Fell he's a jolly good fellow - Simon Robertson's Fellsman Race Report
Fellsman 2017 Race report
The Fellsman is a 60 mile horse-shoe shaped race over the Yorkshire Dales with over 3,000 meters of climbing. It's not a marked route, you navigate between 25 checkpoints, mostly is over open moorland from Ingelton to Threshfield near Grassington.
The race starts with three brutal climbs, Ingelborough, Wernside and Gragareth, I set off at a positive pace and paid for it on the Gragareth assent, it’s so steep in parts I was scrambling up on all fours. Lots of runners passed me after Gragareth, as better runners than me streamed by and I settled further back down the pack. As I descended into Dent, I met up with Martin Thomerson, a very experienced Ultra-Marathon runner doing his sixth Fellsman. We started nattering, and ended up sticking together for the next 70km. I was lucky, because Martin lead us all the way to Fleet Moss barely glancing at a map.
One of the odd things of the Fellsman is that you get put into a group of minimum 4 for safety, at dusk (7pm). Martin told few stories of previous Fleet Moss navigation nightmares. I’d recce’ed this bit a few weeks before, so whipped out my maps and with fairly little bother we got to the trickiest check-point 2/3rds of the way across the moor. I felt like a champ! Leaving that check-point, we crossed to the right gap in a wall, but then I failed to take a bearing to pick-up the next wall, across the featureless open moorland, as it got dark we drifted too far North. Eventually we looped around off a fence to find the next check-point, but that mistake probably cost us half-an-hour. I felt like a chump.
We got grouped at Cray, and I got lucky again, grouped with, another experienced Fellsman, Nick Ham. In a big group of seven, we set off, Nick leading us through the darkness. But another member of our group, Alwyn, had a really tough hour, first his head-torch failed, then his legs ceased, then he emptied his guts onto the path. We all told him he’d start to feel better for it, but in the pitch-back of night, it’s hard to know who believed it. Alwyn got himself going again and he did get a second wind. We pushed on through the dark, we were tiring and had a couple of navigation debates, it’s hard to establish trust amongst seven strangers in the dark, but made impressive progress to Park Rash around midnight. Only one big hill and ten miles to go!
The path up Great Wernside is steep, and our group of seven weary souls, struggled to keep the group together, but we took good lines, found our last hilltop check-point, all downhill from here! Then my turn for a horrid half-hour. My thighs were very painful on each jolting step down hill, then my right-knee started to shoot pain through me on every step of a rocky part of the descent. I was down to a shuffle. I started to worry I’d not be able to finish let alone be able to do my planned cycle the next day. Group Morale Officer Steve (or maybe Tim, it was dark!) gave me some paracetamol and the ground levelled out. When I stopped, my right knee tightened up, so I tried to make sure to keep moving. Onwards, onwards into the night.
I guess the drugs kicked in, because from the road above Grassington I found I could jog down into town and onto the finish just before 4am, just under 19&1/2 hours since I set off. I was elated to finish, but exhausted too.
The Fellsman was part 1 of my weekend challenge to raise £2,000 for WISE and Martin House and my fundraising reached that target on Friday. Thanks to you all for your support. Part 2 of the my weekend challenge was the Tour de Yorkshire Sportive, so having rested for half-an-hour, I set off again..