Sheep Suffer

Tebay Fell Race 2012

Driving through Grayrigg last night, yet again i found myself charging around with a feeling of being late. A mad-dash to and from Manchester again for work was promply being followed by another mad-dash to get across to Tebay.

After a slightly stuttering start, Carl Bell shot off to be practically out of sight within a few hundred yards. I was still taking my windtop off and stuffing it into my bumbag when the horn blew. I settled into some kind of rhythymn as I sat uneasily behind another couple of runners.

After taking a rolling tumble through the tussocks as i descended from Uldale Head I looked ahead, this cant be right I thought, where’s all the other runners? I kept descending, following another runner out front, until just above the valley floor, the far right hillside came into view. Some 300 yards across to my right a snaking line of runners could be seen. I’d gone the wrong way.

I kicked myself for following others, made a beeline for those runners who had been behind and were now ahead and set about trying to claw back my lost places. A mixture of running and hands on thighs stomping brought me onto a fast sheep trod that traversed up and around Black Force. I was right behind one of the Eden Valley runners who had narrowly beaten me at Ennderdale a few weeks ago until I passed him on the ascent to Checkpoint 3 on the summit of Linghaw. From here it was a very fast descending run down an obvious and wide grassy trod towards Carlingill Beck.

Crossing the shallow waters of the beck, I could see the outline of one of the frontrunners disappearing off the summit above. Between them and me lay ten or so other runners and a brutally steep 280 metres of calf wrenching ascent. My run quickly degenerated into a hunched over stomp as I stared fixated on the skyline above.

Eventually the steep ground eased and I came onto the open summit of Blease Fell, luckily I’d not made a beeline for the first marshall to come into view since he was some 100 yards to the right of the checkpoint where another marshall sat. ‘It’s all downhill from here’ was the reassuring comment from the marshall as I felt my stride opening up. What he forgot to mention was it was still the best part of 3 miles to the finish.

I avoided the temptation to look behind as I began the fast descent down to Powson Knott, instead I chose to retain a mental state of near paranoia about being caught and ran as fast as i could, all the time knowing that there had been a chasing pack just a hundred yards or so behind on the climb to Blease Fell, with that pack containing some very capable runners, and at least one who, on the road at least, should be able to quite comfortably outrun me.

A series of rising brows revealed yet more whalebacked ridgeline as I neared Tebay. Ahead I could see the pack of runners ahead splitting, I pulled out my map, I wasnt going to screw up the racing line again. Running dead ahead, I momentarily left the grassy track and powered across a series of boggy tussocks before picking up a gravel track that ran parallel to Tebay Gill before finally dropping into Tebay itself and the quiet applause of a few hardy spectators.

Distance: 13km / 8.1 miles Ascent: 914m / 3000ft Time: 1 hour 23 minutes Position: 15th

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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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