Dockray – Hartside Fell Race

Wednesday night saw my second mid-week fell race of the season.

Dockray is a less well known and less frequented corner of the Lake District, lying on the A5091 just to the north of Ullswater between Glenridding and Troutbeck.

I arrived with 5 minutes to spare following a spirited drive from Manchester where I had been working that day. It wasn’t the ideal preparation, I handed my money to Joe, quickly threw my running shoes on and jogged along the road towards the Royal Hotel and the start of the race. That would have to suffice as my warm-up.

The race began on a sombre note, with a minutes silence, held following the tragic death the previous weekend of a fell runner competing in this years Buttermere Sailbeck race, as was noted a reminder to us all that running around the mountains is never without it’s risks. Following a round of applause it was back to business.

The race began with a long, gradually rising ascent up the tarmac lane that led to the open fellside. Already the leading guys were pulling out ahead, I could spot the vests of Carl Bell as well Tom Gibbs up ahead. My legs felt a little tired but not horrendous, and I slotted in amongst one of the following packs. Reaching a minor T-junction and we left the road and initially followed a distinct trod up onto the fell. The further we went the more indistinct it became and the more numerous the possible racing lines. I’d never ran this course, had little idea which were the faster lines, all I could do was rely on my interpretation of the ground ahead, if I could see far enough, or simply follow someone else in front. By the end of the race, this on the hoof tactic was to have cost me valuable time and places.

The route is a much rougher, much wetter course than the fast high mountain courses I had been running lately. This was back to proper mountain and fell running, undulating tussocks, boggy ground and the opportunity to fall over at every other pace.

By the time I reached the first checkpoint of Highbrow, the leading pack was already stringing itself out, I took an ok, but possibly not the fastest line down towards the beck before climbing once again back towards Hartside. But it was coming off Hartside where I lost the most time, quite literally not knowing where I was going and with no time to consult the map, I was forced to slow the pace and follow the nearest fellow runner north-west. It was rough on the descent, I fell over once, rolling through the tussocks and came to grief almost on several more occasions. Again a poor choice of line gave the chance for two more runners to draw level.

The final checkpoint was Common Fell, the slight incline gave me the chance to lose a couple of the group thronging around me and then it was a case of who could run down through the rough ground fast enough. Initially I thought I wouldnt be able to make up ground but as I descended I could feel the legs relax, my stride open up and before I knew it I was in front again. Desperately trying to stay upright I ran flat out to the finish line.

I realised I’d missed out on a top ten finish by a whisker. Still it wasn’t a bad result all things considered.

Distance: 10km Ascent: 800m Time. 56 minutes 33 seconds. Position: 11th


About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
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