This weekend saw high quality fields take to the fells just over the hill in Glossop as the 2023 English Fell Running Championships incorporated the John Hewitt Memorial Shelf Moor Fell Race.
Hosted by Glossopdale Harriers the race was dedicated to the memory of its former Chairman John Hewitt. He loved to race, and we were asked to honour his memory by running this race with as much joy and enthusiasm as we could muster.
For those who didn’t know John, it was also recommended to run his way, an overly optimistic starting pace, sub-optimal navigation skills, putting on the best “race-face” grin of determination for that finish line sprint, but saving most of the day’s energy for food, drink (beer or tea!), and lots and lots of laughter with friends.
The six-mile route taken by the race has three of the area’s aircraft wrecks within close proximity. One is at the top of the steep climb called James’s Thorn, the remains of which nestle in the peat on the 1800-foot contour. Another lies below in Ashton Clough while the B-29, “Overexposed” rests at 2038 feet, virtually the top of the Peak District. The views from the trig point there on the day were quite extensive.
Markers are followed Northwards across Shelf Moor to the north the far side of Dowstone Clough. After the stream crossing, runners hurtle down the soft peaty terrain, and from Lightside emerge at the track that leads to the finish near the bus turning circle at the end of Shepley Street in Old Glossop.
The course record was set by three times British Fell Running Champion Colin Donnelly in 1989 and is 39 minutes 45seconds. An excellent time for many on the flat, never mind adding the 1500 feet of ascent (and descent). Carol Greenwood of Holmfirth had the ladies record at 47 minutes 17 seconds from 1986.
Six harriers made the journey across into Derbyshire for well organised and very competitive races. The ladies’ race had no less than eight international stars line up on the start line and the conditions on the day made for an exciting and very fast race. Phillipa Williams won the race in 46.28, posting a new course record. Our only lady in the race, Katie Walshaw finished in 53.14 and although very disappointed with her performance it was still a very creditable 11th place in an excellent field. Only back in July, Katie was chasing Phillipa to within 90 seconds at the Stoney Middleton fell race so expectations were high and had hoped for a better race on Saturday.
In the gent’s race, Joe Steward took the win in 40.34 and you can only appreciate how quick that is once you have run this course. Curtis Firth led the harrier’s home in an excellent time of 55.47 (91st) and continued his good form from Cross Keys the week before. The ever-consistent Adam Sunderland was next in for the Club in 57.09 (107th), chased hard by Robert Dickinson, who’s brilliant descent down Lightside brought him home in 58.54 (124th). James Washington grinded it out for a time of 1.00.30 (140th), while our fell leader Phil Hobbs continued his return to racing finishing in 1.07.11 (179th).
Many congratulations, and a great big thank you, to all those who took part at the weekend and flew the Amber vest in one of the biggest fell races of the year.