After a cool, bright day… some Wednesday night midweek fun was on the cards for the six Holmfirth fell runners who made their way over to Herod Farm near Glossop on the 19th of April. Conditions have been getting better underfoot recently and the hills around Glossop are a bit less boggy and more exposed to the wind. Together with a cool wind, running conditions looked pretty good overall. There was a mood of positivity at this, one of the first mid week races of the fell season… mixed with trepidation – the hills looked steep! Runners were pleased to hear there was no mandatory kit to carry (there was not a cloud in the sky).
If you’ve never done a fell race before you might think that a short race is a good place to start. This is a category AS race (A meaning very steep and S meaning short). With a distance of three miles, that’s arguably true… but the hills in this little course were truly formidable. The organisers website says “After dashing through fields past the Pennine Care Centre the race begins in earnest, climbing up the face of the Nab”… they had it about right when they said ‘climbing up the face.’ What an ascent! It was like being hit by a wall. Maybe an M (medium) distance might be better for beginners after all?
During the first climb, it was Adam who consolidated his strong lead amidst the Holmfirth runners. Jon pushed ahead on the first hill only to be overtaken by Fran, a superior descender on the way back down. The race progressed like this – everyone found the hills hard – but those more confident at descending found dry solid conditions underfoot made for even speedier descending than you might have expected. The was very little in the way of slippery mud about.
So it was really the first descent that sorted the Holmfirth runners into their finishing positions. The second, even tougher, ascent of The Nab kept everyone in check. Runners seemed to just fix their eyes on the summit and keep going. Fortunately it was one of those hills where at least you could see the top for most of the climb – no pesky false summits! The long final descent was superb. Runners navigated steep grassy fields with plenty of chances to overtake. The course finished with a few hundred metres of road meaning that even ‘normal’ runners had a chance to push themselves on decent terrain to end the race.
The race is strongly recommended to runners who aren’t put off by steep hills and are familiar with running on steep grassy fields.
Exciting! The male course record was broken by 40 seconds (now around 21 mins), and the female record by 42 seconds. The second place male runner also beat the previous record. This is impressive since the race has been running since 1989. Proof the conditions were great tonight.
What about the Holmfirth runners? First back was Adam Sunderland in a strong time under 30 minutes despite a bit of a tumble at one point. Not far behind was Fran Whitworth whose descending skills kept her well ahead of Jon Burdon. They didn’t have long to wait for Sophie Cromwell, followed confidently by Mark Henderson and then Becky Burdon who finished with her trademark downhill speed. Well done everyone! Unusually Holmfirth didn’t come back with any prizes.
We all enjoyed the race enormously (if enjoyed is the right word when you’ve put yourself through those kind of hills) – the organisers of this local classic were simply brilliant.
Full results can be found here.