Sally Houghton in Full Descent Mode!
(John Leech Photography)
This was a big day for Harrogate Harriers: Somewhat incredibly, we managed to field three full teams for the National Fell Relays, a fact that reflects how popular the off-road discipline has become in the club. This year’s relays were held in and around Middleton Fell, this is a little-known corner of Eastern Cumbria and it proved to be a superb venue, matched by outstanding organisation from the hosting clubs of Dallam R.C. and Howgill Harriers. We had teams in the Open, V50 (Mens) and Mixed categories against what can only be termed formidable opposition; All the big fell clubs (Dark Peak, Calder Valley, Borrowdale etc) had multiple entries and counted current and former British champions among their number, so we knew it was not going to be easy! Each team had six members and there were four legs to run, legs 1 and 4 were both of about 5 miles and ran individually, while legs 2 and 3 were 8.5 miles and 7 miles respectively and ran as pairs. Leg 3 was the navigation leg and competitors did not get maps or route instructions until they were approximately 400 meters into the race. Things kicked off with a mass start and the 2014 British Champion Rob Hope (Pudsey & Bramley) showed his class by taking the field apart and easily coming into transition in first place, however Dark Peak showed just what a force they are by taking the lead during the navigation leg and with that the 2014 Relays Title. Somewhat controversially, Calder Valley and Borrowdale Mens’ V40 teams came home in second and third places but were awarded the V40 1st/2nd prizes while Mercia and Wharfedale were credited with second and third place overall. Apparently those are the rules.
So how did the Harriers contingent do? Pretty well as it happens Our Open Team lads ran their hearts out to come home in a very creditable 41st place overall, a great result out of the 217 teams that entered and to be truthful, they would have probably been a good bit further up the order if Knights in Shining Armour John Young and Barry McGuire hadn’t stopped for a few minutes to assist a couple of totally lost damsels in distress. These poor ladies were from a club from “Down South” (Cheshire actually, but that’s South isn’t it?) and John and Barry quite properly stopped to direct the poor girls back on to the proper line while other more ruthless runners charged past. Ten out of Ten for chivalry lads!
Ros Moore Working Hard on the Leg 1 Climb ….
Our V50 team were less fortunate and suffered a devastating blow when Paul Render (on leg 2 with Brian Miller) was forced to retire with a nasty calf injury before reaching CP1 on Eskholme Pike, meaning that those on legs 3 and 4 had to partake in mass starts and would not have been in contention for a place. So how about the Mixed Team? Well, it’s a story worth telling: Ros Moore did superbly to hang on and pass the baton to Martyn and Helen Price who were running leg 2. They used all the experience at their disposal to pull back a lot of places on the long descent down to Wrestle Gill and navigated straight to a cleverly concealed checkpoint, while other teams overshot and had to contour back around the tricky terrain at the foot of the hill – there’s a lot to be said for studying the map carefully! David Fountain and Nick Andralojc charged off on the navigation leg and put in a phenomenally strong performance, going straight to each CP with no problem and handing over to Sally Houghton who was on leg 4. Sally went out there – in deteriorating conditions – and simply buried herself to bring the Mixed Team home in THIRD PLACE overall. I hope she remembers the entire Harriers contingent yelling and cheering her in at the finish, she really did us proud. According to the Compere (who was fantastic) we were the rowdiest club on the day and I think this is something to be proud of, quite apart from some great running from everyone who took part.
So well done to all concerned, but particular thanks to club fell running POC Helen Price for all her work and organisation, thanks also to chairman Tony Essex who travelled up to Middleton to support and stoically endured some pretty nasty weather in order to support our teams. Next year’s relays will be held in Scotland and Harrogate Harriers will again be entering teams – watch this space!!
Harrogate Harriers A (Open) – Andy Grant, Chris Miller, Chris Gibbins, John Young, Barry McGuire, Jake Turnbull
Harrogate Harriers B (V50) – Ben Grant, Brian Miller, Paul Render, Harry Dowdell, Simon Watson, Ian Rowbotham
Harrogate Harriers C (Mixed) – Ros Moore, Martyn Price, Helen Price, David Fountain, Nick Andralojc, Sally Houghton