Saddleworth Runners

Old County Tops (it's a fell race and a half...)

OCT (Old County Tops) 18th May 2019.

I write my notes and thoughts as to the Old County Tops fell race, organised and laid on by Achille Ratti club (And the race “laid” a number of us out, especially my quads.)

Gareth on the way to Scafell Pike summit.

The race has been established for a number of years (since 1988) and is legendary in the fell running calendar. It is 37 miles long as you run the highest peaks in the current and old counties of Lancashire, Cumberland, and Westmorland. The peaks are Helvellyn first, the Scafell Pike, and lastly the Old Man of Coniston. There is a cumulative climb of 10k feet across the race. It is not just the distance, or the climb, it is the fact it is the Lakes where the sport originated from and the climbing is of a different kind altogether; steep, off road, challenging, ongoing, relentless. The descent is worse (for me anyway) especially as your legs grow more and more tired. But is an amazing experience, and my second time running it.

We arrived at Baysbrown Farm to stay at a wonderful campsite in the Langdale Valley at Chapel Stile, with the Langdale range looming over us. Cracking. It was Minty’s second big trip out and we were getting the hang of being campervan enthusiasts (“Perverts” as I used to call them. Oh well I am in my 40’s and now own one.) Minty the VW T6 campervan is bright green, hence the name. Full name is Minty McMint Face in homage to Claire’s Scottish roots. And it is brilliant (no gender is ascribed to Minty.)

Anyway back to the race… Actually 37 mile ordeal. My running partner is the solid and reliable Mr Gareth Evans. This is one of the challenges of the race, you run with a partner as a pair. You have to pace each other, push each other on, make navigational decisions together, and ultimately not get timed out and finish the race.

So we met up at Old Dungeon Gill around 7.30am, Gareth having driven up that morning after a 4am get up. I felt sorry for him. But this is Gareth Evans aka “Ginger Ninja”. I felt somewhat sorry for “Metal Dick” (Richard Mackey) who’d driven up that morning as well, but hey he’s a teacher and as hard as nails. (Both drove the two hours back after the race.) It was an 8am start and I was not nervous, in fact relaxed. What was going on? Other people were nervous. Minty and the support crew were on standby (Claire yakking away, Ted licking his privates.) We were summoned to the start, but prior to that nerves arose due to needing a number 2. I was in the queue for the four portaloos having realised that I did not fancy running 37 miles with something on Gas Mark 8 slow baking. Panic was setting in and it did not help that “Chatterbox” (Alice Mclean) was squealing behind me that she needed a number 1. The race organiser reassured us he would not start the race whilst we were on the throne.

Start and finish.

And so we were off… Also running from the club were Andy Poole with a friend, as was Sandrine Fraisse. It was pleasant running toward Helvellyn but we did notice that it was a bit humid and this was to play a factor in the race, sapping strength and making the running uncomfortable. The climb to Helvellyn was straightforward even on the steep climb up to Dollywaggon Pike; from there to the summit, where the first cheerful summit photo was taken. Little did we know that it was all going to get interesting from this point onward. At this point we had climbed 1,176 metres, and were 9 miles in of the 37 total. You’ll note from the photo that the summit was clag bound and it was quite chilly.

The “happy couple”.

Descending off Helvellyn is a swine, it is steep and ongoing and hard on the quads. It was here that Sandrine and Lisa, Alice and Richard all bumped into each other. All heading to the second checkpoint where food and drink was laid on.

After hitting the second checkpoint at Wythburn (southern end of Thirlmere) we had a drink but did not hang around and shot off, leaving the others at the checkpoint. However we ground to a halt when my partner need to “drop the kids off at the pool” before we hit the road crossing for the climb to Angle Tarn. So, I stood there with runners passing explaining I was waiting for my partner and yes I knew the route. After 5 minutes I got bored and started to use all the variations in my vocabulary: “my partner’s having a poo, It’s okay I am waiting for a bus, he’s dropping the kids off at the pool, he’s dropping his shopping, I’m holding the gate open for you all...” After a while Grizzly Adams popped out of the pine forest looking pleased. Off we went, by now Alice and Richard, Sandrine and Lisa had got ahead. We caught up with Lisa and Sandrine and we ran with them for a while, with Alice’s bright red backpack followed by The Mackey not too far ahead.

It is a long slog as you aim for High Raise, but skirt around it en route to Angle Tarn. It is 7-8 miles climb from the road crossing on the A591 and it goes on and on and on with some of the climb steep especially the Greenup Edge part where we hit droves of charity walkers.

It was hot and humid in the valley and this wore runners down, so close that I took my long sleeved top off and ran with my club vest. On reaching Angle Tarn the temperature dropped and the top had to go back on; it was quite variable weather on the day.

The climb to Greenup Edge beneath High Raise.

As we closed down on Angle Tarn Gareth was struggling and had nothing in his legs. Not too long ago Gareth had lost a month of training to shin splints, which completely upset his progress. He’d recently crammed in a lot of running and climbing so he could make the race, and I think he certainly did not want to let me down. I honestly think others would have bailed by Angle Tarn at a manned checkpoint. He didn’t. After a rest he set off for the climb up. From Angle it is a long section to Esk Hause, then Broad Crag, and then Scafell Pike. It is hot at this point, dry and hard underfoot, with lots of charity walkers looking at you, and Gareth plodded on. I was concerned as he did not look great.

(At Angle Tarn Claire had arranged to meet us with Ted as support. No wife, no dog. Worry shifted to memories of the Trigger - see previous blog. Was Gareth a jinx?)

We headed up past Esk Hause and saw Sandrine chatting with someone. My initial reaction was she’d picked upon some hapless charity walker. But on seeing a little four legged fur ball head for me lead dragging behind him, I knew we’d reached support. We both plonked down on stones to munch cocktail sausages, cheese blocks, tomatoes, and beef butties, plus water.

It was at this point that we had a failure of the “entente cordiale” as Sandrine cuddled Ted whilst he had a close eye on the beef butties. Ted being distracted by this, decided to take “Brexit” action and chomped on Sandrine. Our French colleague was fine and brushed it off. Ted brushed with near certain death under a steely Scottish glare.

Big thanks to the support team as the food went down a treat

Off we trudged to Scafell Pike to arrive on the top to a proverbial party or rave or gathering. Boy, it was busy with walkers, charity walkers. It is hard going across the rocky landscape of Broad Crag and Scafell Pike. But we made the summit and had a rest whilst figuring out the descent into Great Moss and the river crossing. The route off Scafell Pike is notorious as there are sheer drops from crags, and you are advised to recce the route and if not to retrace your steps to between the Pike and Broad Crag and take the safer if longer option down. Gareth and I took a breath and went for it and we reckon planned a near perfect route down through the crags, with some scrambling, to look back and see other runners stuck and having to retrace steps, costly.

At Scafell Pike summit we were 20 miles in of the 37 miles and had climber 2,321 metres.

Yet again the descent is a quad buster and you hit the river plateau somewhat broken and tired. We stopped at a beck had a drink and refilled the bottles and made our way for Moasdale Beck for the checkpoint at Cockley Beck. The route is long, undulates, and boggy in places, wearing down tired legs. It was at this point Gareth got stuck in a bog. I photographed him for a laugh thinking he could get out. He could not and I had to use my full force to help him get his submerged and stuck left leg out.

Leg deep in a bog.

We got to Cockley Beck around 3.30pm, so roughly 45 minutes before the cut off where you will be pulled from the race for safety reasons. The next cut off is the finish where you have to complete the race before 8pm. So you have 12 hours to run the 37 miles and climb the 10,000 feet.

We plonked on the side of the road at the excellent checkpoint where there is hot tea and cake. I gorged myself on fruit cake and tea, and you do this as you have an absolute ball breaker and shocker of a climb to the last peak Coniston, via Grey Friar.

A brew and a sit down at Cockley Beck, junction of Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.

Gareth again could have bailed but did not. I was seeing the Ginger Ninja legend in action. A brute, a fell runner, a nutter setting off up a big hill will awful false summits. It was 4pm when we set off and we reached just below the summit ready for the trot to Coniston at roughly 4.45pm. We’d not stopped once. We were on a mission.

You then plod to the Old Man of Coniston summit and what’s nice is you pass faster runners on their way back to where you are at Grey Friar as they head for the Three Shires Stone on the Wrynose Pass. We exchanged cheerful hellos with all runners, everyone grinning and encouraging each other.

We made the summit and checkpoint, exchanging conversation with the marshals, whilst having sweets and water. We’d nailed it, we knew so, as it is all (sort of) downhill from Coniston. It’s a long drag back round the back of Swirl How and the Carrs, but worth it as you are rewarded with beautiful twilight views. Team morale was at a high and more so after Coniston when we hit 30 miles!

At Coniston we had made 29 miles of the 37 and climbed 3,081 metres.

We now made the run back, about 6-7 miles, down to the Wrynose Pass to meet the last checkpoint at the Three Shires Stone. It is a hard descent on tired, quad poor legs, but Me Evans excelled again spotting a runners trod that nicely contoured us down to the road. I looked back to see other runners high above us. We had some water and sweets at the checkpoint and then began the two or so mile steep run down the pass. It was at this point that Gareth suddenly stopped as the sweets literally came back up and he honked his guts up; nothing I could do. I genuinely felt for him. But he recovered and carried on!!!

Off we toddled, chatting away. And the last stretch on bridleway past Blea Tarn was wonderful; quiet, the smell of pine forest and cool.

Blea Tarn bridleway.

We hit the road into Old Dungeon Gill, then cutting through the fields to exit via the Great Langdale National Trust campsite much to the bemused look of non-runners. From there is about a mile up to the road to the finish. We were buzzing.

National Trust campsite in the forest below.

And thus we finished!

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2381533737

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/2Y9tx2

We were greeted to big smiles and cheers by runners, helpers, spectators, and fellow Saddleworth Runners; all cheering and exclaiming. We were glad to have finished, big grins from Wifey and jumps of joy from Ted.

The finish!

Synopsis

It is a tough race, but highly recommended. The route is tough but rewarding, the atmosphere among runners excellent, and great fun running with a partner in crime,

But do train for it.




Leading, Teamwork, Cake Race

Saturday 4th May saw the Cake Race, a major fell race in the FRA calendar and for that matter the Saddleworth Runners calendar. (The FRA is the Fell Runners Association.)

And it made me think about leading and teamwork. So I thought to write about what I experienced on the day. So this is a sort of semi personal/work blog entry.

The setting is Diggle (actually Diglea) in the historic Saddleworth Parish for the race HQ, start and finish. It is a fell race, not a road race.

The quick facts

0ver 200 runners, around 100 spectators, racing 10 miles with approximately 1.7k feet of climb across Saddleworth Moorland, with what can be changeable weather, where accidents or hypothermia can occur, supported by a team of approximately 50 people, and Holme Valley Mountain Rescue. Yours truly was in charge.

What did the race entail?

The race saw just over 200 runners, most from clubs, some from as far as Leicester, with a race start time of 11am. Prior to that all runners have to be registered by a team of approximately 10 people who also kit the runners out with wearable tracing chips for recording times and their being monitored around the course by hand held units linked to the mobile network. Safety is paramount with runners required to carry safety kit (in this case full kit due to the weather) and checked by a team prior to racing. Runners normally arrive from 9am, as do spectators, and that’s a lot of cars in an old village. So we have a team of 10/15 car marshals. Out on the field or race route are your safety marshals, approximately 10, based at important locations where runners could get lost, and where assistance can be provided. Two carry big emergency rucksacks. At Diggle and along the race route is the team from Holme Valley Mountain Rescue and their vehicles. Back at Kiln Green Church (race HQ) is the team of helpers including those manning the kitchen to provide drinks and food, and running the cake competition.

Out of interest, why call it the Cake Race?

It is called the Cake Race since if a runner brings a cake to be judged in the competition, they get their race fee back. The cakes are eaten for charity donations after the race.

Speaking of charity?

All the money raised by a £5 entry fee, donations, money made from cake and drinks sales goes to charity. All local. For example, Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, Holme Valley Mountain Rescue, Marsden Golf Club Juniors, Kiln Green Church, local Scouts fundraising for a defibrillator for Kiln Green Church, Diggle Band Club for help with parking, and National Trust Marsden Moor (especially poignant as they appeal for funds due to the recent moorland fires.)

So, as you see the money goes a long way.

Where did this leave Peter Cobley?

I normally start planning the race from October the previous year for the sole reason of getting permission from landowners for the race, which can take a lot of time. Part of the race runs across SSSI areas (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and this involves Natural England permission, which can be complex and this year was more so with the spate of fires started accidentally or deliberately across the moors.

By January onward of the year of the race I’ve formulated the teams, and start to recruit people for the roles, for example Deputy Race Organiser, across to Safety Officer.

Some tasks are performed as we head toward May. These range from checking our kit including safety, booking the Church, ordering Portaloos, booking Fabian 4. It is quite a list.

(One important element is liaising with the FRA as they keep a close eye on safety compliance, and they have requirements for both runners and race organisers.)

I thought I’d share some stats

  • The race is 16k/9.9 miles long, with 518m/1,699 feet of climb over the course, obviously there is also descent.

  • It crosses the moors between Diggle and Marsden.

  • The Fell Runners Association is affliated to England Athletics. This is who provide insurance for runners and organisers.

  • The run is classified as BM by the FRA.

  • The B means the race should average not less than 25 metres climb per kilometre, and should not have more than 30% of the race distance on road.

  • A category “M” (medium) race is over 10 kilometres but less than 20 kilometres.

So it is a good old slog for fell runners. What does it look like?

Landowners?

  • Yorkshire Water. As ever lovely to deal with and exceptionally professional and helpful.

  • National Trust Marsden Moor. The local branch are great to deal with, especially this year when they were under inordinate pressure with the moorland fires.

  • Marsden Golf Club. A delight to deal with and very helpful.

On the day, leadership and teamwork?

On the day I realised that it all came together smoothly because of planning prior to the race, and this is detailed planning. Yes, a pain in the bum, but oh so important. You cannot leave this too late, it creates stress and things get missed.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Yes, I know we have all heard this a thousand times, but what I try and do is break the overall task down whilst keeping it simple.

So, it is a fell race. What needs doing? And from that come tasks such as car marshalling, across to race marshalling across to registration or finish funnel or results. From this people are asked to run and take responsibility for each area. They can then focus on their particular role and brief and area, so freeing up your own leadership time to focus on other tasks.

I am a massive believer in delegation and empowering people. You give them the responsibility to research the task and learn. Prior to that you simply do a SWOT on who is right for the role and mutually discuss it with them.

So on the day, people got at it like an Ant Colony. People collected the trailer with kit and delivered it, people turned up at 8am to lay the floor, set up tables, sort registration out including timing chip bracelets, get kit check set up, sort the kitchen out ready for runners and cakes, put road signs up, and so it all happens.

The team were brilliant and crucial in running their own specific tasks.

Importantly, you also need good number 2’s. I had the two Claire’s and Jen. One Claire is my wife who was Deputy Race Organiser and the other who was Safety Officer. Both took charge of time consuming areas (e.g. registration set up, Mountain Rescue and race marshals) allowing me to focus elsewhere. You don’t want to many number 2’s as that can be hard to manage and tiring on brain power. Jen importantly took charge of the kitchen and cakes, a headache in it’s own right with about 30 baked cakes arriving.

You also have to appear calm even when you are not. Otherwise people panic. Let people make their own team decisions and back them up. If they have questions they will find you. Coming back to the earlier point of preparation, if you have briefed people properly then they know what to do. If you have the right person they will figure it out if they cannot find you. And who says you are always right???

Notes:

  • Preparation.

  • Get people involved from day one, as you are not infallible.

  • Leadership is empowerment in my Cobley World, it is not about barking orders.

  • Mistakes do and will and should happen. It is life. Just deal with it.

  • Yes, have a contingency plan for things, but you CANNOT plan for everything. Don’t try to as you will wear your brain out and end up slavishly following a plan and not exercising the grey matter when thinking on one’s feet. For example at the half way point (technical reason) we were not able to record 36 runners. So we did not know if they had passed for safety reasons. We dealt with it by not panicking and waiting for them to arrive at the finish correctly recorded. We let Mountain Rescue know who were plugged into our system. Stuff happens.

  • Smile and enjoy yourself.

The team

They delivered on the day. They worked hard. They pulled together. They looked after our runner guests.

I love them all, and man kiss them.

Flickr photos

Kindly taken by Dean Moynihan.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/157021690@N02/?fbclid=IwAR3MX5m2gnl9lEzT7cV3YGjA6ApEJtFZYS7XIbj4FgXo8xN6T81lDbspfVM


The Manx Mountain Marathon... HOT.

Saturday 20th April saw the start of the 2019 Manx Mountain Marathon, it’s 50th anniversary

Over eight hours later I was very glad for it to be over.

Soon to start the race from Ramsey in the North East of the island.

Soon to start the race from Ramsey in the North East of the island.

We had made plans a while back to head over to the Isle of Man, an island people on the UK mainland don’t seem to familiar with in this age of aeroplane holidays. But do go, it is a wonderfully beautiful place steeped in Gaelic history. It was a ferry journey over on Good Friday, to return on the Bank Holiday Monday. Saturday was the marathon with my running partner, Stu Hutchison, and Sunday a day of rest.

As well as the marathon it was also a get away to celebrate Ruth’s birthday, and just plain chill out with us staying at the wonderful Knockaloe Beg Farm just outside of Peel where we stayed last year for the Sea to Summit fell race. On arrival we had not realised the farm was open to the public and we literally witnessed the birth of two Goat Kids!

I won’t say too much about the family side as that’s private, wink wink. Suffice to say it was a wonderful holiday in the good company of Claire my wife, Ruth and Stu, and their beach loving son Finley

So, onto the main event. Well sort of… The Manx Mountain Marathon. There is a lot I could say, loads. But I’ll keep it brief if but to save my burnt shoulders and not to mention burnt psyche.

The utterly shocking swine of a last climb before dropping into Port Erin.

We started off in Ramsey at 8am, it was slightly cold, and then the temperature increased phenomenally over the day, with no real cover across the course. For those that cannot remember this was the Easter Bank Holiday weekend at the end of April. To say it was hot is and was an understatement. It was relentless with many litres of water needing to be taken on board. Such was the heat across what is a hard course that around 30 people did not finish.

So, onto the course. In normal circumstances it is punishing with 30 miles across the island taking in a number of major hills in a rolling manner. The best analogy I can give is running a race in the Howgillls - that tough. The cumulative climb is approximately 8.5k feet with descending just as harsh as the climbing. I struggled badly with the heat, very badly. Not sure why, but I did. At each checkpoint I was having to douse myself in water to cool down and keep the sweat from my eyes. Stu seemed to fair better. I started off strong and practically legged it up Snaefell, continued strong and then by an atrocious heather climb started to struggle. And I mean really struggle.

The amusing thing is it only got worse after the heather off roading.

By now we were 12 miles in and it was damn hot, boil an egg in your pants hot and I was suffering. By mile 18, which was the half way point I was not in a great place. 18 miles in I was in deep trouble. A combination of over heating, poor food consumption, very worried, mind all over the show, and Stu was motoring on with no problems.

We met the girls and Findlay, who were offering support across the day as well as spending time together at the official half way point at St John’s.

The photos show a worn Cobley arriving, but before we left I managed a smile with Stu over a slice of pizza.

We said goodbye to the girls and Findlay, Claire was concerned, then ploughed on after this official half way point. By now I had stuffed my face full of cocktail sausages etc. etc.etc. I was ravenous and staggering about all over the show. Ask Stu. Feeling faint and to be frank, not great at all. It is funny how all the modern gels etc. never seem to work on me as much as real food - frazzles, cocktail sausages, cheese blocks, cherry tomatoes etc. etc. etc. We passed fresh runners all staring at us, some passing compliments, who were arriving for the half marathon, i.e. the latter part of our course. Later on it became a psychological challenge as these runners zipped past Stu and I.

So off we toddle thinking all the climb is done. Ha, ha, he, he… Oh no. We had to climb back up to ridge height above St John’s in stupefying heat through a forest with what must have been a 1:3 climb. We honestly could not believe it.

It then became a run across bridleway, road, and mostly rolling moorland in exposed sun with numerous climbs and descents. The heat was tortuous and the ground very hard underfoot.

If you want to see the route, have a look at:

http://www.isleofmanmountainultra.com/about/race-maps/

One very important point to note was the support needed from Ruth and Claire (plus a sleeping Finley) as we progressed into the day, especially the second half. By now we were tired and again suffering from the heat. The race is very well organised with safety in mind, checkpoints with water at regular intervals. But without the girls supporting us as well I reckon we could have been in deep trouble.

As we draw to a conclusion I’ll talk about the last five or so miles that to be frank were downright bloody rude as we descended into Port Erin.

We came off a long ridge run via a bonkers quad destroying descent, prior to that I’d been chatting to a runner from Wilmslow Running Club; nice to see someone from my neck of the woods. The ridge run held spectacular views of the sea, the descent just brought out swearing.

We literally hit the coast at a cove with a dead end road where the girls could meet up with us. We were shattered and heat ridden. We walked up the road assuming it was the route back to Port Erin. No. Oh no. Certainly not. The race planner had put a hideous sting in the tail as you faced a shocker of a climb, a ridge run with precipitous cliffs to the sea below, then a long drag to sea level across grass whilst aiming for the sea tower dominating the landscape outside Port Erin.

Port Erin to the top left of the photo. The shocker climb by the road directly ahead.

The shocking last climb hit my morale hard and I can honestly say climbing up in that heat reminded me of walking the GR20 in Corsica. Stu trudged toward its doom. I made a selfie protest.

It was on the climb up, the ridge run, and the grassy descent into Port Erin that I heard poor Stu wail and grimace as cramp kicked in. He’d survived the majority of the run from that awful affliction. But we soldiered on with rewarding views of the bay that Port Erin sits in. We were almost done - literally. Excitement started to rise…

The finish was amazing with groups of people cheering, including fellow runners who had already finished. We were met by the girls and Findlay who started to run in with Stu, only to see a dog that caught his fancy and he instead ran in its direction. We’d done it, we’d made it, and we flopped down onto the grass of the cafe where the event finishes and food and water is provided, with you also being able to buy food and drinks from the cafe. We hugged and we were happy and downright amazed we’d done it. The atmosphere among runners and supporters was brilliant. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah. Would I say train for it? Hell yeah. We relaxed and changed (I then started to cramp up) whilst Findlay happily played away in the cafe play area. We also took advantage of a massage with a donation to an MS support group.

Well earned food on Port Erin beach.

Clucking Bell, it's the Four Inns 2019.

Yesterday, was that “wonderful” time of year for the Four Inns Race. A time of excitement, trepidation, and downright angst. Why? 40 miles from Holmebridge to Buxton, mostly off road, and with 7,000 plus feet of climb.

Tony, Jon, and Adam looking down into Edale.

Running yesterday was myself, Tony, Jon, and Adam. This was my fourth time running the race with a new addition in the form of Tony. It is a tough race not simply because of the distance but due to the tough climbs that face you through the route, notably a right bugger at the end when you’ve done 35 miles as you climb out of Errwood Reservoir via Shooters Clough for the checkpoint at the Cat and Fidddle.

It was an early start with the alarm clock going off at 4.30am Saturday morning, with the obligation to pick up Jon and Tony from Jon’s house in Delph. Pickup was successful and off we went to catch Adam at the Holmebridge start. Kit check was 6.16am with a 7.16am start. Yours truly was still in the Land of Nod and operating on auto pilot. Everyone else was busy in the hall, furtively kit checking and packing and unpacking. I alleviated the stress of it all with a Number 2, Weetabix, and cup of tea.

We left at 7.16am and I was still not awake. Great… It was cold and a tad damp (not the mood) as we climbed out of Holmebridge for the first checkpoint on The Isle of Sky Road (Snoopy’s). Pace was good and all happy. We reached Black Hill in quite a fast time and it was clear it was going to be claggy. But your Editor was more than happy because it was not peeing it down or windy, and he was still laden with the trauma of the Trigger and Haworth Hobble.

Approaching the Black Hill Trig.

After Black Hill we hot footed it to Crowden and as we dropped into Crowden the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Little were we to know it’s impact on us. There was a wind as we climbed out of Torside Reservoir heading for “lovely Bleaklow” and the checkpoint at Doctor’s Gate.

Looking away from Torside toward Bleaklow up Torshide Clough.

Doctor’s Gate saw a break and suitable refreshments taken before a notorious slog for two miles down the Snake Pass for the Snake Pass Inn checkpoint. As an aside the checkpoints are “proper” in terms of drinks and food available, support, and emergency measures. It is a major factor on this race.

The climb out of the valley below the Snake Pass Inn via Gate Side Clough is a shocker as you traverse just below the summit of Seal Stones and it was at this point last year that one of the team dropped out and headed back to the pub.

Looking down into Derwent Valley from below the summit of Seal Stones.

From the Snake Inn Pass you simply head to the Kinder Scout Plateau before dropping into Edale as you hit Grindsbrook Clough from in between Upper and Nether Tors.

Edale achieved and you are not quite half way. It is at this point the solider or machine that is Tony needs mentioning. By Edale he was hobbling down hill and bless his cotton socks did not moan and soldiered on. You are then faced with a tortuous climb out of Edale up the Chapel Gate track to reach the Chapel en-le-frith Mam Tor road (Sheffield Road). Climb ticked off and poor Tony cheerful but grimacing we headed to the checkpoint at Chapel. Once achieved you are about 25 miles or there about in to the race. We hobbled off for the next checkpoint.

“Jon Boy” photographing the para gliders from Chapel Gate Track.

The climb from Chapel to White Hall (an outdoor activity centre) is legendary as it is a swine of a slog but one is driven on for the lovely rice pudding and jam they lay on each year, plus a nip of a good single malt if of that inclination.

The safety route card checkpoints you hand in. Note I am runner D of A, B, C, D.

From White Hall you are faced with the drop into the Goyt Valley which is quite a descent to hit the dam wall for the famous Errwood reservoir, which you run along heading for my Bete Noire in the form of Shooters Clough. Basically your legs are shot and you have to climb a few feet over quite a distance as you aim for the Cat and Fiddle pub. Each year if attacks me mentally and physically, and I started the climb apprehensive and at the back…

Dropping down to Errwood with Shooter’s Clough path in the distance, middle of photo.

At this point I will mention the weather. The sun and heat had been a lot stronger than we anticipated through the day, more like summer, and all of us were working our way through lots of water than normal, even though it is an ultra event and you’d expect this. Afterwards at the finish we realised we were sunburnt. By Errwood it was dusk with the sun fading and on reaching the Cat and Fiddle the weather suddenly changed to be incredibly cold, which meant we all dug into the bags to put coats and additional tops on. I myself foolishly let myself get very cold after the tough climb and was covered in sweat that then condensed. I did not really warm back up until the finish when inside. But I was pleased as I’d found the climb okay and made steady pace to the pub. Up Yours Clough Face!

The run from the Cat and Fiddle was mostly walked due to tired legs but the conversation was cheerful as we all knew the end was in sight. It’s true what the Macc Lads said, “No Sheep Till Buxton”.

Finishing was great and a relief as we entered the confines of the local secondary school where the race is based. It was warm and support staff kindly made us a brew as we removed shoes and just plain relaxed.


So, so glad to have finished. In the last three miles into Buxton we were all in agreement that we’d had enough, whilst enjoying it, and just wanted to finish. Nearly 12 hours on your feet in mixed weather takes its toil. What an achievement though! And hats off to Tony! What a beast.

The Four Inns

Have a look at https://www.derbyshirescouts.org/fourinns/ which is provided by Derbyshire Scouts who run the event. It is a strongly recommended event for those who like their ultra, with varied and beautiful scenery; we were very lucky yesterday seeing the Peak District in all its glory. It is a challenge though and must not be under estimated. Some of the off-road climbs are brutal, very much so on knackered legs. Am I doing it next year? My fifth attempt? YEAH BABY!

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2270280272

Flick: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmCDfQZj










The many names of the "green thing".

The weekend just gone was an adventure, a big adventure, plus a few arguments as we set sail in our new campervan. The VW T6 Transporter 2017, converted by the lovely people over at Camperversions in Darwen. What though ought to be it’s name?

On Friday we had arranged to head over to Darwen to pick up the campervan, and this meant a busy day for me as I worked hard, with Claire returning from school as soon as she could; so armed with Ted we set off as soon as we could to beat the rush hour traffic and be there for 4/4.15pm. We set off later than planned and made it by 4.45pm and Mark the salesman kindly hung on. Excited was not even a description…

Mark briefed us on the van and its various bits, which went in one ear and out of the other in the excitement, especially the bit about the “Captain’s Chair” at the front and how it swivels around. More on this to come. And so I was off, driving a LWB T6 through rush hour traffic on a Friday back to Mossley with Claire following in Pierre the Peugeot with Ted riding shotgun… Stress was high.

We made it back and then proceeded to throw items for an overnight stay into the van - name yet to be decided. Were we mad? Both were dog tired and it would involve a night drive to North Lees campsite just north of Hathersage, a favourite place of ours in the Peak District National Park. A drive across the Snake Pass to arrive in the pitch dark…

Saturday morning, Ted and the T6 in the distance.

By the time we arrived it must have been around 9pm, it was dark, and people were bedding down for bed especially the group of DOE/school children next to where we settled down. We were both tired and it had been an arduous journey down the Snake Pass in the dark especially with a twit of a tailgating car behind us. The drive had been stressful and I was at my wits end. We had tried to contact someone to let them know of late arrival but to no avail. On arrival the T6 found it’s berth and we began to sort it out.

The main bone of contention was the loss of Ted’s lead (found by neighbours) and the flamin’ swivel seat. I was trying to swivel it the wrong way and had not learnt the knack of doing so, and caused some slight scrapping on the side wall. Words were exchanged but we eventually got there. By now it was 10.15pm, and we had probably disturbed the people next to us with constant banging and door opening.

One thing I had not mentioned was the fact we’d not eaten, and I’d not eaten all day… There was hangriness in the air. So off we tromped armed with a Ted and headtorches across the fields to old Hathersage and The Scotsman’s Pack pub, accepting it was crisps only.

On arrival, the landlord was able to sell us a large pork pie and sausage roll. Food! We drank and chomped away. It is a lovely pub that we have been in before, the only downside that night being some local drunks who wanted to play with Ted, which is a big no no; something Claire pointed out only to get some verbal abuse. Sigh… The lovely landlord though made up for this, a nice caring chap. A walk back on the fields and it was into bed.

A wife, a dog, and no room for me.

Sleeping was non-existent as it was the first night in the van on the M1 bed. Claire constantly rolled into me, and Ted sneaked between us and took my pillow. The bed? Really comfy and plenty of room; just need to sort out the bed companions.

We were greeted to the morning and brewed up and this was when the van came into its own, as we were watched by the cold tent people who also had to drop their tents in the damp.

We drove into town and had a nice breakfast at the Colemans Deli, again a favourite of ours.

It was then time to don the walking gear and head out into the hills. The sun was beaming and it was hot, a beautiful morning as we decided to walk a loop out to and near North Lees and than back, with Claire then heading out for a swim whilst I “Ted sat”.

It was a great day out and allowed me to pick up a Mother’s Day present for later on when Mum and Mike headed over for a dinner cooked by Claire on Sunday. There was no way we were able to get back in time to park the van at Mossley Caravan Storage, where we’d arranged storage, so on return we loving stowed the gear and cleaned the van to then store it at a local business called Rivergate Developments who had kindly given us the code to their gate. Van stored, it was onto dinner at Steve and Sally’s in Delph with tired body and mind, which turned out to be a belter of a night and a great way to relax. We said goodbye, headed home, and weary bones hit the sack. I was and am fond of my bed at this point.

A tired PC climbed out of bed Sunday for a run in the hills with Tom Osman (who pealed off at Ashway Gap), Jon Allen, and John Haigh. It was an 8.30am start for us to run the Saddleworth Round and I was apprehensive to say the least on tired legs and still exhausted. It was a cold and windy start, and the wind continued all the way to Laddow Rocks, but dropping down to Cotton Famine from Black Hill saw the wind quell and the sun come out and us witness a bright, warm moorland afternoon.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2254490839

It was back home after coffee at the Cross Keys Pub where we started from, to help Claire get the dinner and house ready for Mum and Mike. Thankfully Claire had managed to get out on her bike.

The meal was excellent and all of us had a nice relaxed time by way of closing off the weekend.

Deciding upon the many names of the “green thing”

So far I have referred to the campervan as the T6, Campervan, or Green Thing. But it is also called Sid Snot (in my homage to Kenny Everett), or the Dadmobile. Claire has used the Green Goddess. We have both used Minty McMint Face… Which one, which one?

69... Anyway up, Meal for Two, A Favourite of mine.

Yesterday evening saw 15 Saddleworth Runners gather for the 6.45pm Pete Hartley Memorial.Liver Hill fell race from Rawtenstall’s Marl Pits Sports Centre in the hills of Lancashire. A great race put on by Rossendale Harriers.

I also learnt something about Bingo nicknames, for my 69 race number. Snigger, snigger, and look it up.

Your author and editor wearing his dubious race number.

The race is classified as an BS (with no GPS), and to the uninitiated a fell race is classified in hardness from C to A, and whether short, medium, or long.

Category “B” should average not less than 25 metres climb per kilometre, and should not have more than 30% of the race distance on road.

A category “S” (short) race is 10 kilometres or less.

So this was a medium hardness but short race. If you are keen, interested, bored, or can’t sleep like the author have a look at: https://www.fellrunner.org.uk/documents/FRA_rules_for_competition.pdf

Richard “Gee Man” Gee picked myself up from Top Mossley (never call it upper) and had just picked up Ruth Hutchison aka “Smiler” from Bottom Mossley (never call it lower). And thus we were off to beat the traffic with it being an early evening start after work. It was nice not to be driving for a change. I think Gee Man and Smiler liked my excited banter.

We arrived at the sports centre and the first impression was the cold, despite it having been sunny earlier and en route, but there had also been hailstone and the temperature was probably around 4/6 degrees C. We registered and saw other SADDS gathering for what would be a Club Championship race and local Run The Moors race. It was going to be an interesting one.

Speaking of interesting, as Gee Man and I headed back to the car to kit up after registration, was the dress code of a stalwart of the club, James Sheard aka “Numbers”. Gee Man and I were astounded and amused at his adoption of the Flasher fashion statement before the throng. One did wonder if he was hiding a thong under there…

Man alive.

On the drive over we had mulled over just how many of us would be out. Smiler went for 10, me 12, Gee Man 15. It was after all an after work race. Gee Man won with 15 of us; it was going to be a hard fought race. Editor’s amendment: Gee Man pointed out that Smiler said 15 Sadds, he 10, the Editor 12. So 1-0 to the girls.

Missing Messrs Brandon Greene and Tony Greene Snr.

The race organiser explained in fact that there were 268 runners, and on the race line it felt more like a cross country race than a fell race.

Gathered on the race line at the front were The Gradwell Gopher, Gee Man, The Bullet, and yours truly. In true RO fashion up north the safety briefing was “don’t fall over, watch stiles, be nice to each other, and don’t be a dick” and then off…

The race is fast with total distance being 5 miles, 800 feet climb, and importantly it is an “in and out” to the Liver Hill summit. The pack ran fast to the first small climb with more than one bottleneck after that along muddy paths. It was accidental elbows galore, much to the amusement of Bridget Lancashire aka “Bob” who was chortling along. I was glad we’d trotted up earlier to look at the start and I was able to take a couple of short cuts. You then climb up steadily to Bonfire Hill heading for Swinshaw Moor, with the route dropping down over very runnable grass and bog. You then climb to Liver Hill along the route coming across some rock from disused dry stone walls making it a bit tricky underfoot. It was eyeballs out to the turn at the summit, somehow on the way up I had passed The Bullet and was chasing Gee Man, who saw me at the turn and then proceeded to “do one”. Surprisingly the route back after dropping off the summit climbs back up to Bonfire Hill, but your mind was taken off this and burning legs whilst dodging fellow runners as you passed them on the way down.

On slightly tired legs from a long one on Sunday, Gee Man was chased down but to no avail. He’s running well and deserved to come in before me and not long after The Gopher who had belted off earlier. I was thankful to have The Bullet (Kevin) up my arse and this pushed me to fast times on the way down to the finish. The last 1.5 miles are fast but you were rewarded with wonderful views in a dusk sunlight over Rawtenstall. On finishing I had to bend over double to get the breath back, before seeing the others come in and getting some much needed water.

By now the sun had disappeared and the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees C. People decided to move on and head to the cars to change into warm gear for the journey home.

Getting out of the office and having a break, restless nights...

Well it is that time of the year again, thankfully. When nights are long, and it got me thinking after a wonderful run in the dusk.

Looking toward Dove Stone from Wimberry Rocks, known locally as Indian’s Head.

When you run your own business you are always busy, as there is a lot to do and as I have discovered you always want to do more. And you can be restless or have “itchy thoughts”. For example it is quarter past four in the morning and I am typing away. I could not sleep and came downstairs, put the fire on, and have been doing work and personal stuff. I like the word stuff. The aforementioned similarly applies to senior people in salaried roles and I base this on personal experience; you have a lot on, it never ends, meetings during the day have taken your time etc. etc. etc.

What is notable is in both cases I have ended up cross eyed, tired and worn out, and chasing my tail as I seek to manage work load, achieve results, and stay on top.

Yesterday had been a busy day, and it is tough trading conditions at present with the Brexit fiasco. So the temptation is to work hard, or maybe too hard and end up frazzled. Question is what are you actually achieving in terms of results, and your mental health? By way of comparison was the run I took at ten to six in the evening after my day’s work.

When I mulled all over on the run, and it is not the first time I have been here, I remembered that you need a break from work, even if you have a lot on or have to park urgent work.

Diminishing economies of scale - remember this and read on…

“Diseconomies of scale refers to a point at which the company no longer enjoys economies of scale, and at which the cost per unit rises as more units are produced. Diseconomies of scale can result from a number of inefficiencies that can diminish the benefits earned from economies of scale.”

I want you to think about diseconomies of scale from your perspective. Are you trying to work when you should not? Think in terms of work productivity and mental productivity. Think of diminishing economies of scale not from its traditional sense in manufacturing, but from you imagined as a company or production line. What impact it constantly working having on a) your productivity, b) your personal “infrastructure”?

  • Running your own business and occupying a senior role require work, hard work, it comes with the territory.

  • It does not get easier. You will always have your ups and downs, that is business at the top end.

  • But you get used to it. You really do, and I say that after a number of years and my being the ripe old age of 47. Somehow I wished I had learned this earlier.

  • Workloads will always be there, no matter what.

  • Nothing is really that important that it cannot wait until the next day.

  • Rest or simply having a break makes such a difference to productivity. I do believe that setting hours of work, e.g. 9-5.30pm and sticking to them means you focus your activity, the time is utilised correctly, and you avoid stringing tasks out where you in theory have unlimited time. Often the plague of the salary man and woman.

  • But also give yourself flexibility, if you are in the mood for working then work - your frame of mind is important and you can leverage it.

  • Conversely if you cannot work, don’t want to work, or plain cannot be arsed then don’t unless it’s needed, urgent, deadline etc.

  • Remember when you revised, most of us will. You took breaks. For some reason this does seem to go out of the window when in work as an adult in a senior role.

A break, like my fell run yesterday, allows you to relax physically and mentally and be more productive. It also puts into perspective work, something that does not become life controlling. And in this day and age we put work before personal, when it should be the polar opposite. We work to live and not the other way round. What a break allows you to do is to recharge the brain, and nothing is not that important that it cannot wait until the next day. The mental side is probably more important than the physical side (it’s all physical in one sense) as its degradation affects all areas. Have you noticed all tasks end up taking longer, lethargy, snapping at people? And so the list increases. Being fresh enlivens you and others, and makes you realise “it’s only work”, “it’s only a job”. Cliched but true.

Looking down Ashway Gap toward Dove Stone.

My break drew closure to a long working day and one that involved a lot of concentration when on phone calls. I had been tempted to not run and continue working as there is always a lot to do. But this harks back to the economies of scale quote.

I was glad that I ran, it was a wonderful evening and allowed me to forget about work (mostly) and let my brain relax, get out of the work environment, and free up thinking space of all matter of stuff. It is so important. Did I have to push things into the following day? Yes, of course. Were people bothered? NO. And if they are? So be it.

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2240246076

Wolf's Pit Fell Race 2019

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…

Registration before the race.

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…

At the start line.

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.

Wolf’s Pit Fell Race RESULTS.

(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.

Ruth and Jane (note Helena “bottling” it.)

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...





Hells bells weather on the 2019 Haworth Hobble.

My third time running the Haworth Hobble fell race wearing the Sadleworth Runners vest, and I can safely say the worse weather I’ve known or imagined. Bravo to all my fellow runners who managed to finish in what were tough conditions.

It was an early start at 5am, and a 6am pick up of Simon Jump and Stu Hutchison to then get to Haworth ready to register, get your running number, for a start at 8am. We met fellow runners from the club and all other entrants in the Haworth Primary School. The weather overcast and 5 degrees C, but no rain. At ten to eight we headed for the start on Main Street and it was raining, cold damp rain, with the wind beginning to howl. People sheltered where they could, especially under the eves of shop fronts. It was grim indeed and people mused and faffed about over kit.

The Haworth Hobble is a 32 mile ultra fell race forming a loop starting and finishing from the scenic Haworth of Bronte fame. An FRA race, popular, hard in normal weather, and to be frank a swine in bad weather.

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2201460047

We set off at 8am and the heavens opened horizontally with people drenched by the time we got to the Bronte Bridge along the Bronte Way, only three miles into the 32… I myself had chosen an Inov-8 shell and rued this choice when wet and cold.

Alongside Walshaw Dean Reservoir

It was hard running, very much so in a full head on wind that held everyone back and sapped energy for the first 16 miles of the race. By the time I reached Widdop Reservoir I had/needed to change into my more substantial OMM waterproof and was very pleased to do so. I really ran the risk of getting very cold.

The wind did not abate as Richard Mackey, Simon Jump, and I loosely ran together closely followed by Bridget Lancashire and Chris Roberts, who acted as proverbial Fell Running Rozzers in hot pursuit.

The wind brought you to a virtual standstill, rain was freezing, and loads and loads of hail. At times it was painful on the skin. My time was slower than in 2017 when running as a pair with Simon Jump and that gives a good indication as to the weather.

We pushed on and I more than once dropped back from Return of the Mack, and Jumpin Jack Flash who were both on a mission. Big thanks is due to Simon Jump for leading all the way and dragging people along. Even bigger high fives to Bridget and Chris doing their first ultra and hanging onto the older dudes.

By the time of the climb up to Heptonstall the weather changed and improved and waterproofs were ditched. In the second 16 miles of the race with the tough climbs up Stoodley Pike, Heptonstall, and Hardcastle Crags the wind had started to die down and when blowing blew us from behind in a vicious manner pushing you along in semi uncontrolled fashion. But by then we were thankful for the sun to make an appearance.

At Hardcastle Crags people were clearly knackered, it was pleasant with the sun out, but a slog and a half to the last check point up the seemingly never ending climb. Doughnut City (they always have doughnuts at the last checkpoint) was driving the Cobley on by this point.

Full PICTURES can be found in Flickr.

As we left Dought City the Rozzers caught up with us and it then became a slog fest for the last four miles climbing out of Grain Water Bridge to run up the Calder/Aire Link aiming for the Leeshaw Reservoir and Penistone Hill Country Park for the dash back to the Bronte Church and the finish. It was a good race to the finish with people digging deep and really pushing especially Bridget and Chris. The finish was achieved with no real time between myself, Richard Mackey, Simon Jump, Chris Roberts, and Bridget Lancashire; all of us glad to finish.

After a change of clothes it was grub and hot drinks to revitalise ourselves with nice friendly chat. Much wanted, much needed, much deserved.

Also out in the field of fray today were Sandrine Fraisse, Paul Taylor, and Nicky Torr; battling the elements and the course. All three made it back. Paul Taylor on arrival proceeded to try and single handedly demolish the free food, Nicky as usual was beaming and cheerful, and Sandrine was still out on the course as we left.


Cake Race Recce.

The UK is experiencing its warmest February day on record, with the Met Office reporting a temperature of 20.6C (69.08F) at Trawsgoed, Ceredigion. BBC News

Looking down toward Diglea and Diggle from just below Brun Clough

It was a gorgeous Monday in which to start work after being away in Hamilton with the in laws for half term. You could not have asked for a more beautiful Saddleworth.

I’d planned to run the Cake Race route around 4pm, but headed off from Boat Lane in Diglea around 5.30pm, without head torch thinking this would be okay. Subjected to warm weather, it had the taste of a balmy summer evening, with spectacular colouring under an Autumnal sun.

I did get caught out by the lack of head torch forgetting it is February and lost the light by 6.30pm as I hit the Wessenden Reservoir. I ploughed on whilst mulling over the route through the Marsden Golf Club then back to Diglea. The iPhone torch was needed in the forest by the golf club, a tad tricky, with not too much mishap making my way back over the moors and down Boat Lane to Diglea, to then jump into the car to head to Greenfield for a Saddleworth Runners committee meeting.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2175495582

Panoramic photo from just after Brun Cough, looking to Pule Hill


Not The New Chew.

Out on the moors today running in a navigational event, put on by the Saddleworth Runners: Not The New Chew. Big, big thanks to Jill Davie (Sue Hinde) and helpers for an excellent jaunt. Nice to do a “big one” after time out with bashed ribs.

View from Alderman to Dove Stone en route to second checkpoint.

Checkpoints were placed across the Saddleworth Moors with points allocated to each checkpoint depending on difficulty to find and distance from start. I chose the Short Course, giving me three hours to get as many checkpoints in that time. If you are late you lose 3 points per minute over You had four hours if you fancied the Long Course.

I managed 13.5 miles starting from the Cross Keys pub above Uppermill and ran to A, B E, M, Q, R, J, and G, giving 195 points., but I was 17 minutes late and lost 51 points, but I came first for the Short Course! A result.

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/2159364358

It was a long old slog, but was glad of route choice. Clear day, but the wind was head on in places, and hard work moving from R to J when heading for Birchen Clough where there were neither paths or trods but tussocks galore. On reaching G above Ashway Rocks I realised that I had a task ahead to make my way back to the Cross Keys via Alderman and Pots and Pans in order to be under my three hour time limit. The climb up Alderman from the Binn Green car park was hard on tired legs and it was at this point I’d hit my three hours, which them meant a pelt back from Alderman/Pots and Pans to Pobgreen to minimise my time over. Thankfully it was downhill.

On reaching the Cross Keys pub I was tired and welcomed a change of clothing and food with the motley posse.

A great day out, and made all the better by getting back to a coffee a nice fire, my wife and dog, Finding Nemo, and Return of the Jedi!

FLICKR PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/8W5b5D

Footnote: Today should have been the actual New Chew race but was cancelled due to permission not being given by Natural England; it’s a little more complex than that. Point is that as a club we were disappointed to have cancelled a very popular event on the Saddleworth Moors after a lot of effort put in by the Race Organiser Sue Hinde and helpers. It is a long standing race. It appears initially that Natural England are taking a strict approach to land usage which is to be welcomed. For example when running today I saw MTB tracks on a trod running to the Chew Reservoir dam from Dove Stone rock. In my opinion unacceptable to be up there in wintery conditions that wrecks the peat, furthermore rocks had been put down to make a cycle route. But this is an example and certainly don’t want to single out all MTB people. Everyone can and should enjoy the land, and that comes with obligations. That said and after the rant I do feel that Natural England are taking too hard a line with established and once yearly races run by people who care about the landscape, and who often collect litter for example. A balance has to be struck, surely that is common sense.)

















Tigger Tor with John Haigh

Sunday was a bit of an adventure running the Tigger Tor, a pun on Higger Tor that sits above Hathersage in the Peak District. Tigger because the 34th race starts from the grounds of Sheffield Tigers RUFC and their mascot is a tiger, or Tigger.

Carl Wark, fort, on Hathersage Moor.

Totley AC, a great club for races and who also put on the excellent Exterminator race, are behind the race which takes in 9.7 miles and 1.6k feet of climb across Hathersage and Burbage Moors. There were 378 runners so a big field for the 34th race.

On arriving after an 8am start from Saddleworth John Haigh and I managed to bag one of the last places at a garden centre walking distance to the rugby club. It was absolutely freezing as we walked over for registration. The kit check was thorough with full kit required and helpers checking right down to your taped seams.

Kit check with a tiger.

We bumped into a cheerful Chris Davies as we registered, only to see him again at the finish.

Chris Davies and John Haigh.

The race started off from the club around 10.20am, so twenty minutes late whilst people were checked, traffic halted. By now we were cold as we waited.

Waiting in the cold.

We got going and soon warmed up as you begin quite a long broken climb up to the summit of Burbage Moor. The wind was howling and it was very cold. All through the race I kept my Alpkit beanie on, unusual for me. You need to be at the front as the race bottlenecks from the start on entering Hathersage Road, then on leaving Hathersage Road a kissing gate onto the fields holds all up. To make it even more tricky when you do get onto the moor you are running in single file trods through dense heather making it very hard to pass people.

Flickr Photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/h957wb

But John and I had decided to enjoy the day and not race. That said it is a tough race, maybe more so in the wintry conditions. The pace was fast and it was hard going in the heather trods, not to mention muddy with some quite boggy and leg sapping areas. There are a few climbs up and down rocky spots on the moors and these were short and sharp and again sapped legs. I honestly felt that the climb was double what we were actually doing. But the views made up for it all, with a clear blue day yielding unparalleled views over the moors.

We ran it back together to get a time of 1 hour 42 and positions 145/6 out of 378 runners, so respectable for the run and conditions.

Results: http://www.totleyac.org.uk/2019Series/docs/Tigger_r.htm?fbclid=IwAR3JcZmP3PsWBP_MqFjVQxLJhstjdPJIMv_kySuls_6fdX_NzYtzwGbMbRE

I was also more than happy as we had not made a recce of the route and did not know what to expect.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2106533592



The Hebden 22, Saturday 19th January 2019

A write up on the Hebden 22 fell race from Mytholmroyd, which saw a number of Saddleworth Runners entering the fray.

Chris, Peter, and Jonny after the race.

It was an early start with the alarm going off at 5.30am and a then a car journey at 6.30am to make sure I was at race HQ for around twenty past seven as cut off for registration was quarter to eight with an eight o’clock start.

On arriving parking was straight forward at a local business park, and it soon became clear the organisers had really put a lot of time into pre-race preparation. Race HQ was the community hall, nice and warm with tea, coffee, and toast freely available.

By the time I arrived the hall was already busy with people registering and getting themselves sorted.

Christobel and Jill.

Just before eight we gathered at the car park for the Good Shepherd Church. It was dark and people were all chatty before the start.

On the right, Monica and Fiona.

And we were off on the adventure. The race is basically a loop from Mytholmroyd around Hebden and taking in Stoodley Pike. The race is varied in the terrain it covers over the 22 miles and 5k feet of cumulative climb.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2088790345

There is a wide variety of scenery and history in the area, especially in old houses dating from the Elizabethan period to former mills at Hard Castle Crags. I think the race challenging as you cannot really get into a pace for most of the route due to all the changes of navigation, the up and down, and the hard work underfoot in today’s conditions. A lot of rain has made the ground sodden and muddy, and snow had come down more heavily that we realised on the high ground.

Stoodley Pike.

I had great company running with Jonny Ullett, Chris Roberts. Well done on Jonnny shaving off an hour from when he last ran the race, and for Chris running his first long fell race with such climb incorporated.

The route does need a recce before hand as it chops and changes over the scenery, and some people did get lost or take a wrong turn. Thankfully I managed to remember the recce of the route from before Christmas with Andy Poole.

Chris and I ploughed on and we left Jonny on the climb to Stoodley Pike, where realised we were making good time and decided to try and go for sub 4 hours just missing it by two and a half minutes. A good effort mind you as we pushed quite hard in what at times were treacherous conditions.

I did manage to get the usual photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/07dx68

We got back to the community hall to hot pies, mushy peas and tea, followed by apple pie and custard. A credit to the organisers who also had well manned checkpoints where they checked on the safety of competitors and cheered you on.

A highly recommended race.


Prostate Cancer UK, A Talk, Tony Collier.

Yesterday night, which was Tuesday night, was the normal club training night for the Saddleworth Runners but also saw a speech after the running given by fellow runner Tony Collier on prostate cancer.

A speech by Tony Collier.

I did not run last night as I was recovering from the Trigger fell race, but wanted to catch Tony’s talk and I am glad I did.

Tony Collier

Tony is an inspirational runner and a founder of Styal Running Club, who to date has run 20 marathons across the world, whilst running his own accountancy business.

He is also suffering from incurable prostate cancer and gave a very informative presentation on this form of cancer that afflicts men and is much more common than people really realise, a silent killer, and not oft spoken about by men.

Prostate Cancer UK is the charity Tony was speaking on behalf on.

  • It is the most common form of cancer in men.

  • In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will suffer from this cancer.

  • The number of men dying from prostate cancer every year has for the first time overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer making it the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, official statistics reveal. Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/health/prostate-breast-cancer-third-biggest-killer/

The big thing for me is how common prostate problems are and become in men as they get older. Tony was trying to emphasise that the goal for the charity is to raise awareness and strive for a screening test, as the big issue is there is no effective screening for this common cancer. It slips past people and is sinister.

Worth reading about! I would strongly advise any male to make sure they do as my eyes were fully opened.

Trigger 2019

The Trigger 2019. Rain, and drizzle, and wind, and clag, and wet, and sodden, and 24 miles, and 5k feet of climb, and Gareth Evans.

Looking back yesterday’s race was challenging and I’m pleased to have completed it. The overall weather was pants to be honest, with drizzle most of the way, clag creating limited visibility, and a very sodden ground underfoot making for hard going, with rivers also in flood.

Marsden Cricket Club Start

The hardest element was the wind which may have been 50/60mph in places, and for a lot of the running was completely in your face. The climb out of Red Clough to the Kinder Plateau was one of the hardest climbs ever for me as the wind pushed you back with footwork on the trods being all over the show as you were buffeted by gusts.

The weather overall was strange, for the most part awful, but interspersed with moments of clarity (see photo below) to then soon be lost to clag.

Navigation was important after Lawrence Edge with the Bleaklow Plain being a right old fug. Visibility must have been down to 20 metres in what is a bugger to navigate in clear weather. Compass in hand we aimed for the Pennine Way, which would take us to the Wain Stones, and from there to High Shelf Stones Trig on Shelf Moor. Leap frogging had to be used and we were pleased as Punch to be bang on with the Nav’. It is at this point I’d like to say a big thank you to the poor sods of Glossop Mountain Rescue manning checkpoints and turning points such as Wain Stones, in blistering wind and rain - they must have been frozen. There were some other hardy (foolhardy?) folks also up there as we passed people heading north completing the Spine race; you really did feel for them.

“Hairdryer” wind climbing out of Red Clough

At the Downfall I have seen the waterfall many times blown backwards up the river, but never with such ferocity as yesterday; if you were not wet by then you certainly were at this point as you became drenched by the spray from the waterfall being funneled by wind.

I'd decided to run with Gareth Evans for some company and am very glad I did as we pushed each other along and kept each other company. Meeting us part way round with encouragement was Ryan Townrow armed with Poppy at the Snake Pass crossing.

(I initially saw Ryan hanging out of van on the Holmfirth Road at “Snoopy’s” yelling “Cobbers” adorned with a superb mustache. I’ve now renamed him Magnum in homage to Tom Selleck from childhood days.)

Ryan and Poppy offering support at the Snake Pass

At the finish we were met by Gareth’s family to cheers, which brought a close a tough old day. Would I do it again? Yes, and I can see why people like the race and it sells out. It is a classic fell race. Beautiful scenery with you pitted against the elements; it challenges you to the point of being proud when you have finished.

Trigger finish after 24.7 miles in Edale

LDWA, Regular Irregular, and The Beast.

After a busy week despite it being the run up to Christmas, the weekend was to be welcomed with the Regular Irregular, but an incipient cold was hanging over me.

The LDWA is the Long Distance Walking Association, an organisation Claire and I are members of, and at times we run at their events. The organisation’s members run a series of walking events that are precise in terms of organisation, interesting in terms of route, and can be challenging due to distance and terrain. Some events are open to runners, predominately fell or trail, who set off after the walkers. As the name suggests routes are long and are a great way of building up the running mileage. One thing about the LDWA is the food and drink laid on at checkpoints and race start/finish locations; varied, hot and cold, and loads of cake - I like cake.

Saturday saw the The Irregulars, one of the LDWA groups put on the Regular Irregular event starting at Brockholes Village Hall.

The event saw myself and Stu Hutchinson aka “The Beast” run as a pair. To run the total event you complete three loops, with your choosing your order. The goal being to run as many loops as possible… Loops are 11.6 miles, 7.2 miles and 4.2 miles (18.5km, 11.5km or 6.7km). So a total of 23 miles if all three are completed. The common approach is to run 11.6, then 7.2, then the 4.2 miles. Stu and I being pushed for time elected to run 11.6 and 4.2 miles and viewed the event as a means of getting miles in our legs. The other Saddleworth Runners chose to run all three loops.

The weather was cool, windy, with a foreboding of rain as we started at 8.30am. We’d registered and had a brew so were happy. I had the start of a cold that came on the night before and was a bit tired and with aches. As we progressed the wind picked up considerably making running difficult at times.

The company was good as Stu and I chatted. Half way into the long loop the weather saw sheets of dizzle and gusts, but then improved toward the end as we headed back to Brockholes with the sun saying hello and it getting warm enough for coats to be taken off. We’d printed off the maps and route description but we were relying on GPX files I’d downloaded for each route. Navigation was a combination of following people, chatting, and using the Garmin Fenix. The loop saw a combination of bridleway, path, tarmac, wood, and was quite varied with approximately 1.8k of cumulative climb: STRAVA. The ground at times was muddy underfoot due to rainfall and my Inov-8 Rocklites did not have much purchase. Water courses were clearly in flood.

On getting back to HQ I was delighted at the sheer selection of food and proceeded to trough and I mean really trough.

Mr Piggy eventually filled his boots and we headed out for the short loop, and this time had a third Musketeer in the guise of Jenny from Rochdale Harriers & AC who’d asked if she could join The Beast and I on the short loop. We did point out we had not dug the map or description out, actually we could not be arsed and explained we were relying on my Garmin Fenix and the GPX. We covered ourselves by explaining a “monkey” was in charge of the Garmin.

Off we plodded and being a shorter route saw changes in the route that were quite precise and not easily read off a Fenix watch. First error led us down a road for about 300 metres to then head back. The second spectacular error saw us head into a forest following a path when in fact we should have continued on down a farm track. After buggering about climbing through bramble and hawthorn and farmer’s field we were back on track. Jenny was polite, The Beast had dug map out and had his head in it. We made it back and correct to Brockholes and managed to add on 0.6 of a mile due to errors: STRAVA.

We chilled out at the HQ and proceeded to eat, or more accurately gobble the food down (me). The highlight for me was hot custard drowning a big slice of Swiss Roll while nattering with Kate Saville, a fellow Saddleworth Runnner. The Beast was meanwhile putting his Sunday Best on.

The cold I’d picked up was by now chipping in and I was tired and aching. It was also clear that I am out of form for longs, and not good with The Trigger and The Hebden coming up in January; additionally my left bum cheek (glute) was wrecking me on the last tarmac stretch back on the long loop.

As we headed back home the weather really opened up and it was raining by the bucket load as we drove over the Isle of Skye road (local name for the Greenfield/Holmfirth Road) with the wind driving rain drops sideward. We thought of and felt sorry for the runners and especially walkers still out there.

Worthwhile, but it has brought home the fact I have to get my arse out and cover some mileage.

Lee Mill Fell Relays (with okay weather?!?!?)

Well, that time of year again when I run in the Lee Mill Fell Relays at Bacup. This year the Saddleworth Runners fielded two teams.

Team Sausage R1: John Haigh, R2: Christopher Roberts, R3: Adrian Sell, R4: Peter Cobley.

Bits and Bob R1: Bridget Lancashire, R2: Kevin Jones, R3: James Sheard, R4: Nick Haynes.

The Lee Mill Fell Relays is a cracking event run across the quarries (now MTB sites) and moors above Bacup, and is notorious for the weather being atrocious on the course and making for challenging running over the 6 mile course and it’s 1.3k feet of climb. It can be boggy in places and capable of swallowing runners whole. It’s a great atmosphere of a race with plenty of clubs participating from local and not so local.

A team is made of four runners and can be mixed and all are usually from the same club, sometimes brave souls run twice! Runnner A sets of, then hands over to B, and so on. The combined times of the four teammates decides who wins, the competition; naturally the fastest.

The event is legendary for the weather being harsh during November on exposed moorland and in past events runners have needed to be rescued or carted off to hospital with hypothermia. So, the new runners to the race were pleased that a cold overcast day was classed as positively tropical when compared to previous years. Below is a photo and video collage from 2015 when the weather was bad, very bad, and I was running. I can be seen 10 minutes into the video approaching the highest point of the course, the trig pojnt at Top of Leach (see the OS map).

We all had a great time and a relay is a good way to meet club members. Legs? Tired…

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/12D1Wj

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/1984325813


Broken after a Peak District MTB Ride

Ben Newton led the way on today’s adventure from just outside of Castleton, involving Messrs Andy Poole, Michael Gradwell, and Andy Tromans. 24 miles, 3.4k feet climb and a number of falls from yours truly.

For someone who has not really been out on a mountain bike for four years since taking up fell running it was interesting. Well in fact it was tough beyond belief with other seasoned mountain bikers. Most of the route was off road, using bridleways, tracks, and paths that were new to a number of us. With the weather improving by the minute the sun came out in the afternoon as we sat beneath Win Hill taking in the views. This was different from the morning when we’d layered up from the start.

To say I fell off in spectacular fashion on a few occasions would be an understatement; one notable one led Mr Poole to describe my having used an ejector seat. It was wet and slippy underfoot, with the muddy sections offering no purchase, and the bike is old. It’s serviced and a lovely bike but old. On the mud it fish tailed all over the show and was hard to control. But being honest, I am older since last riding four years ago and the route had some quite technical sections like The Beast, so there was plenty of bottling it and putting feet down, but I am glad I did it (with support) as it has proverbially got me back in the saddle.

Having Ben in charge was a blessing as he’s a MTB instructor, coach, and guide and when en route gave some really useful advice on pedal position for balance and clearance, across to looking and scanning ahead properly so you know the best line to take. Things that came back to me and proved useful. I’d strongly advise using Ben if you want to improve your MTB style.

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/gp/petercobley/m9rS86

STRAVA: https://www.strava.com/activities/1982657165/overview



A trot in the dark.

Tuesday saw one of the night runs kindly led by Irish Alice from the Standedge Tunnel visitor centre. Head torches galore we trotted off into the cold night.

Park Horse Bridge, Marsden

The route ended up being about 4 miles, and for me was interesting as it utilised paths I am not too familiar with up to and around the March Haigh Reservoir. The Strava details can be read as to route, but an OS map screen grab paints a clearer picture.

Full Flickr photos are here.

There is also something compelling and captivating about the long stream of head torches in the night on the run.

Penmaenmawr fell race and Rhoscolyn Beach...

The weekend just gone saw Peter and Claire from Found Us racing in the Penmaenmawr fell race near Conwyn; third time in a row, and never ceases to amaze…

Rhoscolyn Beach at sunset

The Saddleworth Runners piled over to an old favourite venue, Outdoor Alternative, next to Rhoscolyn beach on Holy Island, next to Anglesey, organised by Howard and Jo chambers, and also their way of saying goodbye before they relocate to Greece to live. It was poignant, but good fun, and I think a nice way for Jo and Howard to wrap things up with everyone; it is not a goodbye by any means.

Outdoor Alternative

The Penmaenmawr fell race is a 10 mile endeavour with 1.7k feet of cumulative climb. It is a special race for the Saddleworth Runners who run it every year traditionally in fancy dress to a theme, with this year being cops and robbers. There is a long climb to Penmaen Mawr (a quarried hill overlooking the A55 and sea) from the beautiful village of Capelulo, then a lovely run across the tops to beneath Foel Lwyd, and a lengthy fast undulating grassy run back to the village. There were 152 runners (bit low on previous years) and I finished 30th overall, and 12th in my age category - so very happy, as I had some “juice” left in the legs and had not pushed it to the limit. I was roughly two minutes up on the time last year as well, which was good as we all faced a strong headwind over the tops, that certainly would have affected times.

After the race it was back to the outdoor centre at Rhoscolyn for good company, a trip to the pub via the wonderful beach, then food. Early night for me as I was shattered by 10pm.

The White Eagle at Rhoscolyn

The morning saw a fine 5 mile run along the coastal path to the north of Rhoscolyn with wonderful views, then a clean up, and back home to Mossley.