Fairfield Horseshoe, 18th May 2019
Richard Slack and Francesco Carrer completed the Fairfield Horseshoe fell race in Cumbria. Richard sent this report:
The Fairfield Horseshoe is a classic Lake District Fell race first run in 1966 with around 30 runners. The 10 mile route with around 3,000 foot of ascent is a classic clockwise run starting and finishing at Rydal Hall with Fairfield at its apex (overlooking the Helvellyn range).
As part of our on-going Chevy training, this year myself and Francesco signed up for the race – I had previously done it last year in 2018. Despite the oven like temperatures of the week before the race, Saturday saw a welcome drop in the temperature to around 12 degrees with high cloud cover but enabling good visibility. It is very much a race of two halves, easy to explain, first half up, up and bits of flat, second half after leaving Fairfield summit, down, down and few little ups and flat. The essence of the first half is just to keep pushing forward and not stop (although the views over to the Langdales are splendid) and also run the fast and gentler ups. From the start it is a leg screaming pull up the side of Nab Scar to the first checkpoint at 1,400 foot, then traverse around Heron Pike (2,000 foot) to the second check point at Great Rigg summit (2,500 foot). From here the final climb to Fairfield and the rough mid way point at 2,800 foot.
After Fairfield, you can then really start to gain back some time with some fast downhill grassy sections after safely navigating good lines on Hart Crag and Dove Crag. The downhill however is not without tricky parts, as the normal tourist route sticks to the wall line this becomes increasingly rocky ground and the trick is to find the easier grassy trods to the East of the main path avoiding the awkward step on Low Pike. The lower reaches of the run are flagged across a couple of fields (still downhill though) and the final half-mile run along the bridleway to the start/finish area.
This year, I had upped my pace from 2018 and was able to benefit following some good lines in descent and keeping mainly to the grass trods and was well pleased to be inside my 2018 time by 8 minutes completing the run in 2 hours 13 minutes. Francesco was not far behind on his Lake District debut run at 2 hours 17 minutes. His reflections ranged from the initial “horrific”, to “admittedly great views”, to the determined, “next year will be a better time”. All in all a great hard day of running on the Fells. For the record, the winning time was 1 hour 20 minutes – simply astonishing speed on the downhill sections.