Manor Water Hill Race


We tentatively drove into the muddy field before being flagged down by a marshall. “Sheep or Run?”, she asked, without preamble. “Run”, I replied, hoping I’d interpreted the question correctly, and she pointed us up to a bit of the field that was free from sheep and border collies. She also advised me to park ‘pointing downhill’ so that we at least had a sporting chance of escaping the muddy field later when it came time to leave.

As ready as I’ll ever be

I looked around and, seasoned fell runner that I am, quickly took stock. Registration was almost certainly in that horse box over there next to the portable loo, and so in fact, it turned out to be. Let X=X. There were a few runners filling in forms next to the horsebox so I clip-clopped up the ramp and asked the lady for a form. No, apparently that’s not how things worked, I was rather sternly told, and I first had to give a few particulars. Was I Carnethy? Nope. Was I local? Nope. Once I’d passed the entrance exam I was given a form which I took away to complete in my best handwriting before being allocated a number.

Stile Queue

It was a cold blustery day and the first time in months I was wearing hat, gloves and windbreaker. I made my way over to the start area bemused and slightly mystified by my iPad wielding wife until I realised (later) she was tweeting unflattering photos live from the action. As runners gathered for the start I thought again about the ‘local’ question on the entry form. I’d said ‘no’, but strictly speaking that wasn’t true. Here I was, standing in a field a few miles from where I was born, a ‘gutterbluid’, running for an English running club based over a hundred miles away. Strange to be standing here and not knowing a soul. Actually, that wasn’t strictly true. Wasn’t that an NFR vest over there? And another, and another, and another. All familiar faces from various fell and hill races, here and abroad. A few introductions and photos and it was time for the start.

This race is a straight out and back, the usual story. You run right up to the top of a hill, then you run back down again. One runner asked how many people were running to which the organiser, looking puzzled, gestured expansively to the gathered crowd and replied, “about this many”. We headed upwards into the chilly afternoon before pausing a few minutes later to form an orderly queue at a stile. Five miles later at the wild summit of The Scrape, I shuffled around the shivering marshall and headed back to base. In a straight out and back race like this you get the satisfaction of seeing the puggled faces of runners you’ve passed who are still on the way to the summit, and tick of the vests one by one. But there was a vest ahead I didn’t recognise or remember passing, and I always start fell races right at the back. The runner looked strangely familiar. What the deuce? It was Nigel! I paused my not very fast descending to find out the story, and it transpired that Nigel had arrived as we were starting and had started the race 7 minutes late. You can’t stand around chatting on the cold blustery shoulder of the Scrape so we high-fived, as you do, and I pushed on for home.

Patiently queuing for the stile

A few squelchy miles later I crossed the line and, as might be expected in a hill race sponsored by a brewery, was given a bottle of beer. Not bad for an entry fee of £4. Nigel was in just a minute or two later making impressive progress through the field after starting late. The rain then started in earnest and we all found shelter to change into something dry. Nigel got into his Darth Vadar costume in preparation for his drive back to Durham, and we convened in the tea tent for the prizes. I began to realise that today’s 10 miler was just a softener for another event running the next day, the Pentland Skyline. This is a 16 mile race with 6200 feet of climb, and many people do both both races with the combined race times being used to find out if they’re MAN(or) MOUSE. There’s an idea for next year.

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