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Newlands Race Report – Ben Abdelnoor

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Newlands Memorial Fell Race (formerly known as The Anniversary Waltz), 23rd April 2022


We’ve been working in the garden since the arrival of some warmer weather. We planted forget-me-nots and foxgloves in the shade of the trees; feverfew, bronze fennel and a couple of blackcurrant bushes along the lawn borders; I built a wooden log store and stacked it with the tree that came down during Storm Arwen; laid slate paving across the boggier sections of the garden. However, one job has excited us more than any other. We’ve lined an old oak half-barrel with heavy-duty plastic. The barrel, wedged between two raised beds, appears to have once been a water feature, perhaps home to a few fish, but has sat drained of water. Except when it rains. We dug out the broken aquarium filter, returned the aquatic plants that had been growing in the bottom and filled the barrel with water. Our plan is to rescue some frogspawn or tadpoles from the Old Coach Road beneath Threlkeld Knotts. We noticed last year that the puddles dry out and the frogspawn have a low survival rate. We hope to rehome these little amphibians and have the joy of frogs in a couple of months.


It is pleasantly surprising to hear of the existence of The Tadpole Protection Society, a collective of young enthusiastic environmentalists. In fact, the society appears to number just two members and as we stand on the startline of the Newlands Memorial race Les Barker, the race organiser, asks us to watch out for the society members as they guard a puddle of frogspawn. Two primary school aged children stand defiantly, 200 metres along the track, with their warning sign held firmly between them in front of a puddle which has been cordoned off with red and white tape.


Once I’m past the frogspawn and my wandering mind stops conjuring up images of our lawn covered in happy, bouncing froglets, I focus on keeping Sam Stead (Keswick) in my sights. Sam cycled to the race, only to find he’d brought two left shoes. Despite Matt Bland rubbing his hands at the prospect of a quick sale, Sam’s opted for the trail shoes he cycled to the race in; conditions are dry and he’ll be fine.


It might be dry, and pleasantly sunny too, but there’s a strong, biting wind on the tops. The climb onto Robinson is gusty, minus ten with wind chill apparently. There’s not much of Hannah Russell (Helm Hill) to take shelter behind and as our quartet of runners reach the checkpoint on the summit of Robinson I’m mildly concerned that my neighbour, Simon, who’s marshalling on top, might get blown away. He’s only little.


Back in December, when there was snow on the ground, I’d ran up Blencathra one evening with Simon and his wife Carol. Making our way up from Mousthwaite Combe we picked up an unopened can, lying in the snow, of an energy drink called ‘Reign’.It offered ‘total body fuel’ and boasted branched chain amino acids and L-arginine. It contained 200mg of caffeine. For comparison, a can of Coca-Cola contains 32mg. Packed with unpronounceable and potentially hallucinogenic chemicals, we dared each other to drink it. It’s consequently sat in our drinks cupboard, waiting for that ‘special occasion’.


In the lead up to this race I put the can of Reign in the fridge and considered experimenting with the equivalent of six cans of Coke before the start. However, when push came to shove I wimped out, visions of having a whitey on Hindscarth, and being escorted off the fells by mountain rescue all nauseous and dizzy. Mid-race, making my way across the fells, I thought back to that can in the fridge and resented not imbibing the toxic liquor just a little bit.


Brennan Townshend (Keswick) has a minute and a half lead at Robinson over a chasing trio of Garry Greenhow (Ambleside), Darren Kay (Calder Valley) and Sam. By Dale Head Brennan has doubled his lead and by the finish he’s almost five minutes clear of Garry in second place with Darren close behind in third.


Hannah finishes the race unchallenged, fourteen minutes ahead of Sophie Noon (CFR). Hannah, ninth overall, is a little over two minutes outside Angela Mudge’s 2007 record. Young Lex Whitaker of Harrogate Harriers, only turning 18 the day before the race, has an impressive run to take third.


For much of the race I had Harry Cooling ahead of me. From a distance, in his Howgill Harriers vest, it takes me back to memories of a young and inexperienced Carl Bell. Back then, Carl was new to fell running and yet to sign a deal with Keswick AC, whilst I was still a half-decent runner. I’d watch, unconcerned, if Carl opened up a lead on me in races. I could be reasonably confident that he’d go wrong; wrong summit, wrong valley, wrong direction. He was always finding new and inventive ways to throw away a lead and I for one appreciated his solid reliability.


At the finish Cockermouth Mechanics Brass Band are playing in the field, Keswick Brewery has set up a keg of beer in the village hall, to which each competitor is treated to a ½ pint of refreshing ale, whilst outside the hall pies are being distributed by a local caterer. Thank you Les Barker and Cumberland Fell Runners for serving the fell running community with a great race at great value.


Ben Abdelnoor

Photo used with permission of Les Barker