Fell and Trail running

Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo 30th May 20181EE5EF8F-9DF3-4DA7-8E90-7346A3A25BC1After a hard month of running with 2 Bob Graham supports and a 37 mile fell race what could be better than a short holiday in the Cotswolds to wind down and relax? A multi terrain race on a big hill in misty weather where do I sign up?


I came across the race by accident. We found a seat dedicated to a former member of Almost Athletes a local running club in Cheltenham. When we got home I looked them up and found their regular Wednesday offroad training session was cancelled the next night due to a local race. Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo started and finished at the strangest golf course I have ever seen. Sheep and cows grazing on the fairways and greens of the course.

A decent sized field of over 100 gathered at the start. The now obligatory team photographs were taking place all around me I felt a bit out of place and 250 miles from home. I enjoyed the pre race briefing “avoid the livestock” and we were off. I tucked in behind the front runners in 6th place and felt comfortable for the first mile which was mostly a gradual uphill. As the course began undulating I started to struggle especially losing places on the flat parts although I was still able to outrun those around me on the hills.

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Coming into the last mile I was working hard and clinging onto a place in the top ten but I could hear other runners catching up behind. As we started up the last hill they attacked me and each other with the lead in our little group changing hands a few times as we snaked around the trig point. I pushed on and headed the group on the last half mile downhill. Unfortunately the legs didn’t have it and all three passed me on the final decent. A quick look around showed I wasn’t under pressure from anyone else and I subconsciously let out a little cheer.

I finished in thirteenth place completing the 5.6 miles in 40.57. A nice friendly race with a few hills and enough flat bits to keep everyone happy. Well marshalled and taped. It seems like there is a vibrant running scene in Cheltenham with someone to suit everyone. Hoping to try the Parkrun on Saturday.

Mark Davinson

Old County Tops May 19th 2018

The 30th running of this classic pairs race starting and finishing in the Langdale valley at the fabulously named Dungeon Ghyll. Some would describe this event as a nightmare 37 miles, over 10,000 feet of climbing and running with a partner for the whole race. The general idea of the race is to take in the highest peaks in the old counties of Cumberland (Helvellyn), Westmoorland (Scafell Pike) and Lancashire (Coniston Old Man)before returning to Dungeon Ghyll.

The race was a sell out a week in advance with 160 entries sold. As I arrived at 7am the car park was filling up fast. A queue for the mandatory kit check and number collection was twenty metres long. I enjoyed a half hour relaxing in the sunny morning knowing my partner Dawn Metcalfe has a reputation of turning up at the last minute. When Dawn arrived the queue had disappeared. We were able to quickly go through the traditional ritual of tipping a bag full of kit onto a table and showing the marshall hat, gloves, compass, emergency food, whistle, map and waterproof body cover.

At the start we had the usual mix of advice and warning from the race organiser especially in relation to staying hydrated and using the mountain becks for water. We shuffled away along a short road section and immediately began to climb and descend. Four miles later we arrived a the A591 and began the serious climbing up Helvellyn via Dollywaggon Pike and Nethermost Pike. By now the sun was already hot and a few competitors were feeling the heat. After a steady hour climbing we reached the summit and began the descent toward the checkpoint near Thirlmere which was providing water and snacks for breakfast.
helvelly descent Helvellyn Descent

Soon after the creckpoint we crossed the road again and the Derwentside A.C. support crew were there to meet us offering support and encouragement. We began the long trek from Dunmail to Scafell Pike via Angle Tarn. For us a three hour long undulating run across open moorland with few paths and little shade. We were rewarded with fabulous views, scenery and even patches of snow high on the mountains. The climb to Scafell Pike was complicated by the number of walkers, attracted by the warm weather, who were scurrying up and down the mountain like a swarm of ants. There were no tourists on the extremely steep downhill to a nice shallow stream in which we could cool our feet.

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Scafell Pike

Cockley Beck was our next stop with the prospect of more support keeping me going as we traversed heather and bashed through bogs continuing on our way. The checkpoint was another food station and had much needed water.
Jacob and Kent 19 May 2018 Lake District
D.A.C. support crew

By now every injury I have ever had was starting to flare up and I saw sure at least half of my toe nails were falling off but there was still one big climb to go. Coniston Old Man was unchartered territory for me as I had never climbed it before. Instead of steep and rocky it was long and grassy with some runnable tracks in places. I was focused throughout this leg on the decreasing distance to the finish with only a half marathon to go at Cockley Beck. Dawn was pushing me forward and we began to overtake other pairs on both the uphill and downhill sections. It was a relief when we finally reached Coniston Old Man as the major climbs were over.

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Coniston Old Man
After the descent back to road level we were 4 miles away from the end of the race. Dawn strongly suggested we should be able to run the 4 miles in less than 27 minutes so we set off at our quickest pace of the day. Despite our good intentions we finished in 10h05m03s. At the finish we found out fell running royalty Rob Jebb and Ricky Lightfoot had beaten the course record which had stood since 1989.

Overall a magic day out on the fells despite the difficulty of the terrain and the length of the course. Will we be back next year to get under the ten hours? Watch this space.

Mark Davinson
Bob Graham Support May 5th 2018

Despite having less than two hours sleep I was full of energy and looking forward to an early morning half marathon of severe climbing and descending. An early May Saturday morning just before 3am, standing outside the Moot Hall in Keswick while the rest of the country sleeps. A deserted town apart from a few inebriated locals waiting for their taxi home and four fell runners eager to help one of their number join the legendary Bob Graham Club.bg1
Waiting to go In 1932 Bob Graham climbed 42 lakeland peaks in 23 hours 39 minutes to celebrate his 42nd year. For the last 85 years fell runners have tried to emulate the feat of 66 miles and 42 peaks in under 24 hours. Between 1960 and the end of 2017 there had been 2170 successful attempts. The ultimate test of Lake District endurance attracts runners from all over the UK and abroad.

Job description of a Bob Graham (BG) support pacer:
• Carry the safety equipment and food of the person attempting the round so they are lighter and use less energy
• Nag them to eat regularly (usually at half hour intervals) and stick food in their hand when they ignore you as constant feeding is important to keep the body moving
• Keep them up when they are down and grounded when carried away by excitement as both can cost time and energy
• Provide encouragement or advice where needed
• Help navigate on the route so the attempt isn’t derailed by getting lost
• Witness the runner reaching each peak as required by the rules (the person attempting much have at least one other with them at each peak to verify the completion of the round)

I was allocated leg one with an early start to make the most of the daylight throughout the day. Leg 1 is like August and September in the football season, with legs 3 and 4 being the hard winter months when injuries and suspensions hamper the team’s performance. The same as you would never give a team which is top of the league in September the championship a BG runner who successfully completes leg 1 on time still has up to 20 hours hard work left to complete the round. Leg one starts at the Moot Hall in Keswick and takes in Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra before finishing in Threlkeld at the cricket club.
leg1 Leg 1 map

On the day in question we encountered very few problems, enjoyed a beautiful sunrise which was a fabulous orange glow in the dark as we climbed Skiddaw and turned into a fabulous morning by the top of Blencathra. As always descending was harder on the body than ascending and scrambling down Hall’s Fell into Threlkeld gave the legs some relief. Job done for the day and only a couple of minutes behind schedule. After a brief stop for new socks and more food Stuart was away again onto leg 2 of his adventure and I was getting a lift back to Keswick for my journey home.
dawn breaking
Dawn breaking on Skiddaw ridge

Two hours later I was back home watching Stuart’s tracker on the internet and did so for most of the day and night. After a strong first half on his 21 hour finishing schedule he got noticeably slower compared to the predicted times. It was one of the most frustrating nights of my life watching a little dot move extremely slowly around the Lake District. Knowing a year of preparation would come down to a few minutes and a 50/50 chance of success or failure. There was a feeling of helplessness and nothing I could do to help. Stuart finished in 23 hours 46 minutes.

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Mark Davinson

Teenager with Altitude Fell Race April 21st 2018

Most endurance runners look forward to April as an exciting month in the calendar. Light nights for more training, the start of the track and field season and the London Marathon. For me it is time to start getting back onto the Lake District fells. Highlight of the month for the last few years has been the Anniversary Waltz (11.5 miles and 3,600 feet of climbing) and its rather twisted older sibling the Teenager with Altitude (15.4 miles and 7,600 feet of climbing). Both were coming to an end this year after the death of co-organiser Steve Cliff. Steve raised over £750,000 to fight Motor Neurone Disease which took his life in January.

Only three weeks before the race there had been snow on the ground in Stanley. Now the weather was expected to be over 20 degrees throughout the race and only one checkpoint along the route with water. As I filled my bag the night before I was nervous about acclimatising to the heat and studied my map to ensure I knew where the streams where my water bottle could be refilled were located.

We arrived in the beautiful Newlands Valley on a bright sunny morning. Race kit on, sun cream rubbed in and final bag check over I jogged to the race HQ. After the ritual of number collection, kit check and safety briefing the run was underway. After a long walk up Causey Pike in the first mile it was a relief to reach the check point at the top, only to veer from the ridge line down the side of the mountain. Two checkpoints later and an undulating detour we reached Grasmoor the highest peak on the race at 852 feet. After just over two hours I reached the Newlands Hause checkpoint about half an hour before the cut off time and greedily filled my bottle with fresh water.

The second half of the race was more familiar to me, but I began to struggle in the heat and found it much more difficult than other times I have run similar routes. As always, the big climb to Robinson was energy sapping and I needed more water supplies from a slow stream near Dalehead Tarn. I was slowing down and there was nothing I could do about it. I overtook a few of the slower runners completing the Anniversary Waltz on the way to Catbells.
After fifteen miles I could have done without the hundreds of tourists enjoying a day out on Catbells but safely navigated I pushed on down the steep grassy slopes and finished the race in a disappointing 4.25.40 (winner’s time 2.46.54) feeling dehydrated, hungry and drained. My watch said 16.6 miles. I’m not sure where the extra distance came from.
Chauffeur for the day Jason Taylor, who had run the Anniversary Waltz, said I looked awful so job done as far as I’m concerned. I would love to do it again and hope someone else takes it on next year.

Mark Davinson

Headcam race report
Race start (I’m near the back)