18th November 2023
The Tour of Pendle is in it’s 39th running
It’s a tough AL fell race of 16.8 miles with 4833 feet of ascent so it was not a great surprise to find Jim Rangeley had run it, and here is his report
Putting in the Up in “what goes up must come down”
This feels like one of those races that are part of the qualification process to call yourself a “proper, serious, probably-a-bit-mad fell runner”. 27km, 1400m of climb, several river crossings and a whole heap of lovely peat bog. The entrance fee of only a tenner (less than 60p per mille) includes a technical t-shirt with a 39th Tour of Pendle logo, plus a car sticker with a 40th Tour of Pendle logo, so for the money it is a bargain, if a little confused. Either that or it took me a whole year to get round. Before I got going I said hello to some friends and marshals Katie and Tom who were part of the race team for the day.
A single strider (me) plus a second claim in the form of my chauffeur for the day Simon Bayliss lined up for the start scheduled for half ten sharp outside Barley Village Hall. At 10:27.38 we were off. Heading along the side of Ogden Res, the tarmac loosened to grit track, then finally as the climb steepened to wet grass. The first couple of miles take on about 350m of ascent, to the trig of Pendle Hill.
1 climb down
At this point I wasn’t feeling great, breathing laboured, legs like lead and a real struggle of motivation. But onwards through the coming bog and rocky track along the top of Pendle I trudged. The course meandered steadily downwards toward Churn Clough Reservoir, on one of the few runnable descents of the route, before climbing again at about 12km.
2 climbs down
Climbing is one thing, but what takes a lot out of you on The Tour are the descents and the first serious one down to Ogden Clough, locally known as “Geronimo”, is a killer – quick confident feet, strong quads and the ability to forget about tumbling are essential. Grabbing dying bracken throughout for support we reached the river which went from ankle tickling to wetting my keks in the 10 metres span of the engorged river. Onlookers, supporters and marshals cheered at this point as we climbed out of the water and up the gully toward the top of Pendle again. At some point during this climb I glanced down to see my wrist and hand seemingly drenched in blood, presumably caused by grasping at foliage on Geronimo. A quick wipe on the shorts cleared the worst of it, before a short steep climb at the end of the gully brought us up once more.
3 climbs down
Marathons, they say, don’t start til mile 20. Tour of Pendle doesn’t start til hill 4. A long steady descent down the west side of the hill with a little moment of respite in the weather meant there was an actual view towards Clitheroe. Meeting the marshalls at the bottom before making the short approach and a steep climb began. A chain of single file runners (now very much walking) climbed back into the cloud that clung to the very top of the hill supported by hands on knees.
4 climbs down
The next drop came not long after, lungs and legs burning at this point as there is very little respite or easier trail running. The quads on the way down shook lightly down the intermittently rocky path, more marshalls marked the start of yet another climb and up we went. I opted for a zigzag approach – while it was a little further it took the edge off the climb. About 200m of ascent brought us out to a memorial cairn, erected by local Scouts for Commissioner Gordon Hampson, and another checkpoint of marshalls. A little bit of steady running in the bluster of the wind along the top followed from the Scout cairn, a quick look at the watch indicated 6km and about 300m of ascent was still on the cards.
5 climbs down
On the way down, the descent contoured the hill a bit so the incline was easier and a little more comfortable to run on. Reaching the marshalls with the offer of a jaffa cake and a few jelly babies, I accepted both happily. Then (in the illustrious words of Cilla Black, surprise, surprise) up, up, up. More of the same steep moss covered rock trails, with a little spattering of slippy mud for varieties sake. A little contouring toward the top cut the corner off the climb and over a stile before back to the main path toward the trig point for a second time. By this point I was really struggling with my calves, sometimes slightly overstretching causing them to cramp up, really slowing my progress and meaning I was overtaken by a few fitter souls than me.
6 climbs down.
The run in to the finish didn’t get much easier, hard under foot on the paths along the top before it gives way to a muddy descent on the other side of the gully to Geronimo and a little cheery wave from Katie on duty in hi-vis. Finally we descended the gravel path down the reservoir wall before hitting tarmac over the last mile to the finish. Tired legs, sore feet and with very few fucks left to give, I hit the finish muddy, disheveled but pleased to be done and met by the cheery face of Tom who was back from his sweep of the first half of the course.
Overall the race was a great one, a real tough day out on the hills but good value and well organised. The marshalls who had been stood in the relentless mizzling atop the hill were in great spirit throughout. It’s certainly worth making the trip up to Barley for the race if you’re up for a Long Hilly day in Lancashire.
Editor’s comment – Jim, we already knew you where a probably-a-bit-mad fell runner, in fact you can drop the probably, and the a bit
First male finisher – Harry Bolton 2:20:31
First female finisher – Robyn Cassidy 2:59:08