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Black Combe race report

“Is a green and blue vest faster than a brown, purple and yellow one?”

(and more importantly does it look as good?)

Black Combe 2018 Matt Elkington Black Combe race report
Race winner Matt Elkington
The Dark Peak vest is a beautiful sight: supposedly based on the brown of the peat bogs, the purple of the gorse bushes, and the yellow of the sun, it’s a combination that shouldn’t work but does (honest). It’s a vest I’ve grown pretty fond of over the last two years but after moving to Ulverston in September (and a lot of ‘gentle encouragement’ from certain AAC members), come the turn of the year I finally gave in and joined my new local (pretty much anyway, sorry Black Combe) club.

A few England Athletics based faffs and letters later (in an only slightly convoluted fashion I’m a member of 3 different running clubs, one for every occasion) and I was ready to make my debut. With the Edale Skyline being in March it was a great opportunity to start my Ambleside career with a Champs race on my former home soil, and contribute to Captain Jack’s plans of world domination. Then I remembered that I’m a wimp and that I don’t do long races, so instead I pencilled in the much more enjoyable (to me anyway) Black Combe on the day before.

It was ideal race conditions, vest and shorts weather but impossible to see anything for 70% of the race, just what you want when you’ve bothered to do a recce. The fields at the start were a bit of a slog but I didn’t feel too bad climbing up to Seaness and just about got there at the front. Heading up the main track I felt really good and ran every step up to the summit, getting a bit of a lead in the process.

Black Combe 2018 Michelle Foxwell Black Combe race report
Women’s winner Michelle Foxwell
It was a bit of a lonely run from here, the main things I can remember are singing ‘just keep swimming’ to myself in my head (a personal favourite when racing), saying hello to some sheep and wondering what would be in the pies at the finish (“meat” was the answer). Despite a recce I still had to get my map out to check I was heading in mostly the right direction round towards White Combe (everything just looks the same), before a fluorescent jacketed marshal made finding the fodder rack a lot easier than it usually is.

When I recce’d the route I probably had about 5 sit downs and a picnic on the second climb up Black Combe, it’s horrendously brutal and I can probably count the number of steps I ran up it using one hand, unfortunately a cheeky look back over my shoulder had revealed Ali McLeod about a minute behind me at the stream crossing so I had to resist the urge to have a little lie down in the increasingly painful yet ever-comfier looking moss and just plough on up the hill.

After about 3 hours (it may have been less) of climbing I was delighted to find a bit of rocky ground that I knew was just round from the cairn. Over to the checkpoint and I finally let myself start enjoying it a bit. A small part of me thought about just relaxing for the last downhill but there’s a descent record down to the bottom which I had been eying up a little bit. I managed to get a good line to the track and then it was a matter of just flogging myself all the way down. 8:44 to Nic Barber’s 8:20 from 2014. Damn (my excuse is that I tried too hard on the climb up to it, next year I’m gunna jog round the rest of the course and save myself for the down). But I did hold on for the win, every cloud and all that.

Black Combe 2018 Dan Duxbury Black Combe race report
Dan Duxbury
It was great to see Michelle (who I must point out isn’t a wimp about long races but an unfortunate victim of “Edale-gate”) take the win in the ladies’ race, although when I asked her if she enjoyed it her response was “I would rather do Edale twice than do that”; each to their own I suppose. And Selwyn made the cut-offs so that’s probably more of an achievement than mine.

Apologies that Jack made me write this (I don’t remember it being included in my contract negotiations, next he’ll be wanting me to do long races too) but I hope you enjoyed at least some of it.

Matt Elkington (Kenilworth Runners/Ambleside AC/Hoad Hill Harriers)


The (North-West) Mail’s report on the race is available here, and confirms that Matt ran the two-mile descent from the south summit in a scarcely believable 8m 44s.

Many congratulations to both Matt and Michelle on an Ambleside double! Full results are available here.