Hotfoot up Famau – 17th June, 2015
Whilst I dallied with competitive fell running at university this race was the first I took part in when I decided to compete in earnest – back in 2006. For that reason it is always nice to return to a race that fired my interest in competitive fell running.
The course had a modification a few years back but apart from that few things have changed. Now organised by Simon Roberts, Hotfoot is a course he maintains is “the slowest 5k in the country”. Strangely enough the weather conditions the month before the race takes place have a bearing on the finishing times! This is due to the infrequently used path the course follows – and how entangled the runners get in the seasonal bracken.
The dry cool spring meant that this years growth was modest; allowing for relatively free flowing running leading to some good finishing times. The cool breezy weather helped as did the rain and drizzle holding off too.
A record field of 117 runners rushed from the start and before long began the plummet leading to Moel y Gaer. This was essentially single track but the more reckless scooted past some of the cautious runners by ploughing through the undergrowth to move up the field. Without respite the steep crawl up Moel y Gaer soon shook up the field. Some ran, some walked and others did a combination of the two. Whichever mechanism was used lungs and heart strained and legs burned but the hill fort on the summit once reached was but a temporary relief.
The route down to the start of the second climb makes it more of a plunge than a run and even the most wild descenders show an element of caution here. Whilst a fall here would unlikely involve rock it would be difficult to stop rolling until being deposited into the stream at the bottom!
The long drag towards “the gully” then begins. Viewed independently such a gradual rise would offer few challenges. However after two full-tilt descents and a grind up to the hill fort even the most athletic were reduced to a steady jog at best.
Before long the gully itself arrived – a narrow, steep, shale-invested route leading towards the summit of Moel Famau. An element of care is needed here – it is very easily to dislodge stones of sizes large enough to injure those following! Also particular lines offer better grip than others and so whilst it might have appeared some runners with tottering side to side due to sheer exhaustion it is quite possible tactics were in evidence.
All that remained then was following the standard path back to the starting point. Finally a wide path, almost sensible – a definite relief.
Again Buckley were well represented both in terms of runners and encouraging marshals dotted around the course. No results are available as yet though the field was particularly strong; including four former winners coming home in the top five! Jez Brown took a hard fought third, Simon Edwards narrowly failing to pip Ian Houston to finish six. Andy Pritchard wasn’t too far behind and Justin Romero-Edwards, Huw Lewis, Hazel Berrett and John Morris all had good runs (including prizes U23 1st for Justin, F50 2nd for Hazel and M70 1st for John Morris).
So a challenging course, well organised, well supported with encouraging marshals. If you want to dip your toes in fell racing consider this high on your list for next year!