Clay Bank East Fell Race

imageRichard Woods and myself parked up in a car park pretty much in the middle of nowhere. A long queue of wrapped-up runners all clutching their £6 waited to pay the gentleman in a Skoda with the window wound  down.                                              (Photo by Nic Barber)>  Half an hour later we are at the start of the Clay Bank East fell race staring up at the Hill Of Doom. The run is only 5.7 miles though there are 307m of climbing and as the race starts some runners split up trying to get the best route to the top. Richard and myself followed an older grizzled runner who looked like he had run this race many times though his route seems short but more steep than other runners who have taken another track. Now Richard had mentioned his man flu earlier and his blocked passages become evident as he starts to bark like a seal.                                                                                            At the top of the Hill Of Doom we are on a flattish section and I can hear Richard behind me (‘Bark Bark’!) but at a stream crossing he wades across further downstream and he’s away whilst I’m stranded behind other runners. After a boggy section there is a long uphill grind which takes us up into the clouds and by the time we get to the highest point of the race I have pulled back the lost time on Richard. From here it’s pretty much all downhill and as I overtake my fellow Bedale runner and hear his barking becoming more distant I know the win is mine….or so I thought. With half a mile to go Richard ,in stealth mode (no bark), passes me on a particularly treacherous slippy descent and as we battle up a final hill that is so muddy it’s like trying to run through treacle I cannot catch him and it’s over the finishing line with big smiles on our faces. Richard’s time was 51:42 (89) and mine 51:50 (90)                              (170 runners)

Winter fell racing is not only good fun but also excellent training for those spring and summer road races. after all if you can run up a hill then surely a flat 10k should be no problem. It’s all very low key, friendly and runners of all sizes and abilities are welcome though you do need good fell/trail shoes and must like mud.

Check out the excellent Esk Valley Fell Club site at for forthcoming races though Richard and myself hope to give the Commondale Clart a go on the 17th February. There’s always room in the car for other runners!

David Burke.

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