The weekend saw the last time Jill Boustead ran and hosted the legendary fell and road relay from the Cross Keys Inn above Uppermill.
The Inn is a wonderful location, sat beneath the moors of Saddleworth and above Uppermill and where the Saddleworth Runners train from during summer months. Sadly but happily it was Jill’s last as Race Organiser, having managed the melee for a few years in all kinds of weather, and what great weather if was on Saturday 21st September 2019.
I’d arrived first thing to drop off new florescent road signs for that part of the relay whilst Claire was food shopping in Uppermill. Ted patiently and quietly watched me as I tied one or two signs, to occasionally disappear to either say hello to people or wee on something. We left as people were arriving to help, to then return for 12 noon and Claire’s Marshal briefing to a hive of activity involving runners and teams registering and support crew donning bibs. Oldham Mountain Rescue (also fielding a team) were deep in conversation - the pub’s barn is their location HQ.
So what is the race? A team of four, can be mixed, enter with runner 1 racing an up and down 3 mile road leg that is tough, they then hand over to runner 2 who runs a tough 3 mile fell leg over the moors. They then hand over to runner 3 for a road leg, then to runner 4 for the final fell leg. The fastest team time wins. Simple.
Have a look at the Saddleworth Runners website for more information: http://www.saddleworth-runners.co.uk/cross-keys-road-fell-relay
It was hot and humid in places, with limited wind, so the road leg was going to be a shocker for people with its tough undulations at break neck pace. It is two laps of the same course and many a red and hot face was cheered on as they passed start/finish outside the pub for lap two.
Handover occurs in a finish funnel, akin to a baton change in athletics with runners touching hands as they finish one leg tired, and the other brightly shoots off.
The fell leg is tough indeed with an initial solid climb from the Cross Keys, through the Pob Green Hamlet, and up onto the moors above the Holmfirth Road (A635), with runners looking down into the famous Dove Stone Reservoir.
I’d assembled a crack team in the form of Nick Haynes (road leg 1), John Haigh (fell leg 1), Sean Willis (road leg 2), and myself finishing the relay with fell leg 4. We had to think of a name for this team of Adonis Masterpieces (more balding Alan Patridges’s) and came up with “CXC Beasts”. CXC is Roman Numerals for 190, our combined age. Say “CXC” fast or slow and then add “Beast”. The image is provocative.
As ever it was a great event, with great weather, many spectators - most notably the legend Graham Tibbot seen here egging on Gaynor Keane.
The Inn is a wonderful location and all enjoyed the day. Big thanks to Jill for her commitment over the years who has now handed over to Nick and Tanya Haynes.
My fell section STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2727670159
My FLICKR photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmHcGYbj
The winning team?
Holmfirth Harriers A with a winning time of 1 hour 26 minutes. Sterling effort. “CXC Beasts”? We came 8th out of 21 teams.