In the farmers field opposite The Scafell Hotel in Rosthwaite, a few miles outside of Keswick, a few hundred fellrunners assemble for the start of what is considered a classic Lakeland Fell Race, The Borrowdale. 17 miles long with 6500 ft of climbs. Time for a few hours of fun on the fells, and any race that starts and finishes outside a pub gets the thumbs up from me.
An hour before the start and its belting down with rain, looking at the surrounding mountains shrouded in mist and clag I can’t help but think its going to be a bleak day ahead. Thankfully by the 11 o’cock and the start of the race, the rain has moved on, and we are greeted with good running conditions, if a bit soggy underfoot.
The first mile or so is reasonably flat along a rocky path before the sharp climb up to the first checkpoint, Bessyboot summit. From there its a long slog across to Esk Hause, this seemed an eternity as we had to contend with tussocks, rocks, bogs, and the ocasional dead sheep.
From here it follows the walkers path up to Scafell Pike and its boulder strewn summit. The rocks are still very wet and slippery so got to take extra care. We dib in at the summit then double back on ourselves and head for the corridor route via the scree path. The scree is unbelievable, my favourite few minutes of running in a long while. With each step the scree shifts under our feet and carries us further down the mountain with no extra effort, loved it. This is over far too soon though and were soon back on typical rocky Lakeland terrain along the corridor route, easy to come a cropper on here to got to be careful.
The next checkpoint at Styhead stretcherbox soon comes into view, and before we know it were heading for the steep path up Great Gable. Its head down and hands on knees for the next half hour or so, pausing every now and then to get my breath back and glance back at the amazing views over the Scafell range. Sweating like a pig we reach the summit and then head north-east heading for Honister Slate Mine. I lose my bearing here a little and veer away from the race line, not too far off course, but lose a few minutes. At Honister so glad to get some more water and the kids handing out jelly babies was a godsend.
Now theres just one more summit to go, Dale Head, my toughest climb of the day. Legs knackered now and this climb seems to go on forever. Finally dib in at the top and head off in the direction of Rosthwaite.
Through the slate quarry and can now hear the tannoy in the distant finish field. Thought I was quite close but 10 minutes later I can still hear it in the distance, doesnt sound any closer. Eventually reach the valley bottom, cross the river and head for the finish field. Good to get a name check as I came running in, feeling knackered but dead chuffed to finish in one piece uninjured, even got a handshake off fellrunning legend Billy Bland, course record holder. I finished towards the back of the field in a fraction over 5hrs, thought I could’ve done quicker but nevermind.
Sitting in the pub afterwards, amongst some of the elite of this fell racing scene, it got me thinking that I’m pretty crap at this fellrunning lark, especially the Lakeland ones, always finishing nearer the back than the front. But thats doesnt really matter, dont get me wrong I’d love to be nearer the front, but without training on that sort of terrain regularly I dont stand a chance. I just enjoy a good day out in the mountains, pushing myself against the unforgiving terrain and often unpredictable weather, but always surrounded by breathtaking scenery. I do try to be quicker but to be honest I’m just pleased to get round inside the cut-off times and hopefully get round the course unscathed, and thankfully this time I managed both. Roll on the next one!