Following a fairly mediocre atttempt on my part at the Ufton Court cross country I was resigned to the fact that I need to do more training, and following an invitation, if thats the right word to use, from Tom I decided to have a ‘crack’ at the Cardington Cracker.
Now I have to admit that fell running isn’t exactly my favourite running discipline but I really needed something that would test me, and this sounded like what I was looking for.
I have taken part in a few fell races in the past but none more than 4 or 5 miles long, this one is 14.5 kms or 9 miles long with a total of 2600 feet of climbing. I hasten to add that most of the ‘climbing’ is steep and extremely hard work, but then a lot of the descents were pretty steep too and not being as brave or foolhardy as some fell runners who are maybe more used to running quickly down steep slopes I apply the brakes a lot for fear of tripping and breaking something.
The weather forecast a couple of days previous to the race date sounded terrible but luckily, for us, the worst of storm ‘Desmond’ was much further north, just glad we weren’t in Cumbria! The weather was actually quite good for December in mid Shropshire apart from quite a strong breeze on the summits of the first 2 hills.
The route started and finished in a field in Cardington village and follows tracks and roadways of varying degrees of difficulty over The Lawley and Caer Caradoc; anyone who has tried running up or down either of these hills will know that you treat them with a lot of respect. I reached the summit of Caer Caradoc after 1 hour, 4 miles into the race and my legs were already weakening, by the time I reached the bottom of the steep descent my legs were in pieces, hardly able to run for a short while at all, but it’s amazing what 2 or 3 jelly babies will do! The following hills weren’t anywhere near as severe as the first 2 so I was able to push on as much as my legs would allow me past such points as Helmeth Hill, Gaerstone Rock, Willstone Hill and The Wilderness, which all sound like they were plucked straight out of a Bronte novel, but relatively easy if it wasn’t for the fact that every muscle in my legs was crying enough.
Anyway I managed to follow the route, which was well signed and marshalled back to Cardington and the finish.
Whilst the winning runner Ross Campbell of ‘Dare 2 B Highland Hill Runners’ ( I’m guessing that he was no stranger to steep hills) completed the course in a ridiculously fast 1:17:23 and the fastest Lady, Mel Price (Mercia fell Runners) who is in the LV40 category and holds a national title for fell running finished 20th o/a in 1:27:40, there were 3 intrepid ‘Crofties’ taking part at a slightly more sedate pace.
First Croft runner to finish was new signing Paul Colley-Davies who is an MV50 and completed in a perfectly respectable 1:54:22 followed at a safe distance by myself ( Frank, in case anyone was in any doubt as to who wrote this!) finishing in 2:00:56 (just outside of my 2 hour target) to claim 169th, and finally Tom D. who reached the finish in 2:09:46 to claim 204th out of a total of 242 finishers; there were some non finishers but I have no information as to how many. Traversing the summit of Caer Caradoc in a high wind would probably be enough to put some hardy souls off but not so Croft Ambrey Runners!
Many thanks, Tom, for your ‘invitation’ and transport which was greatly appreciated, that was the first time I have taken part in the Cardington Cracker, the jury is still out as to if there is likely to be a second time though.