Race date: Sunday 2 Feb 2020
Although popular with those in the know, this was the first time Striders had really descended en masse to compete in the 14.3 mile Mickleden Straddle fell race (BL category). Numbers were no doubt bolstered by the inclusion of the race as the first event in the 2020 Fell Race Championships.
In 2018 and 2019, the race took place in wintry conditions, with significant snow on the highpoint of the course. This, combined with the cutoff time at the first checkpoint to prevent the marshals from having to stay out too long, has given the race a slightly fearsome reputation. For any of you who have read Richard Askwith’s Feet in the Clouds, you may know that this reputation is not entirely undeserved (see the chapter called “Scenes from a fell running year: February” if you interested in the full story). However, for 2020, the weather was more benign. The worst runners had to cope with was the strong gusting wind blowing in from the west and rather boggy peat and heather underfoot. No drifts to plough through this year.
The route starts and finishes at Langsett Barn. The first mile is run along a stony track through the woods alongside the reservoir. Then you make a short sharp climb to begin the long drag up to the Cut Gate and the first checkpoint after about 4 and half miles. This is followed by a gloriously fast and runnable grassy descent (the top half anyway) as you drop to the Slippery Stones at the top of Derwent Reservoir. From here it is a fast mile and half along the access track to Howden Clough and the toughest part of the race – a good two and half miles of quagmire and steady ascending back up to the Cut Gate. From there you retrace your steps, flying down the rocky path back to the woods and the finish. Judging by the number of bleeding knees at the end, quite a few runners took tumbles on the charge back home.
The race was won by Andrew Worster (Todmorden Harriers) in 1:43:05. First female was Phillipa Williams (Sheffield Running Club) coming home in second place overall in 1:49:14 and smashing the women’s course record by around 5 minutes in the process. Striders also picked up a few prizes: Caroline Brock was 3rd lady overall, Louis Wood first MV40 and Caroline, Amy Duck and Gemma Wallace picked up the the prize for first ladies team. There were 186 finishers. Fran Cummins started but had to retire at the first checkpoint due to a recurrance of her ankle injury.
Full results on the Race Best website