August time in the North brings with it the usual variety of agricultural shows, the highlight of which is often a classic Guides, Crag or Fell Race. If you haven’t experienced a Show Race, they’re usually short and steep, with a suitably brash-accented local providing commentary over the tannoy.
We had a variety of P&B’ers out at most of the well known races; and Alex Jones kicks off the roundup with Weasdale:
Weasdale Horseshoe – 23 August – 8 miles / 2000 ft
I first went to the Ravenstonedale Show when it hosted a champs race a couple of years ago, and I’ve come back ever since. The Weasdale Horseshoe is an up, down, up route over the Howgill fells to Randygill Top, with a fantastic runnable descent over the last two miles. It is run as part of the annual show, with plenty of prize vegetables, local crafts and livestock on display. This biggest mystery is how you get a selection of immaculate, spotlessly polished vintage tractors into a field full of slurry and mud with not a splash on the paintwork. In a non-champs year you get 70-odd runners milling about at the start and trying to judge between half a dozen more-or-less identical plates each with four nicely arranged beetroots on.
I was feeling confident after a decent run here last year, but soon enough faded and lost places on the long climb up Hooksey, the first peak. This isn’t a checkpoint, and for once I remembered not to follow the crowd to the top, cutting left to skirt the summit and regain a few places. A manic dash down into a small valley, and a hands-on-knees slog up to Randygill and I was strangely feeling a bit better. I nabbed a few more places on the long descent home, remembering to watch out for Weasdale’s sting in the tail – an irrigation ditch hidden in long grass about a mile from the finish. Its more like a replica World War One trench if you don’t see it coming in time to jump it properly, and there is usually at least one runner who doesn’t. From there was a straight run to the show field, tea from an ancient industrial sized urn and home made cake. A great day out if anyone fancies it next year.” – Alex
13th Alex Jones 1.06.56 (DNF in the Curly Walking Stick competition) (Full Results)
Burnsall Fell Race – 23 August – 1.6 miles / 800 ft
The Burnsall Fell Race is on record as one of the oldest – reputedly started after a discussion in the Red Lion pub with one local character, Tom Young, supposedly having run up naked (frowned upon at the modern running of the race).
The show is on a different day every year, according to an obscure cycle derived from the Feast of St Wilfred the patron Saint of the village church. Along with races on the road and fell, there are the usual stalls and tombolas and even an old fashioned Punch & Judy Show for the kids.
We had a nice little gathering of members at this one but only one runner was brave enough for the tarmac of the 10 mile road race – Neil Armitage who finished 10th in a time of 1:00:58.
After cheering on the junior races, the rest of us gathered at the start line on the road next to the village green, where the race was started by 94 year old Bob Newbould who won back in 1939.
Like all of the short, sharp races, it pays to leg it as far ahead as you can from the start and just try and hang on for the rest of it. Though strategy usually goes out the window, there had been some pre-race discussion about the best line of descent once you’ve run round the cairn at the top. I felt like I had a good run to the base of the hill but slowed a little during the steepest part of the climb. Claire, climbing strong, easily trotted past me on the up and gave me the impetus to push a bit harder, with the turnaround point in sight. Once over top, the drop into the scrub is steeper than it looks and I found myself surrounded by runners trying various lines with contrasting degrees of success – some flying away down the hill, others stalled and flapping about like birds caught in traps.
I ended up avoiding the main trod(s) and just throwing myself downwards using the heather to break my fall during each leap and hoping to avoid potential rocks and pits. It seemed to do the job and I managed to pass a shrieking Claire before I hit the start of the field, clambered over the wall, and then used up the remainder of the tank for the final sprint to the line. A thoroughly enjoyable – and suitably reckless feeling – race with great atmosphere overall.
Niall, James, and myself managed to win 3rd place Men’s Team, and Rachel won a vets prize through what seemed like some strange administrative mix-up. Despite her protests, she was practically forced to accept it!
Road: Neil Armitage 10th 1:00:58. / Fell: Niall Bourke 13th 17:53. James Wilkinson 31st 20:19. Graham Pilling 41st 20:49. Adam Speed 51st 21:44. Rachel Pilling 53rd (4th L) 21:48. Claire Green 66th 22:42. Michael Rees 96th 24:35. (Full Results)
Chipping Show Fell Race – 23 August – 7.5 miles / 1801 ft
On the same day as Burnsall we have the Chipping and District Agricultural and Horticultural Show, first held back in 1920. The race is organised by Preston Harriers and while not one of the more well-known show races, it still attracts a good field.
One of our newer members Martin Hurst was there flying the P&B flag and had a cracking result with 5th place in a time of 1:09:06. (Full Results)
Grasmere Senior Guides Race – 24 August – 1.6 miles / 886 ft
The Grasmere Sports and Show event is one the most well known, having been held annually for nigh on 159 years. P&B’s Rob Hope has run (and won) this one a few times and was once again there this year:
This is a great Lakeland show race with large crowd atmosphere, which is made all the better in nice weather. The course runs out across the show ground and then rises steeply on to the fells. I set off at a reasonable pace and found myself towards the front early on but then dropped backed back to 3rd. I maintained this position to the top and pushed on the descent to try to catch the leaders but couldn’t close in. Given it’s short, it’s a real lung burster and I think I stripped my lungs! Can’t complain with a good 3rd place and first V40 in one of my fastest times.” – Rob
Rob Hope 3rd (1st M40) 13 minutes something… (Full Results aren’t too specific about times!)
Kilnsey Crag Race – 26 August – 1.2 miles / 407 ft
Finally, we have Kilnsey Show – quite a large event which was incredibly busy for a Tuesday, drawing folk in from all over the Upper Wharfedale and beyond. Along with the Junior and Senior Crag races, there are a seemingly endless number of contests – livestock, arts, handicrafts, dry-stone wall building, eel wrestling, cake baking, veg growing – so lots to see and do.
The view of the crag is stunning and all I’d heard about this one is that it features ‘the chimney’, a channel through the rock which you have to climb down. It’s actually obscured by the trees so you can’t see it unless you’re running the race. The effect for the many spectators must be like watching people go in and out of a Ghost Train ride: runners disappear at the top of the hill, followed by various screams and clattering, before being spat out at great speed through the trees at the bottom…
Just myself, Rachel and the indefatigable Rob Hope at this one. Here’s what Rob had to say:
Another classic ‘crag’ race that forms part of a very popular agricultural show with massive crowds. As I’d been suffering with back trouble I decided to hit the show field fast and climb really hard to get a lead. I reached the top in first and continued to run hard across the ridge before dropping down the steep limestone escarpment. As I entered the notorious near vertical gulley ‘the chimney’, I sensed I had a reasonable lead so carefully lowered myself down while still managing to cut my hand on the rusty fencing at the side. I emerged out of the trees and raced through the crowds gathered on the hillside before sprinting back onto the showfield track. A very enjoyable win at a unique event.” – Rob
This was Rob’s 10th win at Kilnsey, and the milestone run was captured by Andy ‘Wharfee’ Holden in a short video which you can see here: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10203732470745525 Of course, you can’t have an outstanding run like that without Dave Woodhead making you awkwardly pose with the trophy and a cup of Yorkshire Tea.
Though finishing a few(!) places behind Rob in 37th, I really enjoyed this race. The crowds encircling the show field beforehand really build the atmosphere and if you’ve not done it before the infamous chimney provides an extra jingle to the jangle of pre-race nerves. It feels like it’s all over very quickly but it’s definintely one to be experienced.
Rob Hope 1st 8:07. Graham Pilling 37th 11:48. Rachel Pilling 56th 13:13. (Full Results)
See you next year
That’s it for our roundup of show races – see you next year where I predict Alex will finally get that win in the Curly Walking Stick competition.