Some seriously autumnal weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of some the UK’s best fell runners at the 25th running of the British Fell and Hill Relays today. Dark Peak’s men and HBT’s women also shined as the wind and rain ripped across ridges of Moel Eilio above Llanberis…
The traditional mass start on leg one had many donning their waterproofs as nearly 200 intrepid fell runners hit the slopes above Glyn Rhonwy on leg one, and it was the class of Murray Strain that impressed the most as they began to return to the finish area after around 7.5km of racing.
Running for Hunters Bog Trotters, Strain was almost a minute to the good ahead of a gaggle of runners which included teams from Leeds City, Dark Peak and Calder Valley, and with Strain handing over to James McMullan and Orlando Edwards things were looking very strong for the HBT.
In the women’s race Holmfirth’s Katie Walshaw absolutely blasted it round the first leg, so much so that she was over 20 seconds faster than 2013 joint English and British fell champion Victoria Wilkinson in second place (who incidentally didnt hand over to any team-mates).
However, the big hitting ladies of HBT, Dark Peak and Ambleside were bidding their time and settling into their running in the top 10 as they headed out onto leg 2.
The second leg was the day’s longest, with 14.5km, 1000m of ascent and winds of over 70mph to negotiate, oh and the small matter of the steep-beast that is Moel Cynghorion to ascend, along with the ridge to Moel Eilio, before returning to Llanberis.
As they did so, the HBT pairing of McMullan and Edwards were still holding their own, coming back into the handover arena with a lead of around a minute from Dark Peak after Stu Bond and Rhys Findley-Robinson have run a strong leg.
Running one of the legs of the day were Rob Jebb and Ian Holmes, as the two fell legends showed the rest how to do it, scything through the field to rise from 8th to 3rd.
It was here that the V40 and V50 races also began to take shape as Calder Valley and Borrowdale started to square up to each other, with the red and white hoops of James Logue came into transition first, and well up in the overall race too. Carnethy’s vets had started as they meant to go on, with a big lead in the V50 category.
HBT’s effort on leg 2 of the women’s race will probably go down as one of the performances of the this championships and many others, as Claire Gordon and Tessa Hill showed their class, taking the girls in brown from 9th into the lead. Their time of 1:29:57 was almost 3 mins up on the next team, and that pair was none other than Angela Mudge and Jasmin Paris!
Behind HBT the Ambleside ladies started to challenge, coming in second, with Dark Peak in third. These three placing were pretty much set and from here on in were to be the main protagonists in the women’s category.
Leg 3 at the Fell Relays is historically the ‘nav leg’ and often proves decisive. 2013 was to be no different as the Dark Peak pairing of Oli Johnson and Lloyd Taggart were utterly supreme on the 12.5km stint, which took in the valleys below Moel Eilio. The estimated ascent of 915m and with what one runner described as “a hell of a lot of traversing” was also going to be a measure of some all-round fell running ability for those wishing to excel.
So it proved, as Johnson and Taggart essentially ran the Dark Peak boys into an unassailable lead as they returned to the changeover, some 83 minutes later. Such was the extent of their dominance on that leg that they not only took the lead, but they returned an advantage of over 11 minutes onto the last leg for their anchor man, Kris Jones – surely too much for anyone to overall on the last leg.
2012 champions Mercia, who had not really shown until now, but had been majestically run into the silver medal position by Graham Gristwood…