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Wansfell Race Report


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I’m not one for omens but the day didn’t start well. We’re driving down St John’s in the Vale heading for Ambleside and Britta has chosen a classic ghost story from M.R. James to listen to, yet I’m spoiling the atmosphere by excitedly telling Britta how I’ve found a ‘drive-though postbox     ‘. One where I can wind down the passenger window, swing into the lay-by opposite Low Bridge End Farm and lean across to post the mail: “It’s just like living in the States.”


Briefed in her role, Britta sits ready in the passenger seat, holding an envelope containing our most recently watched DVDs; that’s right, online DVD rental via the post still exists. (Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) and MLK/FBI (2020), if you’re interested). I slow to a crawl, the passenger window casually descending as I pull into the lay-by. In careful increments I roll the car forward to align ourselves with the flap of the postbox, only to watch in agony as the mirror clips the box and gets stuck. I put the car in reverse and stall, which allows the car to slip forward with a sickening crunch as the wing mirror falls off.


I’m upset and disproportionately angry with my stupidity. Nevertheless I try to put the incident out of my mind whilst Britta tries to put the wing mirror out of my view, on the back seat, and we continue driving to Ambleside.


Race organisers Michelle and Magnus count us through on the start line and we’re off up Stockghyll Lane.


This morning I’d stood on the bathroom scales for the first time since Christmas Day, and muttered something about them clearly being broken again. I promptly went downstairs and took the dogs out for a morning run to try and drop some weight before the race; it’s what boxers do, right? Anyhow, I try not to think about the extra pounds as we head up past Stockghyll Woods. We’re minutes into the race and I can still see the leaders up ahead: Billy Cartwright (Matlock AC) and Charlie Allmond (aged 16⅛). Rob Jebb (ex-Bingley AC) is only just gathering steam as he passes me, so I figure I can’t be doing too badly. I promptly slip down to around 15th as we hit the pitched path, sandwiched – along with a couple of Helm Hillock lads – between Sarah McCormack up ahead and Nichola Jackson (Keswick AC) on my tail.


What must have been a fantastic battle ensued between Ambleside AC’s young Charlie and reigning English fell running Champion Billy, with the latter stealing a narrow victory despite being fifteen seconds behind Charlie at the summit. Think about that for a moment: Billy Cartwright is currently, on paper, the best fell runner in England. Charlie raced him to the top of a fell, and beat him.


Rob Jebb turned at the summit in third but was overhauled on the descent by Jack Wright (3rd) and Tom Simpson (5th). Bryony has given Tom a haircut reminiscent of one of the quartet of baddies in Stand by Me (1986) but I shouldn’t laugh as I am currently avec mullet. Tom looks funny, but Gary Thorpe has already poked fun at my barnet. Before the start I see him without a Club vest on. Gary claims to have lost it and doesn’t think it’s worth him buying a new one. I tell him that’s daft; he’s got at least two years of running left in him. Quick as a flash he replies that he might be old and knackered but at least he’s not balding: touché Gary.


So, well done to all, with special mentions for Charlie Allmond (the politest of teenagers, he inquires during our warm-down together as to how my Christmas has been) and another Ambleside junior, Rowan Ashworth, having a stellar performance (13th). Well done to women’s race winner Sarah McCormack (14th overall) who tells me, as we trot back to our cars, that usually her brain sends messages to her legs to go faster and climb stronger but today the messaging service went walkabout someone around her belly button. Now that’s some weird post-race analysis for someone who trains fairly scientifically but it’d explain the marijuana Britta thought she could smell as she marshalled halfway up the climb.


Comment of the day however comes from our genuinely humble and all-round nice guy, Captain Jack Wright: “You know what, Ben? I don’t mean to sound like a Big Dog (I think it must be a millennial term) but there were so many people calling out my name on the fell it was unreal, I love it.” Cue a tearful and laughing emoji. I love Jack.


So that’s Wansfell done for 2021, rounding off a year of racing. But we weren’t done yet. Stopping off on the way home for a brew with friends, I won a nail-biting game of table tennis against their 13 year old son. I felt like the character out of 1990s The Fast Show, Competitive Dad, but do you think I cared as I came back from 8-4 down to win 10-9?


Arriving home I cautiously stepped on the bathroom scales once again, but not before having taken the dogs on a second, shorter, run through the quarry; something to do with fat-burning. I can report that the bathroom scales seem to be working much better now. It’s the small things in life that make us happy, right?

 Ben Abdelnoor


Photos by: Karl Steinegger, Neil McKenzie, Steve Brown and Graham Day

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