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Langdale Horseshoe Report 2012 by Ben Abdelnoor

A minute’s silence before the start of the race gave everyone a chance to reflect on the passing of a much-loved and friendly face in fellrunning. Daz had run the Langdale Horseshoe the previous two years and competed against many of those present on the start line.

A steady climb up to Stickle Tarn and onto Thunacar Knott saw myself, Tom Brunt, Kim Collison and England orienteering International Jonny Malley make up the lead group. None of us three had met Malley before and it’s always slightly unnerving to have an ‘unknown quantity’ racing at the front!

From Thunacar to Angle Tarn the pace had remained fairly comfortable, so I decided to up my effort for the climb from the Tarn to Esk Hause. It’s a fairly long climb and would give me a chance to gauge the competition. I’d opened up a small gap by the Hause and so continued to push hard along the rough, slippy traverse beneath Esk Pike.

Heading onto Bowfell I could make out my pursuers perhaps a minute or so behind. The weather was better than it had been that week, although that didn’t stop the odd snowflake and spot of hail from falling between Esk Hause and Bowfell.

Good visibility and a reasonable idea of the traverse around the Crinkles brought me out onto Long Top without concern. A quick manoeuvre around the Bad Step and it’s a fast decent to the bottom of the final climb onto Blisco. Here, folk assured me that I had a decent margin, perhaps five minutes was the estimate. I knew that as long as I kept pushing hard I could be fairly confident of the victory.

It’s the second time I’ve won Langdale, admittedly my winning times are not particularly fast, in fact I’ve come 4th and 2nd in faster times. I enjoy running around the course; I know it well having lived just down the valley, and I love to race this event, but this weekend I’d never felt less interested in going to race. It must have been a really tough week for the family, club mates and close friends that knew and loved Daz. And for many of us, like me, that knew him through a passing nod of the head, word of encouragement and friendly grin it’s been a great shock and caused much sadness.

Twice during the Langdale race I burst into tears – spontaneous, yet brief, some sort of emotional release. Firstly as I ran off Thunacar Knott and looked out at the cloud lying low in the valley, with the bold mountains rising up and a blue sky rising higher. I saw this beautiful scene before me, one that Darren wouldn’t get to see again, and I felt like giving up. I doubt that’s what Darren would have admired; so I kept going. Later, as I hit the bottom of the climb up Blisco and I heard words of encouragement washing around me, followed by feelings of exhaustion and submission, my thoughts turned to Darren. He’d have mustered up the strength to keep going, never one to give up in a race. So I kept going.

I don’t think Darren could have realised just how many happy memories and thoughts he could trigger in the fellrunning community, generating a warmth and positivity that will go from race to race.