It was a day that was befitting of one of the best races of the fell running year, and culminated with some of the best racing too on a late summer’s day in the Peak District on Sunday at the fabulous Edale Skyline race…
Edale Skyline race report via Stuart Hale
The last round of the English Fell Championships saw the best of England gather at the start of the 21 mile, Dark Peak FRC, Edale Skyline. As the runners gathered for kit checks before they collected their race numbers the only notable absentees were Rob Jebb and Ollie Johnston, pulling through either illness or injury and a ride in the 3 Peaks CX in Jebby’s case.
The day was bright and sunny with just a touch of a breeze on the tops and the gusting wind was going to make the going difficult for everyone running, let alone for race marshals and spectators positioned on the ridges and summits around the course.
With the start delayed by 5-minutes the seeming impatience of Championship contenders Donnelly and Bailey ensured what was later described as a ‘fierce opening pace’. Even those further down the field found themselves being dragged along as both the contenders set off at pace for Ringing Roger and the Kinder edge path.
The leading duo soon spread the field and by the time the half way point was reached at around Mam Tor, it was Donnelly from Bailey with a second group just over 90 seconds behind.
Dark Peakers Stuart Bond and Rhys Findlay-Robinson were not just along to make up the numbers as they raced alongside the highly experienced Rob Hope. Lloyd Taggart, who never stopped smiling was just behind and probably without realising it was to have the greatest influence on the top-3 placings.
By the time the 2nd to last checkpoint had been reached at Grindslow Knoll the chasing group had closed the gap with Hope, Bond and Rhys racing hard and now a touch over a minute behind the leaders. It was at this point that Lloyd Taggart’s influence would come to play its part. The safe route is to stay along the edge path, taking the traditional racing line. Or you have the cheeky ‘Taggart Route’, also known as the ‘Down and Up’ from Grindslow and back up the fell side to the summit of Ringing Roger.
Post race it was Rhys F-R who took up the story:
“Me and Bondy were running hard around the Edge and it was clear we had made up ground on the leaders. I guessed that as things stood I was most likely running for 5th.”
For Rhys, taking the Taggart route was a game changer as it gained him a good minute over his rivals as he nipped in front of both Donnelly and Bond. That said it was Rob Hope who finished the fastest, almost timing his run to the finish line to perfection as he ran past Donnelly to finish in second spot.
No one is sure if any of his competitors were around to see Rhys pop up at the last summit and CP but I suspect their faces would have been a picture… Lloyd was the only other runner to try his luck on the ‘up and Down’. Less than 3-minutes separated the first five men in a race that personified the joy of route choice in a true English Classic.
For the women it was Victoria Wilkinson who took the lead and stayed there, going on to win by an impressive 8 minutes by the time they returned to the finish area. The Bingley Harrier has had a storming second half of the season, with her recent win at the Peris Horseshoe also showing that the GB international has the strength to handle the long races as well as the speed for the shorter distance stuff.
Second and third spots was more of a yo-yoing affair until local runner Judith Jepson nipped ahead of Helen Fines somewhere between Brown Knoll and Jacobs Ladder.
The results meant that Simon Bailey took an amazing 6th English Fell Championships title, and unbelievably the women’s title was a tie between Victoria Wilkinson and Helen Fines – a repeat of the British Championships situation!
Edale Skyline results
Top 3 men
1. Simon Bailey (Mercia) 2:45:50
2. Rob Hope (Pudsey and Bramley) 2:46:56
3. Rhys Findlay-Robinson (Dark Peak) 2:47:02
4. Morgan Donnelly (Borrowdale) 2:47:48
5. Stuart Bond (Dark Peak) 2:48:43
Top 3 women
1. Victoria Wilkinson (Bingley) 3:12:03
2. Judith Jepson (Dark Peak) 3:20:35
3. Helen Fines (Calder Valley) 3:21:39