Edale Skyline

Sunday saw the running of the first race in the 2007 English fellrunning championship at the Don Morrison Memorial Edale Skyline. The race is a testing 21 mile circuit of the Edale Valley, in the heart of the Peak District.The race starts just behind the village of Edale and, after visiting Ringing Roger, takes in the summits of Win Hill, Loose Hill, Mam Tor, Brown Knoll and Grindslow Knoll before returning to Ringing Roger and then descending back to the start/finish field. The course is a testing one at the best of times with a mixture of difficult underfoot conditions and route finding challenges. Sunday?s event however will go down as one of the hardest in the race?s history due to the appalling weather conditions on the day. Hail, snow and sleet combined with gale force winds to provide some of the most unpleasant running conditions it is possible to imagine. Runners were being thrown into rocks by the force of the wind, and the stinging effect of the driving hail made it almost impossible to look forward at times. On a slight positive, the visibility, in between blizzards, was reasonable, meaning there was little excuse for wandering around lost on Kinder! Of the 500 runners who were entered 418 started and 338 finished, the high number of retirees and timed out runners a reflection of the testing conditions. Some comments overheard at the end of the race included ?that was the hardest race I?ve ever done? and ?that was the worst weather I have ever run in?, and there were many more in that vein. The feeling for many seemed to be that positions and times mattered little, and that people were happy simply to get round. The race for first place was a two way battle between Lloyd Taggart of Dark Peak and Simon Bailey of Mercia, who as a pair established a significant margin over the rest of the field from the off. The two battled with one another for most of the race, but by the time Lloyd reached Grindslow Knoll he had established a two minute lead on Simon, which he managed to stretch to five minutes at the finish. The winning time was 2.44.29, impressive considering the conditions.Behind this pair was a chasing pack of about ten runners, including P&Bs Rob Hope, defending English champion Rob Jebb of Bingley and Nick Sharpe of Ambleside. This group was gradually split by the usual process of attrition, and Rob Jebb had run himself into third at Mam Nick after passing John Heneghan, who took a wrong route off the summit of Mam Tor. Rob held his position to the finish, and was followed home by Tom Owens of Mercia and Nick Sharpe in fourth and fifth respectively. It should be noted that Jebb has only resumed his running in the last six weeks, after a particularly impressive cyclo-cross season. The victory was Lloyd?s first in a championship race, and he remarked at the end that his was glad to have finally won one, stating it was one less thing he now had to do! The first female home was Janet McIver of Dark Peak in an impressive time of 3.21.53 and an excellent 33rd overall. Janet was followed just over three minutes later by Jackie Lee of Eyri Harriers. Third lady home was vet 45 Sally Newman of Calder Valley, in a time of 3.33.52. There were a number of notable female retirees including defending English champion Natalie White, and former champion Lou Roberts.Credit must go to all those who contributed to such a well organised race in very difficult conditions. Amongst those deserving special mention are the race organisers, the marshals (who had to endure some appalling weather whilst stood in one spot for several hours) and the various mountain rescue teams, who were involved in assisting a number of runners off the hills. Full race results and photos can be found here Next up in the English championship is Paddy?s Pole in the Forest of Bowland on 22nd April. Before that however is the first race in the British Championship at Donard Commedagh in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland on 31st March.