It was the last of the Nicky's Summer Series races when I decided to have my first 2017 attempt. Though it was a Monday rather than a Wednesday evening and it was daylight, I would like to suggest that the race did qualify for the status of a Warts' Outing.
There were midges which kept most runners confined to their cars until nearly the start which was at Brogging near Strines dam. David L (the eventual winner) had an unfair advantage, apart from his youth and ability, because his adrenalin levels were artificially raised by the haunting voice from the adjacent semi derelict building, warning he was on private property and was now being reported to the police. Just to ensure that all the relevant information was provided to the police, Andy H helpfully shouted David's name towards the mysterious voice. A late and unknowing arrival (on a bike) at the start provided the remaining waiting athletes with a further entertaining spectacle of voice shock therapy.
Nicky called us to order and set us off down the slope to the root ridden path through the woods to the footbridge. By this time most of the racers had disappeared up the hillside though Tom W who declared he was not racing, was just in front. Surely, 2017 must have been a wet summer to have hydrated the path (dare I call it) to the extent it was lubricated with oleaginous ooze. Tom cheerfully strode through and headed now thankfully over meadow to the Sugworth Folly from which Andy was seen leaving towards the path through the rhododendrons. Night suddenly appeared to descend on us as we headed into these rhodos which were made more sinister by the frantic barking of a ferocious hound guarding the Sugworth Hall estate. Partial gloom accompanied us up the Hall track before arriving at what felt like the bright sunlit road.
Leaving the road, Tom weaved a way through the rushes and provided me with a commentary on the ground ahead. (A note on my map of the bearing, ominously reads "road to ruin 125⁰ "!) A quick glimpse of the view behind was supposed to cheer me up by the height already climbed and the view of distant hills. However, the fast approaching wall of water did little to lift the spirits although reaching the ruin checkpoint mitigated the thorough soaking we were enjoying. A bit of a tussocky crossing of the moor took us to Stake Hill Road where the going was enjoyable (!). The next check point description was "grouse butt 1" but the wind, rain and lack of my glasses to read the map in such detail, prevented clarity. So, to satisfy our integrity, we went to the first butt we saw, then the next but one and then, the one after that. Thus, we visited three out of four butts not really being sure which was the correct one!
We enjoyed the edge of the workings near the ruin as we descended across tussocky and heathery moor to the road and before reaching the Folly meadow. The descent through the now even more glutinous mud gave us a sense of abandon as we plunged through without a thought for maintaining any sense of dignity. Across the bridge and through the dark wood brought us to the finish and the brave, heroic marshals, Keith and Nicky, who had waited patiently for us. Many thanks.
The rain continued and some problems were encountered in changing into warm and dry kit. So securely had Andy's shoes had been tied up, to prevent loss of them in the mud, that it took a sharp knife to cut through the laces of one shoe to release it. There was some rumour that only one trouser leg could be worn before this operation was carried out.
The warmth of the Strines Inn was very welcome to the teeth chatterers returning from the race for the presentation. Keith's handling of results, his lemon cake, his mushrooms and his trophies were, of course, impeccable. The variety of Nicky's cakes given as prizes was truly astounding and generous and they were all greatly appreciated as was Ellie's vegan chocolate cake. It is the first and may be the last time I will ever win a prize for fashion, I was judged to have the best grey jumper of the night! Should I give up fell running for the cat walk?
The midges, the ghostly mysterious voice, the darkness, the mud, the general confusion, the rain, the undo-able shoe laces and the warm pub, I think, all qualify this adventure as a Warts' Outing. What do you think?
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2018
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