Oh, hi Yorkshire Dales, looking all gorgeous and sunny, with your sheep and cowes and yellow Tour de France decorations. What’s that, you say? You have a fell race? Why, count me in!!
And that pretty much sums up my weekend.
SB and I went to the Yorkshire Dales to visit friends of ours, and it was very nicely timed with the village fete. Cue lots of cake, ice cream and cider, with a strong man competition thrown in for good measure.
Whilst there, I also ran my first ever fell race.: the Arncliffe Gala Fell Race It was 1.9 miles, so the distance wasn’t too intimidating even if the hills were. Where better to test out my fell-legs than in one of the most beautiful parts of the world?
It soon transpired that this little event would bring almost as many nerves as the marathon, and before the start I was all sweaty and quiet. It came down to three things:
- This was a local race, in an area overrun by farmers and people who run up the fells every day as part of their everyday work. Their calf muscles alone told me how familiar they were with this landscape. How would this city slicker do in comparison?
- I had no idea how to pace the race. 1.9 miles – you should be able to sprint that pretty quickly. But how do you tackle the giant hill? What about running down? Do you pelt it down, and risk breaking your ankle in a rabbit hole?
- There were only about 80 competitors, plus my friends were watching. I’m used to the anonymity of bigger races, where I feel like I can fade into the fabric of the other runners, and this felt much more exposed. This issue was 100% a matter of pride 😉
So. We lined up in the village green, after children of all ages ran their races in spectacular style (I’ve never seen so many kids in running club vests). The compere confirmed that we should start on the whistle and not the count of three, and then we were off to literally run up hill and down dale.
We left the village and entered one of the fields, where for the next ¾ of a mile we ‘ran’ up the side of one of the dales. Except no one ran, apart from maybe the people in front. Most people were walking, with their hands on their quads pushing their weight through their legs. It was so steep, with so many hidden holes and rocks, that I don’t actually think you could run.
The next section took us across the ridge of the hill, where there were some fantastic views if we’d have been able to look. All I could do was watch where my feet were going, and try to keep up speed without losing my footing. More than once I stumbled, and eventually found it easier to run with my arms out for balance. I like to think I was channeling Mo Farah’s winning pose, but I think in reality I showed myself as a novice.
Going down was what scared me. Instead of trying to keep a good running posture, I leaned back, spread my hands out in front of me, and took tiny steps. I totally copied this style from a woman who overtook me on the slope.
And then before I knew it, we were back on the flat and I pelted the last section. I was able to overtake the woman whose style I copied (competitive much?), and finished in 16:52. I was eighth woman in, out of eighteen, with the first woman coming back in 13:32. It was a different running experience: I never ran at full capacity until the end, because the landscape demanded special care where I placed my feet. This took more concentration, as well as a strong core, to make sure I didn’t tumble down the hill and really expose myself as a novice. I really enjoyed the whole thing: participating in a local event, running in some gorgeous scenery, and not being too sweaty at the end for my friends!!
The other highlight of the day was seeing my 18 month old goddaughter win second prize in the children’s fancy dress competition. She was a sheep, and if I do say so myself, was the cutest sheep in all the land. She’s no fool – she knew when the judges were there, and went ‘baaaaa’ as they walked past. I see a bright future for her in politics or on the stage with those crowd-pleasing public speaking skills at such a young age.
Ah, and we also watched the Strongman Competition and Tug-of-War in the afternoon sun! This weekend had so many highlights, and Arncliffe has set a very high standard for how a village fete should be run. It’s not hard: have a strongman competition, running races, and lots of cake.