Sat 20 Oct 2018, Grasmere Low cloud and fine rain greeted the Preston Harriers runners for the 2018 British Fell and Hill Relay Championship at Grasmere. Leg 3 pairings of Roger Taylor and Mick McLoughlin in the A team, and Pete Carter and Jim Doherty in the B team being the most apprehensive. Leg 3 is a navigation leg with the runners only being given the course map half a mile after the changeover. All of them knew that any major navigational error would result in many months of good-natured reminders and stick from the rest of the fell runners in the club.
245 teams comprising over 1400 runners were on the start line, making this probably the largest relay race in the country. Leg 1 was to Grisedale Hause and Seat Sandal summit. First off for Preston was Dave Parkington (114th, 1:02:28) for the 8k / 730m climb first leg, with Ellie Parker (216th, 1:19:05) in the B team making her debut in a relay team.
The longer leg 2 run in pairs included Great Rigg, Fairfield, Deepdale Hause and Grisedale Hause, over 10.8k with 850m climb. Andy Harrison and John Rainford finished 112th in 1:24:56 with Roy Parkinson and Mike Burnham (199th, 1:41:37). Mike still had the legs to get round, just one week after completing the Lakes in a Day Ultra of 50 miles / 4000m climb in 16hrs 30 min.
There were no navigational mishaps on leg 3 as Roger and Mick (151st, 2:00:59), and Pete and Jim (179th, 2:07:21) negotiated the checkpoint in Greenhead Gill, over the flank of Heron Pike to visit two sheepfolds in the Rydal valley before a steep climb back up to the ridge, contour around Greenhead Gill and descent to Little Tongue Gill. Not so fortunate were the Keswick AC pair, whose teammates all won the other three legs, only to find that the pair lost about 25 minutes in getting to the second control at the sheepfold and could only finish their leg in 71st place. That’s fell running!
The final solo leg 4, 7k with 600m climb around Alcock Tarn, Heron Pike and Stone Arthur, saw John Griffiths finish his leg in 101st, 52:50 and the best individual position of the day. Gordon Thompson completed the B team in 219th, 1:11:38. Overall the Harriers A team finished 113th and the B team 209th.
Two ex-Harriers were gold medal winners. Cat Slater, now relocated in the Lake District, ran leg 4 for the winning Helm Hill ladies team. GB international fell runner Nichola Jackson also ran leg 4 for the successful Ribble Valley Harriers mixed team. Congratulations to Ambleside AC for organising the race, a massive undertaking and only one week after putting on the annual Langdale Horseshoe fell race.
All the runners commented on a great day out and with excellent courses on each leg. This doesn’t happen without a team captain to put it all together. So, many thanks to Roger Taylor for organising the two Preston Harriers teams.