Denis Stitt Memorial Fell Race 2022 report

Race date: 11 August 2022

Race distance: 6km with 370m of climb

Race report by Matt Broadhead

I decided to have a crack at this one after doing Holme Moss the other week. It’s another Holmfirth Harriers race, and starts at the same cricket club above Holmfirth, with smashing views over my native West Yorkshire. That (and the presence of the HRRC flying squad) was pretty much the only thing the two occasions had in common though. Whereas Holme Moss had been grey and soggy, the car temperature gauge was hitting 30 on the drive over for this one. Holme Moss heads West into the high hills, while Denis Stitt drops down the kind of tracks and fields you’d find in parts of Rivelin Valley. What they have in common, though, is that they’re helluva steep.

Proudly wearing my new “vintage” Striders vest I signed up, took a photo of a box of courgettes, and decided I was warm enough already and standing in the shade was a good idea. I chatted with the HRRC crew, which would be the last I saw of them till they watched me cross the finish line while they lounged elegantly on the grass, drinking their second glass of squash. Then the race director shouted to us to assemble. As we stood in a corral ready to be counted through to the start, we were told that there would be a water station at the end of the first lap (of two). That sounds a bit OTT, I thought. It’s only 4 miles.

We filed past a cart selling kindling and free-range eggs and lined up at the start. The first part of the lap is a farm track, dry as a desert and covered in those annoying ping-pong-to-tennis-ball-sized loose rocks that farmers use to deter fell race organisers. (It never works.) The locals had clearly done this before, and picked their route carefully or stayed on the grass verge. I didn’t, and was soon feeling the fatigue in my legs from Salt Cellar last week, and being not as near the front as I was when I started off.

The good thing about short races is that nothing lasts very long, so we were soon round a corner, along a track and belting down a field, at the bottom of which we went into the blessed shade of a wood. It was all a bit narrow here, and I slipped up by not doing some overtaking while I still had a bit of spring in my step. I’ll know next time. Eventually what had gone down had to go up, and to my shame I walked more than I needed to of the initial wood-and-field part of the climb. I tried to make up for it on the road back up to the start point, and managed to get past two or three runners before chugging the glass of water that the organisers had extremely wisely supplied at the end of the lap.

The bad thing about lap races is you have to do it again. At least this time I knew what to do on the farm track, and it went much more smoothly. The pelt down the field gave the people I’d passed on the hill chance to get their own back, and I took a moment to notice that I was really far too hot. I walked exactly as much as I needed to of the wood-and-field part of the climb, which was most of it, and overtook the same people again on the climb. “Ha! They won’t have a downhill to pass me on this time, because there’s not a lap 3,” I thought, moments before I turned onto the cricket field and two of them sprinted past me to the finish.

Given it was less than 4 miles and not really “fell”, that was extremely hard in 30-Celsius heat. It was well-organised and friendly, and the post-race chilli was good. I’d do it again, definitely. (It would be nice to not be the only Strider though, hint hint.)

The race was won by Joseph Harding (unattached) in 31:26; and by the pleasingly alliterative Helen Haigh of Holmfirth Harriers in 38:25.

I was 32nd of 60 finishers in 44:02, and I actually won a prize for second MV45! (OK, there were about 40 prizes shared among 60 runners, but a prize is a prize.)

Full results:

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