The 56th Chevy Chase 2012
[Sat 7th Jul 2012]
As I was born and raised in Wooler this is a race Karen and I had always meant to do when we lived in Northamptonshire, but had never got round to it. After relocating to the Northeast last August there were no excuses this year and we duly got our entries in.
Looking at the sun kissed photos of the previous couple of years, the map, compass, whistle, all body cover etc were merely going to be items of luggage.
How wrong could we be? We have picked the year to do the Chevy during one of the wettest and most miserable summers I can recall.
We drove up to my Mams on the Friday with all the kit and Archie our lab. (Archie is retired from serious running due to injury, so his trip was to be no more than usual dog walks and sleeping on his Nanna Lillas sofa).
Various weather reports had been posted; saying this mist would lift and actually be sunny and clear for a good part of the race. However what was certain was that there was to be heavy overnight rain. In fact apparently 2 months worth fell overnight.
On the way to registration we met some walkers, who informed us that for safety reasons the course had been modified and that we would not be ascending Cheviot or Hedgehope. The burn between the two hills was swollen and would be too hazardous to cross. The first time in 56 running's that this has happened. We were slightly relieved, but also disappointed.
We nervously got to the start line. Dave Bradley was doing his second Chevy, and a bit of a fell running stalwart. Ah you’re local to here so you’ll know the way said Dave; well even if I did we wouldn’t be able to keep up with him anyway.
Off we set, the first mile or so is on road until the ponds (or the White Bridge, as I knew it). The folly of avoiding puddles on the road was quickly realised, feet soaking as soon as we left the road. A runner behind us proudly announced that he had come fully prepared with a rucksack full of dry socks. ERRRMM but your shoes are soaking!!!!!
Got to Hells Path, which today was a downhill stream. I really loved splashing down this bit, but at the bottom the reality of “we have to come back up this” kicked in. First check point at Broadstruther. From here to the next checkpoint at Cheviot Knee are all sheep tracks. Now if you can see it’s obvious, but visibility was down to about 50 metres. Others ahead of us seemed to know the way, but we didn’t. So map and compass came out, we had deviated a bit but got back on track. I have to admit I was relieved to stumble upon the welcome sight of hi-viz vests at the next checkpoint. We were now a trio, a guy called Andy, a policeman from Gateshead had joined us.
On the revised course we descended some 350 metres down to Langleeford. Now I would like to say I was surefooted like the proverbial mountain goat. Alas my descending was more like Duncan Norvelle (chase me chase me). Karen’s frequent OOO’s and AAA’s as she splodged through the bogs made me smile. We got hopelessly lost at Langlee Crags trusting another runner’s judgement. We were actually very close to the crags but you just couldn’t see them in the mist. We trudged on through Brand’s Corner and to the Carey Burn. It was quite dramatic in parts and we took some pics. Up from the burn and through the last checkpoint, then up the dreaded Hell’s Path. There are little signs posted by the path with inspirational sayings to help you get to the top. There is one from Churchill; we conjured up images of Winny waddling up Hell’s Path, cigar in one hand and glass of cognac in the other. There is a very apt one from Tolkien “All who wander are not lost”. Very true but you should have seen us at Langlee Crags mate. We finally got back to the road we left hours ago. The relief to us namby pamby roadrunners was akin to astronauts re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.
We hoofed on a bit, passing walkers, the camaraderie was great. However we had dropped our adopted police escort Andy. Whilst waiting for him a couple of walkers with a map asked us to check where they were. I thought Crikey they have navigated all the way through the hills in that mist, but can’t do the easy bit on the road. I explained how to get back past the start and to the YHA at the finish. He looked at me blankly and said, “Oh we are not in the race, me and the missus are just out for a bit of a walk”. Indeed they had no numbers.
We crossed the line as a trio, 16.3 miles in 4hrs 16 mins, the time was not important to us. There was no sign of Dave Bradley; I suspect he was already back in Blyth.
A big thanks to all at Wooler RC for great organisation under difficult circumstances and for their hospitality on Saturday evening.
Neither of us has had ever done a fell race before. It was really enjoyable, and it didn’t feel like we were out there for 4 plus hours. We will enter again next year, as we didn’t get to do the full course this time. I left the Wooler area 35 odd years ago, I’d hiked these hills with the school many times, I never thought I’d be back in my 50’s to race them. A bit of a Rites of Passage in reverse.
Yours truly with some very aching joints and trench foot.