Caradoc Classic Fell Race – 19th April 2023

Race Reports

Start as you mean to go on

Runners seem to have an innate ability to position themselves at the start of a race broadly in find their finishing positions. In club races this is hardly surprising. You know who you’re likely to be a bit quicker than and stand in front of them. You stand behind those who are likely to cross the finish line before you. It’s common sense.

Looking at the start of the first Leinthal Starkes Race in 2022 – the positions runners took at start pretty much mirrored their finish positions. Running rarely throws up complete surprises and we know each other’s ability.

What’s surprising is how true this is for races where we don’t know the ability of other runners. Those who think they have a chance of winning, or at least being in the top few, position themselves at the front. This natural selection continues all the way to the back of the field.

As my previous club grew it became practical to divide training sessions into three ‘peer groups’. Peer Group One (the ‘elite group’) was for who could run a sub 40 minute 10k time. Peer Group Two was for those with a sub 50 minute 10k time and Peer Group Three was for ‘everyone else’.

I was never in the elite group. I started at the top of the middle group, then I was in the middle of the middle group, then the bottom of the middle group, then the top of the bottom group. I’ll leave you to work out the rest.

To be fair this was over 10 years ago and there’s little doubt that the average running speed in clubs has become slower. In large part this is due to the appeal of Park Run and ‘Couch to 5k’ which have broadened the appeal of running – something that the best clubs have embraced. The fast runners are still there but it’s now a very broad church.

So what’s all this got to do with the Caradoc Fell Race?

Well, at the start of the race I found myself standing at the back with Steph King. I wouldn’t usually choose to stand at the back. Maybe the last third, but not at the back. At Caradoc this just felt like the right place to stand.

It turned out to be prophetic.

I love fell races. They are supremely hard but I enjoy the simplicity of them. You just run to the top of the hill, turn round and run down again.  Historically competitors were fellsmen and one of the skills needed was a knowledge of what the best route up and down the fell was. This often resulted in the fast runners descending through the slower runners. These days it’s all more organised with a marked route up to the summit and a different route back down.

This year there was a longer, half mile run to the start of the climb up Caradoc. This allowed the field to spread out nicely. No one, not even the lead runners can run the very steep accents of a fell. The challenge remains to cover the ground as quickly as possible. Most are able to do this much better than I can!

Steph went past me and I was pretty sure that I reached the summit in last position. It turned out that there were a couple behind me.

I can get down most things fairly quickly but this was very very steep. I found that the only way I could make decent progress was to zigzag down. I managed to pass one person and was closing on Howard Verran who, after completing the Manchester Marathon 3 days previously, was descending the hill like a baby giraffe on stilts. It looked painful – but very funny.

There were 119 runners in the race with sixteen from CARC. Eric finished in 13th position; which maybe gives an indication of how tough the climb and descent were.

I was the last Croftie home but not the last runner.  There were 3 after me. I finished in pretty much the exact position I had chosen to stand at the start.

Maybe I should stand at the front next time and see what happens!

Croft Race Results – full results on Mercia Fell Runners website

Croft postionRace positionRunner Time
113Eric Apperley27.48
252Lucy Austin33.12Age category winner
353Steve Partridge33.28
455Patrick Pearson33.42
566George Thomas35.15
667Stuart Austin35.23
777Dave Millichap37.53
878Ireland Lawrence38.23
991Jo Tilby40.12
1092Liza Austin40.56Age category winner
1193Gary Gunner41.15Age category winner
1296Guy Whitmarsh42.14
1398Steph King43.12
14102Howard Verran44.21
15103Huw Williams45.32

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