22 Jun Blackstone Edge
Blackstone Edge Fell Race 20.05.2015/3.5m/1201ft
Skills & experience : Bog snorkelling
Race Report by Rob Andrew
As the season of midweek races gathers momentum , it seemed only right to make the short hop over to Littleborough for Blackstone edge. A short, sharp race that is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin….hurt you in the shortest time possible .
The race registration is at Knowl Farm nr Lydgate. No airs and graces, just a good honest registration point in a farm outbuilding. Four quid in the tin and done . The race itself dates back to 1983 and has been a British and English Championship counter on two occasions. The race is non-profit and has a reputation for bizarre prizes and great cakes.
Unusually, you can stand on the start line and see the complete route. Pre race chat was dominated by the tactical planning of getting through the bogs that lay ahead. Bogs, whose notorious reputation was enhanced as runners shared anecdotes from previous races. How bad could it be?
Four Rossendale runners made the start line: Scott Saddler, Andrew Lee, Rob Andrew and Nick Harris. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a Calder Valley domination as nearly 50 red and white vests swarmed around the remaining teams.
The race began with a mass sprint along the road , with runners desperately seeking to establish race position before the single file tracks. A clever ploy by the organisers to encourage people to get themselves into cardiovascular difficulty before the hills even begin. After the mass sprint, the climbing began through single file tracks – steadily rising . Overtaking required negotiating the mud, but the stronger runners soon made headway. Scott Saddler carefully picked people off , whilst Rob and Andrew began what turned out to be a good duel. Then the first round of fun began! A quick descent into the heart of some of the nastiest bogs the region has to offer. The air turned blue, as expletives rang out from runners losing whole legs to Blackstones natural defences .
With the bogs negotiated , the summit of Blackstone Edge lay ahead. This was a steep drag up to the trig point , which reduced even the front runners to a lactic filled stomp. As Scott predicted, this is where the race really began, with gaps opening up across the field. For mountain goats like Scott, this climb must have been the highlight of the day. For the rest of us, I’m not so sure ! Once summited, a rock strewn plateau welcomed tired legs, making it difficult to find your natural stride. Once across , everyone got ready for ‘Fun: part 2″ , a longer , fast descent down into the dreaded bogs. If Carlesberg did bogs, this would have been it. The traditional charge down the slope was halted continually by the loss of solid ground under your feet, with a few face plants thrown in for good measure!
After gaining a sense of satisfaction and relief on arrival at the other side of the bogs, the route veered back up the hillside to cruelly remove it . With the last descent to the finish getting closer and closer , everyone dug deep to plough through the wet ground to hold positions or close gaps down. Myself and Andrew again traded places , neither wanting to give up the chase . The race returned at pace down the same single file tracks and along the road, finishing in the farmers field. A truly enjoyable, tough race with lots of talking points in the post race debrief. This was also a race of firsts for me. The first time I’ve been served water in an old pot noodle pot and the first time I’ve seen buckets of water issued with sponges at the finish. After competing the course , I totally get the need for the buckets! A belting race, highly recommended .
Thanks to Rob Andrew (Rossendale Harriers) for the race report.
All photos courtesy of Nick Dawson. Find his gallery here.