The 36th race
The Borrowdale Valley
Well the Borrowdale race finally came around i thought my preparation had gone well. Ive been doing lots of races and a fair few long fell runs. I know the route pretty well but on a 17mile long fell race with about 7000ft of climb there are lots of chances for things to go wrong.
This is possibly the race were even a fairly laidback person like myself writes all the bearings down and checks them three times. Its a long way from home if you descend down into the wrong valley.
Anyway bang on 11.00 o clock and Scoffer the race organiser sets us on our way. Before I know it im climbing up the fell towards Bessyboot, the first checkpoint. I know something is wrong though and im gasping for breath. I feel awful and can hardly manage to pull myself up the steep fellside. Other runners are passing me and im on all fours just pulling against the grass and rocks with my hands praying for the summit to appear. As desperation sets in I rub the wet grass with my fingers and try to drink from them just to get some fluid in my body.
As the summit appears I clamber up the rocks, shout my number to the summit marshal and start to head for Allen Crags which at this point seem a long long long bloody way off. As I drop down from Bessyboot I realise that I have eaten nowhere near enough food. The energy beans that I purchased from Pete Blands van are quickly consumed. Not one , two but three bags of energy beans are swallowed quickly. I try to re asses and after about 20minutes the energy starts to kick in and im feeling a bit better. As i pass by Allen Crags and head towards Esk Hause I start to pass a few of the runners that passed me on the first climb. The stream at Esk Hause is a godsend. I gulp the cool water rapidly and instantly feel a lot better.
The climb from Esk Hause up to the boulder field and onto the base of Scafell Pike goes very well. I scamper across them and thank my lucky stars my bad patch has disappeared. The pull up to the Pike seems to pass by very quick and ive alread got my compass set to the correct bearing that sees me pick up the famouse corridor scree route that takes you down from Scafell Pike summit to the path towards Styhead Tarn and Great Gable.
I blast down the scree and within seconds im at the bottom. On familiar ground now and I run down the grass and watch others struggle trying to get down the path.
In and out the gully and walkers are watching us fellrunners in amazement as we dance over the rocks whilst they tread gently over the same ground. They think we are mad for carrying so little gear and we think they are mad for carrying so much.
All too soon and I have taken the short cut that gets me directly under Great Gable but im desperate for a drink again and luckily a kind person gives me a bottle of water to quench my thirst.
As i start the plod up the path the famous fellrunner hands me half a mars bar and wishes me well
In fellrunning terms thats like being given a mars bar by Michael Schumacher. Joss is one of the all time legends of fellrunning. An athlete of outstanding talent in his day yet few outside of fell and mountain running circles will have ever have heard of him.
In his 70s he still runs on the fells with his dogs and can be seen supporting at many events in the lake district throughout the year. Amazing.
I climb Gable with the words ( Gan this dawn ya lad thats what its fooor) Thats Cumbrian for eat the bloody stuff and dig in.
I do dig in and manage to run parts of Gable. As i approach the top though i set my compass to 90 degrees and start to have doubts as to whether that bearing will take me down to the shortcut instead of going down the horrible descent to Windy Gap. So i alter it slightly to 80 degrees and vere on the side of caution. As i thank the summit marshal and start to look at my compass in the thick mist i descend and immediatley think ive gone wrong. I lose about 3 minutes faffing about before another runner comes behind me and confirms im on the correct line. We descend together and pick up the trod.
A quick bypass of Green Gable and its not long before Brandreth comes into view and then Grey Knotts. A short blast down to Honister Pass and someone takes my picture and shouts cmon Daz. Ive lost the plot now and the wheels are coming off again. A woman hands me some jelly babies and I start the brutal last climb up to Dale Head cairn we takes forever to reach even though i manage to run some of it.
I turn right and drop down to the tarn and over to the stile before a quick descent down through the old slate mine workings.
A couple of supporters from my other club Ilkeston have come to support me. I thank them and quickly pass down through the high bracken. A short run down to the wooden bridge and then onto the rough track which just zaps all your remaining energy and then I finally arrive at the finish.
Exhausted im happy at just under 3 hrs 45mins although the time isnt my prime concern. Ive completed the Borrowdale Race and thats whats most important.
Just for the record and its an amazing record. Billy Bland the famous fellrunner holds the record which is about 2hrs 30mins. I sit there wondering how the hell could anyone run over that terrain that quick.
I watch as other runners, many of them friends as well as team mates cross the line. The results are carried out in the field and after a quick sandwich and some tea in the village institute its back to the tent and cold shower for a clean up before meeting up with a few teammates and other runners in the Scafell Hotel bar.
What a brilliant day
I wake up late next morning and the weather is a bit better than it was for the race. I decide to have a jog up Catbells before returning home just to stretch my legs.
The drive home takes about 4 hrs but the memories I have of the race and the fells always last forever.
I will be back next year, not to try and be quicker but to run one of the best fellraces thats out there.