Getting back on form via Crowden Horseshoe 2019... hmmm...

As I type from Manorbier on a Minty tour of the Pembrokeshire Coast and after a 16 mile costal run with 4k feet of climb where I almost boiled to death, I reminisce to Sunday 19th August which saw my first FRA race since the Old County Tops race in May. So by my reckoning quite a while.

First splish splosh climbing out of Crowden. Chris Davies to the right soon to overtake. Photo by Des Thorpe and Winnie.

Brexit has in a single handed manner right royally buggered up the advertising business that I work in, and trading has been tough as the uncertainty plaguing all began to bite around May/June time. It can only get worse or remain the same as a potential no confidence vote could occur across to a general election.

So, I’d run a lot in the first part of the year, and decided to have a break after the OCT, which ended up being two months off the running (I’d also lost my mojo) whilst focusing on the business. My next adventure was to be suporting Tim’s Rutter’s Bog Graham Round.

What Did I Learn?

I learnt that you need a balance. Yes, yes, yes I know people will exclaim “we all know this.” In hindsight taking time off to focus the business was myopic and all consuming. You need a break from anything, physically and almost certainly mentally especially working in advertising which operates at a typically fast pace. I moved the business on, my consultancy, but not to the extent that I thought and the lack of fell running impacted my fitness and thus motivation. Lethargy had set in… It also meant missing people who you share an interest with which can be a mind cleansing experience in its own right. I am certainly not looking to lecture here just share an experience.

If honest, I think “work life balance” is an urban myth, and like fabled treasure or Tantalus something we aim for but never reach. All is just life, and I think best muddled through, and it is okay to do various things all at once, whilst avoiding an all consuming focus on one thing. You may be muddled, do things indiscriminately, but I think it okay to be varied as it is a blessing for mental health.

Crowden Horseshoe

It is an 8 mile beasty with 1.7k of climb across moorland from Crowden campsite (Woodhead Pass) to Black Hill and back. Most of the climb element being in the first 4 miles.

I was looking forward to the race but also apprehensive as I’d not raced in a while. Race was 11am and I arrived around 10.20am with plenty of time to spare. Thinking I was the only Saddleworth Runner I was pleased to see a cheery Chris “Phantom” Phillips (you never see him during a race as he’s dang fast!) sorting his bike out at registration (yes, he’d cycled from Mossley) and then met the ever smiling Chris “The Beast” Davies. Wifey was en route on her bike to come and join us.

Also with us was Sue Hinde, but not seen until the end of the race.

I briefly said hello to Tim Rutter who I’d supported on his BG a few weeks earlier, and saw him after the race for a bigger chat.

It was a warm and humid start with humour supplied by the grinning Dave Gibbons, who was to happily take off me a slow cooker and surround sound system destined for a charity shop; he’d initially asked if Saddleworth Runners were bringing their dinner with them!

Anyway I was determined to get going and not get stuck at stile about half a kilometer from the start, with the last time my racing it being the case.

I soon found myself in among the fit and fast runners climbing steadily up to Laddow Rocks and realised I had to run as fast as them when out of practice, not helped by Des Thorpe and Winnie telling me to get my arse moving over the first river crossing with “The Beast Davies” hot on my heels (who was to pass me on the climb looking like a running animal.)

Legs were tired and I was also wheezing, which happens in hayfever season. From Laddow it was a fast descent to the slabs for the climb up to Black Hill in a pack of lads all egging each other on with what can be quite a fiddly and tricky run through narrow furrows.

I knew I was tired as I’ve headed up the slabs faster, and could see runners ahead who I normally pace with. But? I was really happy and enjoying the clear views that came to us during all the race, with my not being hung up as to position and time as per the norm. This also despite being overtaken by runners on the climb to Laddow.

I knew the path back to Crowden via Black Hill would be boggy from running it during races earlier in the year - Four Inns and Trigger. However it was drier than normal apart from one section of proper bog that nailed a few people and where a photographer had cunningly positioned himself.

It was fast descent back though a tad hard as into a head wind, to then fly down the rocky section just before finishing. Exhilarating.

It was sunny and people congregated around the campsite drinking brews and eating BBQ food laid on by the campsite owners. As people chatted I took some photos, as we waited for the prizes.

Chris Phillips came an amazing second, with The Beast 26th (remember he’s a V60!), and yours truly 41st out of 139 runners. Yours truly was more than happy with this, and pleased for the other two running hooligans who did the club proud and picked up prizes.


Results 2019:

Cheering us on was The Boss and Wifey who’d cycled over.

A great day.


All photos can be seen on Flickr.