What better way to spend the Sunday after the Winter Dinner and Presentation Evening than with a 9 mile fell race in beautiful Shropshire. Well, clearly most of the medal winners felt that they'd done their hard work for 2007 and deserved a lie-in so just 5 LERCers set off on the 90 mile drive to Cardington. A "doom and gloom" weather forecast proved correct and heavy rain with strong winds were encountered on the drive westwards. However, a twinkling of blue sky near Telford metamorphosised into the much hoped for "weather window" and the runners set off in fine although very blustery conditions.
Andy Colgate was pumped up for a first for the Club and although setting off steadily was soon making good progress through the field closely followed by Richard Wilkinson. Phil Walters and Andrei Vais, again in close company were mid-field with Ian Wallis coughing his way at the rear as he was recovering from a heavy cold. Ian's preparation was a slug of cough mixture and a max strength Lemsip - not recommended in the usual running magazines.
The first mile or so was wet, muddy and gently undulating (not) with better running on long grassy stretches although flesh-piercing bracken claimed early victims. Yell Bank then lived up to it's name as the 1 in 5 downhill covered in sphagnum moss and peat proved impossible for vertical transition and many Yells were heard as more runners collected rump and upper thigh abrasions - a really good excuse for bottom comparisons at the finish.
Then came the fearsome climb of The Lawley, a 1 in 3 climb for around 500m on slippery grass, moss and peat. The favoured method was on all fours keeping the centre of mass low to the ground but even so forward motion came with some frustrating rearward slides. Ian received a helping hand from an attractive young lady (commonly known as a "bottom assist") and after 2 or 3 steps slid back down to her (standing up!!) for another go. As runners reached the top of The Lawley they were buffeted by 70mph winds which tried to grab competitors and toss them off down the side of the hill. Even the more sure-footed runners would suddenly drop to all fours to avoid this force of nature which blew one leg into another, one runner into another and tore race numbers from their safety pins.
The descent towards Comley was difficult due to the winds and then became very slippery. Here, Andrei stopped to assist an injured runner who had hurt his leg on the downhill stretch (did he fall or was he pushed?), later to receive recognition at the prize giving for his compassion. A short stretch of pleasant woodland running brought competitors to the second climb - Caer Caradoc Hill which although higher than The Lawley proved to be an easier ascent. It was no less blustery though and runners once again had to contend with those gale force winds that threatened to pluck the foolhardy from the hillside.
Following the turn around near Church Stretton the route headed up towards Willstone Hill where tired legs found a strange phenomenon - the wind was so strong on the backs of competitors that it was impossible to keep walking, and running uphill after such a tough first half was an uplifting experience with wind assistance. This experience repeated itself several times on the way to The Wilderness and proved enjoyable and slightly surreal.
The final run back to the village was an easy series of fields, mostly downhill. Facilities at the finish were just water but hot food and drink awaited in the Village Hall along with an excellent runners shop who had sponsored the event, and a physiotherapy corner. An excellent presentation included a surprise for Richard who finished as 3rd Vet 45 in his 50th race for LERC during 2007.
Final results were Andy Colgate 30th in 1:27:17, Richard Wilkinson 42nd (and 3rd V45) in 1:31:45, Andrei Vais in 1:46:49, Phil Walters 109th in 1:47:02 and Ian Wallis 178th in 2:05:20. Lloyd Taggert of Dark Peak was 1st in 1:10:53 and there were about 200 runners.
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