Saddleworth Runners

Langdale Horseshoe 2019

Sunday 13th saw the 2019 Langdale Horseshoe fell race which was good fun, challenging, and eventful.

Great Langdale Campsite after the race.

The Langdale Horseshoe is organised by Ambleside AC and a classic Lakes fell race, that can and does challenge people due to distance, terrain, ascent and descent, and whatever the weather can be in October.

We’d (wifey and doggy) travelled up in Minty the VW T6 to stay at the National Trust Great Langdale campsite where the race starts from, staying over Friday and Saturday night. Also running the race was Andy “Persistent” Poole and Jill “Boss” Davies who we caught up with on Saturday morning.

Andy and Jill.

Andy Poole and I from the Saddleworth Runners ended up running 12.7 miles, with 5,308 feet of climb. We’d decided to run together but not race as I’d not Lakes raced since the Old County Tops in May, and Andy has the Snowdon Marathon in two weeks. Despite this it was a tough race, especially where visibility and temperature declined on the top of Bowfell making for hard navigation.



Overall the weather was wet and damp with rain at the start of the race, so making rocks slippy and treacherous, with grassy and muddy descents lethal at times.

The Race Organiser at the start explained that it was a full field with over 400 runners, a record. Children counted us down and we were off. It was shoulders and elbows (in a nice apologetic way) as we ran along the track for the climb to Stickle Tarn.

Briefing before the start.

I’d been exercising during the week, but being sensible. But what I’d not realised was I was tired from a busy week and it transpired on tired legs from helping neighbours lug 3 tonnes of gravel for repairs to a collapsed garden wall. But the key factor was the time in not having been in The Lakes. It is a different type of running compared to the Moors of Saddleworth.

Some facts here. You reach the top of Pavey Ark from the valley after 2.2 miles and at this point have climbed over two thousand feet in one go. I was knackered and my legs not working, whilst still feeling asleep. Praise is given to Mr Andy Poole who stuck with me to check I was okay and helped drag me up the “offensive” climb, and to be frank round the whole race.

Climb to Stickle Tarn.

Stickle Tarn and Pavey Arch in the distance, soon to be climbed.

From this point it was a run across the moors of Thunacar Knott and Martcrag Moors, both of which were boggy with all the rain lately.

At one point a number of people ran into a bog, icy cold, up to their waists - Andy was one of them, and he explained it was freezing whilst it also shocked him.

We carried on heading for Angle Tarn to catch up with Josie “Smiler” Greenhalgh making her way to Esk Hause which turned out to be a pleasant climb; by now I’d seemed to have woken up, shook off lassitude, and my legs seemed to be working. All of this was great, but I was soon to be rewarded with the God awful contouring section beneath Esk Pike as you head to Ore Gap. On climbing to Ore Gap the mist and clag had come down, visibility limited and temperatures dropping as we climbed to Bowfell. It was hard climbing on slippy, slimy, and shifting rocks and you had to be oh so careful.

But on Bowfell summit we were rewarded with smiles from Liz Tromans and Jane Hodgson who kindly offered water that I gratefully received. This race goes to show that even in rainy, cold, damp weather water is important - you do sweat profusely.

Kit is also important, and I’d kitted my self out correctly with the Softshell top, Inov-8 Race Elite shorts, and Ultimate race sack. However I’d right ROYALLY fooked up the choice of shoes, thinking Innov-8 Rocklites would be a good choice with all the rock. But what about the nightmare muddy, grassy section from Pike O’ Blisco? More to come on that.

From Bowfell you head to Crinkle Crags, difficult in clag, with a shocker descent off Bowell down a slippy walkers path that had people falling all over the show.

This was not the main concern, the main concern was Bad Step in the drizzle. What is Bad Step? Very simply after Gunson Knott you have sheer rocky sides with big drops as you drop off Crinkle Crags. Bad Step is where you drop down and it involves scrambling. And in the weather was certainly NOT pleasant. Andy (with knowledge) got myself and another runner down and around Bad Step via a sneaky route (steep and iffy mind you) and we were glad. Josie commented later that it had been horrible.

Descending Bad Step off Crinkle Crags.

Off we ploughed for the long but enjoyable descent to Pike O’ Blisco rewarded with great views as the clag and mist cleared. Andy did start to cramp, took some salt immediately and that seemed to sort him out. The climb up the Pike was good, solid, and fun. Views on the top breathtaking. At this point you have basically smashed the race as it is all descent to Great Langdale and the finish.

Dropping down to Red Tarn, with Pike O’ Blisco in the background.

Now let me tell you about the descent from the Pike O’ Blisco… It was at this point that my choice of Rocklites bit me in the arse. The descent is muddy, grassy, and long as you head toward Blea Tarn and turn away toward Great Langdale - people will also know part of the route from the Three Shires fell race. Not having fallen over (coming nastily close coming off rocky Bowfell) I flew off my feet onto my side trying to overtake two runners grazing my arm. Stood up, ran 10 feet, flew off my feet again. The runners initial concern transformed into silence at my ineptitude. Basically it was a bloody awful descent, one of the worse I’ve had and all poor Andy could hear behind him were expletives and shrieks. On seeing the road I was happy knowing it was soon to be over, only to launch into thin air completely off my feet to land heavily on the running sack. Thankfully the sack took the blow but I was badly winded. Hobbling to the road for the final descent Andy had kindly waited.

It was then a quick pelt down to the campsite and to the finish. It is worth noting for the record that “The Boss” accompanied by Terrier Ted were out on a run to meet us at Red Tarn before the climb up Pike O’ Blisco. They said hello to lots of runners, but not myself or Mr Poole. Oh, and they missed us at the start and finish. (Compare to Trigger 2019.)

We’d finished though and were happy, chatting away with Claire and Ted.

But this soon turned to concern as the Race Organiser could be heard asking for Liz Tromans, and we identified ourselves. It transpired that Jill Davies had take a bad fall off Bad Step and broken both her wrist and one of her fibula bones. She could not move and we were worried. We had no idea as to what we could do, where Liz and Jane were, so promptly headed back to Minty to get changed to then head back to HQ. There was no real news apart from an Ambleside Runner had legged it to Jill with a full med-kit to sort her out, with other runners helping, plus the marshalls on Bowfell. A runner had actually run all the way back up to Bowfell from Bad Step to get an emergency shelter off the Marshalls!

Eventually Andy headed back to the Achille Ratti hut and left Claire and I to Minty. Not long after this we heard the whoop, whoop of a coastguard helicopter heading exactly to Crinkle Crags. Worried, but we knew Jill was sorted as she was airlifted off with the helicopter landing!

Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Incident Report

What I learnt from this is why I love fell running. People mucked in and helped, with fellow runners keeping Jill company despite their being in a race.

Saturday night we headed to the Old Dungeon Gill Inn to listen to folk music from a festival. It was relaxed and good, but we did think of Jill.

Would I recommend the race? Yes. But train for it. Wear Mudclaws or something similar…

(After what happened to Jill, all I can say is KIT, KIT, KIT. Her kit kept her warm.)

Bad Step - Andy and I took a longer, less precarious route to the right of the sheer face.

Bad Step - Andy and I took a longer, less precarious route to the right of the sheer face.

Cross Keys Fell and Road Relay, and Jill's last.

The weekend saw the last time Jill Boustead ran and hosted the legendary fell and road relay from the Cross Keys Inn above Uppermill.

Jill Boustead with the racing prizes.

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:

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.

Start of the relay with the first road leg starting.

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.

A tired Nick Haynes having run road leg 1 hands over to John Haigh for fell leg 2.

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.

Haigh and Cobley in numbers - legs 2 and 4 fell.

As ever it was a great event, with great weather, many spectators - most notably the legend Graham Tibbot seen here egging on Gaynor Keane.

Apparently politely asking Gaynor to make time up whilst timing on a classic wristwatch - legend.

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:

My FLICKR photos:

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.

The Ben Nevis Fell Race (and I did not fall over) 2019

Don’t even know to start with this one. So I will start with the stats. 9 miles and 4.5k feet of climb up and then descent across mind boggling gradients and sliding scree and rocks. Apart from that it was sunny…

“Man alive” I need my head examining whilst writing this blog entry after the weekend shenanigans up Ben Nevis. To start with it’s a 350 mile drive on a Friday in Minty with Nick “Carefree” Haynes to the Glen Nevis campsite outside of Fort WIlliam. You also have to be lucky enough to get a place as well as meet the criteria of previous experience - the weather up Ben Nevis can be a shocker. And the race has some quite stern cut offs. By one hour you have to be at Red Burn, the half way point, and by two hours at the summit. We think the cut off’s were not observed on the Saturday just gone as the weather was splendorous!


So, let us go back in time… Bit like The Wizard of Oz…

We arrived at the Glen Nevis around 7.30pm on Friday evening after a 350 mile drive. With the help of Nick, Minty was fully resplendent having been sent up on a lovely pitch. I was so, so glad I’d booked immediately after being accepted into the race earlier in the year, as the electric hook ups were all taken. The views had been excellent as we headed up with Nick taken aback by Glencoe.


Yours truly was happy driving Claire’s “Wendy Hut” on wheels, and by this point was quite tired. After set up we headed off to the restaurant/pub the campsite owns to find the Keanes, with the “Spag Boll” Claire had cooked sat in the fridge. It was a long evening to be honest.. very drawn out. Anyway we made it to the temporary office, which was Minty, after the evening meal. Few beers, company, and munched the food down.

After retiring, well I was certainly knackered after the drive, we arose around 9am in the morning to be greeted by bright sunshine and Gaynor and Alan bashing on the door. The geologist was up, I certainly was not. He’d already wandered about the campsite. I was snoozing in my under crackers and left the introductions to his Nibs, and thankful he was on form. Coffee was sorted out for the Keane’s whilst I proverbially grabbed my smalls. Anyway there was no time to be buggering about and it was all hands on deck. Roused we were and up at em’ it was… Groan…

By this point it all became serious, in that we would have to run up Ben Nevis - blooming eck’. It was all getting quite serious. I repeat myself. We headed to the field of “joy” so to speak. The sun was out and it was unusual weather. In fact it looked as though it could be amazing. What was happening? The weather report for the Highlands had been appalling, but it had changed to one of those days as the “Jocks” would explain; a once in a ten year type of weather. We decided to pile into Minty in order to make a statement and being blunt to show off. And it was a good idea as we drove the short distance to Claggan, just outside of Fort William and where the race starts from.

Parking was non-existent at the hockey ground and we were allowed to temporarily park by the Rozzers before having to move on. Move on we did and drove up the lane that you run up to the start of the summit path looking for a turning point. It was at this point that the lovely David Armstrong (24th race) waved us down to park on a rough area by the river and right by the starting field! Boom!

Faffing occurred as we battled with the race packs, but to discover a wee dram of Nevis Dew! After consternation over fixing numbers to the rear of a pack with safety pins we headed to the start. Ready to be piped to the starting gate - it was a wonderful atmosphere in the sun!

It’s a 1pm start (due to location) and by now it was very hot with beaming sunlight. We gathered for the start, apprehensive, ready to go. Tension mounted as the assembled Pipe Band trooped us to the start.

We were off with no grace and proceeded to leg it along the single track road to the summit path. It was very hot and unusual weather for the location, time of year, etc. I heated up very quickly as I ran the initial path up to the scree with the 1 hour cut off at Red Burn deeply in my mind. It’s quite well laid heading up the path as we dodged nonplussed walkers but the heat became a big issue. At Red Burn the tough stuff begins as the runners deviate from the path and head straight up via a ridiculous gradient.

I’d made the cut off but was really struggling with the heat dousing myself from Red Burn and other places of water. Other runners were the same. The climb from Red Burn is just plain madness as you aim directly for the summit. It was a strange one for me as I’d never walked or run Ben Nevis and had not made a recce of the race route. This it transpired made a huge difference. Ben Nevis has many false summits and I now realise this held me back as well as being stuck behind people on the scree climb. My advice for those with good legs is to push hard on the climb as it makes a difference. My advice for the worried is don’t do it as my mind wandered to the thought of legging down the scree etc. Yikes.

The final ascent of BN was fine and quite nice for running. Rewarded with stunning views I certainly buggered about on the summit taking photos. To be honest I was shocked at how busy it was on the summit with walkers and runners; all we needed was a McDonald’s. After taking photos and having “scenic” break it was time to head back…

Now, the run down from the summit was nice, and people cheering you on helps indeed. By this point a lot of walkers had made the summit.

Then you hit the scree descent, which is straight down and frightening. You avoid the walkers path. I’d bought brand new 290 gram Rocklite shoes and even these could not grip on the soil, rocks, and scree. We slid down part of the 4.5k feet descent and it was hairy to say the least. I held off and was glad of this when seeing two runners have a bad fall clattering onto rocks.

You then hit Red Burn after bouncing off rocks and grass, to be rewarded with a stone laid path that takes you back to the start. That said the stones are offset and hard work as you belt down, and the heat was close and humid.

You leg it down the path to then hit the Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse, and by now people were oiled and cheering us on. A credit on the way down was due to the walkers who moved out of the way and gleefully gave praise.

Then it is the one mile road stretch to the finish, and by this point that was hard and painful. But you were rewarded with a magical moment as you enter the finish field. Your name is called out, and locals clutching Tenants cheer you on to the finish!

I’d raced up and down in 2 hours 47 minutes and was proud as I’m not on form. The race record is 1 hour 25 minutes…

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.

Saddleworth Round 2019

Sunday 4th August saw the Saddleworth Round. It’s a B category Long and in non-fell runner parlance is 16.5 miles long, with over 3,000 feet of climb over the moors of Saddleworth.

Start - very humid

The runners set of from the junction of Running Hill Lane/Running Hill Gate above Uppermill and Diggle, with the Cross Keys Pub acting as race HQ. A wonderful location in what was hot and humid weather.

The runners set off and aim initially for Broadstone Trig, then across to Pots and Pans, down Alderman to Binn Green car park, across the dam between Dove Stone and Yeoman Hey Reservoirs and up Ashway Gap. On the edges the runners head for Fox Stone and drop from there to the base of Indian’s Head aiming for Chew Reservoir road. At Chew Reservoir runners head for Laddow Rocks, then Black Hill, following the old Pennine Way to Holmfirth Road which is crossed to then pick up the Cotton Famine Road to head back via Broadstone Trig and the pub for a finish.

James Sheard was Race Organiser for the day and did a sterling job, pulling all on the day together into a cohesive whole. Prior to the day he’d been a Whirling Dervish of activity, for example heading out at the crack of dawn to flag the route and place the two Racetek units at CP2 and 3.

James Sheard (left) and John Charles Heathcote

I myself (with wifey) was responsible for the registration and results and a little nervous as we did not have Fabian 4 (the wonderful Ellie and Adrian) on site to supervise. I arrived early to be greeted by the even earlier Andy Essex and so we began arranging furniture at the barn next to the pub where Oldham Mountain Rescue are based. Others arrived and all mucked in, with big thanks to Jed Finnigan, Andy Essex, Jill Davies, and Claire Cobley. All went smoothly indeed, and by 10.45am we drove up to the start armed with two Racetek units to allow us to count the runners.

Off they went with success and the Racetek system recording all. Phew. Before an hour was out we counted the runners through CP2 at Ashway Gap, by Fox Stone CP3 we counted 24 runners but not the other 45 - a failure. On picking up the unit after the race we discovered it was off, so could only surmise that a runner had possible accidentally switched the unit off. For future races we intend using a plastic housing over the unit to thus avoid any unfortunate screen or button presses. We are not completely sure, but nonetheless we knew all runners were out, 69 in total. One runner did retire.

It was tough conditions in my opinion due to the heat and humidity, but that did not stop the race record being broken by our very own Chris Phillips of the Saddleworth Runners, who was first runner back with a cracking time of 2 hours 26 minutes and 5 seconds.

Chris Phillips descending Alderman

On the women’s side Bridget Lancashire and her sister Martha Tibbot did the club proud by coming in as first and second ladies.

Bridget and Martha climbing out of Chew Brook

Finish funnel team

In the meantime as the runners ran, we built the finish funnel and waited. When the first runner and subsequent ones went through we noticed all were recorded successfully via the system with results displayed on a monitor. Relieved and pleased, it was a good result, which the runners liked - easy to see times. As people came in the pub started to organise the chip butties whilst runners drank beer and cleaned themselves off via an outside tap. People milled in the outside area.

It was a successful and much enjoyed run by the runners, organisers, spectators, and bystanders who happened to come across the race.

After packing up, Claire and I headed home to change into running gear to then head out with Ted the Terrier to get the Racetek units from CP2 and 3, also collecting flags en route. A beautiful evening in which to finish off.

Tim Rutter's Bob Graham, Saturday 20th July 2019

I’ve only just had a chance to write up what turned out to be a great adventure supporting Dark Peak’s Tim Rutter on his Bob Graham Round attempt just over a week ago. I’d like to say it was great fun to be part of the team, and the boy did good with him coming in at 21 hours and 34 minutes.

Leg 1 of Tim Rutter's Bob Graham, Saturday 20th July 2019

Moot Hall, Keswick, soon to start

Friday 19th saw us head up from Saddleworth in Minty armed with my wife Claire, Ted the Terrier, and Stu Hutchison. The weather was terrible on the way up, and then near constant rain at the Lanefoot Farm Campsite acting as basecamp (highly recommended), and we were glad of Minty’s cover especially the awning. It allowed us to eat the fish and chips we’d bought earlier from a rain soaked Keswick in peace (with help from Ted). Stu was somewhat envious of Minty due to his weekend accommodation being a Mountain Equipment two person tent, but he put it up with relish.

The mountain weather report was not great at all, in fact pants. I had been put down to support legs 1 and 5, having been let of (phew) leg 3. Tim had needed to do a lot of shuffling of people, which became severely compounded when it was clear the attempt could not happen Friday night and was postponed to Saturday night. It meant yours truly could only now do leg 1 for him as we needed to be back on Sunday. The good news being after some further shuffling the team was in place, with Saturday daytime to spare and a BG start of 6.45pm on Saturday night planned.

Stuart and I, with Ted, decided to walk the 3 miles into Keswick to recce the start route for the way out of Keswick and up Skiddaw - the first peak. It was a pleasant day and a lovely walk. We also managed to take a spot of lunch in the wonderful fell runners cafe called the Fellpack - strongly recommend it. Claire, who was out on a bike ride joined us.

Claire, headed off, whilst Stu, Ted and I checked the route of Keswick - we were happy. It was then a walk back to the campsite for preparation (faffing and nerves.)

After leaving at 6pm we arrived at the Moot Hall to see people who had completed the BG in the previous dreadful weather, and those starting like Tim. It was all jovial but an undercurrent of what was to come.

Although almost unimaginably difficult, its allure is obvious. The statistics alone are enough to allow even the fittest and bravest to wonder: nearly 70 miles of running; 42 peaks including the highest and most famous in England; an altitude gain of 28,000 foot only 500 or so shy of Mount Everest. The beauty of the route is manifold. It takes in all the classics, starting with Skiddaw and Blencathra, then over Helvellyn, across to Bowfell and the Scafells, round via Pillar and Great Gable, not forgetting the many other peaks between, before pitching back north towards Keswick.” (Copyright of Fellpack website)

(Full version of this rather good description of the Bob Graham Round from the Fellpack is here.)

And so Stu, myself, and more importantly Tim were off heading for Skiddaw. It was a pleasant evening, a little humid to start off with, though with a breeze and interestingly enough a little nippy on reaching the top of Skiddaw. This brings me to the pace… Stuart and I were donkeys or mules or support or whatever you want to call us, with Stu navigating. Basically the BGR is divided into 5 legs with the runner supported with a navigator and mule, both carrying their kit, the runners kit, plus extra water. May be more people, may be less. So back to pace. Tim is fit, very fit, and the pace on leg 1 (Keswick to Threkeld) was blinding. Stu and I even without gear would have struggled keeping up, but keep up we had to as Tim took food and water from us.

Descending off Great Calver

From Skiddaw you drop down to then climb up Great Calver, then drop down to begin what is the brutal and long climb up to the summit of Blencathra. By now Tim was into his pace and was a man on a mission. Stu and I were men on a mission to a) keep him in sight, b) not expire.

Heading for the Blencathra summit

On reaching the summit just behind Tim, I waited for Stu to arrive who has sadly suffered from a touch of cramp, so allowing me time for some precious water before beginning the descent to the Threkeld car park for a 15 minute rest before starting leg 2 with different support crew (I’d been invited on leg 2, and more on that to come.) Tim had already partially descended down the rather risky and (in)famous Hall’s Fell Ridge. By now light was rapidly declining. Tim looked back to check all was okay, I waved back, he headed off.

Blencathra summit with Halls Fell Ridge directly ahead and below

During the day (not my photo) Hall’s Fell Ridge looks like this. So as you can imagine it was a pretty hairy and long descent with backpack chasing Tim down to Threkeld, hoping Stu was okay. I’d also not chosen the correct shoes as the studs on my Inov-8 X-Talons had worn a bit and there were one or two heart in mouth slippy moments. I’d not had time to put a head torch on. Idiot.

Hall’s Fell Ridge, Blencathra. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

I made it down in one piece and the humidity hit me in Threkeld and drenched with sweat made it to the car park by the cricket club. Tim’s legs were being worked on and I proceeded to hand over kit I was carrying whilst gulping water and a brew and waiting for Stu to follow behind. I also proceeded to empty a wide variety of small stones out of my fell running shoes accumulated from the ridge. I’d run nearly 13 miles with just over 5k feet of climb in roughly three and a half hours.


It was time to go on leg 2 with the new support crew. Did I follow? I had the option of Threkeld to Dunmail Raise taking in the likes of Helvellyn. Instead I waited for Stu to arrive which he did safely. It was then that we realised from Stu’s pack Tim was missing his waterproof bottoms, buff, and importantly his Inov-8 gloves. I decided to grab them, don head torch, and thought I could chase the chaps down, after all they were not too far ahead. In fact they were quite a distance ahead, and at quite a pelt, sweaty, muddy, gasping, falling through beds of reeds managed to catch the three head torches just before they began the ascent of Clough Head. I was invited on leg 2. I declined. I was spent after having run about two miles there and back with 650 feet climb, at a belt. It was worth it though as Tim was grateful for his gloves.

From there it was back to the basecamp at Lanefoot Farm with a much welcomed lift. On getting out of the car Stu and I felt chilled to the bone, so showered, and retreated to Minty for Spag Bol and then to a much welcomed sleep. Tim and team were still up on the Dodds heading for Helvellyn.

After deep sleep I awoke and it was odd to think Tim was still out running with support. We tucked into bacon and egg barms with delight and plenty of coffee and tea.

Claire and I decided to jump on our bikes into Keswick for a bite to eat and coffee and said goodbye to people, off to support Tim in his endeavours. On getting back for the long drive home our part of the camp was empty.

As I said at the start, the boy did good and completed the Bob Graham Round coming in at 21 hours 34 minutes, which was a fast pace indeed. We learnt this later in the day and were delighted for him. It had been an excellent weekend with the weather eventually clearing up.


It is one hell of a challenge to run the BR. What freaked me out was the fact Tim was running when I was eating Spag Bol, sleeping, having a shower etc. I have nothing but respect.

A Pike, The Saunders, Heat, Hills, Jon Allen.

Well it has been a while since I last blogged and that’s been due to a rest from it all, and interestingly enough the running as well. I’d not run as such for near enough two months after the Old County Tops in May. And in fact had lost some of my fell running mojo so to speak.

Howgills Fells

I knew I needed to get back into the running after a elongated period off, with what had probably intended to be a two week break, but resulted in near enough two months after focusing my attention on the business. And it is interesting to compare both. Fell running is needy as is Peter Cobley Recruitment Ltd, aka Found Us. I think I learnt from all of this that both compliment each other and benefit each other. No running degradates the business with no outlet for the stress that comes with being a sole trader. Likewise pure fell running becomes a chore, not something to look forward to.

And I think it normal to lose business and personal mojo, i.e. a lack of interest in a normally important area of your life. I think the trick is to go with the flow, allow for change in life and fluctuation, but be able to climb back into the business swivel chair or the fell running shoes. Both will still be there after you.

Plan and graft, but allow for flux.

Also allow for it being a bumpy return to things you were once familiar with. This is definitely the case with fell running.

My first race back was a short on Tuesday 2nd July called Stoodley Pike that sits above Todmorden containing a gargantuan monolith at its summit. And in true fell running fashion it was a 3 mile pelt there and back on a rather warm and balmy Tuesday evening The race features in the FRA calendar and was a Club Championship race for the Saddleworth Runners and area championship race. So over 200 runners.



I was apprehensive and nervous when driving Andy Poole and Brenda Roberts to the race, not having run in ages, especially a rude and cheeky short.

Suffice to say we started as a mass mob up a tight track that closed down to a tight stone clad path. The Gradwell Gopher leading the way, second being Bridget Bob Lancashire, with Kevin Bullet Jones following, and in hot pursuit Andy MTB Poole, with James (what’s his surname???) a new boy and myself in hot pursuit. I was tired and hot and decided to just get around, and that I did when reaching the summit after the fast climb sucking in breath like a proverbial ram jet. I’d lost Gopher and Bob, but had MTB and Bullet in site. Little did I know that new boy James had this old dog in his cross hairs.

It is a hard climb single file at a pace and you can’t stop or slow unil it opens out on top, for a fast descent, then fast run down a bridleway to the finish. I’d dropped off the summit tired to woefully saw the new boy leg it past me. Bullet and MTB disappearing away…

On finishing I was hot and bothered but later realised I had done alright not being too far behind people. It was a great atmosphere at the finish with plenty of banter, followed by more conversation armed with chip butties and a drink in the adjacent pub. And what a fine pub!

Stoodley Pike finish

My quads felt sore the next day. Something that has not happened in a while.

I can see why people after a hiatus avoid fell running, running a business and so on. It is hard to get back on the horse but it is possible. And as I type now I feel happy and relaxed.

The Saunders 2019 Mountain Marathon

Well, Tuesday certainly set me up for the weekend’s entertainment namely the 2019 Saunders Mountain Marathon running with Jon Allen as my fellow partner in crime on the paired Harter Fell Course/Class. It was Jon’s first Mountain Marathon which was to be a trial by fire, well it was flipping hot over the weekend leaving people wilting. Also running as a pair were Nick Manning and Adam Speed, who we have traditionally run the 4 Inns fell race with - that’s the 40 mile with a few thousand feet of climb beast from Holmfirth to Buxton.

The map with checkpoints

We managed to mostly beat the traffic, albeit one or two delays on the M6 and arrived at Tebay for the race HQ with this year’s race being in the Howgills range of hills. Minty the camper van was rigged up and we relaxed during the evening as we watched people arrive. One of which was Darth Vader Taylor, a man on a solo mission. He was treated to a couple of beers.

Saturday we awoke to a flurry of activity and a packed field of cars. We'd a 10.17am start so it was a leisurely morning. We were packed, watered and fed, and walked to the start. Nick and Adam started 5 minutes before. The initial climb summed up what was to come, it was roughly a 1,000 feet climb in no more than a mile, steep and in heat, but that’s the Howgills…

Saunders start gate

Day 1 was tough with a lot of climb over 15 or so miles, around 6,000 feet in intense sun as the clouds rolled back. Even at the end it was relentless with a brutal climb out of a stream checkpoint and then a withering contoured descent. But we were happy on seeing portaloos!

Jon flopped down at the half way camp and we set up shop with the pre-ordered drinks, patiently waiting Nick and Adam who we’d been worried about in terms of their progress.

It was a good atmosphere at the farm where the half way camp was situated with the 90 year old farmer wandering about with his walking stick saying hello.

Nick and Adam arrived late and looked tired; ultimately they were to retire on Sunday morning due to tiredness, being broken, and a dodgy ankle on Nick’s part that had plagued him recently. We felt for them, but they seemed cheerful enough on Sunday morning. It was to bed around 9.30am due to tiredness and being attacked by midges.

Saunders half way Day 1 camp

Sunday was a relatively early start with us rising around 6.45am to eat and pack up, so being able to get away between 8-8.30am. The camp was a hive of activity, this being the midges as they chomped away on people.

Sunday saw most courses follow the same steep initial route out of the half way camp to Cautley Crag. From there people generally drifted away from each other choosing their routes as we all eventually wound our way back to the finish HQ at Tebay.

The climb up Cautley Spout

The day was again tough with one particular climb of 1,200 feet over a mile at most in heat up Long Rigg.

By now Jon was struggling with blisters; to later discover 15 blisters on one foot, and hobbled his way around the checkpoints. It was impressive as we completed day 2 in under 5 hours so arriving at the finish at lunchtime. The heat and sun were strong but that did not stop us polishing off lunch.

Cairn at summit of Long Rigg

For Jon’s first Mountain Marathon it was impressive to say the least. It was a tough course with superbly hot and sunny conditions, and a number of pairs in our Harter Fell class retired including Nick and Adam. And to then run on broken feet was legendary. We came 45th out of 90 teams that completed the event in our class, and 20th out of 26 veteran pairs (based on combined age) for our class.

I think the motto here is you’ll always divert from the norm with business and personal life. That’s normal and to be welcomed, and it is just a question of getting back into it, and when you do view it akin to eating an elephant: one bite at time.

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!



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!


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?


  • 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???


  • 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.

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:

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.

Three legs and then no legs...

Well in the space of a week I ran in the Manx Mountain Marathon on Saturday 20th April, then yesterday was the Kinder Downfall race. I went from three legs, the symbol of the Isle of Man, to no legs as I ran the fast and tough Downfall race across Kinder Downfall.

Team Saddleworth before race start in Hayfield Village.

It was a 10am pick up from the Mossley residence by the driver in chief, Des “Thunderbolt” Thorpe. Travel arrangements were the trusty VW camper van and off we both went in the direction of Glossop. Yours truly was tired from not a great night’s sleep and getting to bed late as Claire’s parents are down. First excuse. Secondly it was a week ago since the 30 mile Manx Mountain Marathon. Second excuse.

Thunderbolt won the race in great style pushing hard (Apryl would be proud) and not relenting on the climbs. He was a man on a mission. That said Thunderbolt did confess that it probably was Richard “G Man” Gee’s race had it not been for a rather bad ankle twist just after the Edale Cross. The author had spent most of his race trying not to expire and holding off an always cheerful Bridget “Bob” Lancashire.

The race starts from the river bridge on Church Road in the centre of Hayfield with registration in the Scout Hall just down the road. Runners congregate outside the The Royal PH next to the cricket ground. It was a cold start when we registered but it then became apparent it was going to be a bit warm… So it was a club running vest. It is a fast start as you head for Kinder Road then to make a left turn up onto a bridleway to then begin the climb up to the Kinder Plateau. If you look to the OS Map you are running up Snake Path, to White Brow, to then climb steeply up William Clough to hit the Pennine Way doing a 90 degree right turn to head for Kinder Downfall. It is solid climb.

Yours truly headed off fast (G Man’s words) only to hit White Brow and realise the Isle of Man had robbed him of his legs, Desmond trotted past on a mission, Richard Gee cheerfully trotted by. Try as I could I was not able to keep up with them, burning quads and a painfully realisation I now had Bob to contend with as she cheerfully chatted away with other runners.

On reaching the infernal Plateau, it is quite a fast slog across the top to hit Kinder Low and begin the fast descent to Edale Cross and the route home across lush green fields. At this point Thunderbolt and G Man were not to be seen, and I’d managed to hold Bob off. It later transpired that poor Richard took a very bad roll on this right ankle on the rocky track after Edale Cross. He did well to get back, and it was only on finishing could people see how bad it was. All other runners, Kevin, James, Kate, and Monica made it back safely.

A gathering.

Kevin impressed all at the sheer fact that he ran this race after a Stag Do. Beast and legend we all murmured together.

James Sheard astounded at Kevin’s ability to leg it after a stag do.

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 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!



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.


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:

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.