British Fell Relays 2017

Parting from the safe confines of George Square on the same morning, a Haries Division instead turned southbound away from the smooth grass of Glamis and towards the knee-deep bog and ankle breaking terrain of Wales and Snowdonia.

Tackling the British Fell Relays Championships last year with one men’s team after a prolonged absence from the event, this year saw the club send three teams (two men’s and one women’s) to this exciting race.

It consists of 4 ‘legs’ with several checkpoints to reach during each before returning to the finish and tagging your next teammates. The legs were structured as follows:

Leg 1 – Solo (8.9km distance / 707m ascent)

Leg 2 – Pairs (14.9km / 900m)

Leg 3 – Paired Navigation (no one knows until you get the map as you start!)

Leg 4 – Solo (8.35km / 512m)

The lead up to the weekend was stressful with the ‘Edinburgh Knee’ epidemic affecting several of the team, and last minute replacements needed to be found. Thankfully there were 18 runners on the wagons for the long journey south, with many difficult decisions to be made along the way, such as McDonald’s or M&S for lunch, how high the bass could go before we couldn’t return the hire car for missing doors, the Middle Name Game, and if Totton and Pablo really live in the Scottish Borders… such scenes. With a slight detour through the picturesque lanes of north Wales by yours truly, we all re-gathered in Llanberis for a quick race recce before the night was up.

Race day dawned to an overworked kettle as everyone fulfilled their porridge and coffee needs/addictions, and not too long after the last spoonful of stodge-podge had been digested, we had set up camp at the event arena.  The sense of anticipation and excitement grew as race start neared, some top tunes breaking the morning Welsh air like dragon fire on white walkers.

Harie Fell Relay Teams

First up on leg 1 for the women’s team was Beth Hanson, with Jack Leitch and Daniel Smith taking up the helm for men’s A and B respectively. A furious start saw Jack in the leading few, followed closely by Daniel and Beth up the beginning of the climb to the summit of Moel Eilio, which stands at 726m high. From the top, Jack was mixing it in the top 10, Beth Hanson had powered her way up to lead the women’s race and Daniel kept things close between his and several other strong teams. A fast descent and a final sharp climb led to a hair raising, leg swallowing, bum-sliding descent giving spectators an entertaining days viewing. Jack came off the hill and into the transition area in 7th position, handing over to Alexander ‘Sasha’ Chepelin and Jacob ‘Pablo’ Adkin in a good place, 4 minutes off the leading team. Beth had a stormer of a run to take the fastest women’s time of the day for leg 1 ahead of multiple British and English fell running champion Victoria Wilkinson, handing over to teammates Catriona Graves and Katie Hall. Daniel had a strong run on only his second hill race to give his 49th position over to late call up Garrett Jones and Ruaridh Mon-Williams.

Jacob and Sasha hand over to Ewan and Ali for Men’s A (pic: Vicki Merrick)

Leg 2 saw the pairs ascend to two main summits with some standard fell race gale force winds and low visibility thrown into the mix. Knowing what was to come, a steady start by Sasha and Jacob saw a few teams behind close up the gap to them, but many an hour spent together in wet boggy hills went unwasted as the pair started the first major climb and turned on the burners to summit and descend past three teams. Moving swiftly on and over the next summit, they charged towards the final sharp climb before the now infamous finishing descent, continually gaining on the runners in front. A quick face-plant into the bog by Sasha and both were soon handing over to leg 3 runners Alistair Masson and Ewan McMillan in 4th position, having scooped the fastest leg 2 run of the day in the process!  Cat and Katie ran strongly together, with Katie wishing it had been twice as long to satisfy her ultra-running needs, but both had a fab run to hand over to Zoe Harding and Klára Novotná. Garrett certainly had a tough but ‘very enjoyable’ baptism into the world of fell running, running his first official fell race with Ruaridh as his partner. They completed the course in a great time, maintaining their team’s position in the field before giving the baton over to Thomas Wilson and Gregor Malcolm. 

Cat and Katie finish leg 2 with a smile (pic: Beth Hanson)

Garrett and Ruaridh finishing leg 2 (pic: Beth)

With Leg 3 being the navigation leg, an unknown quantity lay before the nervous runners. This did not diminish the pure determination and commitment of Ali and Ewan however and they, both experienced orienteers, crushed the energy-sapping route set for them to nip the A team into 3rd place! Zoe and Klára followed, working well together and utilising their orienteering backgrounds posted a super impressive time over the course, pushing their team all the up to 5th women’s team, incredible stint! Thomas and Gregor executed their game plan over the 6 checkpoints the runners had to tick off, and finished the route in a very competitive time, rising up the rankings as well!

Zoe and Klára head out to navigate around leg 3 (pic: Beth)

Ali and Ewan storming down the final straight having gained a position in the top 3

Leg 4, the biggie – the atmosphere was electric (mainly thanks to Katie’s expert bell ringing), the stage was set for the finale! Alex Carcas stormed up out of the event arena via ‘Slate Bank’ (it is what it says on the tin), quite a sight to behold, with the task of keeping a team medal for men’s A. Thomas ‘Totton’ Otton glided up that bank fueled largely by a box of Fruit’n’Mainly Fibre, with his team in a solid position in the top 30. Jennie ‘Jennie’ Glass’ legs became a blur as she flew out onto the course, her streaming green ribbons helping air traffic control with their wind calculations. The remainder of the team were left to nervously await news across the commentary or see a flash of green vest diving down the hillside #spotton. It turned out that Alex and 2nd place runner from the Keswick club were just 4 seconds apart at the last checkpoint before the final climatic descent, which Alex duly crushed! Some shapes never before seen were thrown by the lad on that gnarly descent and, streaking down into the finish, fans going wild, he crossed the line emphatically for the silver medal! The club’s previous best result at this event was 6th some 10 years ago now! Jennie, another late injury replacement, wore that green vest like her life depended on it and smashed the final leg to bring her team home in 7th position! Totton, returning to running after a long term achilles injury, showed no sign of staleness and produced a run of pure class and speed with a top notch time, crossing the line for a team position of 24th!

Jennie starting her speedy run on 4th leg! (pic: Beth)

Alex bringing the bling back to Edinburgh! (pic: Beth)

Wow, what a durty weekend, not even 24 hours spent in Llanberis and the green army made quite an impression, putting together and posting superb individual and team runs, and all having an epic weekend away in the process!

Some snippets of the day from the club Instagram story:

Male Results:

Female Results:

Official photos here: