Borrowdale Fell Race

Well folks, it finally happened. I caught Covid. Despite being in the dreaded high risk category for the last two and a half years, I honestly felt invincible. I’d finished 3rd in the inaugural Bash up Bessy boot from Borrowdale school on Wednesday, then on Saturday I felt as though I’d been glued to my bed. I spent the entire week indoors and felt really rotten. What concerned me the most was the fact I’d caught it so close to Borrowdale! 


The weekend before was supposed to be a chance to get out for some good miles and see how I was feeling. However, I spent the whole time driving around picking up the corpses of my friends who were doing the Lakeland 100. With nothing to gauge my fitness and recovery levels I decided that I definitely wasn’t doing Borrowdale. “How definitely is definitely?” I was asked “About 87% sure I’m not doing it” I’d reply. 

During the week I went round the Espresso Round with Rachael May and Hector. They both did very well, though I did have to lure them both along the Howrah’s with the promise of a burger from the round and a pig’s ear (you can decide who wanted which). We’d been out for about 4 hours by the time we returned to George Fisher, so hardly ideal race prep. When I awoke the next morning I felt fantastic. Suddenly that 87% had dropped to 30%. I even decided to go Orienteering after work. It was a disaster though! Head height bracken, clegs buzzing around my head and a few ticks. On the way to control 7 (out of 17) I gave up and decided to head back yam.  

I had a relatively relaxed day on Friday, a short run in the morning with Hector then off to work. After work I went round to International Rugby Sensation Evie Tonkin’s house for an evening of pizza and wine to celebrate her birthday. Once again, hardly great race prep. I had however resigned myself to ‘just getting around’ tomorrow. 


Race day arrived. I spent a good half hour hunting high and low for my race pack. I did eventually find it, it was in the washing machine and the cycle had another 80 minutes left. So I’d just have to wear my bumbag. Which always instantly makes me feel a lot faster than I actually am. It’s just a little bit more faffy when you want food or water. I stuffed it full of food in case it was about to turn into an epic. 

I dropped Hec off at my parents and waited by Borrowdale round about for a lift off Matko. It was nice to see so many folk heading up the valley for the race.


As we stood in the field I had a nice catch up with former colleague from George Fisher, Jon. He’s there every year to marshal as part of the Mountain Rescue Team. It’s always nice to see a friendly face at that point in the race. 

We all lined up at the start to listen to Scoff. He told us that Lamby had been walking around like John Wayne telling folk he was going to win. 

Suddenly we were off! My game plan was to go really nice and steady until the top of Gable. Then try and push on for a good second half. I had a nice trot along past the school. Going up Bessy Boot I felt relaxed and calm, chatting away to folk as I went. It felt a lot boggier than normal going across to Esk hause. There also seemed to be a lot of questionable route choices taken by folk, but I stuck to what I knew and was catching folk the whole time. At Esk Hause I still felt relaxed and easy. 


I took my lines well heading up to Scafell Pike. Turned on the summit then got stuck behind folk coming down the scree, so I couldn’t really open up and enjoy it. As per usual I caught a lot of folk going down the corridor route. As I approached Styhead I was heckled by the whole Mikkelsen-Barron family and was offered to sit with them for a picnic. “Am I going that slow?” I thought. At the stretcher box there was a good crowd cheering us all on. I took a handful of Jelly Babies and set off up Great Gable. It went on forever. Every 20 steps I’d eat another sweet, till I ran out. I was trying to force myself into feeling good, and not getting very far. As I approached the summit Janie Oats, Helm Hill, came storming past me. “Hell she’s looking strong!” I thought. I just about managed to cling onto the back of her as I reached the summit. 

The weather had worsened and the clag had come in. In my eagerness to keep up with Janie I missed my good line off Gable. But managed to run strong over Green Gable and over to Brandreth. Janie had just opened some distance into me as we approached the fence line. I was starting to feel tired now though. I knew I wasn’t going to have any superhero descents today. I arrived in Honister 20 seconds behind Janie, to a welcome sight. “THE YAK IS BACK” shouted Martin MB(‘The yak’ is his affectionate name for me). “The yak feels like a sloth today mate!” I replied. He offered me a slurp of water and some sweets. I took them and set off to try and catch Janie. “One more push lad” said the marshal “see if you can catch her!” and pointed at Janie. She was looking cool, calm and collected. I however was starting to feel like I’d been dragged through numerous hedges backwards and then gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. (Spoiler, I did actually end up in a tussle after the race, luckily it was only a jovial one with Martin and not Mike Tyson. Though I’m sure if Mart got angry enough he’d manage a semi decent punch. Afterall, he does claim to have a very impressive power-to-weight ratio which he loves to remind us about). 


Heading up Dale Head I became void of all joy. It was never ending. Janie was long gone. I was just putting one foot in front of another, praying I wasn’t about to get caught by too many folk. 

At the summit I checked my watch to see what the time was. I was determined to not be out for 4 hours. I was however absolutely goosed. I shouted a quick thanks to the marshals, including Jon. I’d like to say I went off like a rocket, but in reality it was as though the fuse had gotten wet. It probably looked as though I’d meandered down. Through Rigghead quarry I was gaining on folk, and managed to overtake a couple. The run in from the stepping stones always feels horrible, but this year the lane felt never ending. 

I eventually made it through the farm and back into the field in 3:59:05. A personal worst finishing time, but a finishing time nevertheless. I was spent! I went over to congratulate Janie, who’d set an impressive 29 minute pb, and collapsed. 


Just before the prize giving Martin came over to pay tribute to the gang I was sat with, Brennan (who’d won), Lamby (who was 3rd) and Matko (who’d done the race for the first time). It was then, after a lot of banterific insults, that he decided to ‘fight’ me. He dove at me with his lanky skinny frame. Tired as I was, I dodged a haymaker and managed to fell him like a tree. His punches were so light they almost tickled. People had begun placing bets. I heard a woman scream (ok, she might have just been cheering her partner or friend in) which distracted Martin, so I put him in a headlock. The ‘fighting’ ceased when Ann Bland gave us a disapproving look, and we’d embarrassed everyone we were sat with. I tried to state that we were practising for the Cumberland Wrestling at the Shepherd’s meet. 

Martin then stood up, dusted himself off, and said the most shocking thing of the day “Right, I’m going to buy a few pints.” I nearly fainted!


A fantastic race as ever. Thanks to Scoff, Borrowdale and all the marshals for a great event. I’ll hopefully be back for the rest of my running career.



(p.s. it was a jokey fight. I’d easily beat Martin if I wanted!)