A small group of Calder Valley Fell Runners lined up in a muddy field in the Newlands Valley on Saturday, for the 2013 Anniversary Waltz. This tough Lakeland fell race is held each year to commemorate the anniversary of the husband and wife team who first organised the race on their wedding day 17 years ago. Taking place over 11 miles of Lakeland Fells, the route features 6 individual mountain summits along with 3,600 feet of climb. In a dramatic local tussle a pair of Calder’s top runners found themselves in close contention, as Jo Waites and Sally Newman finished within seconds of each other.
Sally and Jo were joined on the start line by Ben Frechette and club mate Andy Fleet. Conditions couldn’t have been much better with a chilly start gradually warming in the long awaited spring sunshine. The first few miles of the route follow some comparatively flat trails up the valley towards Littletown before the serious business of the first climb up Robinson begins. At this point the path turns at a right angle and heads straight up the hill in a near vertical ascent. Hands are needed as well as legs to make progress up the grassy flanks or Robinson. Running here is impossible, even for the elite.
After finally reaching the ridge the route then turns right and defies all decency to become even steeper. It is so steep in fact that the path has worn away to bare rock and involves a proper bit of mountaineering to clamber up to Robinson’s rocky summit plateau, before runners plunge back down the hill side losing all the altitude they had fought so hard to gain in a flurry of wind-milling arms. The race then heads on the next big climb up to Hindscarth, followed by a more manageable section of downhill running and across the hause towards Dale Head. This is a delightful section of pathway clings to the steep mountainside and affords a bird’s eye view of the Honister slate mine. With no distinct route runners scatter in various directions making use of local knowledge and experience to find the best way down.
Next up is High Spy and the best running section of the event. The path here is level enough to be runnable as it meanders across gorse and moorland towards Maiden Moor and then downhill to Catbells. The thrill of speed then comes to a sudden halt as the race hits the final climb up Catbells. Once over the top it’s a short scramble over bare rock to the summit. From here the finish is in view, albeit almost 1500 feet vertically below. In true fell race style the route ignores all the sensible and safe paths to take the most direct route possible over the side of the mountain and towards that postage stamp field way below.
After their long and arduous battle for club bragging rights, Waites and Newman were locked together until the last few yards of the race, but it was the experience of the veteran, now in her fifties, that prevailed. Sally Newman edged out her youthful rival as the pair waltzed to the finish in 36th (2.00.00) and 37th (2.00.05) positions, to take 2nd and 3rd ladies spots, 11 minutes behind the winning lady Olivia Walwyn of Altrincham, who completed the race in 1 hour.49 minutes.
In the men’s race Carl Bell of Keswick AC was first to cross the finish line in a staggering 1:35, whilst Andy Fleet made an impressive finish in a fantastic 7th place (1.47.39). Ben Frechette turned in a strong run to arrive home in 2,06.47, a creditable result in a field of 269 runners.