The first appearance of a Westerlands team at the Hodgson Relays for quite a few years.
The weather couldn’t have been any more glorious. Perfect autumnal sunshine and low lying mist across Ullswater. I was impressed at Owen, Sam, Adam and Ewan’s willingness to take part, despite the 5:30am departure from Glasgow in freezing temperatures.
We all met up just after 8am in the field at Patterdale to finalise arrangements, and at 9:15am the race started with Ewan Dytch and Alasdair Duke running the first short leg to Hartsop.
Owen and I jumped on the shuttle bus up to Kirkstone Pass and then wandered up the hill to watch the first few teams arriving. Borrowdale already had a clear lead ahead of Calder Valley, Dark Peak and Ambleside, with a big gap after the first 4 teams. We sauntered down to the changeover area thinking we had plenty of time, but much sooner than expected Adam Harris and Sam Alexander came hurtling off the hill to pitch us into 10th or 11th position.
I sat behind Owen on the steep climb up Red Screes as we followed an Ilkley pair. On the fast runnable descent off the other side we were caught and passed by a Pennine pair. Owen was dropping behind as I jogged to catch up the Pennine runners for a chat. I didn’t realise at first the 2nd runner was former KIMM and LAMM partner Dave Ward who said I needed a clone of myself to run with on these relays.
The Ilkley and Pennine teams took a strange route choice towards (or not towards) Dove Crag, which allowed us to get back in front. And then after the “large pile of stones” checkpoint, we all set of descending together down a steep exciting drop into Dovedale. I had to stop and wait a few times for Owen, which let another team through, but it was a beautiful day so I took a few photos, and thought that Manny and Brian would easily reel in these 3 teams on Leg 4.
Adam and Sam were waiting at the of Leg 3 near Brotherswater, so the 4 of us all jogged back to Patterdale assuming the Westies team would be finishing around 10th or 11th place.
We arrived back at Patterdale just as Borrowdale won the race, and then watched the next couple of teams coming in before heading further up the road to see the runners actually coming off the hill.
I chatted with Gregor and Harry from Carnethy and wiled away the time in the sunshine. At first we didn’t notice anything too odd, but bit by bit we realised that the Westies and Carnethy teams should have finished at least an hour ago.
I was having trouble imaging why on earth they hadn’t arrived yet. It was like our teams had just vanished from the race. I was really starting to think we needed to find out what had happened when I saw Nick Brown of Corstorphine running off the hill and looking in a bad way. I asked Nick if he’d seen the Westies team, but all he could tell me was that one of the runners had died, and several teams had stopped to assist, and was too upset to say any more.
We were then left with the horrible uncertainty of which team member it could be.
In my mind I was bracing myself for the news that Manny had run himself into the ground, having started the race on antibiotics. At the time, this seemed like the only possible outcome. We found race director Jon Broxap, but were brusquely told it wasn’t our team.
Any immediate relief was short-lived in that it could only be a Pennine runner, and my mind jumped back to few hours earlier running only beside the Pennine pair on Leg 3, and thinking what an unbelievable situation. We then heard that the runner who had gone down was Darren Holloway, and that Manny and Brian were pretty much first on the scene, but despite administering CPR it was all too late when the air ambulance arrived.
A desperately sad end to what looked like being a perfect day in the Lakes.
Darren’s final post on the Pennine site shows just how much he loved the sport.