The Nine Standards Fell Race

New Years Day- start as we mean to go on.

Had found this race by chance on Twitter and it looked like a good option for us, 8.5 miles, 500m of ascent. The Nine Standards are like boundary cairns that are so big, they are reminiscent of standing stones. It has been suggested that they were built as boundary stones or county markers and have been there for hundreds of years but have been rebuilt over time. Very interesting:

Luckily the weather seemed to be holding as we set off towards Kirkby Stephen, soon to be our new running territory-ish. We stopped at Tebay Services on the way, we usually choose ourselves a nice beer to enjoy after fell races and we try to pick one that is local to the race. Couldn’t believe it when we found a selection of beers named after the Nine Standards!

I’m always really nervous about fell races, I find them far more challenging than trails and road (and ultras…in different ways of course)..for obvious reasons. But also, the number of entrants is quite small and there is that fear of getting lost or holding people up by coming last by a mile. I needn’t have worried about this race- there was a really big turn out, everyone was chatty and positive, plus it was an out and back run…basically four miles up and four miles down.

The race started and we set off from the market square and headed up along a footpath away from the town centre, the fells loomed ahead, and in the distance the Nine Standards punctuated the skyline. 

It was a gradual ascent and I tried to take it really slow and pace myself. The footpaths gave way to a long road section and people were lamenting the amount of beer they’d drank the night before- I was one of those people.

Still, I made fairly decent progress and soon we were on to the steeper section of tracks along the fell. There was snow on the ground, it was boggy, wet and icy cold. I felt pretty positive and I was taking it easy and enjoying the atmosphere. It was quite technical underfoot and a lot of focus was required to stay upright at times, there were some muddy sections that were at least knee deep, as Ed and I both found out.

The nice thing about an out and back is that you get to see the winners coming past (and observe their lines on the downhill), as I neared the stones, Ed appeared, just enough time for me to shout ‘grassy shortcuts possible!’ 

The way back down was very slippery but I took my time and was able to really push on through the more straightforward sections as I’d paced myself well. This meant that I was able to overtake a few people on the road section- I’m usually dying at this point so I was surprised at how good I felt. The finish appeared soon after and Ed was there waiting for me. I think this has been my favourite fell race so far. I can say that I really enjoyed every minute of it and the views were absolutely stunning!  Also safe to say that we earned our beers!

Then it was dinner with the family. The discussion turned to resolutions. Ed didn’t have any, I guess I don’t either- I’m just going to try and keep up with small positive changes every day, wherever I have the opportunity to be more disciplined, try a bit harder, be more positive and help others.

The race did inspire me to sketch a little Ultra-Thought:

Fell Race today, getting thrashed by people of all ages, shapes and sizes! So great to be part of something that you can do your whole life- and still rock! Happy New Year everyone! πŸ˜ŠπŸƒπŸΌπŸ’•


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