Anyone who runs fell races around Sheffield will have heard of the Gritstone series. A series of races organised in the surrounding Dark Peak of varying lengths by Accelerate running shop in Attercliffe. The majority of the races are short, between 8km and 12km with a couple of longer races in the series coming in at over 15km. One of the fell races is run in conjunction with the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials., the Longshaw Fell Race. It is held in early September and entry to the fell race is included in admission to the show, an additional incentive to get punters to the sheepdog trials.
Racing Will at Longshaw Fell Race
Longshaw fell race caught my attention on Facebook months before and I decided I was going to try to make the Saturday morning race. As it happened Will Tatlow, an old friend was coming to visit us on the weekend of the race and I convinced him to enter the race with me. It’d be his first fell race but being a keen road cyclist he’d make it round ok, hopefully not too far in front of me though.
On the morning of the race, we met in Sheffield and got ready to head to Longshaw. Will didn’t have fell running shoes so I offered up my X-Talon 212’s that were too small for me but seemed to fit Will fine. We drove up out of Sheffield to a misty morning up on th’ moors but once we’d got to Longshaw Estate the sun soon burnt off the low lying cloud, leaving us with a lovely clear day. After collecting our numbers at the race registration we were joined by fellow fell runner Rose Paxman from Dark Peak Fell Runners and headed to the started line.
The klaxon sounded and we set off running down the field in front of Longshaw house. I could see Will was sitting back to gauge how fast I was going to run the race. I felt ok but not great, I’d stuffed myself at breakfast 90 minutes earlier and it was sitting heavy. On the other hand, Will had driven over from Staffordshire which added at least an hour between eating and racing, by the way, I’m getting my excuses in early. Will is definitely a strong runner and on the first climb up toward Burbage Rocks he easily ran past me and started chomping his way through the field, leaving me in his gritstone dust.
The race wasn’t going as I’d hoped, I was losing places and the added competition with Will was playing on my mind. By the second climb up to Carl Wack Fort I’d fallen further behind, I was frustrated at my pace and I just couldn’t seem to hold my position in the race. This climb was pretty tough and consisted partly of scrambling up and over gritstones before heading over to climb atop of Higger Tor, I was suffering bad from stitch. We weren’t following the course according to the map instead, we were following Stuart Bond’s lead on a slightly amended course.
After the intense climb over Higger Tor, I thought it was mostly downhill, it wasn’t. I’d completely forgotten the fact that we still had to climb Over Owler Tor. The trail we were following was pretty technical requiring us to scuttle between gritstone boulders and large semi-submerged sandstone rocks. I could feel another stitch coming on by the time I was heading down from Over Owler Tor and I had to slow up a little, losing yet more places.
By the second to last road crossing, I couldn’t see any runners ahead of me or behind me. The field was well spread out and I was pushing hard to get to the end now with about 1 kilometre to go. The final road crossing at Granby Barn brought me up onto the field in front of the Longshaw House, the same we’d run across at the beginning. This turned into a slow gradual climb to the finish line with long uneven grass underfoot sapping the last of the energy from my legs. After crossing the finish line I heard someone call my name, it wasn’t Will though, it was Chris Wilshaw. An old school friend who I’d not seen in about 12 years, he’d ran very well and ended up finishing in 20th place. After a brief hello I staggered over to Will and my fiancé Briony, who’d kindly tagged along for moral support.
We debriefed from the race and turns out Will had taken two stumbles around the course and had blood running down his leg. The shoes hadn’t played out well, by the time I’d crossed the finish line he’d thrown the shoes off and was sporting bloodied white socks from the blisters.
Despite this, Will had run the course very well and ended up finishing in 18th place. I was seriously impressed considering this was his first fell race. I finished in 53rd place out of 174 runners, not my finest performance but I was happy to have run the course. I will certainly be running this route again before the next Longshaw fell race.