Sun 1st Oct 2017
Formerly the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay, the HBMR now honours two brothers who had close ties to the fell running world and who both died whilst out cycling, although in separate incidents years apart. Preston had been allowed their usual single team entry this year. However, race day would prove to be most unusual. The 24.5-mile race route is a tough one over some of the Lake District’s most famous peaks, Fairfield, Red Screes, St Sunday Crag and with some quad trashing descents- Calfgate Gill, Dove Crag etc. As the race organisers state “this is not a race for novices wanting to enter their first fell race”- serious stuff indeed.

The team was selected, forms completed and reserves put on standby some weeks ahead of the race, but on Saturday 30 September, just hours before the race, Jon Green brought to my attention an urgent missive from the race organisers, stating that due to the expected severe bad weather on Sunday the race would have some significant route changes for both marshals’ and runners’ safety. The organisers gave the option of pulling out of the race altogether but in the end only two of the pre-entered teams failed to show up on the day. Of the original 4 legs only one leg one remained intact- the others being radically different. My pre-race recce had been in vain.

Race day dawned and as the team rendezvoused at Cow Bridge car park –Brotherswater we felt the weather was not as bad as feared although it did deteriorate later on and it was not a day for lingering. Pity the poor marshals and mountain rescue personnel who had to remain stationary in the damp all encompassing “clag” for several hours. The race was now an out and back- North to South from Patterdale to Kirkstone and return -divided into 4 legs. The west side of the valley was expected to be the worst affected by the weather and, therefore, was not used.

Leg 1 saw Dave Parkington (V50 Fell champion) and Tony Livesey set off for the Harriers and this experienced pair had a fine run finishing the only unaltered leg in 43:31 and 22nd place. Leg 2 paired Jon Green and newbie Harrier (but seasoned fell runner) Yewan Bennison. Jon summed it up by saying “we didn’t get lost or injured which is the main thing”. Some places were conceded as they finished in 1:02:23. Leg 3 Saw the two Johns, Rainford and Griffiths, set off into the mist in a complete reverse of leg 2. They had a “modest” run conceding some places whilst searching in the clag for Caudale Moor Tarn. Perhaps their eyesight is failing (combined age 108) …….. finishing in 1:03:15. Leg 4 had the future of Harriers fell running paired up- Oli Heaton-the new club fell running champion and Andy Harrison complete with recently acquired navigational skills getting back to Patterdale in 46:43 and clawing back 3 places.

Harriers finished in 3:35:52 for 39th place out of 69 teams. The winners Keswick finished in 2:39:50. They are the second team to win in two years after 19 consecutive wins for Borrowdale who could only manage 5th place this year. Thank you to reserves Mike Burnham, Roy Parkinson and Steve Bamber. You were not called upon this year but it is great to have that back-up if needed.

Particular thanks go to Mick McLoughlin, who travelled up and selflessly ferried team members up and down the valley and lent support on a miserable wet day. Several of us took post -race respite in The Watermill Inn-Ings and savoured a well- earned pint (or two) before heading back south on a very wet M6. Hopefully, next year, the weather will allow us to return to the original, classic route.