Mount Famine fell race 2023 report

Widely spaced runners running downhill across moorland in bright sunny weather.

Photo credit: Will Meredith

Race date: Saturday 20 May 2023

Race distance: 5 mile / 1850ft climbing (AS)

Race report by Matt Broadhead

Mount Famine is part of Hayfield’s “Three days in May” fell racing extravaganza, with three short fell races taking place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday (in total they’re just under 10 miles). Mount Famine is the middle and longest of the three, run in memory of Mark Boulton, former race organiser. I’d never done it before and I figured it’d be a laugh on a Saturday morning. Sure enough, “haha wtf” ended up being my Strava description.

I’d decided to ask a friend along that I’d not seen for a while. She’s hard as nails, but had only previously done two fell races (Totley Moor and Longshaw Sheepdog Trials). I figured this one was short and doable and we could go for lunch at Distant Hills brewery tap in Old Glossop after.

Saturday morning was a sunny smasher, and even with a tactical never-pass-an-open-public-toilet stop at Castleton we pulled into the car park in good time, collected our numbers and ignored the “recommend” part of “There’s no kit requirement but we’re recommending waterproofs.” Look at the photo if you think we were being foolhardy. The start’s a decent walk from registration through the lovely little village of Hayfield and past the cricket ground. It’s also quite hard to identify if you’ve not been before. Usually one expects a line across a path, with one part of the path behind it and the rest of the path beyond it. No. The start line runs along the side of the path for about 100m, with all of the path behind it and that steep wooden bank up there beyond it. (There’s a video at

The bank is actually a good way of spacing out the field, similar to how some races make you do a lap of a cricket field before you set off, to reduce bottlenecks. After the scrambling fun, there’s a short path and another steep banking (grass this time, mercifully, and it’s off along the Dragon’s Back, an undulating climb over sheep pasture, rather benign, Custard rather than Orm, and largely runnable. That leads up to the two peaks of the race, the amazingly named Mount Famine and the boringly named South Head, which are really part of the same hill. So far so good, but now comes the hard bit. The organisers think Mount Famine is a cool name too, and they’ve decided it’s a shame to come all this way and only do it once. So, very much like the nearby Herod Farm race, you get two goes. Past South head is a nice fast downhill that all of a sudden becomes almost unrunnably downhill into Dimpus Clough (yes, really) and I had to resort to my atrocious crabbing downhill technique, switching sides every time a knee hurt. (A marshal told my friend that the path never gets used by anyone all year, except for the fell race.) Never mind, it wasn’t that long and there was a friendly marshall waving us left on to a lovely flat path and OW BUGGER, the curse of running in my grey shorts on Hathersage Hurtle day sent my right calf into a crampy spasm and sent me tumbling into the grass, to concerned are-you-okays from other runners. I was, thankfully, though it’s still a bit shifty four days later. I sat and ate some Haribo, wondering why it couldn’t have happened at the top of the hill where there’s a nice view.

Eventually I got to my feet, decided I could run and headed through a gap in the wall to the bit where the race instructions said “crawl back up”. The climb was definitely memorably hard, not hugely long but very steep, and it was a great relief to get back to the top. The return leg along the bumpy dragon was thankfully uneventful, though the slope away to the right was enough to make me really want to not take another tumble.

At last it was down the banking from the Dragon’s Back and onto the bridleway for the last mile or so to the finish, via a slight drop down to the river and a hairpin bend back into the playground and finish funnel. The marshal at the hairpin just had chance to finish her shout of encouragement before I tripped on nothing and planted full length. Trying to look like I’d meant to do that actually, I scuttled across the finish line, my disobedient mind already whispering “Unfinished business this one Matt, you’ll have to do it again you know…”.

I gulped some much-needed water and limped back up the course a bit, feeling guilty about having dragged an inexperienced racer to such a tough course, only to find her galloping happily along not far behind, fresh as a daisy and looking ready to go round again. That’ll teach me to be patronising.

This is a cracker of a stinker of a race, despite not having any particularly terrainy terrain (after the start) or distant distance. Although it says you have no navigate, it’s well (and friendlily) marshalled and partly marked. I will definitely have another go at it, maybe even do the full weekend.

Lunch was also good.

The race was won by Cynog Williams of Dark Peak Fell Runners in 47:18, and Katie Walshaw of Holmfirth Harriers in 52:04. 84 finished.

Striders result

P Name Cat Time
63 Matt Broadhead M40 1:13:12

Full results:

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