What goes up, must come down..
I knew the route fairly well having recce’d it twice the previous week. I knew I had to pace myself, especially on the steep ascent. I knew that I was running alongside some freakishly fast athletes but the only race that mattered was between me and the clock. This was the Shelf Moor fell race, a stunning 10km fell race with one of the hardest, fastest climbs I’d ever encountered: 1400 feet ascent in less than a mile is a serious challenge. I had got off to a faster start than expected as I had inadvertently joined a pack of runners who were steaming ahead at a greater pace than I am used to. I kept up with them (just) until we approached James’ Thorn, the steep, intimidating hill section. I could see in the distance some runners already at the summit. A disheartening sight to say the least. I managed to run most of the climb – a real achievement for me. A photographer was waiting at the top to capture in perpetuity my red, wheezing, near broken form. And this was only the first third of the race. But the good news was the rest was downhill. I was able to find a fairly strong rhythm, which is not as easy as it sounds as this was now true fell running, no nice trails and paths for us, just heather covered peat with ankle breaking gullies and half hidden rocks to trip the unwary.
The hills were filled with mumbled curses as runners went down to various obstacles, myself included. (Fortunately no serious injuries occurred this year) The final stretch involved going pell-mell down Lightside, a steep descent with plenty more pitfalls for the exhausted runners. I went down as fast as I dared, not as fast as some but fast enough for me. In training I’d clocked 1 hr 10mins.
My target was 1hr 5 mins. On race day I came in just under 59 mins so I’d call that a success. Thanks to all who organized the race and I hope to see you next year.