Aggie’s Staircase Fell Race – An Inter Club ‘counter’ – Pita Oates

Aggie’s Staircase Fell Race – An Inter Club ‘counter’ – Pita Oates

I have found the Inter Club fell fixtures a great way for anyone new to the discipline to get going with. The first fixture at Hutton Roof Crags was a tad warm and a much longer and more technical race. Aggie’s, a favourite with Red Rose for training nights with Roger (who always gets the route mixed up!) is a short race with some technical climbing and descending, but a short 4 miles.
Starting next to the leisure centre in Darwen, the Darwen Dashers have a great registration area and flagged start and finish on a slope of the field adjacent to the first climb. The race is always well attended for a mid week event and it is always well marshalled and organised. It’s lovely to see our running friends out there in high viz shouting the mighty Red Rose on. Lady Karen Shackleton hanging out by the tower and Joanne Nelson at the foot of Jacob’s ladder (they both love to see us digging in!) We had brilliant conditions, although a bit more breeze would have been welcomed! Sort it out for next year Dashers! 🙂
With a team photo safely taken and photographers dispersed out on the course the inevitable start was looming. The whippets taking their positions at the front and a posse of Rosettes nestling comfortably behind – safety in numbers! A total of 24 red vests took a trip to the ‘Far East’ to race this second Inter Club fixture. 9 ladies, 15 men and two new members who at that time hadn’t completed sign up (welcome on board Simon Gardner and Paul Cafferkey :))
A feature I am fond of in this race is the first climb on the pathway, well the first time I did it anyway. The path narrows significantly once you leave the field and start the 1.5 mile climb up to the tower, which basically means if you don’t get a good position from the start you are pretty much stuck behind people on the way up as there are no real opportunities to over take until you reach the small holding at about 1/2 a mile in. An additional feature this year were the sleepers that had been added to the path in incremental sections. Those were going to make me think on the descent!
With a good start and a relatively comfortable position in the group, we broke out onto the wider climb up to the tower. This is a favourite spot for Barry and hill reps! You have been warned… you could clearly see the tower on race night and the air was so so still. It was easy to see Alison just ahead and I could see marshals at the tower. No Ray though, where is he with the camera…
Reaching the tower always feels immense, the climb isn’t the easiest but the gravel and loose rock take your mind off the slog as you need to watch your feet. On the start of the descent the path really narrows, so for the conformists this means yet again you are stuck behind runners. I had a Preston Harrier in front of me (I am sure I beat her at Hutton Roof) and I am being slowed on the descent- grrr! And then, pow! There’s Ray with the camera…I think I managed a smile for a change this time, the downs are always a welcome sight after an uphill slog. So, feeling relieved (although unable to pass the runner in front) I managed a bit of recovery before remembering the path opens up and then the turn into the next climb.

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A quick glance at my watch and I’m on for a PB if I can dig in and get some speed up. The harrier has gone, so being distracted by my Garmin has not done me any favours at all. I can feel some pull on the descent and having done this descent a few weeks earlier I am confident I can catch her up. I make it to the right turn, no sign at all. She was right when she said she was fast on the downhills! A little sense of panic set in, how many Rosettes have made it to the front of the pack? First five ladies to count for the points and I have to keep pushing. I only saw two harriers, a few ladies from Thornton and Sarah from Wesham so hopefully Carla, Janine and Debbie were having a good run!

A climb up Jacob’s ladder and Joanne Nelson shouting encouragement and giving me a power hug, meant I had to keep digging in. The climb is not runnable and navigating your way through the heather and using the rocks and mud steps up makes reaching the top a big relief. A nice flat section running through puddles and heading towards Aggie’s Staircase is the next significant feature. Then, the best bit, the descent! It has a cheeky grass verge to the left which I always use so I don’t batter my feet on the unforgiving rocks on the way down. And, result, I can see my Harrier in front. I’m closing the gap – whoop! I know it won’t last as I know what lay ahead…passing St John’s ambulance men, who had full face cover on (midge deterant) I didn’t look up. Why would I want to? Visually reminded of the climb ahead? I don’t think so! Plow on and get home simple.

The climb up Aggie’s is brutal, not runnable for me and I doubt for anyone else. A very technical, rocky and demanding terrain, reaching the top of this climb is just again simple relief. A welcoming marshal reminded me that it never gets any easier with time or practice. Back out onto the straight and flat rocky path I am on my way home. More marshals shout out support and remind me that it’s all down hill from here and that they’re not telling lies! For once I know they are being truthful as I know the route! On my own I have lost my target in front, but I can hear the marshals behind supporting another runner, ekk! I’m being chased on the home stretch. Metally ‘having a word’ I dig in and glance at the watch and realise the PB is now definitely doable.

Reaching the tower again and the descent is mine, I’m hoping for a Strava PR at this point so I’m giving it some and I can see the right turn onto the final path to home. A gathering of marshals offering support and for the first time ever I didn’t mutter breathlessly thank you. A nice straight flat section before the descent begins in to home, DON’T.FORGET.THE.SLEEPERS. It feels fast but I’m looking for the newly added sleepers across the path and I can see Stu waiting, no sweaty hug and stopping this time ( I must have lost 15 seconds on Bendrigg 10K doing that!) so a high 5 and keep on trucking. It was necessary to jump over the sleepers at speed, I had misjudged the first one as i couldn’t see the drop behind it and put the brakes on, almost fatal but I managed to keep balance and push on. Again I can see Ray as I turn into the hardstanding and the farm yard. He assures me I’m running well and shouts me to crank it up!

I can see the end of the path and Gary waiting with camera ready, there’s another ‘race face’ photo on the cards 🙁 as I will be hitting the tarmac and running hard into the finish. With great support from the mighty Red’s I stop the Garmin and realise I smashed out a 5 minute PB. Not a bad nights running after all!
Prize giving is always a treat when Red Rose turn out. Not in the top finishers overall, but loads of vet wins and team prize to the ladies. Our men lost out to Preston Harriers, there is some work to do to retain the trophy boys! All in all a mighty fine race, evening and Inter Club win for the ladies. Two wins in two races #itscominghome

If this has ignited your interest in having a go ont’ fells, bear in mind the next on the Inter Club calendar is 20 Barriers. A fab 5 mile little race for a beginner and more ‘trail’ than fell in lots of ways. There are lots of styles to climb enroute, slopes up and down the fields with loose gravel paths and some trails too. What’s not to like, reserve the space in your diaries and we hope to see more Red Rosers on the night – 5th of July (Tuesday) at 7pm.

Sithee

Pita x

One thought on “Aggie’s Staircase Fell Race – An Inter Club ‘counter’ – Pita Oates

  1. Paul

    A well written reminder of my first fell race. I really enjoyed it, apart from the midge bites which I was still scratching many days later. Oh, and thanks for the mention. Paul Cafferkey.

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