A race that starts in Little Stretton and takes runners twice up the Callow is strangely named after Ragleth Hill, the other side of the valley, but the explanation lies in the fact that Ragleth Inn is named after the hill it looks out on.
So a rather small field of 71 runners assembled in the lane behind the pub, eager to tackle the 4.8km course that includes 380 m of ascent – or at least to get it over with. 100m of tarmac, then we swing left over a stream (the foot bridge involves a small detour), begin to climb, over a smaller stream with tricky stepping stones (for runners), through the gate and we’re onto the hill. A narrow, steep gritty path for a quarter of a mile and then the bracken and grass of the hill itself. That’s where most of us decide to walk. From the top we descend to the right, join a climbing path, into the wind, before a steepish descent into the valley below (where else would it be?). Over another stream and then we follow a narrow sheep track, over occasional rocky outcrops and then just before we begin the second climb up the Callow I follow runners who decide to take an alternative route higher up the slope, and then we have to scramble back down to the crossing point of the stream. This second climb is even more demanding than the first, but at least it’s the final one. From the top it’s a pleasant enough run down the hillside till we rejoin the gritty path – its steep descent and unforgiving surface, and the sound of approaching footsteps behind, make it a gruelling final run. At the gate at the bottom, where we have previously finished, we then had two streams to cross, at speed, and then 100m to the line. Once our dibbers had been inserted into their ‘reader’ on a short pole, our result was recorded and we were done.
The winner was Henry Webb, now an under 23, but still looking shockingly youthful, in a time of 30.57. Tim again led home the Croft contingent (can 4 constitute a contingent?) in 38th place (42.18), just beating the first over 70 (a Mancunian with a Pennines RC top as old as my Croft one I’ve just relegated to the rag drawer). I was 45th (45.02), with Gary 62nd (49.49) and Steph still enjoying her forays into the hills, 66th (51.36). With the extra distance run, and the ageing process, Gary’s time of 44.01 in 2019 makes this year’s time look very respectable. My 2018 time was 2m 45 faster.