The last bank holiday weekend saw the Pendleton fell race run being held again in almost near perfect conditions.
Just over an hour away and heading northwest, there are lots of great races to attend in this neck of the woods. This race was no exception and having been recently used (2019) for the FRA championships it goes without saying it has pedigree.
It is a relatively short race of 8km (457m Ascent) but with a long history and course records remaining unbeaten since the early 1980’s. The race begins with a flat-out charge up the village’s main street, before climbing over fields of tussocks and very rough pasture to Apronful Hill. A steep drop to Ashendean Clough and across Howcroft Brook ensues before a steeper climb take the runners to Alan and Judith’s Cairn on Mearley Moor, from where there is an exhilarating descent into Ashendean Beck, across Howcroft Brook again, before a long run-in back across the moors and fields back to the village.
A modest field of 82 runners all congregated on the field to allow the new organiser, Paul, opportunity to brief us all before the cavalry charge around the field. The course was marked and marshalled well with a good number of supporters on route. A nice touch was the farm opposite the village hall which set up a mini country market stall selling teas, coffees and cakes.
Katie had her usual blistering start and was well inside the top 10 leaving the field for the first time, the ascent then kicked in for the next few km’s really suited here climbing ability, reaching the top in 6th position with enough of a lead on her nearest rival to finish the race in that position. The course records seem very quick for both the men’s and ladies and with England international Harry Holmes winning the men’s race and falling short of it by some seven minutes, one can probably surmise that the terrain, particularly through the tussocks, or the route has changed so much that it will take an extraordinary effort for them to be toppled.
1st Harry Holmes – 38.01, 6th (1st Lady) Katie Walshaw 42.51, 30th James Washington 52.03
The fell racing calendar is so busy now and you could almost race everyday if you were so inclined.
This last weekend saw another trip but this time in the opposite direction towards Sheffield and the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race, Britain’s oldest sheepdog trials, an iconic fell race over 8.6km (320m Ascent) which has been run in conjunction for the last 20 years.
As with many races today, courses keep changing for many differing reasons and having continuity of records is becoming increasingly more difficult, although the course did seem unchanged from 2022!
A quality field of 184 lined up, many from Dark Peak as the hosts, which led to an excellent race. Will Gratton from Dark Peak won the race in 40.15 with Katie finishing in 11th position overall in 47.42, over two minutes quicker than the course record set in 2022. For a relatively low-key race the ladies’ field was as particularly strong with four ladies finishing inside the top 25!
The course is very technical and not a newcomer’s race by any means. There are many rocky outcrops to negotiate with some perilous drops between the rocks and tracks with thigh high ruts which can easily catch you out. The climbs are a good mixture of short steep and longer more gruelling and it really is a race with everything, including a nasty sting in the tail as you climb the tussock field to the finish line. This is a hard race and one where you have a real feeling of accomplishment once you have finished, it really is a testament to the strength and agility of those who can win these races.
1st – Will Gratton 40.15, 11th (1st Lady) Katie Walshaw 47.42, 34th James Washington 53.51.