I had never heard of the Burnsall Classic Fell race. I always thought running races were full of self-absorbed obsessive types. I had just been out for a gentle hike with my family from Appletreewick to Hebden and back via Burnsall. We had noted the marquees and wondered what was going in.
When I bumped into a runner queuing for the loo who mysteriously told me ‘it’s only a mile and a half, you’ll do it easily’ [how did he know?], I found myself signing up for The Classic. I had no gear with me. No vest, no running shoes. Just my buttoned up casual T-shirt, shorts, hiking boots. ‘You’ll be fine’ the mystery man said.
No vest, no running shoes. Just my buttoned up casual T-shirt, shorts, hiking boots. ‘You’ll be fine’ the mystery man said.
When everyone started running up and down to warm up I began to feel nervous. So I did my own version of a warm up to entertain my daughter, doing funny Edwardian style movements to limber up but more just to have fun. She was as surprised as I was that I had entered a Grade A Fell Race, whatever that is.
They say preparation is everything. In this case, none whatsoever.
So I entered The Burnsall Classic having done no training at all and having never entered a Fell race in my life. I looked at the St Georges flag wafting on the hill top in the distance. I thought at worse I could walk it easily. What amazed me was we did not run to the top of the Fell at all. We just walked it, albeit very quickly. That pleased me no end. I did not even have to run! I was in the way of a few and one or two were getting in my way. I politely asked ‘do you mind letting me through please as I’m almost standing on your ankles’.
When I got to the top it was a different ball game. I’m a pretty good skier and I ride a mountain bike so I just let rip, and quickly found myself stuck behind a line of people floundering down a black peat filled stream almost vertical in places. So I jumped onto to the heather and ran free down the hill. I had no idea that is what the top runners in fact do! But how on earth do they run down the steeper bits? I jumped back on the path and slid down some rocks.
I was now in my element, padding from one rock to the next, hopping, skipping, arms all over the place. One guy had been breathing down my neck the whole descent, as soon as he started to pass me I sped up as fast as I could. I had no idea I was so competitive! [it was a Mr S Carter I learnt later]. He must have been thinking ‘I am not being beaten by some fool in bloody hiking boots!’ Anyhow I kept him at bay. As I dropped from the muddy field onto the final stretch and neared the finishing line, as the crowd cheered and waved us on, which was very exciting, I hit the wall, ran out of steam.
He must have been thinking ‘I am not being beaten by some fool in bloody hiking boots!’
Mr Carter left me for dead! I had put up a good fight but my lack of fitness, lack of training, lack of practice, lack of experience and inability to want to fight through the agony I was experiencing meant Mr Carter beat me by nine seconds. He deserved his position of 107. I was happy to be no 108 as I gasped for pain of breath having ran flat out for 25 minutes for the first time in probably twenty years. Mr Carter came over and shook my hand in appreciation most probably for me spurring him on. What a gent.
Mr Carter came over and shook my hand in appreciation most probably for me spurring him on. What a gent.
It was short sharp fun and it gave me a real kick. As I looked up the fell I was really proud to have taken part and even more so when later I learnt of the races fascinating pedigree and history. I really had entered a classic and nobody had tried to stop me either.
I was amazed how much more effort I had put in - entirely down to the competition. Three days later I could still not walk properly. I thought it was just lactic acid but I had run so hard I had ripped my thigh muscles to shreds. Getting out of bed was extremely painful.
But I’ll be back next year and maybe I’ll put a bit of practice in to avoid the shredding.
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