Sunday was the Tour of Midgely moor fell race, finally! I say finally because I had done a recce of it on the Wednesday, but we didn’t do the right route, so I went out again on Saturday, the day before to recce the route and help with putting flags out. I was looking forward to the race and it was a relief for it finally to be race day. The night before had been hard. Even though I had done a recce of the route hors before the nerves still set in and I was wracked with anxiety about the race. Would I get lost? Would I have enough energy left to do the race? All these thoughts raced through my mind but I’m very lucky in that I have some very understanding and supportive friends and one of them had a chat with me about it and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.
I woke on time and soon I was setting off to Booth Cricket club near Midgely for the race. I arrived at Booth just in time to get one of the last spaces in the small carpark and proceeded to registration and then a chat with friends. The weather was overcast and light rain, it was better than it had been the day before as the wind had dropped. Soon it was time for the start of the race and around 130 runners gathered at the bottom of a muddy field all staring up at the climb before them ready for the off.
And then we were off! Everyone tearing up the hill as fast as they could. Well for a bit. It’s a steep climb so quite soon we were walking and with the stiles to negotiate there was the inevitable queues too, so we had time to catch our breath before we were over them and off running again. To my surprise I felt good on the hill and found myself running through a quagmire that was freezing cold and seeped into my shoes soaking my feet.
On the moor it was even worse. The heavy rain the night before had saturated the ground and in parts there was no avoiding the large puddles of freezing cold water. My feet turned into two blocks of ice and I just about managed to maintain some feeling in them. I’ve been here before, but it doesn’t make it any easier, but it is a part of fellrunning in the winter, so you must go with it. To make things worse the wind had picked up considerably and the rain had turned to hail. Maybe this helped me as I didn’t feel tired and concentrated on staying on my feet as I battled the wind. I was even passing people at this point which gave me a boost.
I went through checkpoint 1 at Crow Hill and carried onto checkpoint 2 at Sheepstones. The run along Sheepstones ridge was really tough with the wind, rain and hail. This was my fourth run on this ridge in two weeks and everyone has been in high winds. I swear I’m going to get blown off Sheepstones ridge one day! Thankfully the descent started into the middle of the moor and there was a welcome change in the weather. It seemed to go from wind, hail and rain to pleasant sunshine in no time and once again I could concentrate on choosing the best lines rather than trying to stay upright.
After a short run across the moor I was at checkpoint 3 and a tricky descent down to Luddenden Valley. This was made harder by two runners in front of me holding me up. I couldn’t get past them because it was too narrow, and it wasn’t until we got to the field and open ground that I was able to put a sprint on and get past them. Checkpoint 4 is on Wood Lane at the bottom of the descent and after a very short sprint it’s back up the hill and back onto the moor. This is a steep climb and it really takes it out of your legs, especially when the ground it wet and muddy.
At the top of the climb is checkpoint 5 and it’s here that runners go off in different directions. I chose to stick with my plan and go along the wall. This is the route I know, and I was glad I did this as I found myself in my own and able to enjoy running without the pressure of having someone behind me. I felt good too. My legs had held up and I was moving well. I was surprised at how good I felt. There had been a point further back where my legs started aching, but I had run it off and was now going as fast as I could towards checkpoint 6.
At checkpoint 6 you go back over the stile and it’s back down the muddy hill. I sprinted as fast as I could here. There were some runners just in front of me and I thought I could catch one if I went for it. On the final descent to the finish I did catch someone! I’m not sure if he had slowed down too much thinking no-one was behind him or he was tired, but I went as fast as I could and caught him just before the finish line. I was really pleased to finish this tough little fell race in style.
It took me a while to get my breath back and longer for my feet to thaw out, but I was happy with my run. This was my best run for a while. After doing the recce the day before I surprised myself at how much I had left in me and how I didn’t give up. I finished in around 1 hour 20 minutes in 108th place. I could have gone faster if I hadn’t been held up and I’m going to learn the shortcuts for next year so I can go that bit faster. It’s a tough little fell race the Tour of Midgely moor and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not following someone and don’t know the route but I can only recommend it as a good test of your running. At the end I was happy to be able to text my friend who had listened to me and tell them I was happy with my run and thank them for their support.