Saturday 18th May – Old County Tops

Saturday 18th May – Old County Tops

Race report Tom Lynch

Old County Tops is a paired fell race in the Lake District, that hits all the highest points in the old counties of the Lake District – Helvellyn (Westmorland), Scafell Pike (Cumberland) and Old Man of Coniston (Lancashire). It’s about 37 miles/56km in total with 10000 feet/3100m of climbing, and runs over some rough and remote parts of the Lakes, with no marked course and navigation required.

I’ve raced it 4 times now, with different partners, and have a nice collection of the coveted finishers t-shirt, which is one definitely worth having and wearing at every opportunity! This year I paired up with James Wynne from Horsforth Fellandale, who worryingly had just got a recent 2hr 30min marathon time at London! Stephen Boddy and Laura McCabe were also running as a pair for Otley, in the age inducing category, Mixed Vet 80, as the cats work on combined ages, as long as both competitors are over 40.

The race starts with a track, small hill and a road section through Grasmere, and this is the bit I was most worried about trying to keep up with James on, thankfully we stuck together well, and both remained sensible, I think we were both aware of how hot the day was shaping up to be. We had a good run up Helvellyn, and were well placed in the field, sticking with a couple of Ambleside teams on the descent. James had a fall coming into the first food station on the nasty rocky path down from Helvellyn, which I thought might have ended our run, but looked worse than it was. There follows a fairly long traverse over to Scafell Pike, and we did our best to stay hydrated and fueled, both having a couple of rough patches, before tackling the epic and fairly unknown descent off the back of Scafell Pike, down to Eskdale. At this point cramp struck James a bit, but he managed to recover, and I was just recovering from getting a bit dehydrated, deciding to have a sit in the river and a salt tablet and plenty of water to get back on track, we then had a good run down Mosedale to Cockley Beck. Climbing out of Cockley Beck up to the col at Grey Friar is the last real big climb on the run, and is always pretty horrific. With a stomach full of sandwiches from the food stop at Cockley Beck James found this tough going, but soldiered on, and we actually managed to gap a couple of teams who had been faster than us, so pretty good going.

Once we emerged onto the plateau to Old Man it was a case of managing cramp, and keeping moving, as we went out and back, and down to Three Shires stone, at this point we found out from marshal we were possibly 11th , having seen a team disappear just ahead of us, this spurred on James’s road legs and we hammered down Wrynose pass on the road, overtaking them about half way. Unfortunately this was short lived as a took a toll on James, and brought him to a standstill with extreme cramp as we levelled off to traverse to Blea Tarn, he heroically kept going, but we assumed that we’d lost a chance at what we thought was 10th place with our previous overtaking. We kept moving after some recovery, and picked our way down to the road in Langdale for the run in, happy with our race overall. As we came into the finish we spotted that the team ahead of us had taken the off road shorter line to the finish, but that this had taken them longer, and that we had actually managed to take the place back with our finish…a great result, although we later found out that marshals at Three Shires stone had been one place out, and we had raced ourself into 11th not 10th overall, still very happy with the result!

After a little lie down at the finish line, and a further one next to the van in the shade I waited on the finish line with a pint for other friends to come in. Laura and Stephen, who had both been apprehensive about the race, came in, in just over 11 hours after a heroic effort by Stephen to keep going after suffering badly in the heat, especially on the climb out of Cockley Beck. Finishing OCT is a great achievement and I’m sure you’ll all see us wearing our nice blue finishers t-shirts out in the pub in Otley for the next few years…or until we get the next one.

The winners of the race, in an incredible time were Doni Clarke (Todmorden Harriers) & James Harris (Ambleside AC) 7:07:25 (M), for Otley:

11th Tom Lynch & James Wynne (Horsforth Fellandale) 8:37:16 (M)

74th Laura McCabe & Stephen Boddy 11:13:52 (MXV80 4th Mix vets?)

There were also a good bunch of Fellandale runners out to complement mine and James’ combined team.

One thought on “Saturday 18th May – Old County Tops

  1. Awesome running from fell runner Tom L. in this brutal 37 miler with with some treacherous climbing , also the report by Tom is an excellent piece of hard fell running . Tom crossed the finish line of the Old County Tops in a superb 8.37 in 11th place but deserving a podium . Laura M. and Stephen B. too run a super ultra distance race and finished with a solid 11.13 . Well done to both team and James W. as well .

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