Ben Nevis 2015

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.

Ben Nevis race 5 Sept 2015

Sam Tosh 3rd to summit

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.

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Bit Steep. Patrick Brennan with Caitlin Rice (Glosspdale) just behind.

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.

Ben Nevis race 5 Sept 2015

Chris Jackson (Glossopdale) admiring Ash Holt’s new Walshes.

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Wadsworth Trog

Wadsworth Trog 7 February ‘15

20m with 1220m/4003ft climb

The first proper long race of the 2015 calendar drew a good field, including several Rossendale Harriers. The race has a reputation of being a bit tough. Mainly due to the time of year, I suppose. Conditions on the day however seemed pretty good to me. The recent heavy snow had started to clear but with still enough ice about to keep the infamous bogs, well some of them at least, at bay.

The course changed slightly this year to avoid some sensitive land issues with Natural England. Most of the original navigation section, across large sections of pathless moor, was to be avoided. This was a shame because that was a big part of the character of the Trog. This has been replaced with, what I have to admit, is a nicer route and nicer to run on, but is fell running supposed to be nice? Either way, it’s still a cracking route and one of my favourite races.

Michael Higgins on the heels of Davina Raidy

Michael Higgins on the heels of Davina Raidy

156 runners assembled at the new start (you don’t have to do that silly loop through the woods now). The fast Calder lads Grey, Logue and Crossfield set their stall out early doors. Flying up the lane towards Wadsworth Moor. I managed to join a pack of half a dozen runners or so runners behind the front three.

Jon Tinman striding out

Jon Tinman striding out

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The return of Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Turner

Following the man made drain to CP 3, I shouted out my number and did the usual “Thank yous”. I was determined to stick with the pack, so cracked on, but was distracted by the marshals’ repeatedly shouting something. I turned round to see the numpty behind me had headphones in. Totally oblivious he was. So I stopped and shouted at him whilst pointing back at the marshals. They must have missed his number. Now I’m not 100% on the FRA ruling on this, but for a start he is obviously making the marshal’s life more difficult than it needs to be. Not only that but It got me thinking as my stride tried to find the more solid bits of ice. He is really putting his own safety and others at risk. Say the clag was down and a runner became stranded. He isn’t going to hear them blowing their whistle while he listens to Taylor Swift or whatever other shite he’s got in his ears. Safety aside, why would you want to? Is fell running not about taking in the surroundings? This definitley includes sound. The crunch of the snow under foot must be up there with the best of them.

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Patrick Brennan sticking with the pack

By the time I reached Top o Stairs I was still hanging on to Ian Symington (Calder Valley). Which was a good thing, I thought. As a new bit of the course is coming up. It’ll be interesting to see which way he goes. I’d recce’d it twice over Christmas, but still not being hundred per cent sure, I’d planned to aim off, slightly up stream of checkpoint 6. Then I couldn’t miss it by following the stream down. To our surprise this section was fully flagged and went nowhere near the checkpoint that we had been given. Glad I recce’d it twice then eh.

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Jason Craven running for his life at the moment because….

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Richy Campbells’ gonna get him

From Withins the pack begun to get away from me. I managed to pick off one runner but ran the majority of the remainder of the race without seeing a soul, apart from the hardy Marshall’s at checkpoints and Mr & Mrs of Yorkshire fell running – Dave and Eileen Woodhead.

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Scott Sadler. Tough at the top.

After a quick chat and drink at the finish. I remembered that there is the rare luxury of showers available for finishers. They spoil fell runners rotten in Calder Valley you know. It’s no wonder they attract runners from further afield to their flock. After nearly Three hours out on the wintery Pennine hills, that warm shower I had at the cricket club was the best shower I’ve had so far this year. You wouldn’t believe me if you saw them but it was superb at the time, trust me.

Race report by Patrick Brennan

Full results

More Photos Huge thank you to Woodentops for use of their photos.

Lee Mill Relay 14 December ’14

Lee Mill Relay. 4 legs . 4 runners.

Report by Richard Stott, Race organizer

Well, that seemed to go OK. The inaugural Lee Mill Relay was held on 14th December as Rossendale’s new 4 runner fell relay event, and hopefully to become an established fixture on the Fell Race Calendar.

I thought it might be interesting for runners to take a look at a race from the organizers point of view. Perhaps providing them with a better understanding of what is involved in organizing a race, rather than just competing in one.

For me, when racing, a winter fell relay was always a great way of ending the year. I’ve done the Calderdale Relay, probably over 20 times, and always enjoyed the relay format and atmosphere of all the club members being involved, but especially the added challenge that winter brings. I have to admit I was quite critical on the Fell Running forum when the event was moved to a summer slot, but its done now, and I realize some of the reasoning behind it. It’s just a shame.

After thinking about the big winter relays, and the logistical nightmare of miles of footpaths to marshal, bad weather possibilities, car parking and land access problems, I thought why not a fell event based on the Cross-Keys four stage format staged by Saddleworth Runners? Logically, a race where all runners run the same route makes sense. Far less marshals. Same start/finish area with the entire event run in probably, 3 square miles of terrain.

The first question I asked myself was where? Earlier on I’d had thoughts of a mountain bike/fell race relay at Lee Mill Stacksteads. So why not just a fell event? I went over one day and had a look, plenty of tracks but nothing that thrilling. I had a chat to Scott Hitchen (Rossendale Harriers) and asked him to have a look. The result is more or less what we have as our race route, far more radical than I came up with! A true fell race was on.

Next step was getting permission for land access, which as it turned out was no problem thanks to Lancashire Council who approved our route and use of quarry area. I set a date of Sun 14th Dec and registered at Sportident for entries.

A nagging voice in the back of my mind told me this was all going a bit to well, and sure enough obstacles started to appear, or not as the case may be. The hoped for ‘Trail Head’ centre, that we were to use as a venue, just wasn’t going to be built. Plus, on- site portaloos were being removed because of vandalism. So, Phil Taylor (Rossendale Harriers) suggested I have a word with Rossendale Council, who the offices on the site belong to. The council guy was great, agreeing to the use of a room on the Sunday for registration and results, as well as some portaloos!

So, after weeks of worrying and sorting out the bitty things that make up for the whole, race day was upon us. Then the ice hit (what do you expect in December? Yeah, thanks, I know). When we went to flag the course the previous day, the lane up to the quarry was treacherous, but fellow course flagger Max Cole (Rossendale Harriers) was confident that there was sunshine forecast and much warmer weather was on it’s way. Err….OK then.

Race Day. Sunday. Up at 5am to pick-up Scott Hitchen to double check and finish off the flagging. Registration opened at 8.30 and with another 6 entries on the day we have 25 teams. Brilliant.

With a bit of a talk to the first leg runners and they were off. Bang on 10am, as planned. Then came a massive fright, straight after, when we thought the leaders had set off on the loop in the wrong direction! Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case.

After what felt like a bloody long day Calder Valley Fell Runners men came home first, along with Clayton ladies. Both victorious teams walked away with unique stone trophy’s cut from the quarry (again thanks to Scott and Daltons printers). All the post race, feedback seemed really positive. With teams saying that it was great for a relay to be that straight forward logistically. As for the route itself, everyone thought it was a great challenge. Ask Darren Fishwick (Chorley) he did it four times, he liked it that much, but then again…

I’d like to thank all the Harriers for help. Rossendale council for office space and portaloos. Pete Bland for race numbers and Dalton Printers for help with the flyers and trophy.

I’ve changed the race date for 2015 to last weekend in November. The 29thh to be exact. So hopefully the event can grow. It’s a much quieter weekend, fixture wise and hopefully weather as well. The race route is also to be first in the Rossendale Harriers Mid-week series, along with Whittle Pike, Pilgrims Cross and Golf Ball, best 3 out of 4 format.

Thanks,

Richard

Results can be found here

The Ben

6 September 2014 – 8.7m / 4419ft.

Mr Miyagi used to be Scott Hitchen's coach apparantley

Mr Miyagi used to be Scott Hitchen’s coach apparantley

A dozen Rossendale Harriers huddled together at the start line of 2014 Ben Nevis Fell race. I don’t know who was more apprehensive; those of us who hadn’t done the race before, with the fear of the unknown. Or those with past experience, who knew exactly what they were in for.

The main topic of pre-race talk was the unavoidable ‘Yes or No’ debate. Yes – I do think I can do it in less than two hours. Or No I can’t. Apart from Joe Johnston of course who would’ve had to have worn clown shoes to come in over that time. As the runners gathered behind the bag pipers I asked Andy Lee (he’d done it once or twice) if he had any advise for a first timer – “Never look up.”

The grassy bank with Red Burn to the left

The grassy bank with Red Burn to the left

All talk of taking it easy on the first mile long road section was adhered to (yeah right). The mass of 500 runners soon stretched out, so I guess the dreaded road section serves a purpose at least. By the time we passed our digs www.bennevis-inn.co.uk we were onto the pony path and the start of the climb up Britain’s highest mountain.

A bunch consisting of myself, the two Scotts (forenames not natives: Sadler and Hitchen), the Tinman and Dave Bradley swapped places towards Red Burn, the mountain beck that roughly signifies halfway up but also where the climb goes from steep to stupid steep. I gulped a handful of the cool water in hope that it’d somehow help prepare for the hands on knees push that faced us. By now Scott Sadler’s pre-Ben Alpine training seemed to be paying off as he stormed up the grassy bank and into the clouds, leaving “Go’on Rossy” shouts of support echoing behind us.

The green of the grass turned to grey, as we scrambled over loose rock and scree. It was just a case of head down and get on with it. All of sudden the first of the fast lads came into view; Rob Jebb (Bingley) and Martin Mikkleson-Barron (Borrowdale) hurtling towards us and back down the mountain. It was sort of reassuring – confirming the climb doesn’t go on forever. As it flattened out a bit, attempts at actual running were being made. It was a great relief to to pick up the pace and I felt surprisingly good, managing to gain a few places.

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Patrick Brennan

By now the clag was thick and it started to play tricks with my mind. But no, it wasn’t a mirage; the cluster of figures surrounding that cairn was the summit! The top of Britain’s highest mountain. I’d done it. It all went a bit weird at this point. Everything seemed to slow down including myself to a triumphant couple of strides as I thanked the marshalls. Dazed and disorientated, I almost felt like sitting down for a bit to admire the view (if there had been one) but I soon snapped out of it thanks to a reassuringly recognisable Mancunian voice coming mysteriously out of the clag (they do say God is Manc. Well Mike Garry does, but I’m not sure) “Halfway there now Pat. Keep goin lad”. Eh? Hang on. Oh yeah it’s Richy Campbell – Rossendale’s official summit support crew, and he’s bloody right! I’ve got to get back down now…

The Tinman

The Tinman

I set off like a mad man attacking the boulders and trying to go with the looser stuff. I latched onto the back of a small group of four runners containing at least one white vest of a local Lochaber runner and we veered off to the right. It sort of felt wrong but I went with it. A brief traffic jam slowed us to a halt thanks to a minor boulder avalanche. Our little group quickly checked up on each other with shouts of “Alright?” in various accents and we were off again. Considering this near miss we must’ve been going well because I spotted another Rossy vest to the left. It was Scott Sadler again, picking his way down through the grey boulders.The Scree soon turned into the infamous grassy bank. A succession of big loose grassy steps which would normally be fine, but after all the climbing, plus hundreds of meters of scree decent – my legs disagreed. This is when the wheels fell off.

All of a sudden someone injected concrete into my legs and the ballet skips from the scree became a distant memory. I stumbled back over the Red Burn and just hung on by trying to stay up right. Get back into a rhythm and legs will recover soon enough, right? Wrong.

Dave Bradley

Dave Bradley

 

 

 

My weak legs did manage to get me down without any major incident and onto the final mile of road before getting back to the playing fields and the finish funnel in 2:03. Nearly but not quite under that 2 hr mark. I can’t say that I wasn’t a touch disappointed but no meither. I don’t think that I could of tried any harder or gone much faster. Well, not today anyway. There is always next year.

Scott Sadler

Scott Sadler

What a race. Stripped back it’s only a straight up and down fell race. There is races with more interesting routes. Less intense and more varied terrain. It’s so technical from start to finish that I doubt you could ever get your head up to really do the views justice, even on a good day.But there is something about the Ben. Perhaps it’s the history. William Swan, a barber from Fort William, is the first recorded person to run up and down in 1895. Maybe it’s because for that brief moment at the summit you are the highest person on this whole island. But more than anything it’s the feeling that it’s little you verses that bloody big hill.

Joe Jonston was the first Rossendale Harrier back in 10th with a cracking run of 1:44:55. Which was a great effort only narrowly missing out on first U23 in his first do at The Ben. More to come there I’d say. I think that makes 22 Ben Nevis Races for Andy Lee which is some effort. With Alan and Helen Yeoman notching up another Ben each. Ian Barnes also did really well coming back from a long time out with a nasty injury. Mick Toman was just out run at the finish by an eager Dave Bradley (reports, in the pub later that evening, of a push are yet to be confirmed at the time of writing) who dipped at the finish to beat Mick and his PB by 10 minutes. As for the sub two hour wannabees? Well you could say that they failed but they tried.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. (Samuel Beckett)

Full Results – http://www.bennevisrace.co.uk/pdf/Results_List2014.pdf

God is a Manc – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L61okbUrdg0

http://godisamanc.wordpress.com/

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The unlikely (to get under two hour) lads

The unlikely (to get under two hour) lads

Post race scran

Post race scran

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