At the foot of Ben Nevis the traditional bag piper led a four hundred strong parade of athletes to the start line. A grand total of seventeen Rossendale Harriers (which must be the highest number ever?) took their place and waited for the starter’s gun. Even the shy Scottish sun turned up to be part of, what was going to be, a great afternoon of true mountain racing.
Rossendale’s leading light Sam Tosh kept good company with an early group of front-runners. Including Ricky Lightfoot, Martin Mikkleson-Barron, Robb Jebb, and Finlay Wild. The group slowly started to stretch out as Wild topped the mountain first. With the others only seconds behind, the race would be, as they say it always is, won on the decent. And it was. Wild bound past me as I continued the long upwards struggle. The others soon followed, but the way in which Wild descends sets him apart. It seems so aggressive as he takes huge leaping bounds, but he manages to combine this, with what looks like, perfect balance and control. I fought a lazy urge to stand back and admire the spectacle but reminded myself that I had my own race to worry about.
The first five to the top stayed that way until the finish. Sam Tosh taking a hard-earned 3rd place in a real, top quality field. Ashley Holt was the next Harrier in 38th place with a cracking run at his first Ben. It was also the first time he’d worn his brand new Walshes. He looked in absolute agony at the finish, as everyone is, but this seemed out of character. Ashley is from Bacup. With a bloodied hand (presumably from a secondary wound) he peeled back his socks to reveal the biggest reservoir like blisters on the heel of any foot, in all time. Ever. He popped them both with his teeth and people started throwing life belts. It was a strange scene, yet no one let on.
Mick Toman was delighted to settle the score from last year and draw a line under the controversy that dogged the 2014 results by beating Dave Bradley fair and square. But was even happier to learn of a tent with free cake to all finishers.
None of last year’s sub 2 hour wannabes managed to make amends. We are all weak. Harriers that did do themselves proud however, were many doing the race for the first time. This included Toby Evans, Rob Andrew, Davina Raidy, Peter Nutall, John Lavelle, Dave and Natalie Murphy.
But the main achievement was that of the club. To see so many Rossendale runners and supporters, travelling all that way, to do one of the toughest and greatest fell races in the calendar is great to see, and collectively a superb effort. Rossendale Fell Running is in fine health.
Huge thank you to Steve Bateson from Running Pix for the kind permission to use his pictures. You can buy Steve’s pictures of the race here.