12 plucky A&T athletes lined up at the start of the Foe Edge fell race. It promised to be a fairly hilly course with 1000 ft of elevation in 4.1 miles and even the start line was at a 20 degree angle. So, thinking myself clever, I positioned myself at the top edge to be in a straight line with the marker that I could see, to reduce my climbing as much as possible. Only for the race director to add as a last instruction that the group of trees we could see 20 metres ahead was the first marker, meaning that I had to take a line back slightly downwards. The second to last thing he said was that the course was well marked and marshalled, so there would be no chance of going wrong. More on that later!
The race started at a canter, with everyone trying to get to the trees first, though unseen to everyone was an additional obstacle, a muddy ditch just before the trees which caused several stumbles. Then suddenly there were several low branches to negotiate and pinging back in people’s faces, meaning that everyone slowed, with me more than most, as I think I must have lost about 30 places. There was then a 90 degree turn to the left and the first climb. Some of you may have noticed a report in the media earlier this week that Hillary Step, a 12 meter high vertical rock face just before the summit of Everest, has gone missing. I can now confirm that on Wednesday evening it was rediscovered by the A&T expedition team at the bottom of Foe Edge. A combination of walking, crawling, scrabbling and sheer grit were needed to get to the top. By that point I was exhausted and had to will my legs into life again to start them running, I’d also dropped further back in the field, but as my thighs regained feeling and my lungs began to refill with oxygen, slowly I started to reel people in.
This is one of those races looking back, where I can’t really remember much of the detail, just a few specific things. Most of it was on trails, some of them quite rocky, but mostly it was quite runnable. I remember going up a couple more rises before hitting the top of a hill with a cross on it and descending down to another trail. It was at this point that the race director’s words came back to haunt the leading pair, who were quite far ahead of everyone else and for some reason decided to veer off to the left and must have been about 20 metres up a steep hill before being called back down. By this point I’d made my way up to 11th place, was unexpectedly going well and we were in a group that had broken away from the rest, into which I was expecting to make some inroads. Another descent and another rise, then onto some dried-up moorland, which was an opportunity for me to take a few more places and found myself overtaking into 5th place, with a gap opening behind and 4th in my sights. Again we veered off to the left, this time down a sharp bank aiming for a course marker, only to get to the bottom and hear shouts that we had gone the wrong way. The 4 in front just carried on, but myself and the guy in 6th dithered a bit, but a sense of fair play meant that we retraced our steps to ensure we covered the full course. That detour meant that a group of runners I’d spent the last 2 miles catching up, overtook us and left us gapped, in around 15th or 16th place. At this point I gave up a bit and just decided to trot back to the finish, keeping in touch with the group ahead, but not really racing. My fellow lost companion decided to push on and eventually caught the group and started to overtake some of them.
It was mostly downhill now down rough trails with a few turns, and without intent, I found that I’d more or less caught up with a guy from Horwich who’d dropped off the back of the group I’d been tracking. We were within about half a mile of the end and that group disappeared off the brow of a hill. They’d gone the wrong way and needed to track across some rough land to rejoin the path that we were following. I don’t think they went any further, but we overtook that whole group again and I went back into race mode to make the most of their mistake, which in my mind was karma my own earlier error and left me guilt-free. It was all downhill, so I battered the last bit, with a sprint finish down the steepest finish I’ve ever experienced, think Marls Pit hill x10 and with a line of rocks in the middle of it, my heels were on fire when I crossed the line. It made for a great place to watch people come home, with some racing down and others picking themselves carefully down to the finish.
We had some fantastic performances on a difficult course, with myself and Brendan picking up age group prizes, but kudos to anyone tackling it and surviving! We’re also doing fantastically well in the Run the Moors age group champs. To pick out a few we have Anthony in 1st, Rachel in 2nd, Kay in 4th, me, Neil and Simon in 3rd, 4th, 5th. Overall Carl is 7th and Rachel 8th. I reckon we’ll see some prizes at the end of the season, go A&T!The next race is Knowl Hill on Sunday 11th June. Slightly longer than Foe Edge, but less steep!