Through the clag above Dockray

Dockray-Great Dodd Fell Race

It took some considerable motivation to race last night but I was glad I did. The weather has seemed eternally demotivating the past few weeks, with incessant low cloud, drizzle and heavy rain, midsummer has felt a long way off.

I dithered beyond belief before race star started as I agonised over whether it was warm enough to just wear my running vest. Looking at the low cloud, I opted for a long sleeved top also. After the short warm-up ruto into Dockray, I changed my mind and opted back to just a vest, I would now have to carry my long sleeved top.

The run out of Dockray was hard, but I felt pretty good and the legs pretty relaxed, Ben Bardsley established the early pace before Kim Collison and Carl Bell took the lead. By the time I reached the first checkpoint on High Brow my legs were feeling heavy. The ground, saturated and water laden following the last few weeks of heavy rain, was calf sapping. I was jostling for places with 3 others, in the second chasing pack behind the front runners. Behind us, there was already some distance to the rest of the field.

As we neared the summit of Great Dodd, we became immersed in low cloud. The visibility rapidly fell to no more than 20 metres. At this point it became quite clear to me that the Borrowdale runner (I would later realise this was Gavin Bland) knew where he was going, I didn’t want to have to navigate this course and so realised I needed to stick with him.

It was a fast, murky and at times damp traverse round Watsons Dodd, sloshing through boggy ground before picking up the main, well worn path towards Stybarrow Dodd. At first it was a struggle but I managed to maintain my running pace over Stybarrow Dodd before a fast descent opened up eastwards. At the same time there was a temporary pocket of higher cloud and I could see the front runners skirting round towards Hart Side.

Dropping off Hartside I was temporarily alone as our small group split, the Keswick and Wharfedale runner veering further left as Gavin and myself stuck farther right before I took a line somewhere between the two as we raced through the thick clag down towards Little Aira Beck.

We were now in the closing stages of the race, a short climb through thick tussocks brought me onto the obvious trod that led to the final summit and checkpoint on Common Fell. A courteous point in the right direction from the marshalls and it was a quick final descent down to Dockray.

At the finish, there was various mutterings about Carl Bell having gone astray and indeed he was nowhere to be seen, despite having been one of the lead run going upto upto Great Dodd. A few minutes later, he appeared, clearly quite miffed having been ‘followed by the clag’ all the way around, he had made a few navigational errors and ran considerably further than the 15km course!

Distance: 15km / 9.3 miles Ascent: 1100m/ 3609ft

Time: 1 hr 24 Position: 13th

Dockray Series 2012: Overall 5th


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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