British Fell Relays
I avoided talking about this during my Langdale write up, so you’re getting it now….
Quite frankly the last month has been horrible. On the 14th September, whilst I was working on a Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride event, my Nana was taken into hospital at Carlisle. Fortunately, that night the cyclists had reached Carlisle. I legged it over to the hospital to go and see her. Once she’d been moved from A&E and onto a ward I popped into her cubicle to tell her I was going and I’d see her tomorrow evening during visiting hours. She grabbed my hand and said “Thanks for coming”. Which was something she always said to me whenever I’d been to see her. It always felt as though she thought I’d gone massively out of my way to visit her. With me living 2 miles away it always made me laugh. I left the hospital very concerned, but smiling after hearing her say that.
Unfortunately, I made the trip back to the hospital sooner than expected, to say our last goodbyes. Then on Friday morning she passed away. In all honesty I’m still processing it all. But to reach 90 years old is a fantastic innings. I’ll miss her for the rest of my life and will think about her every day, especially when orienteering.
Last year at the relays I felt like I had a terrific run. I was very excited to do the same again this year. I was feeling really motivated after a decent result at Langdale last week. In the week leading up to the relays I changed partners for the nav leg 5 times. We were having an injury and availability crisis.
On the Wednesday before I picked up Ben Barker and Barry “Lego Hair” Holton and we went for a recce. It took longer than I thought to get there in the van. During the drive we werte discussing nicknames, and I pointed out that with his hair down like that Ben looked like Jacob Adkin. It was there that his new Keswick AC nickname of “The S*** Jacob Adkin” was born. Ben went to recce legs 1&4, as he’d probably be on one of those legs, whilst me and Lego hair has a trott round leg 2. It was a nice area and the nav was all pretty easy. Though there would certainly be a lot of route choice.
On the way back I was telling Ben that I don’t care who I run with, I just want to run the nav leg to make my Nana proud. I told him of the whole ordeal, and tried not to cry. Heavy stuff for someone you’ve only met a few times! Once home I tried my best to persuade Craig Marsh to come and run with me, he wouldn’t be able to run. So I tried everyone else I could think of. As I was tucking myself into bed I received a very cute voice message off Ben. Saying that even though he’d hoped to be on one of the shorter legs. He’d come on the nav leg to give me some company after he realised how much it meant to me. It meant the absolute world to me, and I actually started to feel a bit bad that I’d started to call him the s*** Jacob Adkin.
Our B team had, finally, taken shape. We were ready to rock and roll!
We left Keswick at 6:30. Lindsay showed us how to turn a Minibus into a rollercoaster. Which was a fun reminder as to why I’ve never been to Blackpool pleasure beach. We were probably the first club to arrive. Luckily Simon Darmody had brought his new shelter for us to make camp in. It was rather windy at times which caused a lot of concern as we might lose our meal tickets, which were attached to the bottom of our numbers. I took mine off and stuffed it down my shorts for safe keeping. The excitement was growing, and before I knew it they were off!
Jordan Palmer got us off to a good start. “Now coming in for the Keswick B team is Jordan Palmer. He’s handing over to former British Champion Carl Bell, and Mark Lamb, who currently has more stitches in his leg than the rest of the field combined. Mark is of course hoping to make it a hat-trick of races where he needed stitches today!” said Nick on the tannoy. Somehow we’d managed to bag Carl and Lamby for the B team. They ended up running 25 seconds faster than the A team pair of Lego Hair and Steve Hasselhoff. It’s going to take a serious transfer offer from the A team to have them back for next year!
Whilst Carlos and Lamby were out Ben and I were discussing a few tactics while warming up. I said I was happy to do all the nav and Ben just had to do the dibbing. Ben broached the subject of how mean were we going to be to each other if one of us is lagging? I told him that I have no limits as to what folk can say to me, but he shouldn’t expect me to hold back with him. He seemed quite happy with that, so we started early and got a few insults in whilst jogging around.
We entered the starting pen and I was trying my best not to cry. I was really really up for this now. I prayed to the god of navigation (my Nana) for some support for the next hour or so. Gave myself a slap and was ready! In came Carl and Lamby, they’d got 60 odd places back for us, we were off. “Let’s f*****g go son!” I said to Ben.
We’d agreed not to go off like a rocket. I wanted to pick up the map and have a chance to have a quick deek at it. As expected all the controls were in easy to find places, but there would be numerous choices in how to get there. After the first climb and descent it felt like I was going to be going a bit better than Ben today. I was quite happy with this as it meant I wasn’t going to have to absolutely flog myself whilst navigating. We overtook a lot of teams on the way to the 3rd control. It was then going to be a longer slog to number 4. Traverse across the heather, or up and over. I chose the traverse, which was a bit of a ball ache at times. But I felt like as a pair we’d fair better than adding more climb.
We lost a bit of time as Ben’s shoe laces kept coming undone. I wanted to push him on the descents as I knew the folk in front were catchable.
As we crossed the fence at the 4th control, the marshall told us we were the first Keswick vest he’d seen today. “Eh!?!” I said as I managed to absolutely brae myself in the testicles with the fence. What’s happened to Matko and Dan Spencer?! I thought. Then suddenly I saw a load of fast runners coming to me. In a slight daze from the pain of hitting myself I became worried I’d messed up and missed a control. Once I realised that marshal mustn’t have known what he was on about we enjoyed the fast descent down to the sheep fold. Catching another pair. “Come on Benny boy we’re moving well son!” I shouted.
It was a steep descent down to the 6th control and then a steep climb back out again. At the top I said to Ben that the next descent would be fantastic. I turned around and he’d had to stop to tie his shoe again. I cracked the whip and we got going again. One last climb up to number 7 then it was all downhill. “All downhill son f******g move it! It’s hammer time!” The map went away, we were flying! We got a cheer off Tom Partington and co. as we entered the field round the corner. “Push! Push! Push!” I screamed. Then a dive over the line to hand over to Mark Flemming.
1 hour 20 minutes for the leg. Ben’s legs were shaking as we made our way out of the finishing area. I gave him a hug and congratulated him on his first realys run and thanked him for coming out with me. He pretty much just said “get me a pint!”.
I quickly went for a cool down, as I knew what was coming. I ran well out of sight of everyone, dropped to the floor and cried. It was a proper ugly cry too. All the emotion of the last month came out. I thanked my Nana for looking out for me over the run. Eventually I jogged back over to our camp, and told everyone the story of our leg. I was absolutely buzzing.
I find that the relays always brings a buzz you won’t find at any other fell race. We spend all the year running as individuals. Yet at the relays you are a team. You’re all in it together having a different type of adventure. A quote I recently heard which I like is “Alone, it’s just a journey. Now adventures, they must be shared” (prize if you can tell me where that’s from!). It’s absolutely true. You finish your leg, stagger back to your club tent and are greeted like you’ve just won the world cup. Everyone is eager to know how you’ve gotten on. Your teammates will celebrate with you, laugh with you, cry with you and give you a slap round the face when you need it. It’s all part of what makes these events so special.
Mark Flemming, who only found out he was running on Wednesday, brought us home and we finished 38th overall. Not bad, not bad indeed!
The A team finished in 4th place. The ladies were 7th. LV40 team 6th. MV40 team 15th. Full list of results can be found here.
We jumped aboard Lindsay’s part bus. We were all discussing our legs and studying the results. Once back in Keswick we went for some scran and a few pints. A perfect day out!
Big thanks to Carnethy, and all the helpers, for hosting a great event!
Next year we are hosting the British Fell Relays! We’re very excited to be able to run it on home turf. (Craig Marsh, not that you read these, but you’ve no excuse for not running next year!)
As a club we will need an army of helpers to get it done, so if you’re able to help at all please let us know. The atmosphere will be great and you’ll get to witness this spectacular event first hand.
Hope to see you all there!