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Sale Fell race 2023

Date: 25/11/2023

Distance: 3.7miles

Ascent: 900ft

Organiser: Cumberland Fell Runners

Time: 00:37:45

Position: 105/164

Post race cuisine: Brownie

Route description:

A runnable course, mostly on grass with only about 150m or so on road. The beginning is uphill and narrow, so pick your starting position carefully as it will be a while before you have room to overtake. At about mile one, you hit the short section of road, and from there on out, it is wide enough to overtake, until you get to the final 400m. There is only one steep ascent, around two thirds of the way through the course. The navigation gets a bit more tricky when on the open fell, with lots of paths criss-crossing each other, but on a clear day, you can see where the big gap in the wall is, so just follow the paths that lead to that. Overall a very fun, fast and enjoyable fell run.

Five Fateful Feet

I had been leading for the entire race by a colossal margin. The frozen ground steamed and smouldered as I blazed past, a barely noticeable streak. As an incredibly highly gifted athlete, my body was ready for the 3.7miles and 900ft of ascent this race involved. As I reached the final climb, I was confident that I would not only win the race, but also be in the running for the award for the fastest person ever (if such an award existed). I was reaching speeds only perceivable by highly calibrated machinery, when I felt something go wrong. I looked at my watch: 900ft. Panic set in as there was clearly more ascent to go. My body gave in and I staggered, before collapsing and crawling up the final five feet of ascent, my perfectly tuned body, unable to cope with this unforseen occurrence. Subsequently, 104 people overtook me and I ended up at 105th.

Well, that was a lie. Most of it that is, I did come 105th, and there was 905 feet of ascent, but other than that, complete nonsense. Anyway, on to the actual report

It was frosty, my car window took an age to clear, as I scraped it with the lid of a tupperware pot, much to the bemusement of the proper adults around me. Driving over, there were patches of ice on the road, with the aftermath of two car accidents testament to just that. "I will go slow and steady", I thought to myself; which, it turned out, would be the mantra for the entire day. Arriving at Whythop, I parked and walked up to the start point. Much like the previous race in Buttermere, there was an array of highly athletic looking people gathered around as I went to register. I got my number and, after only pricking myself twice, I managed to pin it to my tshirt (go me...). Lining up to listen to the pre race briefing, I felt the rising of pre race nerves. This short, fast course would not play to the strengths of a man who runs everything at 23hr Bob Graham pace.

The race began, and 164 people began the first ascent, made more interesting by the frozen turf. The narrow paths made overtaking near impossible and, while some attempted, I was happy to conserve my (limited) strength and stamina for when the path grew wider. Soon, it did just that, and I gained eight places, as I stretched my legs out and started running at my preferred pace. This is less impressive than it sounds as around ten people overtook me, meaning I was actually down two places, but I felt vaguely accomplished nonetheless. 

The chilly day was warming slightly as we left the shadow of the hill, and I even managed to take my gloves off. I knew the course well, with it being my pre-work run for when I used to work in Keswick, and I knew the main ascent was coming up. As I approached, I was worried I would see a line of runners, not even breaking stride, as they ascended, so I was heartened to see people power walking. I did the same, taking long strides doing what my friend affectionately refers to as my “death march”. Reaching the top, I realised that, alas, I should probably start running again, with it being a fell race and all. I could see way out ahead, and saw a long line of runners stretching off into the distance. The day was clear and fresh, the surrounding fells looking tantalising in the clear winter light. 

The final stretch was the hardest. Not metaphorically, literally; the ground still had not defrosted and the two runners ahead of me fell dramatically, slamming down onto the icy ground. I scuttled carefully over the line, barely even noticing the extra five feet of ascent I had put my body through, withonly one thought on my mind: cake. I grabbed a slice of brownie, slipped into my warm clothes, and watched the remaining finishers cross the line.

The prize giving at the end was a jovial affair. Vouchers for Kong Running, boxes of chocolate and bottles of beer were given out to the winners of each category, with the overall winner getting a rather looking nifty trophy. I noticed his leg was covered in blood, it turns out even the best of us can fall (presuming, that is, it was his own blood). Job done, everyone departed, walking back to their cars talking about the next races they would do. I waddled back to my car (I suffered from an extreme case of chafing during the race, from having tried a new brand of boxer shorts which, I was assured, were designed prevent such an issue), and drove home. 

Sale Fell race 2023

Sale Fell race 2023

A big thank you to Cumberland Fell Runners for the race:

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Left giggling and itching for the fells. And now in the mood for a brownie! Love these blogs

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