British Fell Running Championships 2021

Website info:

2021 British Athletics Hill & Fell Running Championship Race over a variety of terrain on the edge of the Eden Valley and Pennines. 11km with 900m of climb.

Race will start next to the iconic fountain in the centre of Dufton and it will finish in the field behind
the Stag Inn (Dufton). A fell race that effectively finishes at a pub, what’s not to like!


I entered this race quite late as I just happened to see it mentioned on the SHR website,
and was surprised that I got an entry. But I wasn’t surprised to see Des’s name on the start sheet!

It was a mere 2:10 drive from Penicuik down the M6 to Penrith and then the A66 followed by a wee scenic windy road to Dufton. Very cute little village with a cafe, pub, village green, campsite, sheep, etc.

Des had driven down on the Friday afternoon in his campervan to check out the pubs and the course
and was quite surprised to see me (and delighted – cannon-fodder). We had the usual booked time slots for registration in the village hall where we picked up our Sportident contactless timing card and had our kit checked.

The race started at 12 o’clock on the village green and there was the usual initial sprint. After a mere 100m 200 runners funnelled into a gate-sized space between two stone walls, but fortunately no-one got crushed or trampled. The first km or so was along a knarly stony farm track with a gentle climb which turned into a well-trodden path until we came to the first of four steep climbs. This one up Dufton Pike was about 0.6 km and took about 10 minutes. I knew that I had to keep Des in sight for as long as possible to get a reasonable time and at this point he was about 10 runners in front and didn’t look too far away. If I had tried to keep up with him, I would have blown and it would have been game over.

The descent off Dufton Pike was less steep than the climb up and was a compact grassy track and was quite fast if you had the legs and the confidence. Sharp turn near the bottom and around the flank of the hill and a km to the start of the second climb up Brownber Hill. This was a slightly longer climb up to 519m and was designated the KOM timed hill climb. But I was at my limit and there was no way I was contesting this! (The winning time was 8 minutes, I was about 12 minutes.)

A steep drop-off the hill with a bit of scree and rocks and then down a narrow grassy valley. At the bottom we met the main valley again and started up the third climb. This began with a gentle incline up towards a very rocky gully which looked a long way off and high up. By this time the lungs and legs were complaining a lot and it was exceedingly hard to not lose any places. However the gully itself was far better fun – steep, big rocks, scrambling and midges! At the very top of the gully there was another sharp turn back to the SW and onto a fabulous grassy path mostly gently downhill for over a km to the last climb. I was enjoying this so much that I closed the gap on a bunch of runners just ahead.

Climb number 4 was up Dufton Pike again, this time from the east. I think this was even steeper than the first ascent, but at least shorter. Last climb so big effort. Ouch, ouch, the top! The first part of the descent was pretty steep and crikey, rocks and scree! After a few tentative steps it was apparent that this was ‘good’ scree and I started pounding and sliding down. Scary but fun and ‘tentative’ didn’t appear to work as some runners were sprawling all over the place. Now down to the gently-sloping fields and attempting to go as fast as the knackered legs would allow. Aware of runners behind, this was hard work. Through a gate and then a slight hill to the finish.

Well I sort of enjoyed that! Interesting post-race blether as the local accent was hard to understand at times! We chatted to Alan Smith of Deeside Runners who I knew from previous races, but we didn’t see many other Scots – Edinburgh Uni, Shettleston Harriers, Moorfoot Runners, Highland Hill Runners, Fife AC and Deeside Runners were represented.

Inevitably our legs turned us in the direction of the Stag Inn and we partook of the local brew (or brews in some cases). Next time I’m bringing my tent so that I can partake more fully.

Des was 1st M60 with a time of 1:15:43 (with a trophy!) and I was 4th M60 with 1:20:11 (full results on the sportident website).

Many thanks to the organisers, marshalls and locals, the trip south of the border was well worth it.

Next up (south of the border) is the British Fell Relays Champs. If you have been inspired, we still need a sixth man for a six-man M50 team. Raymond has said that he is interested but may not be back in the country soon enough (or with recovered legs) after the Chicago Marathon. Juliane was also interested, but we weren’t allowed to enter a mixed team unless it was 3-men, 3-women.

Duncan Ball
5th Sep. 2021.
Penicuik Harriers.

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3 comments on British Fell Running Championships 2021

  1. David Cairns says:

    Great report Duncan and fabulous results from you both, it’s been a long time since the Harriers could last boast a British Champion!

  2. Bill Bennet says:

    Well done Des and Duncan, Des 70th and1st M60 in 75m43s and Duncan 92nd and 4th M60 in 80m11s. It was a British Championship, the total field was 178, so our chaps did really well. As a retired M60, M70 and M80 I’m really impressed with how well our Des and Duncan are running.

  3. Jan Dawson says:

    Well done gents! A great day for the M60 harriers!

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