As far as Championships go in 2013 fell running’s last big showdown happens this weekend, as the UKA Fell and Hill Relays come to Llanberis and the slopes of Moel Eilio in the shadow of Snowdon…
The fell relays are quite a spectacle, with up to 2000 fell runners from all corners of the UK donning their club vest with pride as the mountain goats go head-to-head with friends and rivals from such clubs as Bingley, HBT, Dark Peak, Pudsey, Mercia, Borrowdale and Ambleside.
Historically the fell relay champions have been the club who is able to get that mix of runners with speed, technical ability and navigational know-how spot on. Last year it was the boys from the England / Wales borders Mercia who took the crown on home turf, with the ladies of Hunters Bog Trotters in Scotland victorious in the women’s class. Looking at the start lists for 2013, both clubs will certainly be in the reckoning once again this year.
It sounds like it should be another great day of racing as the Eryri club have worked tirelessly to put on a great event:
Eryri Club Chairman, Craig Jones, who has led a team of dedicated committee volunteers to pull this event together, said: “We are very proud to be given the opportunity to put on this prestigious event on behalf of UK Athletics, and we’re confident that we’ll provide a challenging and enjoyable day for all the competitors.”
“Spectators are very welcome, whether that be at the event base or up on the mountain. We encourage locals to look out for the famous and distinctive green and red Eryri vest and cheer them on! They will also have an opportunity to see some of the very best mountain athletes in the land competing against each other”.
Men’s race preview
In the men’s race local hosts Eryri can be expected to be challenging hard, with the likes of Welsh internationals Alun Vaughan, Math Roberts, Rich Roberts, Russell Bentley and youngster Nathan Jones in their ranks.
Last year’s champs Mercia are maybe not as strong on paper as they were in 2012, without Andy Davies (running the Frankfurt Marathon) and Steve Cale (now living in Hong Kong), but you can be sure that with champions such as Simon Bailey, Tim Davies and Graham Gristwood in their midst, they will be strong.
HBT look very powerful too, with Murray Strain, James McMullan and Orlando Edwards in their team, though it appears from declarations that 2012 British Fell Champ Joe Symonds will not be running.
Three fell running powerhouses who are playing their cards close to their chests, having not declared at the time of writing, are Borrowdale, Dark Peak and Pudsey. The boys from Cumbria are bound to come hard, fresh from their win at the Ian Hodgson relays a couple of weeks ago, and you can bet that the purple vests will be well to the fore come Sunday with Morgan Donnelly, Martin M-B, Ben Bardsley and Chris Steele all running strongly at the moment.
Pudsey & Bramley will be in with a shout for sure. The Hope boys (Rob and Danny) are in good form at the moment, and with the likes of Daz Kay (though he has been injured recently), Ian Nixon and John Heneghan to draw on P&B will be a force.
In this race preview Bingley boys Ali and Jonny Brownlee are mentioned, however looking at the start list we can’t see the tristars registered so it remains to be seen of the Olympians will take to the start line this weekend.
The Dark Peak boys are going to be very strong. If the 2011 champions can get the mix of top fellsmen Lloyd Taggart, Rhys F-R, Stu Bond, Rob Little, Rob Baker and Oli Johnson all out (along with Tom Brunt and Steven Pyke), then the brown vests from the Peak District may well start as favourites.
Expect Ian Hodgson third-placers Ambleside, and the Yorkshiremen of Calder Valley and Wharfedale, all to be in the fight for medals and top 10 placings too come Sunday afternoon.
The courses look very interesting with the Snowdonia Active preview stating:
Glyn Rhonwy, on the outskirts of Llanberis, has been chosen as a suitable location to access the rugged mountain slopes and ridges of Cefn Du, Moel Eilio and Cynghorion for the event. Racing commences at 10 a.m., when the first runners of the relay teams of six make their way on to the hillside in a mass start.
The race comprises of four legs. The first is 7.7 km and climbs just over 350metres, heading off from the Glyn Rhonwy estate, doing a loop of Cefn Du before heading down Bwlch y Groes and back to Glyn Rhonwy. It’s estimated that the winning team will return in 30 minutes for this leg.
Leg two will be a real test of fell strength and is run in pairs. The route heads across to Helfa before a steep slog up Moel Cynghorion. It then follows the Moel Eilio ridge to Bwlch y Groes before a rapid descent. This leg measures in at 14.7 km and climbs 1000 metres with the fastest teams expected to finish in around an hour-and-a-quarter.
The third leg is again run in pairs, this time being a test of navigational skills but the route is not disclosed until the day of the race but it’s expected to take some 1hr 10mins for the fastest teams. The final stage is a classic 9 km loop of Moel Eilio and climbing 625 metres.
Women’s race preview
The women’s class should be a very close affair. With Tess Hill and Sarah O’Neill in the team HBT will be looking to defend their crown. However, with the Carnethy ladies fielding Angela Mudge, Jasmin Paris and Jacqui Higginbottom, it could be the girls in red and yellow who are the strongest Scots on the day.
Dark Peak’s ladies will also be a team to be reckoned with, with Judith Jepson on very good form at the moment and the likes of Helen Elmore to call on.
Ian Hodgson champions of two weeks ago Ambleside should be very strong once again, with Lou Roberts, Hazel Robinson and Rebecca Sheffield registered for the Cumbrians. Bingley have British and English (joint) Fell Champ for 2013 Victoria Wilkinson anchoring their efforts, though with no Mary Wilkinson or Emma Clayton down to race, the Yorkshire women may just be short of what’s needed to challenge for top honours.
Two other teams with quality amongst them are 2012 silver medalists Mercia (Mel Price and Anna Bartlett) and Calder Valley (Jo Buckley and Helen Fines) and cannot be discounted from the fight for medals.
Follow us on Twitter for updates on Sunday and expect a comprehensive race report early next week.