The last of the Shropshire winter series of fell races was held at Ercall Wood School, under the Wrekin. It’s the most ‘urban’ of all the races, the school being surrounded by houses, and being only 100m from the M54. Significantly perhaps, we started this year in the car park, not on the playing fields, because they have been sold off for housing. So, a lap of the car park, down the drive, up the road and under the motorway and into Ercall Wood, with an early steep climb on a dry, leafy surface. This was followed by the inevitable steep drop, where the dry leaves provided little grip. One more, smaller hill, before the Wrekin itself, which starts with a steep clamber up a long gully (usually I find time to assess possible downhill routes for the return, but this year I needed all my concentration on the climb, as I slowly closed in on Sue by the top), and then it’s a long drag up a wide stony/concrete path to the trig point, seeing the leaders racing down again past us as we climb. The descent is a bit hazardous, avoiding walkers and rocky outcrops, until we arrive back at the ‘drop’ – the Wrekin gully. The central route is worn slippery, so I veer off right where there is more grip and zigzag through the trees. Then we’re back into the wooded hills of the Ercall. The first climb saps your remaining strength but it’s the second that’s the real tester, where scrambling is the only option. From there it’s a flattish run over the top of the Ercall, turning into a fast, runnable descent, with then about half a mile of road to the finish.
The turnout this year was relatively low (95); the race was won by Billy Starling, a promising youngster (now apparently a senior), in 41.36. Gary P, after a long run the previous day, put in a very sound performance, 37th (53.30) and 4th M45. I was back in 66th (60.02), 1st M70, again a little ahead of Sue (72nd, 61.30) who was a smidgeon behind Biddy Cole, awarded 1st F50. Tom had a good race, almost the same time as last year, 79th, in 63.57, 4th M65 (just a yard or two behind 3rd M65). Gary G, having run a frustrating fell race on Saturday in the mist of central Wales, struggled in in 82nd place (2nd M70) a minute and a half later.