A very warm evening (23 degrees when we set off) in Pontesbury, for the third in the Shropshire fell running series. This is a relatively short race (4.9km), with 385m of ascent, but it has its own brand of demands. Matt Yapp was hoping to carry on improving his excellent positions: 4th at the Batch Bash, 3rd at Rodney’s Pillar and possibly 2nd today? He brought his younger brother, Aidan, along for support, a seemingly very wise move.
After a short lap of the playing fields, and then 400m up a tarmac road we joined the queue to get through a kissing gate (held on by two bolts only). From then on it was a steady climb, getting steadily steeper, but at least in the woods it was a bit cooler. That was where I lost sight of Tim, as I was forced to walk (knowing too that Gary was right on my ‘tail’), as Long John Tim, with a strapped ankle – result of his 105 mile Last Man Standing race – made good progress over the loose stone and tree roots. As we emerged from the trees, there was a final climb up to the summit and then a tricky steep descent on a diagonal (that didn’t stop Gary from catching me up again) before we climbed back up to the entrance to the woods. This is presumably where the casualties happened, careering down over loose stones, tree roots and occasional sharper, fixed stones. This pushed the C rate up to 1 in 33, as opposed to 1 in 42 at Rodney’s Pillar – a worrying trend for the SAGE committee!
Matt did in fact manage to improve his finish position, up to 2nd, a mere 15 seconds behind winner Jack Agnew, in 20.22. Brother Aidan, in his first race in the series, was just behind in 4th (21.26), the Yapp brothers virtually forming their own magnificent all-conquering team! Tim carried his weary body round the course in 31.49 (72nd), with me 81st (33.01) and Gary 88th (34.10). There were still a few runners behind us, but their numbers are getting increasingly smaller.