Well done to the 16 Westies who took part in last Sunday’s Hodgson Brothers Mountain Relay, the 30th running of Britain’s oldest fell and hill running relay. After a weekend of careful recce-ing – which included the important insight that the Patterdale Hotel bar was indeed inferior to the White Lion Inn – and strenuous pre-race hydrating, high winds and pishing rain led to a truncated out-and-back route being run for a first time in the race’s history. Gwyn and new signing Tom got the men’s team off to a flying start, finishing leg 1 in 6th place, with Sam and Rob Simpson taking over for a storming leg 2, that despite Rob picking up a nasty cut on his arm, took the team up into 5th position. Old-timers Gorman and Bonnyman took over for leg 3 (which reversed the leg 2 route) and somehow managed to lose only 1 place despite Bonnyman’s crap descending and the fact that Gorman’s shattered frame is only held together by strategically placed zinc-oxide tape. Gregor and Steve put in a valiant effort on the anchor leg to bring the team home in an excellent 8th place, less than a minute behind Ambleside and Wharfdale, giving Westies their 5th straight top-ten finish at the event (and 5th straight humping of Carnethy, but we won’t dwell on that). Keswick took first from Dark Peak and Calder Valley, with Helm Hill Runners 4th and 28-time champions Borrowdale back in 5th.
Westies mixed team – appearing thanks to a fortunate administrative error – started with an impromptu 2 mile warm up from Maya, who arrived back at the Youth Hostel 5 minutes before the start to collect the team’s misplaced dibber. Undeterred, she made it back to the start just in time to put in a strong performance on leg 1 with Heather, handing over to team captain Niall and Rob Hamlin. Caudale Moor must have been particularly slippy this year, as Niall also managed to take a face plant, although claims he was taken out by a ‘rugby tackle from behind’ are yet to be verified. Despite the fall and the fact that his partner Rob was laden down with a 1.5kg pair of hi-viz railway-issue over-trousers, the pair picked up the most scalps of the day, moving the team up 14 places to 45th place. Dave Riach and Roddy had a cracking run on leg 3, even though Roddy’s alternative route masterplan – hatched in the pub the night before – had been foiled by the underhand last minute insertion of an inconvenient checkpoint. It was great to see Cat and Ellie out for the club again and taking the glory leg for the mixed team. Ellie’s completely futile 2 hour recce of the original leg 3 the day before did nothing to dampen her spirits, as the two brought the team home to Patterdale in 7th place in the mixed competition and 42nd overall.
Well done also to the supporting posse of Leyre (chivalrously given the floor in the Youth Hostel dorm), Chris and family, and Meg the dog, who kindly looked after Sam for the weekend. Roll on the Burdens!