Old Counties Tops Fell Race

Race Report by Andy Pritchard


So now the dust has settled and I’ve had a couple of nights on the couch, I can reflect on the toughest and greatest race I have done to date. Last Saturday saw me and Hayley Evans travel to the Lake District to take part in the iconic Old Counties Tops fell race. The route is circular from Langdale and visits the summits of Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Consiston Old Man. However, there are numerous climbs in the areas between these summits as well as river crossings, boggy terrain, long pathless sections and we even squeezed in a little bit of down climbing coming off scafell pike.Just to add to the difficulties the sun decided to come out and temperatures soared. Although we prepared thoroughly leading up to the race Hayley and I had suffered illness and injuries which hampered preparations.

So to the race, all 35.5 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing of it. After a cautious start, we settled into our race pace (trot) and sailed up Helvellyn far quicker than our recce run. Our quads were then destroyed by the steep 3000 foot plunge to the valley floor. Then the long section across boggy and pathless terrain steadily climbing to Angle Tarn. This is just over halfway and we were in high spirits as we had reached the tarn well over an hour ahead of the cut off time.

Then the rocky ascent of Scafell Pike and the roof of England. Various descents are an option here but we chose the most direct which was an extremely technical, steep and rocky plunge to Great Moss, where our experience of climbing certainly was called upon.More undulating boggy terrain took us to the feed station at Cockney Beck. By this point, we were over marathon distance and facing the climb up the mountain Greyfriar. This is steep, pathless in parts, rough terrain and undulating.

The race is run as a pair and up to this point, we had stayed within talking distance of each other. However this climb ‘saw me off’ and I struggled to match Hayley’s pace. Just when I needed it Hayley cajoled and supported (dragged me) up the climb to the ridge. Then the agonising two miles to the summit of Coniston old man knowing you had to turn round and descend the same way. Over 30 miles now, furthest I have ever run, and I couldn’t lift my knees up. Another steep descent to Wrynose Pass and an agonising mile on the tarmac led us to the last ‘bump’ over into Langdale, through the campsite full of Bbq’s and beer to the finish line and a massive cheer from other finishers.

We finished in just over 10 hours but times seemed irrelevant, to us it was quite simply a ‘great day out in the hills’. Many people enquired about Buckley and I felt proud that we had represented our club in this epic race. To finish I must thank Hayley for helping me get through the many difficult patches throughout the day! as we finished we debated if we would ever do this race again and I cannot print my responses for fear of censor. However as I sit on my couch I honestly wish I could do it again this weekend, the experience and camaraderie was that special.

Happy running everyone?

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