Liver Hill fell race, Rawtenstall. 27th March 2012
Glib advice to someone doing the race for the first time. 'Oh yeah, balls out right from the start.' How can I then forget what I've said, or at least be so casual as to forget exactly what that means and how it feels? I've been doing Dashers fell race series and it's been going surprisingly well. I've done 3 and been 2nd Dasher in all of 'em, but of course it's a false position. A fluke due to most of the fast lads not turning up, or the 'new fast lads' still finding their feet. The series proper hasn't really begun yet.
Liver Hill is always well attended by Dashers. It's the first of the mid week races as it takes place just after the clocks change, it's virtually on our doorstep and it's free. All of these and the almost bizarrely decent weather was enough to get 22 Dashers (including 2nd claimers) turning up for it. After rushing home from work and wolfing my tea down, I picked up George T and Mark W and shot over to Rawtenstall.
On the start line I was feeling full and tired. Never mind. Get head straight. Get in the 'zone'. And we're off. Across the field and then the start of a whole lot of up. Mark W flew off as expected with Des and Gifford not far behind. I worked hard to keep Gifford in sight and was succeeding, only a few places behind. Russ Corsini was right with me and said something about me dodging onto the tarmac for a better line at one point. Sorry Russ, no breath for talking. The steep up finally over it's then onto the open moor and gradual climb, interspersed with stiles and stride breaking bog. My breath is now ragged and burning. Sweat is coursing out of me and all my effort is going into keeping this pace up.
It's almost nightmarish. I am watching as if remotely as Des and Gifford extend their lead on me. I can do nothing. I cannot run any faster, in fact I am running too fast already. My brain is screaming its negative messages at me. Somehow I blank them out. I near the last of the 20 (!!) stiles just as the leaders head back towards me. I'm sure I've managed to clear it before they have passed me in previous years but no matter. No point thinking about that and adding fuel to my brain's treacherous fire.
Des passes me, then Giff. I stagger up to the summit and round it as the marshals, oblivious to my mental and physical distress, share a joke. Can't they see my pain?? Back down now but it's no easier. You can't rest. Russ and Jonathan B are right behind me now. I pass other Dashers coming up as I struggle on. Some shout encouragement but I can't answer. 'Hang on, keep going', I tell myself. Russ appears at my side briefly and then vanishes again as he takes a bad line through a boggy ditch. Pressure, pressure. Crossing one of the flattish fields I see Giff ahead. Surely not? My brain struggles with this one for a while and provides a momentary distraction from fell running hell. So, yes - it's Gifford. He's about 40 yards ahead. Can I catch him? Not sure. Got to try. Pick the pace up? Not an option, already bouncing off the redline. Hang on, hang on. Then Russ passes, followed closely by Jonathan. Keep it together, don't let the head go. Descending now, legs flailing. I need to pull it together a bit here, get some semblance of form. Force myself to run 'neater'. Steady the breathing a bit. It's not working, they are drawing away.
A few fast plunges and I'm on the finishing field. No chance of catching any Dashers ahead of me, the first Lady, a girl from Rossy Harriers, is just in front. I thrash on as I can't risk looking back to see who is behind and I'm damned if I'm going to let anyone else pass. On, on. And finish. Mouth agape, sucking air in. Chest is burning and I'm staggering. I nod at Jonathan to congratulate him on a great run and walk off to have a pee in the trees.
When I come round a bit I start working out how I've gone on. I make it 6th Dasher (it later turns out to be 7th) - not surprising given who's there but still disappointing. For a while I'm thinking 'What is the point? I have just absolutely run my bollocks off and for what?' My chest is still burning and I'm coughing like a consumptive (hay fever?), my knee is now throbbing and I am really disheartened. I don't really want to hang about after so I collect George and Mark and head home.
It was only the day after that I start to rationalise things and put them into perspective. Ok, I was 7th Dasher but I was within 30 seconds of 4 of them. Out of that 7 I am the oldest but one. And 28th (equal) out of 174 isn't too shabby really. I still can't say that I was anything like happy with my performance but I also know that I gave it everything I had. I can't say that I enjoyed it either but I know that most races aren't like that. Will I be at the next race? Damn straight I will. This is what I do, after all.
Thanks to Rossendale Harriers putting it on.
Pic by Dave Haygarth.