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Pen y Fan Fell Race
Saturday 17th July 2010
Dave Mail

The FlatLander Beats The Fell Runners …

….. well, not all of them but some, finishing 45th out of 74.

Some of you know that I love hills, so I’d gone to the Welsh Border for a hill training weekend, and having been told about a Fell Race nearby, I thought “why not?”, it’s something new, and adds variety to my training. So, after my hill training upon arrival on Friday, I travelled to Brecon on Saturday for the Fell Race at Pen y Fan.

Pre-race conditions were such that fell-running kit (map, compass, whistle, windproof coat and trousers) was required, but although they were carried, race conditions had improved slightly so they weren’t needed.

I would like to say that I conquered Pen y Fan but the best I can say is that I survived it! It would have been nice to have run all the way to the summit, but I have to admit that I started walking about halfway up. At least I lasted longer than most as everyone else except the first 2 had to walk, although that’s nothing to boast about since my “running” was only marginally less slow than everyone else’s walking. 1930ft (600m) of ascent later, I was at the summit.

Very scenic, but I saw only the ground in front of my nose on the way up due to the steep gradient, although on the descent by a different route, one could see more ahead when looking up to make sure one was heading in generally the right direction (it’s an unmarked course), otherwise it was looking down to check for foot plants. I chose the “zigzag” downhill technique which worked reasonably well since I extended my lead over those immediately behind me. My position loss on the descent was mainly due to not choosing the best path off the summit, leading to a cautious clamber over a precipice immediately after the summit (a few runners followed me – obviously they didn’t know I was a first-timer!).

Made myself laugh on the way down when my feet slipped from under me and I landed on my backside (thank goodness for soft grass tussocks!) but because the slope was so steep, I was still virtually upright and just kept on running. Over a couple of streams, interspersed by splashing through marshland (no, I didn’t go wrong, that was the only option – it was a fell race), over a stile and a sprint finish over the last half mile over not so steep grassland.

Beautiful views from the summit, well worth the effort getting there – wish I’d taken my camera and stopped at the top and taken a few photos even if it would have added a minute to my time. Anyway, time’s irrelevant in such a race – that’s my worst ever WAVA result (32.49%), an average speed of 16 minute miling. Thank goodness it’s not an accurately measured course so that my WAVA doesn’t become official. Besides, my zigzagging added a few hundred yards to the distance.

Had a smile on my face most of the way round, and couldn’t stop grinning at the end. Not bad for a FlatLander who’s a complete novice at Fell running.

I know some of you don’t like hills, but I can thoroughly recommend such a race, especially in such beautiful surroundings.

Does this qualify me to join the East Anglian Mountain Rescue Service?

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