Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big Steep

It was about two o'clock in the afternoon, late March, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet snow in the greyness of the fells. We were wearing our powder-green vests with a hint of blue, thermals, dark blue hats, mud-brown fell shoes, black socks with Inov-8 written on them. We were not neat, but sober, and we didn't care who knew it. We were everything fell runners ought to be.

We were all there, gathered in a huddle, with the wild, black eyes of the slightly insane. And there it was, the Big Steep. Causey Pike, 1480 feet above us. We could taste the sickly sweet apprehension in the air, but it was just something we had to do. The race started, and in minutes it sunk in what we had let ourselves in for. A long, dark fell race of the soul. You just crawled up the big steep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. What did it matter where you lay once you were dead?

On the way down I would have stopped off at a bar and had a couple of scotches, had there been one. There wasn't. And anyway, they wouldn't have done any good. I was on my own on this one. The street lights of downtown Keswick were glinting in the hard Lakeland light. I would have been better there, amongst the sultry outdoor shops and cappuccino bars, I thought. Behind me, there was the rhythmic rattle of a Pete Bland race number in the wind...I knew it...I was being followed. I tried to put it at the back of my mind. It had happened a hundred times before.

The fell just kept on going. Running madly down the badly made path, rocks like wasps at a picnic. And finally when the mysterious men in fluorescent gabardines said our number was up, it was all over. I reached for the barrel of bourbon on the chair. Too bad it was Gatorade.

We turned our Buffs, neckwarmers and assorted woolly garments to the wind, and got into our cars. We got back out of the cars to push them out of the muddy, rutted field, and then drove back down the hill...

With sincere apologies to Raymond Chandler...

1 comment:

Alan M said...

Without a doubt, the best race report I have ever read. Probably.