Saturday, 5 December 2009

Bard on the Run's bad run

Pendle Hill, apart from being the home of the Pendle witches and the place where George Fox is reported to have had his vision that led to the founding of the Quakers, is also the home of a classic foot race.

I knew it was a mistake to enter the 'Full Tour of Pendle' fell-race having missed 6 weeks training due to a series of colds, coughs, sneezes, sore throats and not surprisingly a general feeling of lethargy. But I couldn't resist it.

Some 350 runners duly entered the fray, which involved running up the boggy mass of Pendle Hill 5 times in sweeping rain and swirling mist and visiting 11 checkpoints in various far-apart locations with only a compass-bearing for a guide. Route choice is your own problem.

And so it came to pass that as I ran off the Apronfull Hill* side of the Pendle hump down into Asshenden Clough I felt my first twinges of cramp in my thighs. And I was only halfway round the course. Halfway that is in terms of distance. But the serious climbing, the climb out of Asshenden Clough, the climb up the Big Dipper and the climb up the aptly named Big End were still ahead of me.

I would for safety-first reasons choose a longer route which I knew by heart rather than take any short-cuts in the poor visibility and the uncomfortable easterly wind; a nagging wind which reduced all but the hardiest fell-runners to little more than walking pace, and many to a shuffle, on the wide summit plateau where the terrain consists of millions of waterlogged ankle-spraining tussocks, some old stone walls and a maze of peat groughs.

Choose the wrong line in many places and you could soon find yourself up to your knees in watery peat, a soft black substance guaranteed to suck the very shoes from your feet even as your tired legs work laboriously to extricate themselves from the dark trap.

Having survived everything that Pendle Hill could throw at me, and having somehow negotiated the 20-odd miles of my route choice and ascended and descended the required 5,000' and visited all 11 checks in the right order I arrived back where I had started from; the village of Barley.

Yes, I was near the tail-end of the field and more than a little bit tired but I'd done it. Yes, I'd had a bad run. It was not up to my ridiculously unrealistic expectations. I had wanted to be a good hour faster than I finally was. But then I heard of the reported 15 runners who didn't manage to get round and what they must have felt like having to retire from the race. And then I thought to myself, yes I had quite a bad run but really, my foolish ambition aside, it was not really so bad.

*Apronfull Hill is so-called because it was here that the Devil armed himself with an apronfull of rocks and angrily hurled them at Clitheroe Castle 5 miles away in the west. A large hole in the castle wall testifies to a direct hit.


The Weaver of Grass said...

All I can say, Bard, is that some people are just gluttons for punishment.
Am off to look at those stars now!

Dominic Rivron said...

I did the full Tour once. Similar weather. The hellish crawl up Big End is unmissable.

I've run (not in races) a lot over Pendle Hill over the years. It's a wonderful place. My favourite part is Bloar Clough - it's great route to the summit.

When the dratted groin is fully recovered, I'll have to go back!

Poet in Residence said...

Gluttons for punishment, Weaver? Yes, me and Dominic both. He's done it, too.

Poet in Residence said...

"The hellish crawl up Big End is unmissable" - absolutely.