• treehuggery

Darren Holloway Memorial Fell Race

Darren Holloway was the first person to ever commission a piece of work from me, the trust and generosity still touches me now.. especially because art is a world I call “the emperors new clothes” where people don’t believe in you until you’re established, but,to be established, people need to have put their faith in you. I still smile at Darren’s brief ..” I want the king of the mountains vest recreating, you can do what you want, as long as it’s different.”

Darren died of cardio myopathy 7 years ago, doing what he loves doing, out on a fell race.

He’d been one of those people, who always a front runner, and often a winner, but would wait around, and cheer everybody in, waiting right until the end to applaud the last person in.

The Darren Holloway memorial fell race, is the same course as the old Buttermere horseshoe race, a tough race of 21 miles and 9100 feet of ascent, and in a thoughtful touch, that plays tribute to his inclusive nature, it now includes a shorter (though no less tough) route called the Mini Daz.

I’m not a fell runner…I knew Darren through road running, but my husband Colin , aka Mr TreeHuggery is, he’s run the mini and the full course, and I know it’s tough.

This year, the race was chosen for the English and British fell running championships, which is a massive compliment to all involved with the race, it did mean though, that race places sold out quicker than one can step off the edge of Mellbreak, and Col didn’t manage to secure a place.

As I was creating some of the prizes (quirky pictures of fell runners, holiding maps of the route) we decided to go up, give our support, stop at various CPs along the course, and see the winners come in and the prizes being given.

The weather was perfect, clear, not to warm (it is the Lakes after all), and while it was a scorchio everywhere else in the country, it stayed at a around 16 degrees most of the day, only really warming up around 5 ish.

Fell running is a very different set up, to road running, there’s a list of mandatory kit, that must be carried, …and at the start of the race, the RO (race organiser) shouts out a few random numbers – and in the style of a very bad raffle, people have to have their kit rechecked, to make sure they’ve not emptied anything out.

The winner of the race , Carl Bell, had a strong lead right from the beginning of the race, and as we travelled out to Newlands Hause, he had a clear 5 minute lead.

As an (ex) road runner, the check points bear no resemblance to road runs,….a table at the bottom of the hill, with a dibber where you must dib in, or it will be assumed you missed the CP. The sound of cowbells, and a bin of water, and reusable cups, and I really do mean reusable cups…when the kids aren’t ringing the cowbells, they’re scrambling around bringing the cups back, so they can be used again.

Newlands Hause , as Col knew, was a great place to watch the runners, they come down from Whiteless Pike, like an army of small ants, along a track, which has been scarred out over the years by the race, it used to be bracken all the way down. While it looks inaccessible from a distance, it’s impossible to get a sense of how steep the drop is over the edge.

As they run from Newlands Hause, it became clear to Col that the route he usually favours is not the one that many – including the front runners – take. And after a year of lost mojo he is now intrigued to try the course again, taking different lines.

We sat watching the runners come in for some 30 minutes or so, before deciding to head over to Honister Pass and lead mine, thinking we would catch the front runners there. Well, they’re much quicker than us, and quicker than we’d thought possible we’d missed around 20 of them….

This is a busy part of the race, as the Daz is not the only route that runs this weekend of the year, there are several walking routes, the 10 in 10 and the 5 in 5, and they all cross here, so dibbing in the wrong dibber is a distinct possibility, and a strong reason to have your race number clearly on show.

Deciding to head back to see the front runners through the finish line, we nearly missed Carl again. As we walked into the village from the car park, he was running ahead, looking as fresh as the proverbial daisy, having smashed 10 minutes off his record last year.. He ran in, and then….RAN OFF…to go to his car sort some stuff out, before RUNNING BACK again…you sir are a machine…

In fact pretty much the next few runners looked like they’d just done a park run.

A few of us, and a sad faced dog, decided to walk out to Mellbreak and see some of the runners come back along the last part of the route.. at Mellbreak, as with most of the fells, there is a choice of routes, depending on whether you prefer longer running on a stoney lane, or longer on the tops….and again Col became aware of a different route ….always being aware that the rules stated that you couldn’t come of the south end of Mellbreak, he’d always descended earlier, but it appears that there is a different interpretation of where one can come off the south edge, and that’s before they get to the nose….and several runners were doing just that, it’s not necessarily quicker, it depends on your style of running, but is definitely one to consider.

The route back in is only about 1K, and after a stony track is a tarmac lane. Mr T hates Tarmac, and, finds running on it a killer, still everyone has their own way of running their own race, including one pal, who has been known to have a pint of beer waiting for him at the pub down the road, drunk it in one, before finishing the last spurt up to the village hall and through the finish line.

It’s an emotional race for a lot of people, It’s lovely too, it’s as well known for the cakes as it is for the route. Darren’s wife, Amanda is the most fabulous of hostesses, there is a beer for everyone who crosses the finish line, homemade soup (in eco friendly leaf bowls) and cakes…oh my …they put the WI to shame, a whole marquee of cup cakes, flap jacks, ginger bread, rice crispy, fruit cake….enough for a race field of 2,000.

As the sun got brighter, people chilled on the field, and the prize table was carried outside, the DIG in trophies and the pictures being framed by the hills behind. A fitting end to a fabulous day..

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