Lowther Fell Race, 9th August 2020

In the dim and distant past, we used to run races and post reports on the website and thought it would always be so. Little did we know that our world was about to change! Now, as we inch our way back to normality, some races are starting up again. So here is our first report of the summer -thanks to Richard Slack:

It’s been a long time since any of us took part in a race that actually involves other people and not just virtual. Thanks to the organisers of Lowther Fell Race, this took place and marks the first fell race and probably one of the first races anywhere.  And the weather was glorious, albeit a bit toasty for a half marathon fell race!

Clearly it was not a mass start, and huge care was taken to ensure the day went ahead to maintain current guidelines. So it was a time trial starting every five minutes in groups of six runners which soon split up. So plenty of running on your own but still had the race feel of faster runners from later starts coming past and you catching up slower runners ahead. The start and finish is at Lowther Castle so loads of room for parking and registration (masks required) and no real hanging about at the end. The time system was a dibber on the wrist which triggered the various timings stations and the end of the run from around 1m so no need to actually tough anything. 

It was so good to be back to a race environment and plenty of club vests seen through the 13.1 miles that followed. Starting from Lowther Castle, the route meanders through the grounds before going through Askham, a delightful village although with a constant climb! At the end of the village a shout we have all missed – “well done Claremont”. It was such a great feeling to hear it and buoyed by this and the ‘Sunniside Halfs’ for my hill training (thanks Dave) I was determined to get as far up the climb to Heughscar Hill (c. 4 miles) as possible (checkpoint 1). At the summit the views extend over Ullswater, sparkling in the sunshine, to the Helvellyn range. There after a long gradual downhill to the next checkpoint near to the Lowther river crossing (c. 8 miles). There is a bridge but that’s out of bounds for the fell race, so it is a wade through – given the heat and humidity I really just wanted to stay in the river, especially as the steep climb up Knipescar Common awaited. Onward and a power walk up to the top and then a run along the limestone pavement escarpment to the final checkpoint (10.5 miles). Another long downhill but this time on a tarmac road surface (so good for us road runners) before re-entering the main Lowther grounds. The sting in the tail awaits with much of the last km being a seemingly never-ending uphill. Soon enough the finish came and, given the heat, I was delighted with my time of 2 hours 5 minutes.

No t-shirts (hurray) and a bottle of beer for the finish gift (even more hurray). Then back to the car for water and a refuel.

If this is the format of some races to come then at least it gives us the race day buzz. Obviously Lowther benefits from a lot of space which helps hugely with distancing and logistics of the start and parking etc. But this was a great advert for what can be done, and well done the organisers!

Richard finished in an excellent time of 2:05:40. Full results can be found here.