6th December, 2015 – Cardington, Shropshire.
Yet another remarkably mild day greeted the competitors in the 2015 running of the Cardington Cracker fell race down in the rolling hills of Shropshire. This is the third out of seven races in the Shropshire Hills winter fell series; a series that is more popular than the Welsh Fell Running Championship series.
So it was the beautiful (and obviously well-heeled) village of Cardington was descended on by over 240 runners from various clubs – though the bright yellow of Merica drowned out all other clubs by far. Making it down to the event and braving the prospect of a bog-ridden car park/field were four proudly wearing their best Buckley blue. Actually make that three – Huw Lewis was running incognito. So it was myself, Steve Toogood and Hayley Evans mingled and chatted in the starting field before setting off for 9 miles of fun.
The hills in this area are quite different from most we find in Wales, so after a fairly gentle (at least in terms of gradients and terrain) start we hit the first big climb of a typical hill in the Church Stretton area. They offer incredibly steep climbs with broad level summits. Thus immediately on starting such an ascent you stop running; they are simply far too steep to even attempt a run. So it was a five minute lung-busting trudge ensued. There was a vague impression of a track to follow but since the bracken had mostly died back it did allow various lines to be taken in an effort to make up some ground on those in front.
Once the summit is reached aching thighs and protesting calf muscles then have to be coaxed into a semblance of running. Whilst the front runners probably did manage a run I was happy with something more akin to a staggering jog. Of course after a climb comes a descent usually and the Cracker did not disappoint. The descents were not that tricky (mainly grass with few rocky bits) there were uniformly steep and in places boggy. Pelting down such slopes is, for my addled mind at least, the most fun part of fell running. Of course it could all end badly but often doesn’t apart from incredible amounts of lactic acid accumulating in the thighs.
The climbs, summits and drops were repeated several times over the duration of the course and it ended up being quite a test. As usual Buckley acquitted themselves with some good times and category positions. Special call-out to Steve however; probably the longest run he has done since June following a summer lay-off due to injury and illness. To complete the course under such circumstances was a heroic effort indeed.