This is becoming a must do race for us simply because it has everything, trail, mud, road, hills, fields and woods and its early enough in the year that you never cknow what the conditions are going to be like until you set off.
It’s a popular race with a capacity of 500 that sells out well before. Unfortunately we left it a bit late this year and so when I went to enter us both online whilst Warren was at work there was to my surprise only one place left. Well, what does a girl do in this situation? Yes I booked it for myself and left Warren to chance it on the day because I could justify my decision with the fact that Warren loves me and its a Valentines weekend race, he was making a noble sacrifice, he just didn’t know it at the time. However an injured Paul Fisher came to the rescue and gave his number to Warren after managing to persuade the officials to agree the swap. It was then Harriers vests and race faces on and good to go.
We had both set ourselves targets, Warren just wanted to beat last years’ time of 51:00 and I wanted to crack the 1 hour mark having finished last year in 1: 01:11. The weather was fine, cold but that soon fades when racing, however with all the rain from the last few months conditions under foot were horrendous and so it was always going to be a big ask to hit our targets.
The start is always congested and there was the usual bottleneck getting out of the start field onto the road. The road is flat and easy to pick up speed for the first 1/2 mile but then you hit the first climb leading up to Harrock Hill. This is where half of those that go flying past on the road start to slow and some even stop to walk especially as the track narrows and it becomes difficult to pass. This is where the experienced hill runners take charge and start to dominate the race.
Having climbed Harrock Hill, the next section was the decent over pastured fields, though deep thick mud, sapping our energy just before we had to climb Parbold Hill. It was like we were running with divers boots on. I always look down when running up hill and realised I had half a field attached to me were my feet used to be.
Just over the top of Parbold HIll past the many spectators (thanks Andy & Chris) at the MIller & Carter, it’s then a dash across the fields up once again to the Highmoor taking a left through the estate. The solid road at this point bringing welcome relief from the mud, even if, only for a brief few moments. For me the estate also has a demon cattle grid and again this year it also got me. By sheer luck I managed to stay upright by a quick grab of the fence with my right hand, it really did test my reflexes when tired.
From the estate its climbing again through woodland, dodging those tree roots whilst at the same time navigating yet more mud. Then there are a few more wet and muddy fields before a very technical steep decent knee deep in mud. Moving on to a steeple chase field decent flying over fences at record pace. The finish is then more muddy energy sapping fields before hitting the road for about 200 metres and turning back into the school field to finish with a buff, water and mars bar.
Looking back over last year’s result almost everybody seemed to be down on their times. Warren finished 2 minutes down on last years; however I PB’d by just over a minute but missed out on breaking the hour mark as I finished in 1 hour dead.
Excellent afternoons racing and the best way I would describe it is to think of the mud of Rossendale Cross Country and add that to Parbold Hill and Harrock Hill and that should give you a good idea of the conditions. I wouldn’t change a thing and now all that’s left for me to do, is go back next year and break that hour mark. For Warren he still has to go for that PB. So Parbold Hill Race, we will be back next year!
By Karen Schofield