Clay Bank East Fell Race: Saturday 5th January 2014: My First Fell Race Experience
Most of my running is spent on the trails. I particularly enjoy hills, and I know climbing is definitely my strong point. Despite loving long training runs, I often find myself getting bored, agitated, or just losing willpower during long distance races.
As such, it would seem logical that fell running is probably what I would enjoy most. Plenty of climbing, usually short distance (sub 10-mile), and all off-road. So I rocked up at Clay Bank car park (just outside of Great Broughton), registered membership for the Esk Valley Fell Runner’s Club, and entered into the Clay Bank East Fell Race, a 5.7 mile loop with 1,007ft of elevation, taking in the highest point in the North York Moors (Round Hill Trig).
It was freezing (-1C) at the start line, and I had already lost feeling in my toes. Fifteen minutes later, we made our way to the start line, half-way up Clay Bank, very exposed to the ice-cold wind.
A casual start caught most of us off guard, and before we knew it, we were charging up the hill. I had spotted a gate not too far ahead, and fearing it could cause a bottle-neck, I made sure I was one of the first to pass through it.
Hands on knees and heavy breathing as we made our way up the 400ft first climb, then along some twisty trails, through some heather, a stream, stodgy mud and deep puddles. I maintained a pace that kept me within reaching distance of the lead as I kept moving along in 6th place.
On the flatter sections I lost time, and also took a little tumble, clipping the left knee on the ground. By the time we reached the switchback point I was a good 30+ seconds behind the lead. Shortly after, another runner joined me, and this helped me pick up my own pace. We caught fifth place, and then my right lace came undone. With numb fingers and gloves on, my attempt to refasten was very lame, and within seconds it was back undone. After less than 200m I stopped again, this time taking off my gloves to fasten the lace properly, during which time I lost another place.
More of the same as we descended slowly back towards Clay Bank. Within the last mile I was within touching distance from 7th place, when yet again, my lace untied itself. I hurriedly fastened up and ran my legs off to avoid losing another place in the race, and eventually finished in 8th.
I loved this race. Although the top four places were out of my reach, and beyond my ability, I really enjoyed the pace, the hills, and the scenery. I can’t wait to have another stab at a fell race, but I do suspect I’ll have to shell out on some fell running shoes. Minimalist shoes cannot cope with wet hills and deep, slippery mud! Let’s see if we can get Walsh to make a stripped-down shoe for Feetus!