This fell running report comes from Dave Johnson-I wonder if I can adopt a yellow sheep? Noreen
I like fell races at country shows. It is after all where the sport was born and this one at Dufton is one of my favourites.
Despite missing the turn off through excessive chattering, the day started off rather well for myself and Jon Heaney when the ticket man very perceptively identified us as fellrunners. Sadly this was the high point for me, well apart from the yellow sheep that is.
There were just four Poly runners at this short but not to be underrated race, Jon Heaney, Graham Lewis-Dale, Dave Johnson and Gary Robson. I was more than happy with this because unless anyone indulged in some Hanleyesque injury escapades, I would be the last of us home but would get a good haul of points for a change.
As always seems to happen at any fell race there were a few old running friends and rivals to catch up with. It was nice to exchange a few words with the evergreen Colin Valentine of Keswick as well as two old sparring partners of mine, Denise Tunstall (DFR) and Caroline Pollard (Wharfedale). Not that I keep a record of such things, but I reckoned that on these short races we were about level pegging on victories over each other. However, with my shocking level of hill fitness I had already conceded victory to them today. It was sobering to note that the last time I did this race I finished almost exactly half way down the field, but today I was seriously worried about being the last in the field! This was more worrying than you might think because I’d always said to myself that if I ever came last in a fell race, that would be my last fell race! Fortunately these gloomy thoughts were partially dispelled by the show announcer who was continually telling everyone how amazing we fell runners were. She was of course completely right about t his and apparently today our awesomeness was to be captured on film by a drone!
The race starts with a slight downhill section before gently rising until it reaches the foot of Dufton Pike, the objective for the day. Then it descends a bit as it takes you around the back of the fell. I paced Denise along this and we had a good chat about recent races until we were told off by a marshall for not trying hard enough. After just over two miles of running the real pain begins with a vicious no holds barred direct ascent to the summit. Jon Heaney said he was on all fours at this point! This was where I really began to suffer. Ordinarily I would have left Denise behind here but today she left me for dead and when I reached the top she was already a speck in the distance.
From the summit there is a gloriously fast descent, which I assume Mr Hanley would tackle by a series of dives and forward rolls, but which I could only manage by running down it. Part way down a runner passed me and I was soon quite alone and left wondering if this race was to be my swansong after all. Then a quick glance behind revealed three runners quite a long way behind even me. Relieved, I judged that I could ease up a bit to ensure I could at least jog through the show field to the finish line.
The others had finished ages ago with Gary the first home and 8th overall, followed by Jon and then Graham. Jon and I had a look around the show and we were
particularly impressed by some sheep that for some reason were dyed yellow! We hung on for the presentation just in case Gary had sneaked a vets prize but there were lots of older folk in the race today and it wasn’t to be. I should mention that before the race Gary had just travelled over from Keswick where he’d dropped off Will Robson to compete for an England vest in a race up Skiddaw. For the record he missed out by the very narrowest of margins, still it was a great result for a relative newcomer to the fells and he must be in with an even better chance next time.
A fell race, an agricultural show and sunshine is surely the epitome of all that is best in our sport. And when the show has yellow sheep in it, what more could you want?