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It’s called a trail race, but run under Fell Runners Association rules, therefore I am counting Ilkley Trail Race as my first fell race.

I signed up a week or so ago and was very much looking forward to the day. A couple of people had recommended I do it. With the big climb in the first half and a 7-mile total distance it is at the easiest end of the fell race scale. And as it is flagged and marshalled there’s no need for maps and compasses. But the terrain, and the views, are by no means diminished.

Jill and Jason drove us to Ilkley, and there we met with a few other Harriers and friends from other running clubs. There was a chilled, friendly atmosphere in the start area and I was very glad of a coffee van – hazelnut latte was just what I needed! My vague plan was to try to stick with Jill and Anne. Generally speaking I am there or thereabouts with them at many races and they are always good company.

 

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I set off up the hill on the first road (which was a killer!) and figured I would settle in as I felt able then catch up to them over the race. I walked up the latter part of the hill as I realised that my marching pace was just as quick as my jogging pace, but used less energy. And then I just trekked on through the woods without thinking too much about anything.

We came out into a field and up a track, and soon we were up on the moors. I gave a little gasp as we strode out on to the plains and smiled as I saw the snake of brightly coloured runners making their way through the land. It was simply stunning. I could hear a bird singing a gorgeous tune and spotted him briefly – I later learned (via Jill and a lady she was talking to) it was a skylark.

 

I walked a few times to try and soak in the view properly and was perfectly happy skipping along. The weather was warm but not overly bright or blazing so it was ideal.

I wore my new Inov8 Bare-Grip 200 fell shoes, which were perfect. I bought them as they are lightweight and flexible and very grippy, and I am so glad I did. I fear for my life a bit going down hills sometimes, especially when there is mud, wet grass or tree roots involved” I worry about going arse-over-tit and smashing my bones! But no need for such worries in my new fell running shoes – they gave me a lot of confidence and I could let go and not worry about where I was placing my feet. Not one stumble despite all the loose rocks and slippy grass made muddy by hundreds of runners! They were even great on the small bits of road as well – I was worried they would feel weird with the big lugs, but I raced down the final hill without concern.

 

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I can now happily say this neon Bambi loves running the moors. I felt like I was running really tall and smooth the whole way. I could feel my legs skipping along beneath me without even the slightest effort. It was truly liberating. It was a great race and will be a must-do on my calendar for next year. It was a real pleasure to be able to take in such spectacular scenery.

Best of all I wasn’t the slightest bit tired at the end. I would have happily done it over again. I didn’t feel achey or hungry or anything – I just wanted to keep going. I  felt alive and invigorated, which is surely the clearest sign of a wonderful run.

Photo thanks to Woodentops and running friends.

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On Saturday morning I boarded the Kirkstall Harriers Funbus and headed down to Nottingham for the National Cross Country Championships. Fortunately the weather Gods were kind to us and it was to be a grand day out with 11 of my fellow Purple Posse.

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Having run in the Northern Cross Country Championships last month I had some idea of what to expect, but this was on a much bigger scale. There were hundreds upon hundreds of runners in total, and it was quite something to see all those tents and club flags gathered in Wollaton Park.

We had plenty of time to pee, grab a coffee, eat our pre-race carbs and buy a hoody before the senior women’s race at 2.20pm.

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I wasn’t quite as nervous as I was at Northerns in terms of being last or getting the course wrong, but as 700 women gathered in the marquee (what a noise) I began to wonder what the hell I was doing there. Here were a bunch of world-class athletes, many excellent club runners, and me, just out there for the fun of it. I felt out of place and well out of my depth.

As we stood in the pens and then went forward a few metres to the line I felt a little sick and had half a though to run the other way, but the gun went and I had to go forward.

The uphill start was tough – the grass was tussocky and uneven – but, once again, Jill stuck with me for a while. I eased in and as we turned the first corner to go down a slight hill I told Jill I was OK and she could go on (she ran a brilliant race with some very quick miles).

The course was incredibly pleasant. Apart from the bumpy grass around the start/finish most of it was soft and springy. The only mud was concentrated into a few boggy bits within a few hundred metres of each other in the last quarter of the lap. It was lovely squelchy, sticky mud here and I had fun trampling through it.

On my second and final lap one of the marshals shouted such lovely encouragement, telling me I looked great, so I gave him a big hug. He then told me the men were coming up behind, to which I gave a massive fist pump and shouted “YES … Why do you think I run so slow?” Hilarity did ensue.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and I was pleased with my race. My goals were to not get lapped by the women or the men (who started 40mins after our race), to finish under and hour, and to not be last. I achieved all three, running the five-miles in 53:58.

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I saw some of the men come past then headed back to our pile of bags to put on some warm clothes and wait for everyone to re-group. We all agreed that it was a fast course and a lovely experience. I am still a little in awe at being part of such an important and prestigious event, and I will definitely be back next year.

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