Race Date: Sunday 31st December 2023
Race length: Advertised as 6.4km, actually 8km!
I’ve really gone gung ho on the old race front this year, so when I saw one on the very last day of 2023 available for bookings I couldn’t resist. Wormstones Fell Race is an ‘AS’ category race from Glossop, a classic “up a big hill and down again” sort of affair which ends at a pub and offers chicken curry at the finish line for a fiver. Cracking.
As well as the food offering, I’d also been enticed by the photos on their website, showing an array of jolly souls in fancy dress looking ready for a fun run, so I was reassured of an inclusive field and low pressure sort of vibe. Arriving at the Beehive, race HQ, we were surrounded by hundreds of incredibly serious looking athletes, complete with club vests and knobbly knees, which worried me initially until a herd of crayons, a Christmas pudding and Chewbacca turned up.
This proved to be a popular race and there was a sizeable queue for registration, which led to the start of the race being delayed by about 15 minutes – fortunately there was a bit of a gap in the terrible weather, so it didn’t matter too much, although it made warming up a little more challenging for those who embark on such an endeavour (I’m more of a “the first mile will do it” kinda gal). Anyway, at just after 11.15, we were off! The first half mile or so was on a quiet road and gently downhill. We’d been warned the course narrowed at the bottom, so a quick start was essential for the competitive runners amongst us. I found myself comfortably towards the back of the middle of the pack, where we all politely queued to get over the stile and down a very short, steep plunge into a valley before a very short, steep, single file climb back out. A pleasant woodland section followed before the climb began in earnest. A long slog up to Harry Hut, characterised by bog but otherwise runnable for the front portion of the field – pretty gradual ascent with nothing too technical of note. Myself and those around me walked, skipped and jogged our way up, and I was overtaken by Chewbacca at about the 2km mark.
The trig point was soon in view and a left turn took us over a vast swathe of deeper bog. It was a fun scramble across, trying to choose the least disastrous line through the mud without encroaching on the moorland or losing a shoe. The rain was holding off but it was pretty windy and cold on the tops, something which became only too evident when not far in front of me a runner fell. Chewbacca had stopped to help, along with another man who was fortunately carrying a survival bag (as was I – a reminder that even if the kit isn’t essential it’s always so worthwhile carrying it!). I was the first person to reach them who was carrying a phone, so I stopped to call in to the race director while someone else went back to fetch a marshal and others offered hats, gloves and buffs. The stop probably added about 6 or so minutes to my race, but taking care of yourself and fellow runners is absolutely more important than the time. (Luckily the injured runner was ok!) And who else can say they spent NYE making emergency calls in a bog with a Chewie?!
By this point I was a little chilly and flustered (I’m not the ideal person to have around in a crisis), but the arrival of the marshal meant I got going again. The field had thinned out a little but there were still plenty of runners around, and I soon reached another left turn and started to drop downhill. This part of the race was SO FUN. The bog was shin deep for much of the descent, and somehow managed to be simultaneously wet, powdery, sticky and bouncy. There was no choice but to embrace it! I feel that I’ve improved my downhill technique quite a bit this year, and managed to gain back quite a few places on this section. Also, the map showed this track as being characterised by Grouse Butts. Lol.
Eventually the bog was replaced by farm track and a great fast section of the race, where again I was pleased to make some headway through the field. I was approaching 6km by this point so gave it some beans thinking I was near the end… until we reached a road, and were sent back up another hill. Marvellous. A short trudge took me to around the 7k mark, and a few gently rolling fields – more opportunity for beans and another false finish line! The course continued through a few farm buildings where I tripped over a rock and VERY nearly went arse over tit, witnessed by a marshal who politely refrained from laughing and told me I really was actually near the end now. The last few hundred metres was a hurtle down a tarmac path, where maximum beans were employed to prevent the thundering feet I could hear coming up behind me from catching me.
Husband/fellow Strider Jim was waiting for me at the finish line with a pint of shandy, the good egg, and we were soon tucking into a delicious Thai curry featuring chicken and potato and served with both rice and chips – the holy triumvirate of carbs. There was a great vibe at the finish despite the sudden arrival of the rain, lots of chatting and “Happy New Years” and the pub was packed. My instinct about the race being inclusive was definitely proven right – I’d really recommend this one to anyone looking for a friendly fell race. To be honest it’s pretty much impossible to name one that isn’t, but this one stands out for me on atmosphere and sense of occasion – it felt like a fantastic way to finish the year.
Anyway – that’s my 2023 wrapped up. 45 races (including one virtual time trial) is a lot, but I definitely don’t “race” them all – for me, it’s the vibe, the camaraderie and the opportunity to get out into new places without needing to route plan. I have a very in depth colour coded spreadsheet if anyone wants to know my highlights!
281 runners finished the race, which was won by Daniel Haworth of Matlock AC and our very own Abbie Pearse in 40.27. Shout out also to Caroline Brock who was 3rd female.
Full results: https://files.fellrunner.org.uk/results/b817029a-3168-4ff5-9af3-a39518687052/files/wormstones-2023.pdf