I wasn't going to bother. I hadn't run for a while and I had no great desire to drag on a pair of running shoes and head for Allendale. But the weather forecast suggested it could be a fun outing; sunshine and frost. Always an exciting combination for a fell race, and the promise of some wintry glittery landscapes, which are always nice.
Turning up at Allendale Middle School we were flagged, pointed and waved into a parking place. So far, so straightforward. Although there seemed to be a negligable number of toilets. No matter, I jogged down the road to look for some wooded hollow that I remembered from a couple of years back only to discover that someone had built a housing estate on top of it. Back into the school to be registered and a warning look from the lady who advised me that I should have 'something else to put on' when I was out on the fells, over and above my Striders vest. Wise words. In many respects I sometimes feel this sort of fell race can be more dangerous than some of the big in-your-face beasts such as the Grisedale Horseshoe, where it's impossible to start under the brooding Lakeland fells without feeling the teeniest bit mortal. The hobble, on the other hand, looks deceptively tame, and as far as fell races goes, isn't very long, and isn't very hilly. But the devil is in the detail, and the detail is the potential for being caught miles from shelter if the weather turns nasty.
Today however the weather was kind. The organisers, however, were not. Runners who ignored the mandatory kit requirements and clear warnings of disqualification discovered that the organisers walk the walk. Somewhere further back at the tail end of the field I was walking my own walk, up more hills than usual, having proved the hypothesis that if you don't train, you don't go very fast. I'd started the race with Anita and Rich (who didn't seem to know if he was coming or going
), then decided to latch on to Dave Shipman. I thought I'd be a smart arse and pass him exactly where I passed him two years ago
, getting some matching photos from the same spot. As we got closer to the shadowy dip Dave rather spoilt the plan by getting further away so I kinda gave up on that idea. Soon he disappeared from view entirely.
On the last side of the triangle I really began to feel the miles and contemplated with a sort of detached fascination how quickly one's form erodes away if you don't keep on running. It was good photo weather and I tried to capture a few frosty scenes, glancing back from time to time to see if Rich and Anita were nearby. With no PB pressure I jogged on concentrating on simply putting one foot in front of the other which, in these slippy conditions, wasn't always quite as easy as it sounded.
The finish was in the same playing field as the start and Alister was there to shout the straggling Striders home along with Sara and Murphy. The prize ceremony was indoors, as were the tea and cakes and a extraordinarily long list of spot prizes. As usual, a well organised running of this quirky race that can be very gentle some years and extremely hostile on others. It's this unpredictability that makes it so interesting.