Today was a recce of The Hebden fell race with Andy Poole, another Saddleworth Runner. Something we assumed would be straight forward, something that was not.
The fell race covers 22 miles and takes in 5k of cumulative climb in a loop around Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd with plenty of up and down, rarely trod paths within cloughs, on hills, through forest, and fields.
We set off from Mytholmroyd around 11am and cheerfully thought we’d be finished between 4-5 hours even with the run being a non-race and recce. How wrong we were, which led to finishing in the dark, using phone torches for guidance. The total time on our feet ended up being nearly double at approximately 7 hours.
The route definitely needs running before racing as it is complex in terms of navigation and very varied making it hard on the runner, not just the 22 miles. The scenery changes frequently to encompass different types of terrain, from grassy fields to rocky steep downhill paths. The running varies from technical to straightforward and does change suddenly. What was most interesting about the whole route lies in not being able to open up and settle into a pace over a distance, you are instead almost stopping and starting. The only real opportunity for getting into a pace was a mile or so running down from Stoodley Pike across the slabs and moorland. It’s hard when it’s like this, plus it is draining. Conditions underfoot were wet and slippy due to the rain and I had borderline grip using a pair of Inov-8 Rocklites. With the route dodging through quite enclosed places, a lot of which are rocky I certainly would not run if a freeze occurred as it would be treacherous.
We were both tired by the time we finished back in Mytholmroyd, it had been nearly 7 hours on our feet with changeable weather conditions, deteriorating toward the end and in the dark with rain starting to come down.
All in all it was a hard recce and I think the race will be hard as well, especially if the weather is not great.