Henderson’s End Fell Race by Karen Schofield
This was my first attempt at Henderson’s End Fell Race and I had been looking forward to it ever since I had been a mere spectator two years ago, cheering on Warren at the finish getting eaten alive by flies. I had been unable to run this race last year, work got in the way but I made sure I was free this time.
I was well prepared and certainly was not going to under estimate the task at hand, how could I as I’ve only had 2 years of Warren explaining to me, that this is the hardest midweek local race I’ll ever do, harder than any of those Wednesday night races.
So we turned up early and headed up to the barn, not that early it turns out as Kev Edwards was coming back down to his car race number crumpled up and stuffed in his jeans pocket. I will confess now, that I am a little OCD about racing and keep all my race numbers neatly in a folder as a reminder of everything I have achieved, so inside I was secretly horrified at the fact that Kevin had stuffed his number in his jeans pocket. I like to roll mine so that it does not get creased – yes very sad I know but I cant help it. I think I did comment about his crumpled up number to Warren, so maybe not so secretly horrified but I think Warren is probably use to me by now.
Anyway we signed up and paid the unbelievable fee of just £4, yes thats right just £4 for a 6.8 mile race which actually turns out to be 7 miles at least. We then went on a 1 and a half mile warm up which of course was hilly causing me to ask Warren if he was trying to tire me out before the race had even begun. I didn’t feel that running uphill for the warm up was necessary when I knew what was in store for me during the race, but it is Rivington and as such impossible to do warm up run without hitting a climb.
Everyone headed up from the barn just through the trees as the path starts to go up for the 7:30pm start. There were the usual team photos being taken and a large contingent of Red Rose and Horwich Runners and in the middle flying the flag for the Harriers, me Warren and Kev. Then everyone got moved further back and the count down began 3,…. 2,….. Warrens parting words, remember don’t go off too fast,…. 1…… GO!.
Warren shot off like a bat out of hell up hill and I didn’t seem him again until about half way through the race near the very top. I started running up and up and within minutes Kev passed me, he didn’t disappear out of sight though as we headed to the car park at the side of Rivington. Then comes the steep climb up to the pigeon tower, this goes on for up and up and up forever, or at least thats how it feels. This steep section, it’s a bit of a quandary, do you stay in the middle on all the stones which move under foot or do you stay to the right hand side and go up the steeper embankment on the path and possibly get held up by the queue of runners that start to walk? decisions, decisions what to do.
I stayed on the stones as I could see some people on the embankment starting to walk and although I knew I would never be able to run every bit of this race I knew that I could run up to the pigeon tower without walking. I could also still see Kev on the embankment and he was going to get a little held up then even if only for the briefest of time I could possible catch back up to him. I did catch up to him and it was for the briefest of time.
I caught up to him as we neared the pigeon tower and then he stretched his legs and pulled away. The race route then goes along the top where it flattens out for a while and then left through the gate and straight up to the pike, yes up all those steps. I could see Kev getting further and further away and as I began to walk up those steep steps with hands on knees Kev disappeared over the top.
I eventually made it to the top and to be honest my first thought was, ok I only have to do that one more time, right near the end or at least that is what everyone had been telling me. Once at the top I set off running again downhill and headed towards the dog kennel’s at which point I could see Kev back in my view but not close enough. I thought that if I could just keep him in my view then I would not have had a bad race. We turned and headed back upwards towards the mast, this is a long drag of a climb and again this is where I once again lost sight of Kev. This is all soft peaty ground which has a little give and which is draining on the legs. It was also on this long drag that I noticed someone sat just behind me, I could here this guy and see his shadow from the sun right behind me. Part way up I began to walk and so did he, when I set off running again so did he and when I walked again so did he and so on and so on, he was obviously enjoying me sheltering him from the head on wind.
The race then goes up past the side of the mast and then turns left onto the road as you have to run all the way up to and around the trig point, because the mast clearly isn’t hight enough. It was on this road that I saw Warren first and then Kev, I was happy that they were not further in front of me and that was the last time I would see them until the finish line.
Once around the trig point there is relief for a while as the race heads back down the road, past the mast and then takes a left back onto the moorland. It’s downhill and I could see this bridge coming up and a runner going over it. I was going pretty much full pelt downhill and I cant see too far in front of me when I race as I don’t like wearing my glasses when I run. Due to this, it was only at the very last second and I was going way to fast to do anything about it or change my course, did I realise that right in front of the bridge was some very deep mud. Only one thing for it forge ahead and pray I keep my shoe. My right foot went in followed by my right leg just shy of my knee as I grabbed the bridge with both hands and with my left foot on the bridge I hauled my right foot out, shoe still were it should be phew. I trust my salomon’s they have never come off yet.
As I sank the guy that was still right behind me and who I still could shake off managed to changed his direction and go on the nice clean dry path at the side of the bridge. Yes, that’s right, as I pulled my self out and took the two strides needed to cross the bridge it was clear that it was the most pointless bridge I have ever seen. It does not go over anything, it has no purpose as it has a perfectly clear dry path at the side of it, never mind, fingers crossed that I will remember that for next year. Once over the bridge it was still downhill and I noticed that the guy who had been hanging on the back of me suddenly stop. I was glad he was now gone because it was beginning to really irritate me that i could not get away.
The race then crossed back over the road which leads up to the mast as the route heads up to the two lads. Once at the top its then all back downhill to the dog kennels. I’ve done this route before, just training with Warren so I was well aware that it was steep in places but there was a guy in a blue vest with a yellow stripe across the middle, no idea what club but he kept passing me on the uphills and I kept passing him or at least catching up to him on the downhills. As I came over the top of the two lads and started my decent I spotted him and knew I had to catch him, I always find when I’m running that if I can pick someone out to aim for it helps.
I set off downhill like a maniac and I felt good, it was all going well and I was almost on the guy when I hit my toe on a rock, not clearing it properly with my foot and as I going downhill there was only one way to go, yes, you’ve guessed it head first. This is not the first time I have fallen and it by no means will be the last. I must have fallen pretty quickly but I don’t know if anyone would agree with me, when its happening to you, it feels like its in slow motion. It feels like its taking an age for you to hit the deck but there is nothing you can do to stop it, because it is quick. So in this slow motion fall there is one thing going through my mind…… hurry up and land so so you can get back up and carry on.
I hit the floor putting my hands out in front of me and letting my shoulder take the brunt of the force, I say letting but in truth it is something that just happens to you, I say it like I had complete control over how I fell and landed. I am well aware that no one has control at that point. As I hit the floor, I must have shouted out, I don’t remember but the guy I had been chasing stopped and turned around and asked if I was ok. My response, to yell at it forcefully, “don’t stop keep going! I’m fine, keep going! go on! go on!!.” I jumped back onto my feet and carried on chasing him down again, as fast as I could, no time to check myself or even dust myself off. I was a little apprehensive now but I was not far from the kennel’s and back on the flat and bumpy, rocky road. This final part down to the kennel’s is probably the steepest and instead of being completely focused, I could hear my mum’s favourite saying about me in my head, “ clumsiest child, ever, if there is a curb, she will fall off it no matter how small.” I am used to my clumsiness which for those who don’t know and aren’t aware of the depths of this, it involves a number of falls when running and cycling. To give you a flavour, the most ridiculous have been the 4 times I have fallen off my bicycle and only one time I was actually riding it. Yes you did just read that right, once I fell off coming down sheep house which is fair enough but one time I fell off after I had stopped at traffic lights, another time I fell off after I had stopped at a cafe and the final time was when I fell off in a carpark before I had even set off. Anyway enough of my clumsiness and back to the race.
The sun was now shining directly into my eyes and as I ran along the flat for a few moments I thought yeah, they told me wrong, I don’t have to run back up to the tower, until I then realised I was not as far along the road as I thought and would have to go back up to the pike. Out of the glaring sun I could see the runners in front of me now heading back up to the pike, straight up the side, that steep climb that I had to do a month earlier on the Horwich Triathlon run.
I was desperately trying to catch that same guy again, yes he had paused to check I was fine when I fell but that act of kindness did not mean I had to let him beat me. With a mixture of walking and running up the steep side eventually hitting the top, I closed in. There was a marshall on the top telling everyone what they had been desperate to hear, “well done! all downhill now love,” he said as I thanked him and ran past.
Now back down all those steps and its on those tight little steps at the top that I passed the guy I had been desperately chasing down for miles now, I passed him and did not look back. My tumble was now a thing of the past and I was again running downhill like a crazy person, down and along to the pigeon tower.
Immediately past the pigeon tower the route turns left through a gate and down, again quite a steep decent with the marshall kindly telling everyone its easier on the right path and to take a left near the bottom to go through the gate and immediately right back on yourself. Got it, I hurtled down, turned left and headed to the gate. I could blame the heat, the sun, my tiredness but actually it was more likely to be my poor eyesight again, I thought ‘oh look the fence is down I can cut through instead of going through another swing gate. Argh! last minute breaks had to be applied as I realised just in the nick of time that yes the fence was down but had been replaced by wires. I was so close to the finish and as the tumble had not ended my race I was definitely not going to end it by garrotting myself. Safely through the swing gate I was then on the final stretch, I now knew were I was and was heading for the finish. No one was going to pass me now and no one did, back down and across the top of the car park at the barn to the finish line.
A few cups of water to drink, one to rinse the dirt out of my grazed shoulder and a big huge smile beaming across my face. I’m not going to lie, I have done all the midweek Wednesday night races over the last couple of years and its true, this is most definitely the hardest of the lot. It is a fell race after all and so it should be harder. It is different though, its unique, its longer at 7 miles and its on tougher terrain and very hilly. All in all, what is not to love about it, the weather was glorious and when your in this race you cant help but look around you, the sights off Rivington are amazing. Its far too easy to forget that you do not have to travel to the Lakes for amazing races with amazing views. This is right on our doorstep and in my view far too easily overlooked. This race is very well organised and very well marshalled thanks to Lostock whose club race it is, with the help of Bolton Mountain Rescue. We all know that Mountain Rescue rely on volunteers and donations and this race donates all fees to both Bolton Mountain Rescue and Local Scouts. With a £4 entry fee, I don’t know why more people don’t give it a try and its all for worthy benefactors. So, if you are considering trying something new then next year give this race a try, I promise you wont regret it. Yeah its hard, but honestly, its so much fun and people of all different abilities were certainly giving it there all and trying to hit set new achievements for themselves, just like me.
Fell Race or Fall Race? Here’s the Harriers results, well done all, a tough race.
35 Warren Moorfield Wigan 01:00:18
56 Kevin Edwards Wigan 01:06:40
64 Karen Schofield Wigan 01:08:27