There would be no horsing around for competitors at this year’s running of the popular but tough Wadsworth Trog fell race (aka ‘The Beast’), with a suitably beastly weather forecast predicting high winds, sleet and heavy rain. Luckily the worst of the weather held off for the start, and the 173 runners setting off on the 20 mile route initially had a strong tailwind to help them on their way. A leading group of four was quickly established, with CVFR’s young colt Joe Crossfield and the painted stallion that is Jonny Helliwell joining pre-race favourites Simon Harding (Macclesfield) and Tom Brunt (Dark Peak). For 20-year-old Joe to be mixing it in this company is testimony to the focus and hard work he has put in of late in training.
The Trog is one of the toughest races on the calendar and Saturday’s wild weather made the going as brutal as many could remember. Once the leading four had broken the back of the route and returned to Cock Hill above Oxenhope for the second time, they encountered a fierce headwind, to go with their aching limbs and worsening fatigue. It was here that experience showed and the older boys let young Joe take the lead, acting as a convenient windbreak back toward High Brown Knoll.
But it was Helliwell who slipped up first, when a stumble in one of the many man sized tussocks meant he was left behind and as he lost the group he also lost his navigators. Tiredness and cold took their toll causing confusion to set in, with Helliwell taking the wrong line to the next checkpoint and getting lost, which in turn cost him about a fifteen minute detour to get back on track. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, his club team mate cob Ian Symington took the chance to overtake him.
Harding and Brunt made their move and kicked for home, leaving Joe trailing in their wake as he was unable to counter after his sterling effort into the wind. Then on leaving the final checkpoint above Mount Skip, runners encountered a last minute diversion. Those flagging the route earlier hadn’t dared venture into a field where three wild eyed horses were staring at them with flared nostrils, so runners were redirected along the road and then back to join the original route for the last checkpoint before the final climb up to the finish line at the Cricket Club in Old Town.
Finishing in 3rd place behind Harding and Brunt, Crossfield galloped home first CVFR member and 1st U23. Symington and Helliwell cantered in in 5th & 6th place thus securing the team prize, with John Lloyd (13th) coming in just ahead of Helen ‘Filly’ Fines (14th and 1st Woman). Not to be outdone Fines along with strong runs from team mates Jackie Scarf and women’s captain Helen Buchan also sneaked away with 1st female team.
With the front runners nearly home, the fell ponies further back were steadily plodding on but found themselves having to contend with increasingly strong gusts of wind. Marshals reported having to hold on to a Trig point to stop themselves blowing over, hats were whipped from heads (testament to why FRA rules require jackets with attached hoods as well as hats) and a pair of marshals did the can-can in an effort to keep warm. The persistent rain finally arrived just as the last runners cleared the moor, and everyone was glad of the warm reception, food and cakes in the Cricket Club. Thanks go to the various landowners for letting us run across their land once again, to Old Town cricket club for their warm hospitality and to Hannah Reeve and her stoical team of weather-beaten marshals who all contributed to a memorable day.