Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race Report
Don’t panic! As I sat on the edge of an unnamed crag just off Bow fell, slightly lost having stupidly followed someone off the peak too soon, and clutching my cramping calf in the driving wind and spiky rain, it occurred to me that a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy, along with a warm, reassuring towel, were exactly what I needed. Although if I’m honest, the way I was feeling, a Vogon Destructor fleet would have been equally welcome at that point. However, none of these things were available to me, so I dragged myself off the ground and started to clamber my way around the edge of the mountain over the slippery boulders and scree to get back on track. Visibility was poor, so sighting on landmarks was virtually impossible, but I eventually traversed and slithered my way around to Three Tarns and was on my way to Crinkle Crags, having doubled back for the number check.
As I rejoined the race at around the halfway point it was clear that I had slipped back significantly in the standings and my mood started to match that of Marvin the Paranoid Android as I limped along, almost being blown over a couple of times, with the wind spraying the rain off the rocks into my face and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself. The conditions were biblical, the lovely stream that we had seen on our recce the previous week had turned into an impassable raging torrent which had meant a detour around the far shore of a tarn, and the traverse from Esk Hause had been like walking a tightrope whilst wearing roller skates. I was determined to get back on track as we got over Crinkle Crags, although with cramp in my legs there was a little trepidation in my mind about the upcoming “Bad Step” which is a drop of around 10ft that I had struggled with the previous week on our recce in dry weather. However, I was in a group of around 15 runners and allowed myself to be taken off to the right, “Great”, I thought, “someone knows the way around Bad Step”. A few moments later I realised that we’d gone the wrong way as 15 people simultaneously stopped to get out their map and compass. We’d dropped quite a way off the mountain at this stage and I pulled out my own compass to realise that we were travelling North, when we should have been going South. D’oh! I did a 180 degree turn and 15 people then followed me like sheep as I confidently led us to a certain doom down a narrow and steep ravine. Large tumbling rocks chased us down at high speed. These were ankle breakers and we were lucky that nobody ended up getting hurt in our haste, but we all got safely to the bottom and were now able to traverse across to the main route, although for some reason some of them doubted my leadership and were last seen heading in the opposite direction towards Eskdale. This section of my Strava looks a little like the fiddly bits around the Norwegian fjords, but I wasn't winning any awards.
Joining back with the race I’d dropped even further back amongst the back markers, but I now knew exactly where I was and was confident I knew the way back, so I made like a Ford Prefect, racing down the last couple of descents and over Pike O’ Blisco, overtaking about 30 or 40 runners in the last couple of miles and experiencing my all-time favourite bit of my fell-running career, where I slid on my bum at high speed about 150 yards down a grassy bank. Great fun and quicker than running!
I eventually finished in 142nd place in 3:56:09, where a nervous and chilly Simon waited having finished 45 minutes earlier in 60th place and 3:10:09. We then both waited nervously for Ian, who about 25 minutes later it turned out had been even more navigationally challenged than myself, travelling an extra 3 miles (following a guy who’d done the race 4 times before!) but missing the last checkpoint and therefore being one of 62 DNFs out of a field of 242 that started the race, less than half the 500+ that had originally entered online.
And my apologies for the long report, the infinite improbability drive was in full effect with so many memorable moments, I haven’t even mentioned needing to be dragged out of a bog having got stuck waist-deep, or Ian’s adventures wading through swollen rivers, or the flooded campsite and roads, or soya milk flat whites, or the heroic marshalls in their tiny tents, or the guy who did a perfect parachute roll in front of me down a hillside, or the multiple conversations with fellow racers, or nearly breaking my leg between 2 rocks, or the deepest clearest pool of water ever seen (and nearly fallen into), or the mysterious scratches all over my legs, or Nicky Spinks almost being washed away by a stream, or the rain feeling like needles on my tongue, or the weird pies that tasted amazing at the end. So well done to anyone who got around that course, it was a difficult but fantastic race and as Ian said afterwards, we’ve unfinished business, so I’m sure I’ll be back to try to conquer it next year.
The final A&T Fell Champs tables have now been uploaded to the website and to Facebook, it’s been another brilliant season and thanks to everyone who has taken part this year.