Tod Harrier

I run with Todmorden Harriers, in the Pennines on the Yorkshire Lancashire border.  It was my 69th birthday last week, so I have embarked on my 70 in 70; 70 races in my 70th year.

Saturday 7th March was to be the first.  And a real race.  Here in Todmorden – the Flower Scar fell race.  The first counter in this year’s English Fell Championship.  9 km, 470 m of climbing.  A brief run round Todmorden park, then off and up into the woods, then across the moor, a steep climb up Flower Scar hill, and a loop back – but including more climbing to bring you back down into the park the way you came up.

A grand day and a good atmosphere.  Sun shining.  Everybody positive.  The cakes good.  I bought a new pair of running shorts and a couple of books.  And went to see the ladies’ race.

As this is an English Championship short race, the men and women run separately.  Women at 11.00, men at 12.30.  Watched the start in the park; and the final descent to come back into the park.  Steep.  Deep slutchy leafmould, deposited over the years.  Steps at the bottom.  Switch off your brain & go.  Fantastic to watch.

Then it was time to run.  I was already in difficulty in the park; quite boggy (though not as bad as it would have been a few days earlier – we’ve had a dry spell).  So I was walking before we even got to the climb through the wood.  Got past a couple of competitors (inaccurate to call them runners at this stage).  Managed to run when we got to the top.  Couldn’t overtake till we got to the moor; took two there, and another two getting to the top of Flower Scar.

Then the descent.  Not my forte.  One went past & vanished into the distance.  Another went past, and one stuck close behind me.  I actually managed to overtake on the downhill steep grassy track, but both caught me as we started to climb along some gentler sloping tarmac.  I didn’t get past them till we were climbing steeply again, to get to run down the leafmould slope.

Held them both off till the bottom, but they were well ahead by the time we then got to the finish.  No matter, neither were V65 runners.

148 women and 325 men finished.

I think I got 4 English Championship points.


What a contrast the next day at the Roddlesworth Roller in deepest Lancashire countryside.  9 km trail race.  A much more low key event.  And it was raining.

I knew nobody – one other runner, to talk to before we started; a spectator who had run Flower Scar the previous day, and who told me she had done 65 at 65; and a lady who passed me about a third of the way round who had worked with me in a previous life.  But there weren’t the hills.  Tired legs had me walking  where I might have run, on several of the gradients however.

A pleasant run out through woods with a bit along a country road and back; I even overtook 2 runners in the last 300 m.

Second one done.

At this time of year there are not yet the mid week races that are held in the summer; and next weekend the only suitable race I can find is a fell race in Shropshire, rather further than I had intended to travel.  I’ll see how I feel after Wednesday’s pack run; Tod Harriers are running from the Lord Nelson in Luddenden this month, so it’s a climb whichever direction we go in.  So that’s an advantage.