Curbar Commotion Fell Race – A million miles from London 2018

Two days prior to this race Id received some very exciting news, something I wasn’t expecting at all…….Id won the chance to run in next years London Marathon!!

As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy road running, doesn’t run much further than 10 miles, and races 2 or 3 times a month, running a marathon isn’t something I’m interested in at all. However, seeing posts on Instagram of people taking part in London earlier this year made me jealous, not for the actual 26 mile run but the atmosphere that surrounds the event and the community…..I wanted to taste that.

I applied for a place through the ballot, knowing the chances we’re slim but just trying my luck anyway. Id resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t get in and forgotten all about it until I started seeing all the disappointed posts on Instagram of the unfortunate people who hadn’t got in this time. It was then when I checked my emails, and was completely shocked when I sore the email saying I had been successful in the ballot! I was speechless and continued to be for days after, I was buzzing with the news and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Curbar fell start

Two days on and I’m back in familiar surroundings, stood on the start line of a 10 mile race around a very wet and muddy Peak District, about to spend over an hour slipping and sliding on very boggy terrain and climbing nearly 1400ft…….this couldn’t be any further away from the London Marathon if you tried, but this is me and what I love doing more than anything.

I didn’t feel particularly up for the race beforehand but there’s not many races I do to be honest, I always feel a little tired and unprepared before most races I do. I positioned myself near the front as usual though and was ready to attack it like I attack all my races, and that’s to run hard and keep up with the top 10 if I can.

For the first 1/4 mile it went to plan and I was running with all the usual faces that I compete with, but then I started flagging slightly and dropping off the pace of the others which was worrying so early on. About 2 miles in and I noticed that the runners that I try and keep with and usual spend all race jostling with were gone, already pretty much out of touching distance.

I was running on my own the for a few miles as we made our way up to the summit, just being able to see the pack I wanted to be but knowing I wasn’t going to get them. Then from nowhere, two other runners came past me, which gave me a kick up the arse to push myself more and try and keep with them. For some reason though I had nothing to give on the climbs, and the two runners slowly left me behind. This started playing on my mind and I was beating myself up and starting to lose confidence. My strength in fell running is the downhills, its here where I make up time and positions, but the course doesn’t really have any long downhills so it didn’t play to strengths and I was struggling.

As we came into the last mile we had left the mud and bogs behind and had hit the tarmac, which was the terrain for the final leg back to the finish. I could hear more footsteps behind me which really pushed me on, as after the race I’d had the last thing I wanted was to lose more places. With about 1/2 mile remaining we came on to the main road where the finish was, so it was a fast flat finish. The footsteps I could hear behind me soon started passing me, I could feel my shoulders slump as he went past as I was gutted Id lost another place. I wasn’t having this again though, I was getting that place back!! seeing the finish line about 200 meters ahead I put the afterburners on, stretching the legs and pushing the shoulders back, a glided past him and raced ahead. I just wish Id of had that strength and determination 6 miles ago.

Curbar fell results

As I came through the finish line I was spent, physically and mentally exhausted. Not for a long time have I had a race like that where I have argued with myself all the way round, putting myself down and getting frustrated. I congratulated all the other runners that had finished in front of me and had our usual analysis of the race for a few minutes whilst we waited for the results to be posted up. To my utter surprise when the results were shown, Id finished 20th and in 1:13:39, which was quite an improvement on last years result at this race. The result made me feel a little better about the race as I was ready to forget about it and wipe it from my memory, although the result was better than last year and what I was expecting, I was still unhappy that I wasn’t further up the field with the runners I’m usually with, and disappointed with how I couldn’t attack the course like I wanted to.

Regardless of this I still enjoyed the race, its a great course and the wet and muddy conditions made it an exciting race, I just need to improve on my hills and get stronger. Its fair to say that I didn’t think about London once on this run, and I haven’t thought about it much since either. I know I’m going to love taking part in the marathon and being involved in it all, but for me its all about fell running and training to get better at this, as this is my domain and what I want to progress at. Time to knuckle down and get stronger for the next one in a couple of weeks.

Longshaw Fell Race 2017- The reason I love fell running

With just over two years experience of fell running, and only 39 races under my belt, I’m still relatively fresh to the whole ‘fell running scene’, but out of those 39 races Iv competed in I can safely say that this was one of my favourites. Apart from two, Iv come away from every event Iv attended with a big smile on my face and a huge feeling of accomplishment, and those two exceptions were only because I had a nightmare of a run. I can think of a few different events where I have enjoyed the course more than Longshaw, but this event just had everything that makes fell running the amazing sport it is, and the reason why its the only genre of running I’m interested it.

To set the tone of the day, it was wet!……very wet……and cold! It was hard to believe that September was only a week old as we tried manoeuvre the car on a mud bath of a car park, whilst the rain bounced off of the windscreen. With it been a Sheepdog Trials event and stalls etc on we decided to all go as a family to this one, so whilst Paul (father in law) and I ran the girls could have a walk around and enjoy the show, but the good old British weather had other plans. Luckily for the girls they could just sit in the car, but I choose this sport as a hobby, so I had to put my shorts and vest on and brave the cold and wet climate.

longshaw fell race 3
Me with about 2 miles left

Once you get out there and start running though you soon warm up and forget about the rain, you’ve got more important things to worry about, like trying to skip over rocks and miss deep bogs than worry about the rain. This particular course is quite fast compared to other fell races Iv done as it didn’t have the big climbs that some have, that’s not to say it didn’t have any though as there was one beauty of a climb 3.5 miles in, but apart from that though it was quite an undulating course. The wet conditions made it a little trickier than normal as the stones and rocks which covered most paths were slippery, and some puddles were a lot deeper than what you’d expect a puddle to be once you’d put your foot in it. On a personal note with the run, I didn’t feel like Id ran my best. I felt like I was a little off of the pace on this occasion, and runners that I’m normally racing alongside seemed to be a lot further in front of me and finished quite a way ahead. However, I still think I finished in the top 15 (no results as yet) which I’ll be more than happy with if I did, and hopefully my time won’t be too much off of the leaders so my points are good, as your points are rewarded with how many seconds/minutes you are behind the winner. I look forward to the results to see how Iv got on.

 

Longshaw fell race 2
Spectators cheering home the finishers

Racing aside, the best bit of the day was the post race atmosphere and the main reason why I wanted to share the event with you. Like I said earlier, Iv done 39 races now and everyone apart from a couple have been great experiences, and even those two bad races I had, the atmosphere was still amazing. I know that running in general is a great community, whether its road running, trail running, track, or us fell runners, everybody is really friendly and always sociable. I just feel though that the fell running community has that something special, that something that separates it from the rest, and Longshaw had it in abundance on Saturday morning.

Every race I go to I see and race against the same old faces, from all different running clubs and from different parts of the Sheffield and surrounding areas, and as time has gone on Iv got to know them and made some good friends. I must of spent an hour after yesterdays race just going around talking to different people, some giving me advice I ask for, some wanting advice from me, and others just having a catch up with…..I love it. There’s something about being in the countryside too, the good outdoors! Even though it was pouring down with rain most of the day and it was cold, everybody from runners to spectators were walking around and mingling, just enjoying the atmosphere and surroundings. People from this part of the world seem so much more light minded, relaxed, like they don’t have a care in the world, and this comes across at fell race events.

family
The end of another amazing day with my family

I know I’m probably being biased, and I do have some great friends that Iv made at road running and parkrun events, I just feel the fell running community is like a proper family, and I feel so privileged to be apart of it. Longshaw Fell Race might of been wet, cold, and bloody tough to run, but I loved every second of it!

Beaten by a man in a dress! – Only at Trunce

Firstly, for those unfamiliar with the Trunce fell races, here’s a little info on the 50 year old classic fell race. Trunce is a series of 9 races that are held across the summer months every year, roughly 3 weeks apart. They are always on a Monday evening, and every race is the exact same route, which is a 3.7 mile course set in Oxspring, Peak District. With it only being a short race, and only having a couple of climbs, its quite a fast course, however the with 558ft of climbing throughout the 3.7 miles, those couple of climbs take some powering up. Its a great race though, a real adventure, crossing the River Don and some narrow fast woodland descents its good fun. With it being a series there obviously comes a league and points system. You get points for finishing in the top 20, but also get points for getting PBs, the number of points is reflected on home many seconds you take off of your previous time, so it can become quite technical as you try and get PBs every race.

trunce number
My race number

Now, with the race explained I can talk about last nights meeting, and the final one of the series. Its tradition every year that for the final race of the series runners race in fancy dress, not everyone participates in the light hearted fun and just run in their standard attire, me being one of them. Thankfully not everyone is as boring or serious as me, and yesterdays meeting produced some great outfits, from a lollipop man to four nurses carrying a dummy on a stretcher. Fair play to all those that took part in costumes though, its hard enough running through the River Don in shorts and a vest, I can’t imagine how tough it is with a long fluorescent jacket on and a 6ft lollipop stick in your hand! It all made for a great atmosphere though and a great send off to this years series.

As the few hundred runners lined up for the start of the race, I got my self in position at the front of the pack, as 1/2 mile down into the race and the path narrows to single file so you need to try and get into a good position before you hit that. As always its a fast start, as the leaders sprint off down the trail jostling for position. The pace of the start always catches me out as after about 400 meters I can’t imagine being able to keep that sort of pace up for another 3 miles, but somehow I do. I managed to hit the single file paths in 8th position which is about the position I usually am at this point in the race. There was a bit of exchanging of positions but I stayed in 8th all the way through the woodland section and until we got up onto the roads.

Once we hit the road I managed to open my legs up a bit and up the pace, I was feeling stronger than I thought I was going to be and managed to pass a couple of runners and up into 4th. We then hit our first ascent, and for the first time ever on this course, I managed to run it hard and actually pull away from the runners behind me a little and give myself a bit of breathing space. As the route levelled out and again and started heading back into the woods, I could see 3rd place (a man in a floral dress) but he was quite away ahead of me and even at the half way point where we were now, Id assigned myself to the fact I wasn’t going finish higher than 4th. The job for me now was push as hard as possible, try and stay in 4th and aim for that PB.

Trunce round 9
First road section Photo credit – Steve Frith

As we come out of the woods we were back on the road, and with it been a flat path its here where you need to push on and make some time up. I ran it well but could hear the tiny sounds of pitter pattering feet behind me getting closer, so although I was running my hardest I wasn’t quite hard enough. As the road went on I managed to just stay in front of the couple of runners behind me, and as we headed back into the woods for the final time, and once last climb, I felt confident my climbing was strong enough to hold onto 4th place. There is still one last flat trail to the finish line once I get out of those woods though and I was aware that the runners behind me were probably going to gain on me again, so I had to attack that last climb. I didn’t attack with the quite venom I would of liked to but it is always a hard one at that stage in the race, tired legs and heavy breathing aren’t the best physical attributes to run up hill. I did manage to steadily run it though, even if it was just a little faster than walking pace at times, and I came out of the top of it still in 4th place. Now with just 1/2 mile of flat trail until the finish line, and 5th place just behind me, I had to give it one last push.

I hadn’t looked at my watch for an indication of what sort of time I was on at all at this point, I purposely told myself to ignore as it might of put me off. At the end of the day, just like everyone that takes part in running races, you run it as hard as you can and to the best of your ability, and you can’t do anymore than that really. As I ran down the final lane I could still hear 5th place behind me, I wasn’t going to look to see where he was as Iv always told myself to focus on what’s in front, not what’s behind. With about 200 metres to the finish the track bares right slightly onto the home straight, and as I turned around the corner I just caught a glimpse of an orange vest, so I know I still had work to do. Now, blowing like a steam train and legs like jelly the last thing I wanted was a sprint finish, but knowing there’s a man in an orange vest right behind me and the chance of a possible PB on I had to open them legs up. I took a quick glance at my watch at this point and that was all the motivation I needed……a PB was possible!

Trunce, paul finish
Paul heading for the finish line strongly

I felt like I was going to trip up with every stride as I sprinted for the line, my legs were shot but I was dying for that PB…..a sub 25mins was possible. As I closed in on the finish line I couldn’t hear any feet behind me, so I assumed Id done enough to claim 4th place, but it was all about the time now. Focusing just on the finish I raised my finger to my watch, ready to press stop as soon as I passed the line…….’click’……..straight away I looked at the watch face……25:09! Although I was aiming for sub 25mins just 30 seconds previous, it was still 5 seconds faster than my previous best at Trunce and I would of taken that prior to the race. Absolutely exhausted and legs gone, I stood with the first three finishes (all looking like they’d just been for a stroll around the park) not saying a word, with my hands on my knees bent over. A few moments passed and I too got my breath back and felt more human, and managed to congratulate the three in front of me. I still couldn’t believe though that Id ran that hard and what I felt was strong, and got beat by a man in a dress!! Buzzing with my result though I headed back up towards the last 100 metres mark of the home straight to greet home my father in law (pictured). Prior to the run Paul said he wasn’t feeling up for the race at all, after a weeks holiday in the alps drinking premium lager and still suffering from a slight cold. However, just when I wasn’t expecting it Paul came around the corner and onto the finish straight, looking strong and comfortable. He ended up finishing just a few seconds off of his PB time which was shock to us both after his earlier comments before the race, so he too was on a high.

Its a shame it was the last Trunce of the year, I really do enjoy this little course. I’m already looking forward to getting back out there next year, and hopefully after a good winter of training and bigger races, I’ll come back even stronger and faster. Thanks to all those involved for another great year of Trunce, and I’ll see you next year.

Where it all began

After months of deliberation and putting it off, Iv finally got around to starting up my blog…..and here it is!! Its on here where I’ll share my running stories, mainly of fell races I take part in but also any other events I think might make for an interesting read. First of all though I want to just give you a little insight into how I got into running, and how Iv got to where I am now with it……

So, I suppose the only place to start is the beginning, and how I got into running in the first place.

Obviously I ran at school, I didn’t have a choice in that, but as it happens I did really enjoy but just never pursued it any further as the only thing I was really interested in was playing football. Flash forward 13 years and to the year 2014, and this was the year my fiancée (we’ll call her Katie, as that’s her name) and I moved into our first home together. This might sound irrelevant but this is where my running journey started. Katie had been running for years, she’d been a member of the local athletics club when she was younger, and although she didn’t run competitively anymore she still enjoyed going out for runs around our village, and this is where I come in. I decided to join Katie for a short 2 mile run one evening in the summer of 2014 and didn’t enjoy it one bit! I felt tired, out of breath, and just generally unfit which put me off. Katie did persuade me to go out with her again over the summer months but I wasn’t digging it, it wasn’t for me and I was just doing it to accompany her………but then I tried Parkrun!

January 2015, and like every New Year most of us make New Years resolutions, and mine was to start running and get fit. Katie’s dad (also a runner) informed Katie and I of Parkrun as we’d not been aware of it, and gave us all the details on how to register and where the local run was. A few days later Katie and I, along with her dad, were lined up at our local Parkrun and ready to run. I was wearing a pair of trainers leant to me, a pair of football shorts, and a walking jacket……I couldn’t of looked less like a runner if Id have tried. Appearances aside though, I thoroughly enjoyed the run, finding it so much more interesting and rewarding than just running around the streets. I ran just over 25mins that day, which for a first time I think I did alright.  first parkrun

As the weeks and months went on I was at the local park most Saturday mornings, 8:30am prompt ready to run! The outfit got better, and times came tumbling down. After just three months I was running sub 20mins and finishing high up the field. I know Parkrun isn’t a race, its an event organised to get all abilities out exercising, its an amazing thing. However, I’m super competitive and treat it like a race, and just want run as fast as I can and beat as many people as I can, getting as quick a times as possible along the way. In just four months Id gone from not enjoying running at all, to wanting to represent the Uk in Rio 2016. Come April though, things changed a little…..

It was my 30th birthday, and as a gift from Katie, her sister, and parents, I received a pair of bright orange inov-8 fell shoes. I didn’t even know what fell running was at the time, Id just heard Katie’s dad (its about time I introduced him now instead of calling him ‘Katie’s dad…..Paul, his names Paul) talk about it as he’d done a few races. It sounded fun though, and the trainers looked amazing, so I was ready to leave the paths and roads and head for the countryside, and give this fell running a bash.

Just a few weeks later and Paul and I were heading to the Peak District, spanking new trainers in hand and a pair of the shortest shorts Iv ever worn. I didn’t have a clue what I was letting myself in for as I didn’t even know what the sport entailed, it was very unnerving. The race was Bamford Sheepdog Trials, which is a 4.5 mile race up Win Hill, which is around 450m high!!!! That’s roughly 450m higher than anything Id ever ran up before!! It was hard, really hard, I remember talking to myself as I climbed up the hill, saying “what am I doing”. Once at the top though the views alone made it all worth while, it was spectacular, but before you can take it all in you’re on the decent…..the fun bit. It was this exact moment that got me addicted fell running, the buzz and excitement of running down hill fast. I was 10 years old again! I was absolutely buzzing after the race, knackered, but buzzing. I had no interest in road running from that day, Rio 2016 was off, I wanted to be a fell runner.bamford fell photo

After Bamford I was on the hunt for more fell races, and with Paul we went on the hunt. We didn’t get to many that year really, we only managed probably another 6 or 7. I was still doing Parkruns regularly and training well though so I was keeping my feet in (pardon the pun), but I wanted to be in the hills more. As 2016 came around we were getting to the Peak District more often, taking part in races every other month. My results got better and better and I was starting to get to know some of the faces, as the fell running community is very close. Its a great environment to be in, the people are great, the areas we run in are out of this world, and there’s cracking little pubs.

Away from the fells and my Parkrun times where getting better too, I was now running sub 19s, even hitting 18:34 after just 16 months of being running. Id fell in love with the sport at this point and was thinking about it more and more, about how to train to get faster and stronger. I don’t really enjoy training though, I find it a choir and boring at times, but I know it has to be done to get to where I want to be so plug away at it.

Advance 12 months and to the present day. Iv got my Parkrun time down to 17:34, and I’m getting to a fell race with Paul at least once a month. I’m really happy with where Iv come with it, especially the fell running. There’s some very strong and fast runners at these races and I’m slowly getting on their tails, finishing right at the top end of the field and in good times. Iv got a hell of a lot to learn though as I’m only scratching the surface of the sport, there’s races Id love to do but I’m nowhere near that level yet…….one day though!Paul and I.JPGSo that’s how it all started, and how I got to where I am now. I owe a lot to Katie for getting me into running, those tough runs around the village that I hated gave me the taste, but I also have Paul to thank, for introducing me into the sport which Iv fell in love with. Paul and I make pretty much every race together, its a sport we both have a passion for and its great to have some one to share the enthusiasm with. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading my future blogs about races and share the enthusiasm with us.