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!