Report from Graham Lake:
I’ve done this race a couple of times before, and as my Dad now lives in Great Ayton I thought it was time for a return. Being my usual saintly self on New Year’s Eve (ahem) I was up bright and early to line up in the middle of Great Ayton next to the statue of the young James Cook (by the lesser known 3rd Dimbleby brother, Nicholas).
Although a fell race, the first mile is on narrow lanes and I looked ahead to see at least 50 keen runners ahead of me, I was worried I was really struggling, even though I felt fine. Turns out many of them were in the junior race which turns around before the big hill.
The lane gradually becomes smaller and smaller until you’re climbing over tree roots, then, hands on knees, walking steeply up the side of Easby Moor through the conifers. The steepness lessens and you’re soon up to the Captain Cook Monument standing just over 1000ft above the Teesside plain. The monument states that the circumnavigator was “massacred at Owyhee Feb. 14th 1779”, but I didn’t have enough time to correct to Hawaii as I had a race to run.
The descent from the moor is great, a really fast and little-used footpath on peaty ground which allowed me to pass a good few runners and catch up with the 1st lady. There is then more road where you can really pick up speed, followed by a nasty sharp road-climb before going off-road again, traversing round the hill to the Cliff Rigg. This long low hill is actually a volcanic intrusion emanating from an ancient volcano on the isle of Mull, the stone of which was used to line the streets of Leeds with cobbles. It also gives it’s name to the local area of Langbaurgh (literally long barrow). You didn’t realise you’d be educated against your will when you started reading! Hopefully you’ll forget it soon enough.
I was feeling strong, and managed to pull away from the group of 4 or 5 I was running with, meaning the fast run through the fields was quite stress-free. The finish had changed slightly, so I was a bit caught out by it! But was nice to see the family there for some high 5s, then off for coffee and some final festive food.
I finished in 19th place in 36.29. There were no other Otley runners.
The winner was Lloyd Biddell of Mercia fell runners in 30.41 who won in a sprint finish with P&Bs Harry Holmes. 3rd place went to a junior, Ben Bergstrand, who I assume is related to the record holder for the Roseberry Topping race (a record held since 1992).
First lady was Nik Terrega of Knavesmire in 37.09.
There were 329 runners.