Considering that a number of regulars were unavailable, there was a very good turn out for the first race in this year’s Poly fell championship. It was particularly pleasing to see several new faces amongst the seven Poly members who ran.
Julie and I arrived about an hour before the start and it was already looking like being a big turn out for what is undoubtedly the best short race in Northumberland. At a trifling £1.00 per head, it is also the cheapest. Today it looked like being one of the windiest as well, something driven home to me when a gust almost tore the car door out of my hand. My worries on this score were somewhat assuaged by the first runner I met who told me he had been up on the tops and there was hardly any wind there. I believed him, but not enough to forsake adding a long sleeved top to my normal fell running ensemble. Chris Waite and Mark Small were already there and I could tell they were taking it very seriously because they were eating jelly babies even before going for a warm up. The Poly complement was completed by Rachel Inman, Michael Kane, Malcolm Slater and Lee Gwillim.
For the uninitiated, Brough Law is classed as an A grade fell race, which basically means it packs in a lot of climbing for its length. In this instance you get 1150 feet of misery in just under 5 miles, most of which is generously provided right at the very start in a lung bursting climb to the top of Brough Law itself. There is a route choice here and you can follow a near vertical plod straight up the fell side or take a slightly less steep diagonal rake to the top. However, even bad things come to an end and from the summit the race is mainly runnable ,or at least it is when you eventually get some oxygen back into your lungs. However the relief you always feel here is tempered by the knowledge that you will soon renew your acquaintance with the very steep start and have to go down it to reach the finish.
You are now on some pretty good, almost mud free footpaths which take you over Wether Hill and Cochrane Pike where you turn for home. It’s all mainly downhill now although you do climb Brough Law again, but this time you do it from the easy side and the climb is barely noticeable. Along the way there are some lovely downhill sections where you can really get up a good head of steam. Even I managed to reach four minute mile pace for a spell, albeit a very brief spell, on one of them. Anyway that’s enough preamble, let’s get back to the race proper.
I didn’t bother to warm up, (too busy talking) and I deservedly suffered on the first climb and near the top I felt so knackered I was seriously thinking of packing it in. Luckily my morbid thoughts were swept away when a friend and her dog provided some much needed comic relief. I was struggling valiantly upwards when I saw said dog speeding towards me apparently intent on returning to the start. In it’s wake came some increasingly frantic but unavailing cries begging for it to come back. In the end there the owner and another rather gallant runner had no choice but to set off back down the hill in pursuit of the errant canine. This all cheered me up immensely because I was now guaranteed a finish two extra places up the field. I actually began to enjoy the race again!
Thanks to an enthralling ding dong battle with two runners from Heaton and Tynedale, I was back on the summit of Brough Law in what seemed like no time at all, (if only that were true). From here, if your legs are still sound and I admit that’s a big if, you can really turn on the speed for about half a mile until you reach that lovely steep bit you struggled up at the start. At this point most runners, especially the more mature ones slam the brakes on as the steep drop brings into sharp relief the very transient nature of human life. A quick risk assessment is made concerning your top speed and the likelihood of concussion and now you wish you had brought a tea tray to surf down to the finish on. Then you hear someone catching you up and you thinking, “Oh! what the heck”, you
end up going for it to the best of your ability.
And so you reach the end in what seems like a veritable whirlwind of spinning legs and desperately flapping arms only to find that subsequent photographic evidence suggests that you were doing nothing more than a cautious jog. As for my two rivals, Tynedale flew impressively down the hill and was victorious, but Heaton hesitated at the start of the steep bit and was thus consigned to the dustbin of history, at least for this race!
Chris Waite was first home for NSP in a creditable 28th place in a very strong field. (The race was a North East Fell Championship counter this year). Next, almost neck and neck came Mark Small and Michael Kane with Mark just shading it and knocking five minutes off his PB into the bargain. Yours truly finished next, followed just a few minutes later by Malcolm Slater and Lee Gwillim with Rachel Inman seeing us home.
So Chris Waite takes an early lead in the Fell Championship. The next race is a brand new one, so PBs are guaranteed for everyone doing the Cheviot Horseshoe race on 12th April. Anyone doing the Chevy Chase for the first time should consider doing it because it contains all the hard stuff of the Chevy but misses out more than half the overall distance.