As an alternative to a certain long, muddy race further south in the country, Susan, Geoff and me ran a longish, muddy fell race in Northumberland. In contrast to the hard-packed ice of last week’s Hexham Shehobble, the Simonside Cairns fell race had a lot of freezing mud and slush. The snow lay round about, deep and squelchy and uneven.
This race was another first for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Navigation was straightforward as, running at the back, you simply follow the footsteps of those ahead who have thoughtfully pounded the trail into an ankle-deep mud-bath. Occasional spots of blood in the snow also helped mark the way, concentrate the mind and chill the soul. I had one Vicar of Dibley moment when the snow-packed boardwalk I thought I was running on veered playfully to the left and suddenly turned out not to be a boardwalk after all, a complete absence of boardwalk in fact, more like a nut-numbing pool of icy muddy water that insistently invited me in for some brief refreshment.
I was cold and bewildered when I crossed over the stile into the forest. A man appeared out of the shadows and waved me in with warm words of encouragement. I could hear Christmas carols playing and coloured lights lined the path. It was very soothing. All was calm. All was bright. Just as I was wondering whether this was the afterlife, I emerged from the forest, and there was Simonside Cairns. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about them. Unfortunately they were up there, mocking me, and I was down here, looking up. Oh well. Onward and upward.
The views from the top were astounding and set the mood for an exhilarating charge back down to Rothbury. Crossing the finish I didn’t think I’d done that well but was pleased to discover I was only a couple of minutes behind Susan, and on reflection I think I ran a better race than last week’s Hobble. Cosy chat, hot soup and Croutons washed down with a Deuchars IPA in the pub afterwards soon soothed away the cold toes.
Max elevation: 430 m
Min elevation: 66 m
Total climbing: 808 m
Total descent: -807 m