Steel Fell race

Watching the Steel Fell race this week re-affirmed my feelings for the beauty of the sport of fell running. The race was on a Wednesday evening and reminded me of some of the traditional fell races I did way back. There was no fee, no pre-entry, no prizes, no facilities and a ragbag of numbers recycled from other races. It was held from a farm at the south end of Thirlmere. We pulled in to the farmers field and were directed where to park by the farmer (none other than fell running legend Gavin Bland). He shortly got on his quadbike and set off to flag the course.  Runners warmed-up, often by going halfway up the fell, and 57 of them assembled on the start line at 7-15pm. A few words from the organiser and what looked like the farmer’s son started the race. Phil Davies (Borrowdale) was immediately into the lead as they set off out of the farm on to the open fell and up the northern ridge of Steel Fell (photo).  After 2.5k and 1312ft of height gain they set off back down again.

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Phil Davies won convincingly in 22-00, nearly 2 minutes off the course record. The ladies winner was Pippa Maddams (Keswick), who come in 15th – just 13 secs shy of the record in 25-40. After leafletting all the cars I had a chat to a Highgate runner whose vest I noticed. He had just run his first fell race, and said he was training for the Bob Graham Round. Apparently sticky labels with runners names on were stuck on a board for all to see the results, and you could have a wash down from a barrel of water in the yard. To get a good impression of what this race is like (it is given a category AS in the FRA calendar) have a look at this interesting little video of the race, which I saw linked on the FRA forum.

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