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SOB Race Report

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Here’s another race report from our man in the field – Ben Abdelnoor

SOB Fell Race, January 8th 2022

As I wake to the sound of driving rain on the bedroom window I’m not exactly filled with enthusiasm for today’s race. Heavy rain showers and a moderate breeze are pretty much all that has been forecast for today. I gently tread downstairs in the dark, hoping the weather might be better than upstairs; it appears to be much the same.


I might not yet have enthusiasm for racing in this weather but as I take my place at the breakfast table I certainly have enthusiasm for what sits on the table between the peanut butter and the teapot. In my line of sight is a jar of my first ever attempt at making marmalade. I haven’t tried it yet, I only made it yesterday, but I generously spread it on my toast with murmurs of excitement. I’ll be brutally honest; it’s delicious. The demerara sugar gives it a deep, amber colour; there’s a tang from the addition of lemons; it’s not too sweet and there’s a hint of ginger. I’m even happy with the fact the fishes aren’t too coarse. Britta tells me that nobody calls the slices of Seville orange ‘fishes’, whilst my Dad pipes up that when he was a child they were called ‘ducks’. I’m pretty sure they look more like fish than ducks but I’m happy to be alone in my thinking and continue to munch on my toast and gaze at the lines of raindrops racing down the kitchen windows.


As we sit at one end of the table enjoying breakfast our collective gaze is drawn to an ongoing project at the other end, one that was begun the previous evening. Spread out on the surface of the table, in various stages of connection and completion, are one thousand little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw box displays a bucolic spring farmyard scene, all verdant grass, pretty flowers, blue skies and a shiny red tractor amongst a gathering of classic farmyard animals. More specifically it is titled Meadow Farm Springtime Gathering and I am pretty sure an abattoir does not exist in the world of Meadow Farm. The calves never grow old, the pigs never become bacon, the hens don’t stop laying and the cat, geese and collie dogs all play together in the beck. My parents are visiting for the weekend and I picked up this wholesome fun from a local charity shop with a view to keeping us all entertained in the evenings. Right now, with the rain rattling the windows and threatening to turn to sleet, the opportunity to sit with a mug of tea and piece together the farmyard horse and some of the stables is far more appealing than what lies ahead.


Arriving at Braithwaite Lodge, Jacob Tonkin (Keswick AC) is feeling much the same: “I’m really not looking forward to this,” he tells me flatly. I tell him to wait until he’s two minutes into the race and he’ll be loving it.


I head into the barn to get changed. It’s relatively cosy and quite spacious, an unusually quiet and calm place to prepare for the race, out of the wind and rain. The barn is a split-level affair; upstairs looks inviting and so I troop up the wooden steps to get changed in the hayloft. I step carefully, ducking beneath the low rafters and looking for somewhere to hang my kit. There’s plenty of evidence that swallows have nested up here in previous summers; bird droppings are liberally scattered across the beams and floor.


Wendy Dodds (Dallam) consoles me over an incident she’d read in my Wansfell race report regarding my damaged car wing mirror. She says she knows from past experience how much they cost to repair and can only sympathise with my plight. Then she spoils it all by telling me that my drive-through manoeuvre was all in vain as the postbox wouldn’t have been emptied until the following day anyway due to it being a Bank Holiday.


The race starts in reasonably pleasant conditions and we head off along the path below Barrow. It’s not often I manage to keep up with the leading pack and, with today’s pace a little gentler, I realise that with a sustained effort and some judicious manoeuvring I can squeeze through and lead the field. I only have the lead for a very short while but it allows my team mates, Ben Sharrock and Tom Simpson, to guffaw at my audacity. I’m not sure whether to join in with laughing or be offended.


We reach the climb onto Stile End where the race really gets going. Joe Dugdale (CFR) leads Keswick AC’s Matthew Atkinson. Ben and Tom are in the mix too, along with Dark Peak’s Alex Mason and another Keswick runner, Harry Bolton. The wind is battering us from the west although the rain seems to have eased. By the time this string of runners head off the back of Outerside and into the lee of the fell I see that Joe continues to lead, closely followed by Matthew and Ben.


In the women’s race Vic Wilkinson (Bingley) leaves Outerside with a one minute lead on CFR’s Sophie Likeman, with Holly Wootten (Keswick AC) thirty seconds behind Sophie and in third place. From here to the finish their positions don’t change although Vic extends the gap to Sophie to two minutes, who in turn opens up a similar gap on Holly by the time they reach Braithwaite Lodge.


In an altogether different finale a fantastic battle at the front of the men’s race sees Ben Sharrock overhaul Joe Dugdale on the descent off Barrow, taking almost a minute out of him in the process and stealing the win. Matthew Atkinson just can’t catch a fading Joe and settles for third, just three seconds adrift.

I spot Jacob Tonkin amongst some recent finishers and ask him whether he found his enthusiasm and love for the race once he got started. A wide grin and a hearty, “Aye, I did!” tells me all I need to know, that I was right in my prediction before the start.


As I sit on the settee that evening, writing this report and peering into the darkness of the garden I realise the weather has come full circle. The wind has picked up again and is driving the rain hard against the window panes. Over at the kitchen table come the low, contented murmurings of three jigsaw enthusiasts: “I’ve got a bit of the pig’s bottom but I can’t get it to fit.” “Has anyone got any more of the farmer’s leg?” Taken out of context this conversation sounds odd, but I can appreciate that warm sense of satisfaction of finding pieces to fit and being able to move on to another part of the puzzle. Sort of like that warm satisfaction of crossing the finish line and being able to look forward to the next race, whatever the weather. 

Ben Abdelnoor”


Photos: Lou Osborn + Britta Sendelhofer