The Rivington Pike Fell Race – “One Of The Oldest and Most Historic Fell Races In The UK”
The Race: – A no nonsense straight up the hill and back the same way 3.2 mile fell race, which is impossible to get lost on (lucky for me!).
A small band of Red Rose Road Runners attended the Rivington Pike Fell Race on Saturday 26th March. Race HQ was at The Crown pub in Horwich. The majority of us turned up early and had a sober wait in the pub (drinking coffee in a pub, It’s just not normal!).
The weather was dry, not too cold, windy and a threat of rain which did not materialise during the race. I had turned up with all manner of fell kit, none of which was required.
The start was on a residential street nearby. On the horizon – high up – was Rivington Pike itself. Mark McCrea sweet-talked a local press photographer and we may get our picture in the local Bolton newspaper. Lined up, we were packed in tight for this clearly popular race – 264 runners completed the course. A lot of different local clubs were being represented, alongside the mighty Red Rose. The race starter anounced that this was a special race as local legend Ron Hill was competing in his 40th Rivington Pike Fell Race, complete with race number 40 – the first time anyone has done this (pretty much like running a really hard parkrun lots of times, but it’s only held annually!).
We were finally off – the race starts on the road – with a gradual upward slope of about 0.35 – 0.4 miles. This gave the opportunity to get something close to normal 5k pace in for this section. Turning right off the road and onto the hill proper and all thoughts of 5k pace evaporated. The hill starts with a fairly gentle climb, which gets harder and hard as it gets steeper. The benefit of this race is knowing that as its exactly out and straight back, you can check the distance on your Garmin, knowing that the burning sensation in your calves will start abruptly at 1.6 miles and see the pike ahead as the point to know there is no more climbing. The final bit of the climb was so steep that most runners around me had all but stopped pretending to run and were taking fast walking strides, some bent over with hands on thighs (does this help?). While I and the rest of team Red Rose were still climbing, the race leaders were starting to come down the hill. Fortunately they had taken a different race line coming down and were over to our left – bombing down the hill at what looked like sub 4 minute mile pace at points.
Finally at the the top, after twist and turn to get there, it was a quick run round the back on the pike and down on the other side. The wind at the top was fierce and it was a relief to start the descent and get off the top. Coming down the fell for me is the best bit of racing for the sheer exhilaration it gives. Come down as fast as you dare and pick your own route, or follow the footfalls of the person in front – the choice is yours. How fast can you go and still stay on your feet? I hit 4:18 pace for a short moment, but still had various braver souls passing me! It seems the recurring theme of my weekend was getting whipped by fast ladies! The rain had held off and the vast majority of the terrain was dry, with only a few muddy bits.
Coming off the fell and onto the road, with not much left in reserve, the gentle downward road slope to the finish was a welcome one! A Red Rose re-group at the end confirmed that all had throughly enjoyed the course.
For those considering running this next year, I would strongly recommend it – short and sharp, it’s a good introduction to fell race if you haven’t tried it before, and for the experienced fell racers, it’s one to tick off the fell bucket list.
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