Saturday 15 September 2012: The Three Shires Fell Race
I've enjoyed a fabulous day on the fells and I totally have blipfoto to thank for that. My running has been put on the back-burner this year as I've concentrated on the bike and I haven't felt like I've had much running fitness in the body at all. When I found out that Dr Mackem was planning to run the Three Shires I was reminded of how much I love this race and thought that it would make a great day out, even if I had to walk most of the way around. He very kindly offered me a lift and we travelled up this morning with two of his good friends. The company and conversation alone was worth making the trip for.
When we left a bit after 7am I had already been up for two and a half hours having dispatched Roam to Leeds in a taxi to get the first train to Manchester Airport to begin his long haul to Peru. It's slightly odd to think that he's still in the air as I write this in the evening. It's a long way! It was good that I've been preoccupied because it has stopped me fretting. I've no reason to really, for he's already quite a seasoned traveller. He actually made this same journey on his own when he was just 15, albeit with someone to meet him when he changed flights, something that really bugged him at the time! I know he'll be fine.
I always experience a thrill when I go to the Lakes. I've been walking and running in these mountains for 35 years and the sense of anticipation is just as keen now as it was all those years ago - especially when the skies are clear, as they were this morning. Waiting for the start of the race it got quite warm and I felt able to strip down to a vest. I love the freedom that brings, and although it clouded over in the afternoon, the weather stayed perfect for running and there was never any need to put on an additional layer.
To cut a long story short, I ran much more strongly than I expected and even enjoyed a bit of friendly competition with a couple of mates. Not having done any kind of proper fell running since Black Combe in March, my legs are now feeling very sore. It's the descents that kill the unconditioned muscles - and mine are very unconditioned for the fells at the moment. But I got such a buzz today. I was reminded why this was my main sport for 20 years. It's so damn hard but so exhilarating at the same time. And the scenery is just incredible.
I took quite a few pictures on the way around and I've chosen this one to best illustrate the fell running experience. This is on the descent from Wetherlam to a col which is out of sight, before the climb back up to Swirl How, the peak top left. If you go large you may just be able to make out a line of runners on the far left of the picture. It's quite impressive at high resolution. From the top the ridge is followed to the right for a while before descending on a fantastic grassy trod to the Three Shires Stone, halfway around this natural circuit of 12 miles and 4,000 feet of climb. The guy in the red and green vest is a clubmate, Duncan, who beat me home comfortably. The guy in black, just about to disappear from sight is another clubmate, Steve, who was in the Pyrenees with me this summer. I am happy to report that I beat him back! Very satisfying!!
I can also report that the good doctor, as a novice at fell running, put in a very creditable performance. He should feel very proud of himself tonight. I also had the privilege of meeting Ian Charters and his partner Snips and Snaps, both really lovely people. All blippers seem to be completely charming and engaging!
The picture linked above posted by Ian shows a great view of the descent to Blea Tarn and the route up the final climb to Lingmoor, from which it is all downhill to the finish. If you go large and look directly above the runner's head you can see a line of runners climbing up the other side. It gives some idea of the scale! S&S took some really beautiful shots (see her blog here) but the link to her blip above is of the three blipping fell runners. I can't quite work out whether I'm really that short or whether the Doctor is particularly tall!
It's just been the best day. The icing on the cake was finding out that Ben Rhydding Firsts (with Forrest playing today) escaped relegation. I got a report while driving back that it seemed like a lost cause at 67-7 chasing over 200, but they did it with some more lower-order heroics. A fantastic achievement. Well done guys.
For the record, I finished in 2.48.30.