Race reviews: Cracken Edge & Happy Valley Foodbank

Capturing the moment of stile-conquest!

I’ve got a bit behind on my reviews. In fairness I started the Cracken Edge review but wasn’t happy with it and it was shelved. This is my second attempt.

Cracken Edge Fell Race

Cracken Edge is one of the hill-features above Hayfield in the High Peak. The Cracken Edge Fell Race is organised as an annual charity event by and in support of the Kinder Mountain Rescue Team. It is also my first ‘proper’ fell race. Looking at the classified results, 192 runners completed the course.

Unlike road running, fell races have very little to do with tarmac. They do have a great affinity with mud. If you’re planning on keeping those trainers shiny and clean, don’t do a fell race. Unless you’re happy putting the trainers through the washing machine afterwards!

The registration was a very informal affair with entries on the night being the only option. It was a case of filling in your details and exchanging that piece of paper (plus the small entry fee) for a running number.

The briefing was loud and clear from the Mountain Rescue Team who also started the race. A race which begins with a reasonable climb starting with a little bit of tarmac before changing into a track.

This was one of those races where if you wanted to get a better time, starting at the front and going hell for leather up the first hill was an advantage. At the top of this first incline, there was a stile. Anyone further back had to join a queue to get over the stile. Which, to be fair, was a great opportunity to get your breath back. I went with the crowd and accepted there would be a wait. And that I’d need it!!

Capturing the moment of stile-conquest!

Across the fields we went before following a very rocky track – practically a stream bed after all the recent rain – and then up the second big hill. I struggled with this, finding walking really was the only way I was going to get up it.

But up it I managed and over a stile at the top and onto tarmac! And a glorious downhill during which I passed most of the people who had passed me on the ascent.

All good things come to an end, and the race left the downhill tarmac and joined a trail which continued along before making the third (and final) big climb. At least now I wasn’t the only one walking!

After what felt like an age, I reached the top and the trail leveled and then descended. Not an easy downhill like the last one, this was unlevel and tricky. Nevertheless, it was downhill.

The course finale was along the top edge of a steep field, which isn’t the easiest way of running, with one leg having to operate at a shorter length than the other! Oh, and add in mud. LOTS of mud. Just as you’re through the worst of the goo, the course turns 90 degrees and it’s a very rapid descent to the finish line. I overtook about 4 people on this short bit alone. And despite the marshals cautioning to slow down at the end, this was easier said than done!

The course was 6.4 miles according the GPS and it took me 63:45 to complete (93rd place).

Lots to learn from but as an introduction to fell races, I’d definitely recommend it.

Happy Valley Foodbank Series (Race 3)

Each year Bramhall Runners organise a series of three races in ‘Happy Valley’, a woodland area between Bramhall and Hazel Grove in Stockport. It’s the same course three times, but as the last one happened to be in our own race series, I entered the final race.

The course is billed as a 5km trail run, but it’s actually slightly longer (GPS reckoned 5.5km). Half the course is trail, and half is tarmac. The event was cheap to enter at £6 with all proceeds going to the foodbank charity in Bramhall. Runners were also encouraged to bring a donation for the foodbank as well. Looking at the classified results, 178 runners completed the course, which could be entered in advance or on-the-night.

Knowing that there were a number of pinch points in the course, I opted to run close to the front with a number of others from my club (all of whom were in with a chance of winning the race). I knew I wouldn’t be with them at the end, but I fancied my chances with a fast time for the course.

The briefing (courtesy of Crazy Legs Events) was clear and concise and we started without incident. Trail shoes were definitely needed after all the recent rain, and the hard-mud paths were slippery in places. The first obstacle was the stepping stones across the river and, by being towards the front of the race, I was able to get across without having to wait. The course continued along the river bank on the other side before making a dog-leg to cross two stiles and into the top field. Again no delay. The trail was reasonable but care had to be taken with tree roots, and the occasional uber-slippery cow pat waiting for the unwitting to discover!

The trail ended at the top of the field where it met the road. Over a stile and then up a short incline. This felt harder than it was due to the effort in getting through the trail section quickly! However, once up this incline the path was easy running, all tarmac for the next mile and slightly downhill too. So a chance to recover!

The course then turned left and rejoined the trail. First, by dropping down a set of very muddy steps. And then it was along the riverbank we had run the out leg on until the river crossing. This time, not stepping stones. It was straight into the water (ankle deep) and across. I nearly did a somersault during this and my recovery received shouts of ‘well done!’ from the marshals. Well I aim to please!

And then it was a sprint back to the start line. Before the race, I’d warmed up on this section and made a mental note that ‘it was further than you think’. So with that I knew there was a way to go.

Unsurprisingly I didn’t win…… The winning time was a shade under 20 minutes! I completed the course in 17th place in 23:30 and I was happy with that!

That said, it was a great night for the Stockport Harriers team with overall individual (male and female) winners in both senior and junior races as well as winning the team event!

Stockport Harriers team after the Happy Valley Foodbank race.

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