Report from Tom Lynch: The Langdale Horseshoe is a classic Lakeland fell race, a 13 mile/21 km horseshoe route taking in the peaks of Pavey Ark, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and the Pike O’Blisco via some tough muddy and rocky terrain and 4700 feet/1450 m of climbing. The race is a popular AL fell race that attracts 300 – 400 hundred runners, and apparently will be a championship counter next year.
I’d entered on a whim a couple of months ago and Steve Robinson joined at the last minute before entries closed, the race offered us both the opportunity to get in another qualifying race for the Three Peaks Race next year which we are both targeting. I managed to get in a recce of part of the course, but was quite concerned about route finding in the fog, in the end we were really lucky, with almost perfect weather for the race.
We had both decided it was more important to get round and have a good day out rather than really push ourselves in this race, as it was the furthest either of us had raced in the big Lakeland fells, and we generally weren’t particularly prepared for it. With that we started near the back of the bunch and were content to sit back in the mad scramble the makes up the start of this race as you leave the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub and traverse along to the climb up to Pavey Ark. The climb up to Stickle Tarn just below Pavey Ark is mostly a walking procession of a long line of runners with the only opportunity for overtaking a strenuous diversion off the path, or elbowing your way up the pecking order. The race then progresses to Thunacar Knott and across the bogs of Martcrag Moor, and then climbs up to Angle Tarn and on to Esk Hause, this is followed by a boggy treacherous traverse up through Ore Gap to make the climb to Bowfell, it was tough going all the way particularly on the ankles, and it felt like slow going with lots of walking involved.
Steve and I were together up to the top of Bowfell after which I pulled away a bit on the descent off Bowfell. The racing line then skirts most of Crinkle Crags, with a climb up to Long Top, and the exciting climb down Bad Step. After this a long descent down to the foot of Pike O’Blisco follows, which seems like it should be a nice fast section, but was somehow tough to really get going on. With the final ascent of the Pike to go I felt a bit on the limit and it was a very slow climb for me, although I only lost one or two places. I had looked forward to the final descent off the Pike, but when it came to it all I could do was hobble down and just about to hang on to some of those around me, losing a handful of places on the way. A quick dip in the beck at the finish was very welcome, not least to clean off most of the bog mud before I headed to the Sticklebarn Tavern for a couple of pints.
The winner of the race was Sam Tosh in 2:11:57 (a long way from the seemingly untouchable incredible record of 1:55:03 that has stood for nearly 40 years!), 1stwoman was Jasmin Paris in 2:26:37, I came in 224th in a time of 3:18:25 and Steve Robinson came in 270th in 3:26:04. Provisional results at http://www.amblesideac.org.uk/races/our-races/langdale-horseshoe/