Race date: 28 June 2023
Race length: 9.5km/5.9mile
Race report by Laura Rangeley
**A small disclaimer to begin, if I may. This race report may read a bit like “If Mr Bean tried to run up and subsequently back down a massive hill, twice” but this should not be taken as a true representation of the race itself.**
Hope Wakes Fell Race was advertised rather nonchalantly as “Summit Win Hill in this 9.5 km / 5.9 mile race with 451 metres of ascent”, making it a BS category race (short and with middling steepness). What could be more straightforward?! Having climbed Win Hill as part of the Outside Hope Valley Round a few weeks ago, I had a quick look at the route and was satisfied that by the simple fact of not needing to run up Parkin Clough (or, as it’s known in my mind, Bastard Parkin Clough), this was well within my capabilities and would be the usual lovely evening out that I’ve come to associate with these summer mid-week fell runs.
Me and my husband Jim arrived really early as per usual, so there was plenty of time for chatting with fellow runners and faffing about my slightly broken Garmin and my not-really-fit-for-purpose-but-really-comfy fell shoes (they’ve done 500 miles and I’ve managed to wear about a third of the tread completely away, leaving a lovely smooth ballet pump effect on most of the heel of each shoe). Thusly slightly anxious and poorly prepared, but looking forward to the race all the same, it was soon time to ignore everyone energetically warming up and plod to the start area.
The race began with everyone’s favourite (lol), a lap of the field, before a good mile of relatively flat tarmac round the houses of Hope, past some exceptional scarecrows showcasing the “video games” theme of this year’s Hope Wakes Week. This start to the proceedings very much lulled me into a false sense of security. Still on solid paths, we started to gently ascend the base of Win Hill before the track narrowed and the first climb began in earnest. Nothing to worry about though, a single file hill, not too technical, everyone around me walking and keeping up with the flow of fellow athletes. So far, so good.
We hit the top of the first climb around a third of the way through the advertised length of the race and the next couple of miles were a fab undulating descent through pine-needle floored woodland, heading roughly in the direction of Ladybower. I really enjoyed this portion of the race and was feeling pleased with how I was doing. Little bits of roots, little bits of mud, nothing too challenging and lots of fun. I knew there was another climb to come, but we were over half way round the course and everything seemed to be going to plan. We didn’t go all the way down to the res, so when a sharp right turn came to begin the second ascent of the same hill from a different angle I took it quite literally in my stride and headed up through the woodland via steep steps in a very jolly if rather slow fashion. Soon, the edge of the woods – and subsequently what I thought was the end of the climb – was in sight. And only about 3km to go. Yippee!
Imagine my horror when I merrily skipped through the gate that marked the “top” to see THE ENTIRETY OF A MOUNTAIN directly ahead of me. Gulp. “You’re doing great!” said a kindly volunteer, gleefully pointing me directly ahead, as I’d feared, towards the precipice. “I thought this was the top,” I gasped. “Ah” was the only reply. Ah indeed.
What followed was not Parkin Clough but it was definitely another Bastard Climb. Brushy heather made me glad of my choice to wear long trousers (I encouraged all my fellow Striders do a rigorous tick inspection once I eventually reached the end), and I battled my way up what I can only describe as an “arduous scramble” which seemed to go on forever and resulted in much huffing and puffing. I was already fairly near the back of the pack but many runners overtook me on this section, my short stature and matching little legs aren’t quite up to rocks as high as they are – tips on improving springiness would be appreciated! Anyway, putting one foot in front of the other only results in moving forwards after all, and what felt like hours later I finally reached the actual top this time, greeted by a cowbell and a very nice marshal waving a box of Fruit Pastilles at me.
And so began the descent. Surely I’d got the hard work under my belt by now? This was not quite the case. I was concentrating so hard on my Fruit Pastille that I suddenly realised I couldn’t see anyone. At all. No runners ahead, none behind, no marshals. I was about 60% sure I hadn’t missed a turning, so I carried on, with the logic that at least I was going downhill. Fortunately those dubious odds worked in my favour and it was with relief that I finally spotted a hi-viz as the course left the sandy, rocky, steep downhill path behind and a seemingly easier section through fields was to follow. “Straight through this field and you’ll see them in front of you!” said the marshal, so onward I went.
Straight through the field, but the promised vision of fellow runners didn’t materialise – yet again nobody in front, nobody behind, no marshals and no tape that my short sighted eyes could see to mark the way. So I employed the tactic my mum always told me to use if I thought I was lost and stood still – forlornly, under a dead looking tree in the middle of field number 2.
After a short while my saviour came into view, a Danum Harrier who helped me find the right exit to the field before I promptly slipped on the grass and landed neatly arse first in a big pile of cow poo. I should probably have listened to Jim and got rid of those shoes. Fortunately it wasn’t a fresh shit so I was able to get up and brush myself off, there was firmer path in sight and according to my watch less than a kilometre to go. Maybe this was the end of my woes?
Enter, calf cramp and a longer than advertised race distance, hoorah! Finally I reached the bottom of the hill, hopping gently, under a bridge and back on familiar tarmac before taking a right turn for a much needed shortcut back to the sports club through a few more fields (and over some particularly unwelcome stiles). Jim was waiting for me with around 200m to go and attempted to encourage me to a fast finish until I swore at him for daring to go quicker than me when he’d already crossed the line. He dropped back and left me to my dramatic flail across the finish, after 10.2km (so actually just crossing into an ‘M’ category race, if I’m being picky) and what felt like really a Very Long Time.
I am not a natural fell runner and this race took me well and truly out of my comfort zone – but it was brilliantly organised and in hindsight I really did have a great time, despite what the above may suggest! A cup of weak, sugary tea and watching fellow Striders collect prizes was a great way to end the evening under one of the most glorious orangey sunsets I’ve ever seen.
There were 184 finishers this year. The race was won by Joe Steward of Salford Harriers, in a new course record time of 39.02, and Phillipa Williams of Dark Peak in 46.20. Full results can be found here: