"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Morning After Fell Race, Church Stretton, 2020

My initial plan for New Year's Day was to run the Hangover 10k, which turned out to have been axed because the roads are getting too busy. I looked for other races, all of which turned out to be sold out. There was one exception - the Morning After Fell Race in Shropshire - which you can only enter on the day.

It took a couple of hours to get to Church Stretton, a familiar place from my fell racing 10 to 15 years ago. The cloud was low and murky but there was no forecast of rain, so kit choice was easy. I was one of the first to arrive as usual, picking up race number 3. That gave me time for a decent meditation in the car and a long warmup to try and ease an 8 hour hike and 4 hour run out of my legs from a few days before.

The race attracted a good crowd, mostly from the midlands but a few from further north going by the club vests. We began with a grassy ramp of a hill from the field where we started and the memory of what it means to go straight into an uphill run in a race situation came flooding back. It was a shock to the system but I managed to hold my own and stay close to the pack at the front as the field strung out to single file for a slalom through muddy woodland tracks. After that the course wound in and out of valleys and over some stiff climbs and descents on bracken-covered fellside. At one point we emerged above the murky cloud into brilliant sunshine. Although the climbs were steep none of them was a full-on mountain ascent, so my training was enough to get me through.

There were several hills, plenty of ups and downs and not a lot of flat as you'd expect. The whole run was a breathless, challenging, tough, uncomfortable, painful and inspiring race. It was just about the right level of distance and ascent for me and I finished feeling great. Several times over recent years I've wanted to get back into fell racing but various niggles and recurring injuries have held me back. On this occasion nothing got in the way and it was wonderful to be back in the hills under the freezing open skies and weaving through the cold, wet, misty woods.

I'm not sure what my position was - several days later results aren't online yet - but I reckon I was in the top quarter of the finishers and I'm more than happy with that.

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