Stan Bradshaw Pendle Round fell race

Last Saturday was the Stan Bradshaw Pendle Round feel race and I decided to run it. I’ve never run around the Pendle Hills before, but I have heard plenty of horror stories about how hard they are and how people will never run them again! So once again I tried to find a good excuse as to why I couldn’t drive to Barley but couldn’t so got up at 5:30am on an overcast Saturday morning to run in an area I’ve only heard gives people nightmares and make the drive over the hills and into East Lancashire.
After checking my kit for the umpteenth time, I set off following the directions Doris my trusty satnav voice gave me. I knew part of the route to Colne but after that I could end up anywhere so up to that point, I drowned out Doris’s voice with 80s hits and then turned the music down when I had to. I still took a wrong turn going over a roundabout which is to eb expected but arrived at the carpark at Barley at 9am giving me plenty of time to wonder what the hell I was doing especially as the race didn’t start till 11am.
Arriving early proved to be a good tactic in the end as by 10am the carpark was full, and people were parking on the road. The Pendle Hills are very popular for good reason so it wasn’t just fell runners turning up but hikers too. I registered for the race, put my number on and then had a walk around taken some photos of the landscape. After buying a hat from the Pete Bland van (the only thing that wasn’t discounted!) and taking a selfie with the legend Antonio Cardinale I put my kit on had a last look at the map of the route which meant nothing to me and set off for the start. Along the way I had a chat with a guy called Chris who recognised me from the Pennine Trail series last year and Paul from Stainland. I did see one other Calder Valley runner, but he was too quick for me to stop and say hello.
And then we were off. A mile or so on the road past a reservoir and then a right turn and the climb up Pendle Hill. Pendle Hill is big and steep but this didn’t worry me as despite my legs feeling tired, I was confident I had enough left to do the race. I made decent progress too up the climb passing a few people and almost getting onto the tail of a group in front of me. My plan was to follow someone round and enjoy the experience. Well that was the plan. At one point I was catching the group in front and then at Checkpoint 1 I turned around and they were gone! I saw the last of them disappearing over the summit and gave chase.
Unfortunately, my chase was in vain. I followed the path and kept seeing the back of the group in front, but I was on my worse surface Yorkshire stone slabs. I’m never very confident on these even though I’m getting better, but all my efforts weren’t enough as the group kept getting further and further away and I found myself on my own in an area I didn’t know. And then out of nowhere this old guy appeared. He had taken a shortcut over the moor and I naturally assumed he knew the route. I followed him for a mile or so and we went past Checkpoint 2 a woman and her dog and then he turned around to me and said, ‘where do you think we should go’? I couldn’t believe it! I had broken one of my rules, don’t follow anyone as they might not know the route either. I said that I didn’t have a clue as I’d never run around here before, and we set off in what he thought was the general direction we should be headed in.
We had slowed down as we looked for what we thought was the right route and some runners behind us caught us up. I was glad of this as it meant we had less chance of getting lost now. One of the women seemed to know the route and she went off in the lead and I was happy to follow her and her friend round. We picked up speed again and although we had a few moments where we wondered which direction to go in, we were getting around now and finding the checkpoints. My legs however weren’t happy. My calves were screaming at me to stop and if it hadn’t had been for my compression socks, I think they would have torn in half. On one climb I was shattered and in pain, but I knew I had no choice but to carry on and finish. I didn’t know where I was and if I slowed down, I risked getting lost, so it wasn’t an option.
We got to Checkpoint 5 where the course is flagged to the finish and I found some speed from somewhere. It must have been my hundredth wind of the day but all of a sudden, I was pulling away from the ones behind me and catching the old guy in front. That was until we turned left through the woods and the final descent. This was steps or rather a wooden plank with some mud piled up behind and I hate them. I slowed immediately and the old guy pulled away. The sweat was dripping off the peak of my cap as I concentrated on staying upright and not falling over so close to the finish. Two runners went past me on the descent, but I managed to stay upright and was soon rewarded with the sight of flat tarmac and the finishing straight.
I got onto the tarmac and set off as fast as I could, but I didn’t have much left. Both my legs were aching everywhere, and I was telling myself to keep going and not stop now and walk. I can do this I kept repeating in my head. Two more runners went past me and there was nothing I could do about it. I had, had a good run on the Thursday before but I was paying the price now for pushing hard on Thursday. I kept going and sensing someone behind me I found something from somewhere to keep them at bay and went over the finishing line in 2 hours 6 minutes. I had aimed for around 2 hours, so I was happy with this result on a tough 9 ½ mile fell race.
At the end of the day I did better than I thought I had not being too far behind some of my friend on the Strava segments and in a few cases faster than them. This perked me up as I was nowhere near 100% at the start of the race so to be so close is a good sign. I haven’t been put off Pendle Hill either. I can understand why some people would be, but I want to go back to it, learn it and run around it as fast as I can. I have friends who have done the Tour of Pendle, the 16 mile, 4400ft of climbing beast in November that I want to do and we will go up in the summer to get used to it and learn the routes.
Early April is the Pendle fell race a classic straight up and down Pendle Hill so no chance of getting lost on that one. Despite my legs being barely able to support me when I got home, I went out for a run yesterday and felt better for it. I’m having a rest from running now, Thursday is my next planned run and I have a massage on Friday to get my legs working again. My next race is the Boulsworth Bog on the 21st March an area I have run around so I know what to expect and I’m looking forward to it. A rest and a massage will do me the world of good and I can’t wait to see how I perform at Boulsworth.

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