Borrowdale 5/8/17 – 16.8 miles / 6562 ft
Saturday the fifth of August and all Europe sits in a heat wave. All Europe except Rosthwaite in the Lake District. I sat in my car watching the rain hammering the windscreen, with the peaks of Glaramara and Bessyboot lost in the clag. I began to think that for my first fell race since leaving the UK 2 years ago, my race map would be less use than Navigation Plan B – clinging on to any purple Borrowdale FR vest I could find…. Runners milled about the starting field under an iron sky. I spotted a few familiar faces, and some Carnethy runners who’ve heard of the long lost Middlemiss.
Amazingly, the rain eased just before the start. Most of us gambled and stuffed jackets away. If you don’t get warm on the steep initial climb to checkpoint 1 you are either Billy Bland, or more likely about to have a very, very long day out. My only aim was to enjoy one of England’s classic races – I didn’t have the fitness to do much more (2 weeks of beer and proper cheese visiting the UK is great prep), and my running on this rocky terrain is pretty ropey so I started mid-field.
After a congested start the runners split up and I worked my way up. The course is rough, rocky and largely over open fell. It is stunningly beautiful if you have time to look. Apart from a cold blast in the middle, the rain held off and by the finish it was a lovely Lakeland day. This was good, as it’s an easy course to get lost on in bad weather. Checkpoints at Esk Hause and Scafell Pike flew by. As usual I gained on the climbs but was invariably skinned by several vet 60s on the steep, broken descents over sharp, slippery rock. David Attenborough gets sent across Africa to film mountain goats, but for my money you won’t see better descending over ankle snapping boulders than at a Lakeland race like Borrowdale (just not by me).
One last 400m slog up Dale Head and it was almost over. Just a steep grass and scree descent through a quarry, and a couple of fields and that’s it. It’s about 50m from the finish to the pub. I came in 77th in 3.56. The winners were Carl Bell (2.50) and Cath Spurden (3.45), both Keswick AC. Billy Bland’s 35 year old CR of 2.34 is still there if anyone thinks they can do it next year…