Chevy Chase, 6th July 2019
Richard Slack is well into his fell running these days! On Saturday, he took on the Chevy Chase and sends us this report:
Four Claremonters represented the club this year at the 63rd running of the Chevy Chase, a 20 mile fell race over the Northumberland moors and fells with The Cheviot as the high point at 815 metres. Richard Slack, David Lydall, Francesco Carrer and Rose Hawkswood set off from Newcastle for the drive to Wooler, registration and race start and finish. The day dawned and remained throughout pleasantly warm (but not hot) with plenty of blue sky and a few white clouds with a gentle refreshing breeze, so perfect fell running weather.
Inspired by memories of previous Chevy epics, from Jamie’s no shoe finish (see report from 2015) to legends of mountain rescue, this was a race that was eagerly awaited, although surprisingly not sold out this year. In keeping with tradition of equipment failure, both David and Francesco had burst water bottles before the start, rectified by a quick trip down to the Co-op in the town for some bottled water!
10.30am came and we were off down to road towards Wooler Common. Whilst obvious. 20 miles is a long way, so the strategy was to get ahead of the check-point times but not go running off as if it was a 10k race. The overall cut off is 6 hours, with seven timed checkpoints on the route that must be made. As the run unfolded, David and I settled into a steady pace and ended up getting to the top of Cheviot together. The run to that point had been relatively forgiving save for the slog up Cheviot but on an easy, although heavily eroded path (all shoes in tact). By following a line of runners, the race trod off Cheviot was easy to pick up and so began the first leg sapping steep descent all the way down to Harthope Burn, losing around 550m in height. The downhill ends with the burn crossing, and then straight back uphill through pathless heather, bracken and grass to the coll just below Hedgehope Hill at 715m, the summit of which was the next checkpoint. This is roughly the half way point by distance, although all the big climbs have now been done. I was running well at this stage and felt pretty strong, so pushed on for another leg-screaming and even steeper descent off Hedgehope – I had been dreading this descent ever since our winter recces of the route. 300m of steep descent is then met with what should be a lovely gentle downhill or flat section across the moors to really start running. However, my legs were not convinced by this and immediately started to cramp – not funny when both thighs cramp at the same time. This was not a unique experience, with both David and Francesco confirming at the end of the race that they too had been in some agony and entered the ministry of Funny Walks at that point and for all of a constant threat of cramp return from that point onwards!
However, slowly, the cramps abated as the route takes you around Brands Hill and down towards the Carey Burn and Hell Path, the final check point. Hell path is a clever path that closely follows the burn, but has its moments of gause bushes and scrambly rocks – not appreciated by the by now shattered legs (although shoes in full working order). Thereafter, the route heads back out onto Wooler Common for the final 4 or 5 km back to Wooler and the finish at the Youth Hostel.
We had all set out to get round and beat the checkpoints, and we all succeeded. I had hoped for a sub five hour time and was delighted with 4 hours 29 minutes, followed in by David, Francesco and Rose. At the finish you immediately get a personalised results print-out of all the check-point times and a welcome Chevy Chase mug (hurray not a t-shirt). The youth hostel hosts an excellent post race recovery of endless sandwiches, chips and cakes galore.
A great day out and well done to Wooler Running Club for their fantastic organisation throughout.