Today saw the 2019 Wolf’s Pit fell race from Shatton by Bamford in the Hope Valley in the Peak District. One of my first ever fell races, that I last ran in 2015. The weather was changeable to say the least, it was only a week ago since the 32 mile Haworth Hobble and I was not sure how my legs would hold up…
It was a big turn out for the Saddleworth Runners being a Club Championship race and a Run The Moors race (area championship). It was clear it was also a club race for other clubs, and a race for a Notts area fell racing championship, so approximately 400 runners were all rubbing shoulders in a muddy field.
Normally the field would host car parking but with the deluge of rain today and especially yesterday, well to be honest all week, meant no one was parking on the field. So setting off early with Ruth Hutchison, Helena Butler, and Brenda Roberts all in the Batmobile we arrived at 10am with time to bag a road spot next to the Hope Valley Garden Centre (more on that later) put kit on and walked the half mile to race HQ. There we met fellow Sadds queuing, wandering, chatting, shivering. Well not Brandon Greene, cos he’s hard.
The cold and damp started to eat in as we registered and waited outside at the start line. Briefings given we were off…
It is a 5.6 mile race with roughly 1.5k feet of cumulative climb with a sting in the tail in the form of a final climb. It does not look much but the OS map does not do the route justice.
It was a fast sprint from the starting field with the author chasing the “Gradwell Gopher” who was well and truly off and away later to be the first Sadd back. No sign of Andy Poole aka “The Plodder” who came second in amongst the Sadds.
You leggit down a lane to turn at a small hamlet down from Shatton with a steady but ruthless climb to the Shatton Moor mast. At this point the legs were tired and I’d noticed I could not accelerate down the field in pursuit of “Gopher”. Hobble Legs? Joining me on the climb was John Haigh aka “Hellboy Haigh” and onward we trudged chasing the bobbing SRC beanie of Kevin Jones aka “Kamikaze Kev” as he climbed solidly like a bullet up the hill. On reaching the mast it was still a climb to Wolf’s Pit on Abney Moor.
It was muddy underfoot as I was blasted by hail pushing hard to chase Kamikaze down. “Gee Man” was clearly in view but surrendered no ground whatsoever. The race is tough due to the up and down, especially the sting in the tail as you lose height at speed and come back on yourself for the final hard climb to the mast again. After the mast it is effectively a mile back with half a mile pell-mell down grassy fields as you chase people trying hard to make purchase on muddy ground with screaming quads. At this point I tried it on with Kamikaze but had suspicions my leg would not hold out. I passed the beast at speed only to hear the beast rev’ up the engine and chase me down the hill. He overtook me before the road stretch and powered on, I had no reserve tank and the legs had gone. All I could do was keep close to minimise the time ahead and thus the slog across the field was a muddy undignified romp for the finish.
Already finished was the “Gradwell Gopher”, followed by “The Plodder”, then “Gee Man”, and “Kamikaze”. Ruddy good runs in the conditions and with so many other runners.
(In 2015 and less than a year into fell running I came 107 with a time of 50:48. This race, four years later, I came 111 with a time of 55:26, so certainly slower!)
We hung around and chatted, whilst waiting for runners to finish, and were treated to excellent tomato soup, tea and cake whilst sheltering in the marquee from the hail.
We headed back through Shatton chatting away but with cold feet, especially after washing them in the river.
On getting back to the car Brenda let us know she had won a prize (as had Tony Greene) in the form of a voucher for the Hope Valley Garden Centre. So all decided to decamp for cafe drinks and cake, and for Brenda to purchase something from the garden centre.
Footnote for Monday 18th March:
Forgot to write in my missive on Wolf’s Armpit race that Mark Macfarlane did his first ever FRA fell race that day. Well done! Asked him at the end what it was like and he said he was buzzing. Grinning like a Cheshire Cat. See the photos. He chose one heck of a race and day...