Friday, 17 July 2009

A Warm Wasdale Afternoon

At 11 o’clock last Saturday morning a couple of hundred, or so, fell runners left Brackenclose to tackle the toughest fell race in the championship calendar. Championship races attract runners from all over the country and the Wasdale FR is no exception although its deserved reputation may deter the faint-hearted, the lure of championship points and a grand day out even if points could be out of reach attracts others. 21 miles with 9000 feet of climbing over the finest hills to be found in England is a tough day for anyone but these runners have the additional challenge of beating the cut-off times at checkpoints so simply shuffling round at your own pace isn’t an option for most of the field. On a warm day like last Saturday the challenge becomes tougher – keeping cool and hydrated is even more difficult. I know just how much more difficult because in 2005, the last time it was a championship race, on the hottest day of the year I was unable to beat the cut-off at Pillar. I’ll spare you the details of the desperate struggle to reach Pillar before the cut-off time, suffice it to say that my greatest concern, on approaching the summit checkpoint, was that I would be allowed to continue.

Rob Jebb leads them out of the start field

Just as fell running isn’t only about racing Brackenclose isn’t only the start and finish of the Wasdale fell race it is also a road crossing on the Bob Graham Round where aspirants are fed and watered on their way back to the Moot Hall in Keswick. Last Saturday it was the turn of Duncan Richards who, 25 years after his Bob Graham, was coming back and  attempting 50 summits (instead of the standard 42) at 50 years old. We weren’t sure if we would see him but as he was behind his schedule we were there in time to wish him well and enjoy a cuppa with Rhiannon who provided his road support.

Duncan and Bill Williamson prepare to leave for Yewbarrow

Watched by Pauline, Chris (from leg 3) and Rhiannon, Bill Williamson prepares to take Duncan up Yewbarrow and on to Honister Hause. Already suffering knee problems at Wasdale Duncan suffered a stress fracture to a tibia and was forced to retire at Honister.

Having found out how to really enjoy both the Wasdale FR and an extended Bob Graham Round we went to the Wasdale Head Inn for lunch, had a stroll round St Olafs (smallest church in England) and returned to Brackenclose to see the first runners home.

Wasdale Head Inn from St Olafs Churchyard St Olafs Church


down Wasdale towards the sea

Great Gable








Getting ready to welcome the winner

With Scafell Pike and Sca Fell on the skyline the final preparations are completed at the finish. Conditions were too warm for very fast times which meant spectators waiting a little longer for the first runners. With the wait lengthening the tension mounted as eyes strained searching a fast descending runner from Lingmell.

Rob Jebb wins Wasdale 2009

Less than four hours after leaving Brackenclose Rob Jebb wins the 2009 Wasdale fell race in conditions he described as “not too bad”. For the next three and a quarter hours runners would continue to arrive at the finish, some 141 through the last checkpoint to complete the race while others would arrive from wherever they had been timed out or simply retired. A long fell race isn’t really a spectator sport it is an intensely personal experience, a struggle against the conditions and against yourself but most of all it is an intensely satisfying way of enjoying a day on the fells.

Finally, to see what happened between the start and the finish have a look at Andy Holden’s video

1 comment:

  1. i think you've managed to capture all the things i love about the sport :)