It is the taking part that counts, isn’t it? Discounting the Box Hill Fell Race, it has been a while since I have run a proper hill or fell race. It showed. I was 66th at today’s Pendle Fell Race in Lancashire, a long way back from the action at the front. I should not be surprised. Sydenham Hill or South Norwood Hill in south London simply cannot prepare the runner for challenges of the ilk of Pendle.
I got a terrible start. The organisers were pushing runners back to a start sign, only to start the race from further up the road in Barley, leaving me stuck behind a couple of hundred of folk. After weaving my way through traffic up to and around Ogden Reservoir, we were soon on open hillside, running uphill. My thoughts turned to weakness: when can I walk? Soon, it turned out. The marked race route was runnable, but few were running, so I joined the procession of determined walkers. The summit was in sight when the route plunged down Pendle’s eastern face, before climbing very steeply to the trig pillar. A long, colourful single-file line stretched ahead and behind; it was beautiful in a masochistic kind of way.
Getting down was the easy part. The slope was moderate, the ground predominately dry. I did not time the ascent, but it cannot have lasted more than 12 minutes. I walked back to where I had parked my car, in a layby offering an uninterrupted view of Pendle and the track I had raced along to the finish. The photograph below is that vista. Runners were pouring in, racing downhill, geed on by muffled shouts. I could see some on the very top of Pendle, stick figures silhouetted against the sky. It was a sky that was a sensational blue, sharpening the green and brown edges of Pendle. Meanwhile, the hill’s crevices cradled the last of the winter snow. Not for the first time I could see only beauty. Beauty in this sport and beauty in the places this sport brings us.
Full results here.