Race Date : Sunday 6th August
Race Report by Laura Rangeley
A family camping trip in the Yorkshire Dales on one of the rainiest weekends of the year seemed like it might just have been the perfect excuse for myself and husband/clubmate Jim to take a rare weekend off racing… and then we found out there was a fell race a mere 17 minutes’ drive from our campsite, and I think it’s actually the law that you have to make the most of such an opportunity, so that was that. The race in question was the 20th anniversary event of Round Hill Fell Race, an 8.7 mile “CM” category race (a new one on us!) organised by Otley AC. Described by the club as “a tour of Blubberhouses Moor” (which immediately became my favouritely named moor), “taking in Round Hill and a couple of bogs… and no they won’t have dried out”, we were expecting a particularly muddy one in the aftermath of Storm Antoni and were glad to have packed our heavy duty fell shoes for our trip.
Registration was at the village hall in the delightful village of Timble, north of Otley and west of Harrogate. We’d been warned parking could be tricky as their usual field was out of action due to the aforementioned wet weather, which obviously meant we turned up nearly 2 hours early and were pretty much the first to arrive. Not only were we the sole Striders at this event (a brief look at past results suggests perhaps the only ones ever?!) but seemingly Sheffield was a long way to have travelled, and we were greeted by various friendly runners from West Yorkshire clubs with amazement at how far we’d come. (Shout out to the lovely chap who’s name we unfortunately didn’t catch who told us it was someone from Steel City Striders who’d convinced him to go to his very first parkrun, and as such he always likes to look out for the green and gold at races!) It was a surprisingly beautiful day, blue skies and a gentle breeze, perfect running conditions in contrast to the downpours of recent days. We enjoyed a stroll around the village, taking in the views including RAF Menwith Hill’s big white balls in the distance, before heading over to the start line which was a 15 minute walk from the village – we were instructed by a volunteer to “head that way and keep going until the tarmac runs out”.
There was a small amount of confusion at the start area due to there not being a line, or a marshal until pretty much bang on 11am, so we all congregated in the wrong place and had to be shepherded back down the path, meaning nobody quite ended up setting off in the position they’d intended. Once safely gathered in the correct location, the rigorous fanfare of “Ready? GO!” without so much as a 3-2-1 began the race and just a little bit of gentle jostling.
The first 3 miles were an absolute delight. A steady incline over a well defined rocky track (which I later discovered was called High Badger Gate, sadly no badgers to be seen), and I made it a whole 0.8 miles before the first bog, which was more than I’d expected given the description of the race! Nothing too deep or terrifying though, and it was splashy bog rather than sticky bog so not too hard a challenge on the legs. We were treated to undulating terrain and stunning sweeping views over the moorlands with the heather just starting to put on a beautiful display. A gentle downhill took us past the first of three checkpoints and a cheery marshal who complimented me on my still smiley demeanour – not hard, I was having a lovely time! Especially as Jim had very kindly agreed to run with me for this one seeing as we were technically on holiday.
At the 3 mile mark we crossed Dearncomb Beck, probably usually a hoppable-overable tiny stream but on this occasion 6 feet wide and over ankle deep. With properly wet feet now I trudged up through Victory Wood, not feeling particularly victorious as this marked my first bit of walking of the race (using the excuse of not overstretching myself with a much longer race to come just a week after this one), but still very much enjoying the adventure. More bogs followed as we traversed a field or two, another nice descent here with views over March Ghyll Reservoir.
Not long after this began the slog up the side of Round Hill itself and the first part of the race where I had to resist the urge to whinge. This was exactly the kind of hill I hate, not enough of an incline to feel like walking is really warranted but needing to walk anyway, seemingly never ending climbing with an ankle-twisty narrow path and everyone’s favourite, a false summit. I was particularly grateful of Jim’s company during this section as I think it’d have taken me much longer without his encouragement, plus I’d probably have got lost – the field at this point having spread out significantly. Anyway we did eventually reach the top and I eagerly got my legs back to something resembling running as we headed downhill. This wasn’t to last long though as it soon became much more technical and the descent was really quite tricky, steep with lots of loose rocks – with this being a special anniversary the course was run in reverse, in a clockwise direction, so I did some pondering on if I’d have preferred to be going the other way. Before I made up my mind though, we reached the bottom of the valley and I promptly fell in the deepest bog of the day (of course I did), dragging myself out to commence the last climb up to Lippersley Pike, a stone cairn “built on top of a Bronze Age tumulus”, with superb views and also today the site of a water station, the only one en route which I found slightly strange given we were less than 2 miles from the end by this point, but it was welcome nonetheless.
The last part of the race was really pleasant, predominantly more nice downhill, through the pretty woodland of Timble Ings and back onto more purposeful track, so we picked up the pace substantially towards the end and mustered up a strong finish – I repaid Jim’s patience and support in sticking with me throughout by beating him by one second 🙂 (I think he let me…)
It was a bit of a limp back to the village as this was a longer (and wetter) race than I’m used to on this sort of terrain. Definitely worth the trip overall though, we loved running somewhere completely new and it was an incredibly friendly race. Nearly 9 miles for a fiver too, bargain!
112 runners completed the course. 2 Striders ran. The race was won by Graham Rush (M40) from Leeds City in 56.20, and Jenny Roberts(WSen) from North Leeds Fell Runners in 1.07.56. Full results here: http://www.otleyac.org.uk/2023/08/06/sunday-6th-august-round-hill-fell-race-2