Steel Fell Race

Remember a few years ago when we all played fantasy fell runner?! Well what if you were to create the perfect fell runner from people within your club? I’m talking about uphill speed, downhill speed, flat speed, nav skills, mentality and finally looks. 

Personally mine would look like this….

Uphill Speed: Jacob Adkin. With only 3 letters different in our names, it’s very easy to get us mixed up. He has been European uphill champion and is one of the best runners on this island.

Downhill Speed: Carl Bell. British Champion numerous times. Looks like he’s floating when he descends. Now that he’s grown his hair he looks even faster when he runs. I’d have loved to put myself forward for this, but let’s be realistic I’d not be beating Carl!  

Flat Speed: Mark Lamb. The psychopath. Rumoured to actually possess the heart of a lion. Always charging the line at the front in any Keswick AC training session. On the few times I’ve been near him at training I was having to run as fast as I possibly could! 

Nav Skills: Matthew Atkinson. I have not met another fell runner who studies routes as meticulously as Matko. He’ll sit at yam on a wet night studying Strava heat maps, google maps, OS maps and spreadsheets. You’ll seldom take a crap line when he’s out with you. Bonus aspect is his fantastic ability over really rough ground. 

Mentality: Mingma Tshering Sherpa. The happiest person you will ever meet. Does everything with the biggest smile on his face. If you ever need support on a round, Mingma is your guy! He did 10 hours on my Bob Graham last year, fell down Lord’s Rake, literally died, came back to life and carried on for another 3 ½ hours to Dunmail Raise. Then apologised to me for slowing me down (For the rull account of that read my Bob Graham report). He’ll often take himself out for some ridiculously long run and make it back in time for work. 

Looks: Boris Psodorov. Recently crowned Sexiest Male in Keswick. After a fresh haircut and a bath people say he and I look like twins. I’ll take that! 

So there you go. That is my perfect fell runner for Keswick AC. What’s yours?! 


Anyho, recovery from Borrowdale was suboptimal. I went out to see my friend Gary on his Tearoom Round, and accidentally did 17.5 miles and 6200ft with him. Hector came along as he’d not run much through the week. After 3 hours I’d run out of treats for Hector, so he had to settle for a couple of Fruit Pastels. We left Gary on top of Eel Crag, and headed back to the van in Braithwaite. By the time we’d reached it we were done in. 

Fast Forward to Wednesday, and to the Steel Fell Race. It’s utterly horrible, but I love it! Again, I’m not sure many running coaches would advise a race so soon after a big weekend. But hey, it’s on home turf and a nice evening, I cannot not do it! 

I finish work and sit in the sun waiting for a lift off Abdelnoor. I’d decided to bring 3 cans of beer along to give to the first three Keswick runners as a prize, partly as an incentive to get more folk to come along to it, but also because I really fancied a beer afterwards. As Benny boy pulls up he’s rocking out to some B side U2 songs, we quickly realise why they were B side! 

As I was warming up I realised just how warm it was. Lots of folk were asking “What happened at Borrowdale Tonk?” And a few others proceeded to tell me how terrible I was looking during it. I laughed and hoped to god I wasn’t going to feel that awful tonight. Though I quickly forgot about the impending pain when we were treated to a fly over by a huge Chinook, with a little man sitting dangling his legs out the back waving at us all. 


As we lined up at the start line I began scouting out people’s shoes, as I always do. In a race like Steel Fell you can always tell who’s taking it seriously by their shoes. Folk in trail shoes will be on their bum coming down, so that’s where I’ll get past. There’s a bumper attendance of runners in tonight’s race. 

We started in true Scoffer style, of him just randomly shouting GO! “Here we bloody go!” I say out loud. 

Out the field and onto the tarmac. “I’m actually feeling alright” I think. We turn off the tarmac and on to the fell. “Do not over cook it on this first be T” I mutter to myself. I’m tapping away trying to stay as aerobic as you possibly can do in a 2.5 mile race. I catch a glimpse of Abdelnoor running right behind me, essentially drafting me. I tell him off for cheating. He says “Can’t talk” and eventually overtakes me. It was either my slow pace, or the sweat dripping off my shorts that made him want to get past me. 


I tried to push on but my legs were betraying me. Dava came streaming past me. Shortly followed my Mingma who shouted “You’re supposed to be running fast Tonk!”. I thought well I’ll settle for third Keswick runner. At least I’ll get to drink one of the beers I’ve brought. As I crossed through the wall John the vet came past me. “Hang on!” I thought “This wasn’t in the script! I was only bringing 3 cans of beer!”. John pushed on and put some real distance into me. Then just before the summit Guy Illingworth overtook me. 


Stephen Wilson was at the summit, so I had to try and look relatively good for him. As I turned around the summit cairn I wondered if I had it in me to “bring the thunder!”. I doubted it would be a heroic descent and set off after Guy. 

I managed to get up to nearly full speed, caught guy and a few others. Hopped over the fence, leant forward and went for it. I was catching folk with ease. Mainly because they’d all worn the wrong shoes for this race. I’d gone for my Adidas Terrex Speed Pro SG (my all time favourite fell racing shoes). I must have overtaken 12 or so before I crossed the wall and another half a dozen on the final bit to the tarmac path. Strava tells me it was a pb on the downhill segment, but in all honesty I didn’t feel like it was my best descent. I was gaining on John. 

It was hard to continue the momentum along the tarmac and into the field. I could see John getting close. I am at this point running purely for a can of my own beer. It’s worth pointing out John doesn’t even know a beer is on the cards if he beats me. I’m trying to push, but I’ve got nothing left. 


Into the field, round the tape and an uphill finish. If it had been another 50 m I’d maybe have beaten him.  I crumpled to the floor in a heap. Steam coming off me like the smelly old diesel engine. Gutted that I’m not getting a beer. 


Eventually I get up and stagger over to Ben’s car. Take the beers over to Dava, Mingma and John. All seem delighted with their victory beer. I put on a brave face and reminded them that they only beat David Crout and I because we’d done Borrowdale. Ben was laughing at me for looking so upset about not having a beer to drink. “I thought we could have a little date night” He said whilst opening the boot of his car as if it was the Holy Grail. There sat two bottles of (alcohol free) beer surrounded by ice packs and two packets of crisps. I could have cried. We had a craic whilst drinking our beers, it was a top quality evening. For an Ambleside runner, he’s really not that bad you know. 


I may be some way off my best at the moment after covid. I’ll never be anywhere close to my ideal fell runner. I am however very content in trying to improve as a runner and do the best I can do in races. 


Big thank you to Scoffer and Borrowdale fell runners for a second fantastic race in a week!

(Photos are a mixture between Stephen Wilson, Pete Trainor and Rachael May)