Stretton Skyline, 2003

Well actually a weekend report cause we made rather a good training weekend of it. Beautiful part of the world Shropshire and fantastic country for MTBing, running and I bet road biking. I can certainly vouch for the quality of the tea shops… I digress.

Drove over on Saturday morning, dropping into Much Wenlock for the first tea and cake of the weekend and to stock up on snap. We got to Church Stretton and was on the bikes by just before 1pm. We did a 15 mile road loop to warm up before heading up the first hill onto Long Mynd – the plan was to bike various sections of the race route. This was a tough climb but was followed by a long exceptionally fast descent – probably 3 miles worth. Excellent on a bike but on Sunday it would be the final climb. This took us down into Church Stretton for a cream tea – then back on the bikes to cycle up the descent route from the first climb of the race – this was an awesome ascent followed by a descent that in places was so bumpy I could see where I was going cause my head was bouncing so much (clear hint to apply brakes ;o)).

At the Youth Hostel we were greeted by about a dozen runners from Leicester over for the race. We asked about the bikes on the back of their car and their response started ‘We’re athletes’ … they then asked about the race, in particular whether there was prize money and what the course record was. We weren’t physched … clearly bullshitters since they weren’t sporting the narly faces of top fell runners.

Later in the pub as we were polishing off our sticky toffee pudding at the bar washed down with our 3rd pint (trust me this is ideal prep for fell races) – we noticed these ‘Athletes’ order Sambucas…. suffice to say we saw none of them at the race.

The race started at noon – clear skies and hot meent it could be a tough day – I decide to carry a small pack with a platypus in it. The first hill is a long steady and runnable – I got myself into the lead group of about 10 and made excellent progress up onto the Long Mynd. Following this there was a very long descent – I was very please as my downhill speed has clearly improved – I actually passed some people !! (though some passed me as well !) This first hill is a really gentle intro because following it is a sequence of 3 hills which are very steep involving fast walking up often with hands on knees for aid ;o) Off the first of these steep hills I managed to make up several minutes by chosing a long sweeping descent passing the 4 guys in front who has chosen a shorter sharper descent.

Following these three hills there is a long long run back and a long 3 mile steady ascent back onto the long mynd. This ascent is massively tough – on fresh legs you could run strongly up it – at this stage of the race most runners are reduced to long periods of walking. I tried to push along on this but it was only the last mile that I managed to pick up the pace and pull away from the guy behind me. Ended with a long fast descent and a time of 3:05:55 and 10th place. The race distance is 18 miles with 4500feet of ascent. Winning time was 2:36

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