Charnwood Hills Race

The Charnwood Hills Race is set in the picturesque area of Charnwood Leicestershire and passes through Bradgate Park one of the venues on the cross country circuit.  The race is organised by the Bowline Climbing Club, falls under FRA rules and is the only official fell race in Leicestershire.  This year bought four of the clubs members to the start line Stuart Halsey, Simon Reynolds, Ade Middleton and Andy Lindley, ready to take on the renowned tough challenge.  Fourteen miles of almost unbroken cross country running with enough climbs to sap the energy out of the strongest thighs.

The mass start headed out from St Martins High School fields potted with soft mole hills and across a couple of farmers fields.  Due to the rain the previous couple of days the conditions were very muddy under foot with a many slipping and a few falling even in XC shoes as we headed towards Bradgate Park.  Here it was a relief to have bracken and grass to tread on to gain some momentum as the long haul up ‘Old John’ began.  The climb is topped off by cheering supporters urging you on as you drive yourself to the top where you treated to spectacular panoramic views of the park and surrounding countryside.

No time to grab a breath as you head down through the carpark and on towards Lingdale Golf Course.  A muddy affair on the way down so at least we were prepared for the way back! Through the golf course and on to another climb before reaching Beacon Hill.  The friendly faces of Maria Allen and Lisa Wright greeted us as we entered the carpark with camera’s poised.  Keep smiling as we pass by knowing we are half way round. A fairly flat loop on compacted track through the tree lined boulevard around Beacon Hill and back to the car park and we were on our way back.  Now for the mud to kick in and drain the legs of energy.  Few managed to run all the way back up from the golf course to the road crossing as it had turned into a severe mud fest.  The best choice was to laugh as we slipped, glided and skidded our way up.

Back into Bradgate and moral rises inside you as you know the end is getting closer. Skirting around Old John this time it a downhill affair so no reason for slowing down as we head out the other side of the park and into the last few fields.  Wow if you had any strength left this final section will do its best to remove it from you.  Uphill, no grip, carrying about a stone of excessive mud on each foot, you trudge forward to the final stile and then the finish line is in sight.  Head up, drive forward, lets get this done as the crowd cheers you on and then you cross the line.  No flashy medals or T-shirts in fell races, just a nod, a shake of hands or a pat on the back with your fellow competitors in mutual respect for finishing.  Stuart Halsey was first to cross the line in an impressive 1:50:20 finishing 37th and 3rd in his category.  Followed by Andy Lindley, who was running for his first claim team Ivanhoe, 119th in 2:06:30.  Next Simon Reynolds powered over for 172nd in 2:16:11 and finally Ade Middleton made it in 220th place in 2:24:42, who vowed a return visit to better his time next year.  A tough race by any standards, well organised and marshaled at all points, thank you all and see you in 2019, if we get in!

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Cannock Chase Trig Point Race and the Red Dibber!

Millford Cricket Club was the meeting place for my next adventure in racing by taking part in a cross country navigation race.  This one was a 17.2mile event in my case or could be longer/shorter depending on your route  and organised by Mercia Fell Runners.  FRA (Fell Runners Association) rules were applied to the race meaning you had to carry mandatory kit (waterproof top and trousers, hat, gloves, compass) and gives you an idea of the type of race and competitors lining up at registration.  After paying the entry fee, collecting your number, your are then presented with a red dibber! A vital piece of kit for proving you have been to the set points in the correct order, anything other than this order or not making cut of times at certain check points means you will be asked to leave the race.  The dibber is an electronic dongle that attaches to your finger by elastic, when you reach a checkpoint insert your red dibber into the checker wait for a quick flash and a beep and all is done and logged.

Off to the start at Millford common, noticing that I am the only one carrying a map case, taking a bearing and working out which path to take.  I must stick out like a sore thumb, only thing missing is the Sat Phone and flashing beacon on my head in case I get lost.  Too late to worry as we are off, at least in the directional I wanted to go, but some are veering off to the left up over the hill, do I follow them or stick to my route with the bulk of the others? Stick to the route, over the stepping stones then wind up and round, chatting to people as I go.  Not running flat out but trying to find a steady pace, check the map on the move, look where people are going up ahead, this is the right way.  The first Trig point appears by the rifle range as planned, time to insert the dibber. Flash, beep and the marshal records your number, check map and off heading south towards the railway crossing and the first timed cut off point.

Through the 60min check point with 7 mins to spare, I follow the pack this time as we cut through the forest.  Then its uphill and a steep one it is all the way to Castle Ring at the most southerly point of the Chase.   Dibber done, then all the way back down and uphill again to the road.  Keep going up to the next Trig point at Stile Cop passing a few runner on the way.  The hill sessions are paying off and over half way! Heading back now but first a long slog up a track to a short road section then on to the last of the trails called Sherbrook Banks.  Three miles to go and I up my pace at each mile from 9 – 8 – 7min, catching a few more on the last climb and then we can see the final Trig point called Glacial Boulder. Dibber done, quick selfie and off for the final push as chap blasts past but I just can’t hold on.  A gradual downhill through a tree covered gulley before it opens up and the finish is in sight.  ‘Don’t forget to check your dibber in’ shouts the marshal as I approach the finish line……bleep, flash and it’s finished.  Not many of us around the finish area but all of us are congratulating one another and grabbing a cup of water. We watch some other faces I recognise from around the course finish and cheer them in.  Mutual respect amongst runners as a tough mornings run has been conquered and I think maybe the first time an SDRR runner has completed it, but hopefully not the last.

A great experience on a chilly morning, the ground was fairly hard underfoot, a lot of hard compacted natural trails, some short road sections so my choice of trails instead of XC shoes was a wise choice.  Navigation was minimal as most competitors had done the race before so at times I followed the crowd.  Thank you to Mercia Fell Runners for organising an excellent race and giving me some happy memories for years to come.  Managed to finish 61st out of 118 finishers in a time of 2:32:42, not too bad for my first attempt.  Big thank you to all the marshals, supporters and helpers, cheers and may see you next year! Ade Middleton

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