With Storm Denis on the horizon for last weekend I was considering my options on the Friday evening:

  • Bleasdale Circle on the Saturday – 8 km with 380 metres of ascent – a Settle Harriers Championship race
  • Or Barbon on the Sunday – 3 km with 360 metres of ascent – a Kendal Winter League race
  • Or both

Having studied the OS map for Bleasdale, curiosity got the better of me: a school, a church and a parish hall, all with no road leading to them??  I’d have to take a chance with Barbon and just hope that my knee would be up for another race on the Sunday.

The journey to Bleasdale was, thankfully, uneventful; it even stopped raining, and there was just one flood to negotiate which, so long as it stayed dry, I reckoned I’d be able to get back through.

I arrived in good time as I hadn’t pre-entered, but I needn’t have worried; with only 59 out of a maximum number of 120 there was plenty of room for everyone on the start line.  Spot checks were carried out to satisfy the full kit requirement, although by now a lot of runners were wearing most of their kit as it had started to rain again…

The route headed north from the parish hall, turned east to cross sodden farmland for a couple of kilometres past Bleasdale Circle (no time for sightseeing) and then climbed steeply up onto Fair Snape Fell at 510m.  While one couldn’t really describe the conditions as pleasant, the climb up to Paddy’s Pole on the summit was fantastic: the wind was so strong that I seriously considered unzipping my waterproof to harness this relentless stream of free energy.  Would this be classed as cheating I wondered?  In the end it was the reluctance to get soaked which made me desist rather than the ethics.

On the summit conditions really were atrocious as the marshal grabbed me by the arm to steer me round the stone shelter in case I got blown away.  The race organizer had very prudently decided to shorten the course that morning making it a there-and-back to Paddy’s Pole rather than continuing along the ridge to Parlick; in fact at the start line he told us that the summit marshals had been instructed to descend if conditions worsened and that the turnaround point would be wherever you happened to meet them!

As it was, there was only one DNF, everyone got back safely, and I finished a very respectable – for me – fourth from last.  And back at the parish hall there was a seemingly endless supply of hot soup, hot tea and delicious home made cakes.  It was still raining.

Once I was warm and dry and fed, my mind turned towards the homeward journey.  I set off and eventually reached the flood which, to my surprise, was not as bad as I had remembered it.  I drove through it, rounded the next bend, and realized that that was actually a new flood: the original flood was now twice as long as it had been a few hours ago and was receding into the distance!

As I drove home I thought about my daughter Chloe; having signed up for the university caving trip she had driven from Cambridge to South Wales on Friday evening bombarded with dire warnings from her mother about being sensible and intelligent students, and I wondered where she would get her sense and intelligence from…

And Barbon?  Obviously I was devastated when the race had to be cancelled, but secretly I think my knee was quite relieved.

 

Jill Gates