It is the Saturday after the weekend before and i’m currently sat with my feet up and a glass of red wine.
Rewind to last Friday and it was a very different picture,I was sat in a school somewhere in Yorkshire eating a cheesy pasta bake and getting slightly nervous about the adventure ahead.
I am of course talking about the fellsman!
I first heard about the fellsman exactly twelve months ago.I had ran the yorkshire three peaks fell race,24 miles over Pen y ghent ,Whernside and Ingleborough. On completion I was brought back down to earth by some fell running friends when the congratulated me on the ‘fun run’
bloody fun run!
what are you on about?
And the seed for the Fellsman was planted.
Now you see both events are held on the same day although the Fellsman starts earlier and hits the two peaks of the three early to avoid collisions and keep everybody happy,plus with the Y3P being less than half the distance the name ‘fun run’ gets thrown about
Now I have done both I can assure you there is nothing easy about the Y3P! But boys will be boys 😉
So the Fellsman.
It is a 61 mile fell race over mainy boggy and tussucked ground with 11,000ft/3350 metres of ascent.Although this year due to a kindly route diversion we got treated to an extra 1000ft of climb!
Rolling into Threshfield on friday night to register,it was apparent that this was a professional operation,ran by the local scouts it has to have the most thorough registration and kit check I have ever gone through,and the weather on race day proved exactly why this was.
a) Entrants must wear or carry 2 pairs of full length trousers (including 1 pair of fully waterproof overtrousers, preferably brightly coloured.
Upper body wear:
c) A total of 5 long-sleeved tops must be worn or carried. These must comprise of: 1 fleece / down (or similar synthetic material) layer; 1 waterproof jacket with hood (preferably brightly coloured); 1 base layer and 2 tops of choice for further layering. Please note that it can become extremely cold overnight and warm layers are essential – please do not skimp to save room/weight.
d) A warm hat and gloves or mittens. The organisers advise that a spare hat and pair of gloves should be carried.
e) To ensure spare clothing remains dry until required, all spare clothing needs to be sealed in a drysack.
5. EQUIPMENT TO BE CARRIED
a) A personal First-Aid Kit with minimum contents; 1 crepe bandage, 4 safety pins, 1 wound dressing, 6 adhesive dressings.
b) A suitable traditional torch or LED head torch. Pen-lights and miniature torches are not acceptable.
c) A full spare set of alkaline batteries and a spare bulb where appropriate for above torch.
d) A whistle.
e) A mug and spoon/spork.
f) Maps. EITHER Ordnance Survey OS Explorer OL2 and OL30 OR Harvey Outdoor Maps Dales West
g) A ‘Silva’-type compass and knowledge of how to use it in conjunction with the map. Whilst GPS may be used, a compass MUST be carried.
h) Emergency rations – energy-giving food of your choice. The minimum required is 300g. These rations are not to be eaten en-route, except in an emergency, after which the entrant will be retired.
i) Survival bag. This must have been manufactured for this purpose. Survival blankets or sheets will not be accepted.
j) An emergency hooded, foil hypothermia poncho.
k) All equipment should be contained in a rucksack or equivalent.
Full kit,plus the panic bought roclite 315s that arrived two days before the race!
As always on these daft adventures I was joined by my friend and teammate Fiona,she had completed it last year and was using it as a last big training session before battling the Dragons back race in May. After a chat,some map marking and a last minute dash to the late shop for supplies I bedded down in my tent for a peaceful nights sleep.
You have the option of sleeping with the rest of the competitors in the school gym or camp out on the field.I opted for a tent as I didn’t want to share a hall with 100 snoring runners .Only problem was the weather fairies didn’t get the memo and the wind and rain tried it’s best to make sure I was woken every half an hour!
My alarm rudely interrupted my tossing and turning at 4.30 am and I dragged myself into the school for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.Looking around I could see plenty of bleary eyed souls either munching away on breaky or like me checking the weather reports on phones for the 100th time just to see if it had changed its mind,
Easter was the weekend before and we had almost tropical weather in Manchester,I made the fatal mistake of thinking
“I hope it’s not like this for fellsman next week!”
Well it is as if the bloody genie from Aladdin had overheard me and tried his best to help me out…….
The forecast for fellsman saturday?
Wet,windy and wet!
The route is point to point and we had to take a 30 minute bus ride to the start. As the wipers spun at full power ,we both turned to each other and muttered ”what the f*** have we got ourselves into this time”! The emergency stop for a runner to throw up did nothing for my nerves!
After a bit of final faffing and collection of our fabled Fellsman tally it was time to go,we all gathered on the playing field for a very short but to the point race briefing.
“It will be wet and cold,prepare for it and stay safe”
Off we went heading straight for the first climb of the day, Ingleborough.On the way up I had a quick chat with two fell running friends Matt and Tim,both super fit and about to attempt the Bob Graham rounds this year,I will be helping out on Tim’s in June and I have no doubt they will smash it! As a rule of thumb some older wiser runners than me say if you can run the fellsman in around 18 hours you are in great shape for a BG.Matt and Tim finished in sub 15 hours…….
Up and down Ingleborough and off towards Whernside,where we spotted for the first time of the day our friend Mike and his cowbells marshalling .It is always great to see someone you know and even early on it was a welcome boost!
The checkpoint at Dent was the first major foodstop,the only thing bigger than the climbs at the fellsman are the checkpoint menus.They simply can’t do enough for you with Vegan and gluten free option available for you if you need.
Now usually i’m a gel guy,not 90’s hair slicked back but the sports variety.I knew however with at least 18 hours today and a lot longer at Lakeland ,I had to eat real food.This to me usually is almost as tough as the running!
I grabbed some beans,bread and butter and a sausage roll and inhaled the lot,the problem was I stood around a little too long scoffing and started to get cold with the relentless drizzle so begrudgingly we marched onwards.
We had a couple of hours now over open moorland and climbs that seemed to last an age. Technically the first climb Ingleborough is the highest of the day but it certainly feels the opposite,with every climb just feeling that little bit higher!
Moors navigated,angry geese in a farmers courtyard avoided it was time for the next food stop,Stonehouse where we got greeted by clowns serving pasta,not people being a bit arsey ,actual clowns from a circus! It was the best pasta,jam sandwich and jaffa cake combo I had ever experienced!
After the stonehouse cp is a beautiful if tough climb under a viaduct and towards an out and back section which i’m sure was designed just to give us the extra climb,as if we didn’t have enough already and even more bogs!
Leaving the moorside and back onto the road crossing we were welcomed warmly into another CP by a lady in a magnificent sheep onesie who did me an amazing hotdog with those dry onions I didnt even think got sold anymore and she also did an amazing deal on bananas! I wasn’t even hallucinating at this point either!
Leaving the CP and yes you guessed it more bogs,we were kindly treated to some Hailstone. At this point I still had shorts on and Fiona jumped into her best mum mode and made me put my longs on,I obviously thought I was ok and at first wasn’t going to bother but as soon as i did the warmth was immediate and she probably saved my race.
This section was the only time in the entire event I had the inkling we may not complete,the wind picked up,the hail bashed us and it was almost over the longest time I had ever ran before (9.5 hours at Lakeland 50).
We made the executive decision to just get to the next CP, get dry and warm gear on (praise Odin for dry bags and extensive kit lists!) and see how we felt.
After a couple of cups of the sweetest tea I have ever drank and a full change of kit,including waterproof bottoms top and mittens,we evicted ourselves out of the lovely CP and onto what I thought would be my fave section of the day……..
The route had to be slightly changed this year ,hence the extra 1000ft climb and we had to run a couple of miles down a road to avoid the out of bound area.
Now i’m a road runner at heart,I LOVE running fast on the black stuff so i had been looking forward to stretching my legs out all day.Only problem was after ten hours of lovely squishy ground and endless bogs my legs did not like the transition back and I had to settle for a shuffle,but hey at least I wasn’t freezing anymore!
My wife had bought me an Inov8 thermoshell jacket for my birthday a few weeks prior and it was a godsend,I wore it from here to the finish and it kept me feeling just right,dare I say even a little too warm on some of the ascents.It is a top piece of kit and will stay in my bag now whenever i am on the hills.
After the 5 mile or so road/hard trail section we hit the extra climb up to middle tongue (ooh matron).This climb nearly broke me,after three false summits I just wasn’t seeing the funny side anymore,plus it was starting to get dark but the rain had at least stopped for the day.
Up to the next CP was two miles of probably the worst ground of the day,it could of been the dropping daylight or the fact I was tired but I didn’t run a step.One bog led into another and each tussock threatened to send me on my arse.Fiona and I decided to stop and fish our head torches out for the descent back down to the road and although we lost a couple of mins finding them in our bags it proved wise move as a guy fell pretty heavily just in front of us due to the fast approaching darkness! (he was fine btw).
At the next CP Cray we got ‘grouped’ which gave me time to inhale around ten custard creams and a mound of cheese! This was to be the last food of the day as I was just feeling meh,so would see the night out on gels.
Grouping is a marmite subject,I for one loved it.You are put into teams of at least four for safety reasons and must stay together at all times until the final CP where you are degrouped for the final couple of road miles. My group had 5,the one just before us had 9!
Trudging up Buckden pike,introductions were made and the question everyone asks at grouping “have you done fellsman before mate”
Fiona had completed the year before,three of us were virgins and the final runner? Andrew had ran it 14 bloody times!!!!
He knew lines many didn’t and I have no doubt he shaved us a load of time off simply by not having to have to stop and check the maps every five minutes! I was really happy with our group,the conversations flowed freely and it helped whittle away the hours where we really should of been in bed or the pub!
The final Food CP treated us to a ‘mocha’ (instant hot choc and nescafe coffee),it was the best drink I had drank all day and prepared us for the final climb of the day, Great Whernside.
With only ten miles left to go,I was starting to feel confident on completion but climbing Great Whernside at nearly midnight with 15 hours in my legs was no easy feat!
At the summit it is all downhill from then on (both literally and figuratively!) After the final boggy section (oh how I will miss you!) we reached the degrouping CP and was met again by Mike who kindly offered hugs all round!
I felt a little guilty leaving the group as Andrew especially had been so good navigating us round,so I stuck at the rear until the group started to naturally break.The only problem was that now Fiona could smell the finish and had started to sail down the road! I had to throw everything in to catch her up, I felt like I was flying,checked my watch ,10 min miles!!
The finish was really low key,we walked back into the school,dibbed in, had a few pics and received our coveted fellsman buff. No fancy t shirts or naff medals here!
Our Time 18h6 mins !
After a few hugs and handshakes I shuffle into the changing rooms and just sat for a minute or two,in awe of what I had just accomplished.Exhausted it must of taken me ten minutes to get changed and shuffle round to the canteen for probably the best cup of tea and jacket potato I had ever consumed at 3 in the morning!
Falling into the tent ,sleep was short lived and I woke up wired at 5.30 AM and packed up for 6 AM. A group of walkers arrived just as I was leaving looking almost as bad as I felt,a simple nod and a clap of my hands to compliment them on a job well done and a bond now shared.
We are Fellsman.
Later Sunday morning I watched the London marathon and all the razzmatazz that goes with it and it got me thinking.The Fellsman does not shout or bang any drums about how tough it is,most people don’t even know it exists or will even be bothered that I completed it but it is tough,very tough.Think of it as type 2 fun and remember…………..
It’s always the quiet ones that get ya!