‘Sub-optimal running conditions.’ That was the official comment on the event retrospectively according to the Longshaw Estate Facebook post. I will concede that the statement is technically correct, but it doesn’t do full justice to the very wetness and persistence of the rain. All part of the atmosphere and challenge for the hard-core fell runners out there – Dark Peak Fell Runners probably don’t bother getting up in the morning for anything less than vertical elevation and inclement weather after all. However, for me that was a bit more of an issue. Let me explain…
Oh, hang on, first you want to know what it is I am talking about? Keep up. This was the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race for 2016. For the uninitiated (only me then, until yesterday), this is a Fell Race at the Longshaw estate, taking place on the same day as the sheepdog trials, which are apparently the the oldest continuous trials in the country. They have been run from 1898 to the present day, interrupted only by the two world wars. Which is impressive, although the gap, whilst understandable, does rather stretch the definition of ‘continuous’ I agree. The clue as to what to expect on the day is therefore in the name of the event (though I still can’t work out if sheep dog/ sheepdog should be one word or two. They use two words but at Bamford Sheepdog Trials it was one, so die already cast with that I’m afraid). Anyway, the website blah de blah follows, but naturally I only looked at it after the event (course outlines are scary and demoralising if read in advance I tend to think):
The Longshaw fell race is held on the Saturday morning of the Sheepdog trials.
The number of competitors at the Longshaw race has increased each year, despite competition from several other local races which are traditionally run on the same weekend.
Entries come from many miles away and occasionally we have an international runner in the field including the 2011 winner.
The Fell Race course is shown below, it covers 5 miles of varied terrain over Burbage, Higger Tor, Over Owler Tor, Owler Tor, Lawrence Field & Longshaw Pastures, including woods, rocky paths and the occasional bog.
The start field can be seen from the majority of the route and conversely the spectators can follow the runners through binoculars.
The course record is 38m 07sec and will stand for ever
Pay to enter the Sheepdog Trials (currently £5) and race free. Bring the family, there’s plenty for them to do whilst you run on the fells.
The map is here – incidentally, both me and my Tomtom GPS watch, and Strava thought the route was rather nearer 6 miles than 5 (came out at 5.8) but that’s just more fun on the fells isn’t it, so nothing to worry about.
So, back to all about me, and my race day experiences. Well, my race day experiences naturally started a few days before. The event begins at the moment you start to contemplate whether or not you intend to participate in my experience. Note, I use the word ‘participate’ rather than ‘compete’ I do have an inner core of realism within. Anyway, I’d seen some nice heather out and about, I’d enjoyed Whirlow 10k a couple of weeks ago and lots of people say Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials fell race is really lovely… Hmmmm, I did what I always do on such occasions, solicit opinion. I posted rather sheepishly (see what I’ve done there?) on the Smiley Facebook page to see who else might be up for it. Lots of enthusiastic responses come pouring forth from various Smilies, all very clear that it would be a great idea for me to undertake this fell race, but for one reason or another none of them would. It is only with hindsight I come to realise that many of these people cajoling me to ‘have it go it’s absolutely super!’ have gone to great lengths to avoid taking part again this year for their own part. ‘I would have entered but I’m doing a 16k race in the Lakes that day – when is it again?‘, ‘would have entered but I’m injured‘, ‘would have entered but am marshalling instead – don’t forget to smile on your merry way past‘; ‘would love to but I live in Switzerland and I’m drinking gin that day‘ and, most tellingly of all perhaps, had I but thought it through ‘I would have entered, but my daughter has an appointment at the hairdressers‘ – this from the Whirlow 10k winning female runner. Clue there surely, had I only been on my guard?
Still, that’s me, slow on the uptake. Hope over experience has always served me well (not absolutely true, but don’t quibble). There are some certainties here. Fabulous punning potential, even though I am nowhere near the dizzy punning heights of some of my Smiley compatriots. Some are very punny indeed. It would be an adventure. I might get my hat trick for final finishes (it doesn’t count if you come last deliberately by the way, you do have to actually try to run round in case anyone is planning to depose me from my rightful place). Plus, some great anecdotes, potentially at least. Elsewhere I heard tell of a runner who ran this event with her husband to be on the morning of their wedding day! As I understand it, this involved charging round at the back, hugging each and every marshal en route, taking loads of selfies and pictures generally, and then getting wed in the afternoon. Back the following year (just to run, not to get married again as far as I know) she took 26 minutes off her time. Must have been a very heavy camera weighing her down, but these photographers do like their kit do they not?
So anyway, thought basically I’d just sleep on it. Checking out the weather forecast the day before it looked promising. What the hell… lovely day for it, last chance to see the heather at its best and it’s on my doorstep after all. I can walk round if it comes to it. ‘Twill be fine and dandy. Probably see some familiar faces, and it’s got such a good reputation it’s bound to attract plenty of ‘have a go’ runners romping round in wellingtons and/or flip-flops (different people obviously, that would be silly), I’ll just blend in, it will be fine. Spoiler alert – it didn’t entirely work out like that, but I did have a good time anyway thank you for asking.
Sooooooo, day dawned. Not looking altogether as promising out the window as I’d planned on rising. However, I was undeterred, the morning broke like this last Sunday for the Longshaw 10k but early morning fog gave way to glorious sunshine. It’d be fine. Granted, teeny bit of concern about the forecast for torrential rain later, but that wasn’t until gone 12.30 and surely if the race was due to start at 10.30 I’d be back home tucked up under a duvet again by then? Meantime, a bit of drizzle wouldn’t kill me. Probably not. There is that documentary though isn’t there, Sharknado, but I think that’s more an American phenomenon as far as I know…
Anyway, donned my running gear, went for short-sleeved (don’t want to get too hot out there) and Smiley Top. How could they not be proud to see me flying the club colours?, also, aids with identification if some mishap should befall me. I headed off early (where are the windscreen wipers on this blue car again) and soon arrived at the venue. It is indeed lovely. It was all well signposted (more of this later) and a super-friendly man in a kiosk took my fiver from me and welcomed me to the venue. ‘Aah, you are obviously here for the fell race‘ he observed. I was a bit confused, then remembered I was wearing my club vest. He hadn’t been responding to my athletic physique after all. Too late for me to bottle it and pretend I’d come for the doubles herding course or whatever. I read somewhere that some runners can be intimidated by the sea of club vests at the start of a race. I simultaneously know exactly what she means (Dark Peak vests means it’s going to be steep; Steel City Striders it’s going to be fast), and feel very confident that no runner would be intimidated by the sight of me in my vest. Astonished perhaps. That is different.
I gingerly manoeuvred my car up the slope and through the long grass. It was very well organised, with cone markers and friendly folk to wave you in the direction you needed to go. It wasn’t raining at this point, so I could still hang on to the naive misconception that it was clearly ‘brightening up’. It was cool and a bit overcast, perfect running conditions (apart from the little matter of that large hill looming on the horizon that would have to be negotiated). I ventured over to the registration tent. Very simple to complete your registration (they even had functioning pens for this purpose) and collect your number from the dream-team threesome who were solemnly recording all the entries.
I was very taken with the design of the registration form. Look at what they’ve done there at the top – using the sheep to spell out LONGSHAW! Genius, simply genius. I also liked my number a lot. 22. It pleased me. I couldn’t remember the registration number of my car so left that blank as I didn’t think ‘blue’ would be sufficient. Then afterwards I fretted in case they thought I’d snuck in without paying and so I’d be disqualified (not too much of an issue) or worse, just left to fend for myself out there on the fell, never to experience a latte again… I got over it though. I’m more resilient than you may think.
So that was the business done and dusted. Time for an explore. There was a particularly fine produce collection on sale in the registration tent by the way.
Other runners and organisers started to assemble. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few familiar faces. I was less pleasantly surprised at the lack of fun runners. Also, quite a male dominated race, this didn’t bother me per se, but did suggest there’d be a bit of a split in the field potentially. Where are all the people in fancy dress? Oh well, I expect the have-a-go contingency will turn up at the last-minute I told myself. Turns out that this race is one of the Gritstone series sponsored by Accelerate, whilst that particular detail had previously passed me by (much as life does all too often), it did mean that there were friendly faces from the Accelerate woodrun workshops. (Thursday mornings, Eccleshall woods £2 be there 9.15 for 9.30 start, drills and shared expertise). Yay. It made a lot easier the task of ingratiating myself to the event sweeper. I could brief him on my requirements, specifically, the ‘you have to understand I can’t talk and run‘ rider. I was a little perturbed that his hi-viz jacket seemed to say ‘fast runner’ on it, but actually it was ‘last runner’ just to be clear. So I could be confident that slot was already taken. Mind you, I’ve come in behind a sweeper before, so no room for complacency.
To aid identification, he was also sporting a brush on his head. Well, I say it was to aid identification, but it might have been a display of purely gratuitous, attention-gaining, rampant exhibitionism. Or maybe he just forgot to glance in a mirror on the way out of the house and didn’t realise it was there. We’ve all done that. Or maybe he tried to look in a mirror and was just too tall to do so to any good effect. He’d be the right height for maybe checking there was no toothpaste or breakfast down his front, but not for inadvertant headwear options. I have this situation happen to me all the time in reverse. I’m quite, well, (spoiler alert) short, and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been in a house and can’t see into a mirror because it’s been hung too high for someone of my stature to see themselves in without the aid of a step-ladder or other outside assistance. (So to all those people muttering behind me ‘what did she do, get dressed in the dark?’ now you have your answer.) Maybe tall people get that in reverse? Only ever seeing their chests or midriffs in mirrors across the world? Like medusa, unable to ever take a good look at their faces. Plausible I think you’ll agree.. anyway, despite this speculation, on balance, I think it was just an exceedingly good visual pun, because he was The Sweeper see. Sweeping up at the back of the race. More genius. You can’t trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good pun in my world view. Puns are great. Just goes to show, there were a great many smart people out and about at Longshaw for sheepdog trial day. Not sure you can entirely tell by looking…
Pleasingly, I then caught up with another friendly face, who acknowledged me in public despite being a Dark Peak runner, so that was good for my self-esteem. We headed off to make use of the ‘amenities’ and I took the opportunity of the queue to do a pre-race selfie (yes it’s compulsory). It is the only evidence I was actually at this event to be honest, so here it is:
Still not raining, oh good. Saw a fellow Smiley and went to say hello. It was her first time in a Smiley Vest apparently, so quite an occassion. Other Smilies were marshalling, so there were a couple around, but this event seemed to attract more hardcore ‘proper’ fell runners I’d say. Not that we don’t have hardcore fell runners within the Smiley Troupe, but they weren’t particularly in attendance today. That made me gulp a bit, to be honest. The sweeper was explaining there is ‘at least one really tough bit‘ and he made mention of having got ‘just a bit lost‘ on the recce, and I was blinking at him thinking ‘but you’re a really awesome runner – oh crap!’ The race start time drew near, and an attempt was made to herd us towards the start field. Rain started to fall. Then, after a bit, it fell more, and heavier. As a bit of a light weight (running wise, not actually) I took refuge in the tent.
Peering out at the rain as it became ever more persistent. Still, no point in bleating about that. It was reminiscent of the start of Percy Pud last year when all I really wanted to do immediately prior to the start was go home. Unlike Percy Pud 2015, a rainbow did not then subsequently appear in the sky just as we were required to run. Still, not to worry, the start was delayed anyway, as the race begins in the field used for the sheepdog trials and that class was running late – one of the dogs at least wasn’t being all that co-operative, with rather more boisterous running around going on than actual herding apparently. One runner quipped maybe we should have a go at the sheep herding and leave the sheepdog to take on the fell race instead! How we laughed, one of us at least with a tad too much desperation and longing in their expression of ha ha than was entirely appropriate. Anyway, seems this is a sheepdog trials with a fell race attached, as opposed to vice versa, so dogs (and sheep) take priority. Fair enough, every dog should have its day as we all know. And maybe the rain would stop. (It didn’t, just got more confident and unrelenting).
Waiting in the tent got increasingly toasty as more and more runners sought sanctuary. I met some nice people and some interesting people and some people I already knew and some people I didn’t. I wont draw a venn diagram of who was who. Chance put me the way of a very encouraging ‘proper’ runner who was unbelievably nice. I was pumping him for advice on what to expect, and he was patient and supportive (also slightly cornered, by the increasing squash of people, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it). He did say that some bits would be technical and would have to be walked, and when I said I was aiming for about 90 minutes (I know, but I am slow, and I just took my trail 10k time and added a chunk), he gently suggested that if expecting to be out that long on the hills it might be a good idea to take along something to eat for sustenance. Well, naturally I am immediately drawn to think positively of anyone who tells me I really should be eating more. ‘You might as well if you are walking bits anyway‘ he pointed out. This was probably good advice on reflection, but a bit late. I was glad I’d found the sweeper earlier, he had already reassured me he’d got emergency rations with him enough for a faller and himself too. Anyway, my new friend said he thought I’d do it in under that, and he’d see me at the end. I did, but didn’t see him, I imagine he’d have been long gone by the time I got round. Here he is in action though, by way of example. I think it’s a reasonable bet he was flying along a tad faster than me, but then again, I did also run this route, in my own inimitable way, so hey, go me! Thank you for being nice to me though whosoever you were, it was very encouraging (kindness of strangers and all that). (Action shots courtesy of Accelerate by the way, thank you!)
So, after another half hour or so, we were shooed out of the tent and towards the start. Rain was heavy by this point, I was sodden, and so were my spirits. I’d got a bit cold, and despite my porridge for breakfast, that had been 5 hours ago and I was wondering if I would have enough fuel in the tank. Oh joy. On a cheerier note, there was a really good atmosphere. A very jolly compère gave a commentary as we assembled, pouncing on various participants for a quick vox pox en route. Shout outs were given to running clubs various, and a certain ‘Stu’ identified at the front. (I overheard another runner explain to a friend that basically when he turns out, everyone else might as well go home – though this was said in an admiring rather than begrudging tone – this fell race is his for the taking, year on year it seems). It was all very good-natured though. A briefing of sorts was given ‘you all know the route don’t you, that’s grand?‘ and to the uplifting (but somewhat strangled by the outdoor PA) chords of ‘Chariots of Fire’ we all took off.
The start was fun, definitely fun. It was a tusssocky romp across sodden land, and with a slight downwards incline (shame this becomes an upward incline on the return, but I wasn’t thinking about that just then). I was near the back from the off to be fair, but then again, consistency is really my thing with fell races. Fell running is inherently hilarious by the way, whilst it is true that those at the front gracefully fly across the hills, there are still a fair few of us just blagging it with varying degrees of decorum towards the rear. Trying to balance on tufts of reeds, and a few at this stage even trying to avoid the boggy bits. An entirely futile exercise, but all part of the challenge. There is something joyful about a crowd heading off to the hills at speed for no good reason other than the sheer unadulterated merriment of it all.
Quick scamper across the fields, and then soon you get to the first road crossing. This was so astonishingly well marshalled it was like there’d been some sort of national emergency declared at just this spot. Traffic stopped, signs and hi-viz aplenty as only a well oiled machine of rapid response disaster management teams could. It was fine going out, as a crowd of us scampered across the road like an army of soldier ants (albeit ones shrink – wrapped in colourful lycra), it was less fine coming back when I was so far behind the field I felt a fraud for holding up the traffic. Oh well, that was still to come!
All too soon though, the upward bit comethed. I was quickly over-taken by all but the sweeper and his running buddy (who claimed to have not run for ages, but then told tales of running conquests that suggested his legs would still very much have it in their muscle memory at the very least). Inevitably, I found my place, at the back. It was OK though, I’m getting used to this position. You are allowed to come last at a fell race and not marry someone in the afternoon unless you want to I think, so keep it all in proportion if it happens to you. Plus, you are near to the emergency supplies and don’t have to worry about navigation, or carrying anything. All good too.
Whilst it was definitely wet, and getting wetter, it was lovely out there. It was ‘proper’ off road quite quickly. Following sheep tracks and picking through the gritstones. I was glad of my fell shoes, and they gripped really well, I got more confident in them as I – well, I was going to say bounded but it would be more accurate to concede – picked my way up the hill. You could see the snake of runners way ahead (which was aesthetically pleasing if also a tad demoralising) and although the tops were shrouded in mist, the landscape is just awesome. Heather and bracken all about, it is really beautiful.
I made what might generously be called ‘erratic’ progress, I put on a bit of a yomp wherever it flattened out a bit, or the stones gave way to more forgiving peat. I love the springiness of running on peat, it cossets your feet, I’m very wary of falling on the stonier bits though. I felt for the tail runners who were dutifully keeping a respectable distance as best they could, but would in honesty have liked to stretch their legs a bit more I’m sure. I gave them lots of braking practice with my stop/ start approach. I’m sure they loved that. It was nice for me though eavesdropping on their anecdotes with each other, and their negotiations over who would get to pick up the next bit of tape or marker. Occasionally, when I was walking, we chit-chatted a bit, and that was fine, because I’ve always been exceedingly good at walking and talking as my hobbit buddy would gladly testify I’m sure. Once I started running again I reminded them that I’d been serious about not being an especially communicative runner, adding that I wasn’t a particularly running communicator either. Yin yan I suppose, yin yan.
The uphill bit did eventually pause at least, which was just as well as my vision started to be seriously impaired. The rain was so heavy now it had washed off all my sunblock (I know, what was I thinking, to say I’d been afflicted by blind optimism in the morning seems to have been literally as well as prophetically and metaphorically true!) into my eyes and stung like *&%+! or, more politely ‘billy o’. Periodically we passed marshals, some of whom must have been absolutely freezing as well as soaked through. They’d had a long wait, not just for the start, but for me to come round at the back. Even so, they were all incredibly encouraging and smiling. Part of this was no doubt relief at my appearance as that meant they would now be free to abandon their posts, but it was also due to their innate positivity and cheeriness which is endemic to the run-marshalling community as far as I can determine. Thank you all you marshals, you are STARS! One marshal had the foresight to bring an umbrella with her. Wish I had. At Burbage Bridge it took me a while to identify a Smiley Elder (she of the visor self-sacrifice) as the marshal. She was comprehensively cocooned in wet-weather gear, so I had almost run past before I recognised her and I had to swivel back to exchange hugs. I am a bit hug-orientated when running, haven’t yet dared to ask more experienced runners if that’s appropriate or bad form. Nobody has ever refused a hug though, but perhaps that’s because they are too scared by the manic look in my eyes or caught by surprise by my embrace to do so. I might post a question about it on a running forum some day. Then again, I may not. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. There are truths that are better left unsaid.
After Burbage, you turn back and its downhill for a bit. Loved this, you dip down out of some of the wind and wet, and the ground is soft and the downward incline more my thing. However, I was a bit gingery going down as it was a bit ‘technical’ to use the jargon. The ground was very uneven and the path unclear. I’m sure the faster runners fly round, they must do to achieve the times they get, but I wasn’t going to follow suit. You do feel adventurous though, and sometimes I think, because I am slow and at the back, I am out of sight of other runners and it’s like I have the whole landscape to yourself. Gorgeous. I wasn’t even cold at this point, because I did keep moving, I think you’d freeze PDQ had you stopped though. This might have been one of the very few events where the fleece-police would have let me wear my running jacket… maybe. Wouldn’t bank on it though, they are very persistent.
You scramble down to a stream, and fortunately, there was a marshal positioned ‘on high’ up a ridge where he had a good view to direct you where to cross the water, which you do twice. No stepping-stones here, you have to splosh through, but that was fun, and I was pretty water-logged by then anyway. I don’t really mind what happens on the way home as you know at this point you are going to fundamentally be OK. The guys at frontrunner set up my tomtom so it vibrates after each ‘lap’ of one mile ahead of the Sheffield half, so my watch had been buzzing periodically to tell me what my progress was. I don’t ever look at my watch whilst I’m actually running, but I do like to feel the miles being ticked off. You have at least a vague sense of being beyond half way or whatever. So, fell shoes filled with water, I sloshed on and out of the stream. There I saw another familiar face. A wannabee runner who alas had missed the start, but come to walk round anyway and offer support. That was really nice! Thanks for being there. This was the really tough bit. The hill was slippery, steep and treacherous underfoot. I tried to keep going, but even with the sweeper, sweeper buddy, and now a marshal relieved from his post (honestly I was like the pied piper going round, only picking up more marshals in my wake with each mile of the course rather than small children) I had to stop periodically to give my legs a break. It was more of a scramble than a walk. I had to hang on to clumps of grass on the way up. You couldn’t even see the top though I could hear the occasional strangled cry of a runner ahead. I wasn’t sure if that was because they’d come to grief, fallen over a cliff edge, or were just expressing relief at having summitted (is that even a word?). Still, it meant there were humans in the vicinity.
Eventually, like a guiding angel, Accelerate Man (yes, that is a new super-hero I’ve just invented, but it does the job, would be better if he had worn Patagonia made pants over running leggings for super-hero identification purposes, but work in progress I daresay) came into view. Shouting encouragement, he actually offered his hand and hoiked me up the last bit. There was another marshal at the top, who offered some water. Unusually for me I took a slurp (I’m a bit OCD about sharing water bottles). I think I must have needed it, as I was a bit disoriented, and initially headed off in the wrong direction before being called back and being pointed the opposite way. The next bit was good, familiar yomping territory, a bit of down hill, and my tail runners were distracted by variously pulling up markers, chatting to marshals, having a picnic whatever, so they weren’t so much on my tail. Grateful as I was for their attentions going round, it was nice to be on my own for a bit, taking it all on and in. More marshal waving, and then as I rounded a bend for the homeward curve, there was Accelerate Man again. I promptly nearly fell over as I felt I owed it to him to at least to pretend to be running throughout, and got distracted. ‘Don’t look at me, look where you are going!’ It’s these sort of professional coaching tips that are worth so much in a race situation! Here is a picture of what other runners look like when they are not falling over or gazing in the wrong direction, I have not made the cut for this album as yet… You can also see the terrain. Unlike these runners I got all this bit all to myself!
From here it was pretty much downhill, the terrain wasn’t too technical. I had my personal coach in tow, alongside even, and got some impromptu advice on technique as we went round. The main advice was to keep running, small steps, however slowly. If you constantly walk, you end up just getting ever faster at walking, whereas if you run slowly, you will eventually run faster. There is an unarguable logic in this, although I’m still going to power walk up the really technical bits. It was good to have a bit of a chat and a catch up at this point, made me feel more confident about showing my face at woodrun again. I’ve not been in ages because I’m so rubbish, but then again as Accelerate Man pointed out (with respect) ‘that’s bollocks‘ as an excuse, how else are you going to improve, and they are an encouraging rather than judgemental outfit. (Incidentally, this conversation was not in violation of my ‘I can’t talk and run directive’, as I wasn’t travelling fast enough for it to apply). Honestly, I would have got lost at this point if I hadn’t been with someone who knew the route, the markers were a bit further apart, and some of the route was properly cross-country, i.e. not on any path at all, not even a sheep track. I have a theory that someone tall put out the markers here, as there was in fact a flag put up just over a hump in the terrain, but my eye line couldn’t see over the mound. Hence I had a few moments of gazing around in all directions clueless until nudged in the right direction by my personal guide who knew the route.
Eventually, the marquees of the event came into view. The course flattened out, and you could head to the finish. The advice was to keep to the trodden bit to save energy as the path is already there, walk crossing a dip in the land just ahead, then after three strides, start running again to achieve a sprint (ahem) finish. This was good advice actually, and when I write my own (best-selling) running text-book to inspire future generations I may include it. It was thinking a bit ahead that helped, I never do that when I run, I just run (or not), I don’t have a plan as such, but even that little bit of planning helped me keep up a pace. Whilst I’m dolling out top tips for racecraft, I got another few bits on this yomp out. One from the sweeper, who reminded me to push off with my feet when running (that does really help you to run more efficiently) and one from the sweeper’s buddy (I think it was him), who pointed out that if you are in danger of coming last, it’s a good idea to fall back as early on as possible, as that gives you the maximum amount of time to make up the distance during a race. Wise words indeed. I achieved the first bit of this advice all on my own by instinct, just got to nail the making up the distance later part. Still one out of two aint bad.
So, I dragged my weary carcass up that final incline to the finish funnel (let’s gloss over the fact I got all confused and nearly went the wrong way round into it) and was greeted by Fell Race Compère Man (yes, another super hero in the making) who was providing a commentary as I came in. Naturally, he was very keen to hear my thoughts on the conclusion of the race. I gave my name and used the opportunity to vindicate myself when he asked me if I’d had fun out there. ‘Of course I did, it was great, that’s why I took my time out there I wanted to make the most of it!’ That’ll have fooled them.
I gave my name to the time keepers, and gave my number to a bedraggled and be-sodden hat-wearing small child who was brandishing an open bin-liner towards me for the purposes of number collection. She’d done good work, out in all that rain collecting numbers all day. The only people behind me were the back markers, so I waited to applaud them in, and shared celebratory hugs. I thanked my impromptu coaching team for helping me round and then once again sought the sanctuary of the tent.
Usually by the time I’m back at a race the prize giving is all done and dusted, not so here. I got an orange juice and lemonade from the bar, and hung on for the presentations which were imminent. Top marks for the presentation, it was a hoot. Total of entries was revealed as 176. One person who entered apparently then almost immediately withdrew as the elements drew in, they were singularly unimpressed by the weather. The compère cheerfully pointed out that no refund had been given. Fair enough, fell running is not the faint hearted. One runner DNF. There was a bit of a hub-bub around as people speculated what had happened to them. Seems someone took a tumble and had been spotted considerably bloodied but unbowed, by various runners. They were sporting a nice gaping head wound according to at least one account. ‘Are they here? Are they OK?’ enquired the compère. ‘They’re being stitched up at the Hallamshire’ heckled a spirited observer. How everyone laughed. What larks eh? I later discovered that wasn’t so much a heckle as a statement of fact. Oh well, where would be the fun in fell running if it wasn’t for the frissance of danger on the way round eh?
Prizes were given predominantly to Dark Peak Fell Runners for actual running, well they are individually as well as collectively phenomenal, so not a surprise. One category winner was absent though, but ‘not from round here so probably not daring to show their face‘ was wryly observed in jest (I hope). Impromptu spot prizes were then handed out on something of a whim. ‘Muddiest legs‘ nope, not enough interest ‘runner from furthest away?’ ‘Yay, get that‘, someone from New York was identified, but I suspect a scam. Something in the intonation about having ‘travelled all the way from the great U S of A just to join us for the day‘didn’t entirely ring true, but entertained massively all the same.
Oh, you want to know the winners? Well, if you really care, here is the link to results in full for Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 . And here is a photo of the stars of the day. I think they win cake, worth running fast for. Though honestly, neither of them look like they really each much cake do they?* That’s the compère with them, not their minder. Classy dress for the occassion don’t you think? Raises the tone of a run in my view.
*CORRECTION: I’ve been asked to point out that there is a significant factual innacuracy here. The Female winner does in fact eat a lot of cake, with enjoyment. Must just run even more to burn it all off afterwards. Unreserved apologies for that inadvertant libel.
By this time, I was getting really cold, so just time to splash out on some of the catering options and head for home. Waving goodbye to compatriots various as I did so. Would thoroughly recommend this event, it is a hoot, friendly, and delivered with considerable aplomb I’d say. One of the funniest presentations I’ve been too, and I like the way they big up the whole affair. Fiver, what’s not to like, apart from excessive rain, but don’t worry about that, it won’t rain next year, FACT.
So I headed home, negotiating my car out the field went better than expected given the increased sogginess of the terrain, bit of a scary slide on the muddy road bit though. Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 had one parting gift for me though, the pun of the day!
On exiting I saw a sign from one of the event sponsors at the entrance of the site. It was for an estate agent. ‘Come Buy‘ it proclaimed. See what they did there? Genius. So much so, I actually went back the following day (just now in fact) to snap a shot of it, and the muddy deserted site. All over, until same time next year.
So, are we putting your name down for 2017, or would you like to think about it? Get your hair appointment booked in early perhaps?
For accounts of all my fell race efforts follow this link.
For accounts of my final finish position posts (that’s a not very smart euphemism for coming last by the way) use this link (content is quite similar to fell races link to be fair, but there you go!)
For another perspective on this yomp out see here Steel City Striders run report Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016.