Howtown Fell Race Report by Alan Wallace
Over the last couple of weeks I was coerced into running this fell race by Colin Dilks and John Tollit. It was a smash and grab and before I knew it I was bundled into a car and we were off across to the lakes for a 14 miler which is in its first official year.
Arriving with a good 45 minutes before the start we registered and before we knew it we were off. No whistle, no horn, just a quick “Go”. We took off into the Fusedale valley and after a couple of minutes we were heading up the side of a hill. Sorry, not a hill, a mountain!
I was quickly reduced to walking pace and then reduced again to a bent over, hands on knees shuffle for the rest of the climb. We gained height very quickly although the pace was very slow and before long the views opened up as the ground fell away at our backs. That first mile took me 28minutes! That must be some kind of TBH record for slowest mile in a race?
As we approached the top of the incline I took a direct route and then turned to look at the other runners a bit further along. Seeingthe runner’s silhouettes with the background of the north eastern fells was just jaw dropping. I usually take my camera to races but I’d forgotten it and Iwas just wishing I’d brought it.
The gradient eventually eased a bit but we were pretty quickly into another ascent as we made our way up to the first checkpoint of Loadpot Hill at 671m. 2 miles done in 43 minutes! This was going to be a long day. Now we had a long drag of about 3 miles to the top of High Raise for the 2nd checkpoint at 802m and the highest point of the course.
After this there was a nice descent and I managed to stretch my legs out as we went alongside Angle Tarn. It was around this point that I fell backwards into a bog…… covered in black and brown stuff, all over my hands as well. I may need a new vest.
After running around Angle Tarn Pikes we ran along a path which followed the contours of the mountain. The ground to the left just fell away for a good 1000ft. Amazing path to run on with a tremendous view down to Brothers water.
Once across Boredale hause we were faced with Place fell which looked like Mount Everest to me. I slowed to a walk and once again it was hands on knees time as I made my way up the path. Towards the top I could see the other runners were just taking the direct route straight up to the pointy top. I had to keep stopping for breath and my heart was galloping along. Half way up a mountain with dwindling fluids and even less energy. I couldn’t help thinking that this is what it must feel like on the top of Mt Everest when the mountaineers are moving at snail’s pace. But I was loving it!
The sun was out and there were lots of hikers sitting around with their lovely big bottles of water and I had none . I reached the top and made my way over to the summit and ticked off another wainwright on my list .
The descent from Place fell was simple enough and I passed a guy with cramp as we ran down a grassy section. I was flying down here and felt great. Still no water but I knew there wasn’t too long till the finish.
Then… disaster. I took a wrong turn and didn’t have a clue which way I needed to go. I found myself crossing a river and decided to get in. It was freezing. Just the ticket. I filled up my bottle and drank about half a litre. Having never drank from a river like this before I was a bit worried but I couldn’t see any dead sheep further up. Ok, better get back to the race. I dug my map out and realised where I’d gone wrong, backtracked a little and saw another runner ahead.
This race has a cruel sting in the tail in the form of Hallin Fell at 388m. Up we went through waist high bracken, hands on knees again. Eventually I arrived at the top and started following a guy who id seen a couple of times during the race. He warned me not to follow him if I didn’t like steep descents. “I’ll be fine” I said confidently. But a minute or so later he disappeared over an edge and I realised I was out of my depth. I backtracked and followed the easy way down. What a CHICKEN!!! Ha, ha.
I ran down and through the village and up the road to the finish. I must have been 2nd or 3rd last but I’m not bothered. I loved it. 14.97 miles with 4183ft of ascent in 3hrs 37min. After a quick prize giving I headed off down to the lake and plonked myself in it. The water was cold and refreshing, the sun was out and there were boats on the lake. The only thing missing was an ice cream (with a flake).
This was my first REAL fell race and I am really pleased I did it. I’m happy to come through it unscathed and I can’t wait for the next one.
Great company from John and Colin, who dropped me off by the roadside looking bedraggled and spent.