Rather than the Garden of Eden, this was a field – in fact a cricket field – in Edenfield where yesterday, Sunday 4th June, two Harriers took on the innocently named Edenfield Fell Race.
Far from innocent, the race, hosted by Rossendale Harriers, is 10.3km and reportedly has 396m (1299ft) of ascent. However, somehow according to Strava, I managed 424m (1391ft) of ascent which I will put down to my now legendary navigation skills; how you get lost going up a hill I don’t know?!
What Strava doesn’t highlight however is the technical side of these races. With sheer descents over rocky outcrops and having to negotiate well-weathered water channels which can easily and often grip your foot, it is easy to miss your plant and end up taking home more than you bargained for, as I did when I fell down one of the descents!
Expecting a relatively reduced field following the English Championship fell race at Duddon Valley on the Saturday, it was a surprise to see well over 100 competitors line up on the start line with some excellent athletes present.
Katie Walshaw continued her excellent form this season finishing 13th overall and 1st Lady in 49.26, over 7 minutes ahead of her nearest rival. Even more impressive was the 2 minutes 53 seconds she lowered Caitlin Rice’s 2017 course record by. Katie’s recent form is very much attributable to the regular speed sessions she has been doing at the Club and all bodes well for the cross country season later in the year.
As for me, I finished 21st in 55.51 and, despite the fall, thoroughly enjoyed the experience which included managing to be a little nearer to some of the familiar faces I have recently started to race against.
To offer more of a flavour of the race, I thought I would put some narrative to elevation profile which I have included below.
The race starts on Edenfield cricket field before heading out and up a long climb up to Coupe Hill which just keeps going on and on before a slight respite down on to the Pennine Bridleway. Enjoy the breather because after a couple of minutes it is on the up again to Waugh’s Well, which you pass before climbing up again, around the corner to the right and…guess what…up again to Whittle Pike Cross. There is some view at the top but no real time to take it in before you have to navigate the tussocks on the descent through thigh-deep bogs. If this isn’t enough they then throw in a very sharp gravely descent to Scout Moor Brook (the scene of my fall) before sending you up the other side which is a murderous climb on hands and knees where you were welcomed graciously by Mountain Rescue!! Surely it has to be downhill now? And it is, a joint shattering, lung-bursting 1.5 miles downhill sprint on tracks and concrete roads before a lap of the cricket field which seems to have quadrupled in size!!!
This is a fabulously well organised race which is well marked, I promise, has marshals at all the critical points, and has the mountain rescue team on hand for good measure.
Afterwards, the cricket club offered a wonderful BBQ, drinks and other refreshments which made for a great atmosphere in superb weather. A nice touch was the cricket field putting their sprinkler system on for everyone to cool down under, which only added to the camaraderie between the athletes as we all discussed and compared our trials and tribulations of what is a fantastic, if not demanding, fell race.