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September 23, 2014 Comments (4) All Posts

2014 English Fell Running Championship review

Our athletes Tom Addison and Victoria Wilkinson are the newly-crowned 2014 English Fell Running Champions. The championship was made up of six races of different distances, two short (Pendle and Hodder Valley), two medium (Coniston and Kentmere) and two long (Ennerdale Horseshoe and Sedbergh Hills). An athlete’s best four results, including at least one at each distance, made up his / her final points total. The race for the men’s title went right to the wire, with Tom eventually claiming top honours by the narrowest of margins. Victoria was utterly dominant in winning the women’s title, setting three new course records in the process.

Pendle -7.3k / 457m ascent
April 5

Tom (wearing x-talon 190)
1 Tom Addison 32:55
2 Rob Hope 33:05
3 Simon Bailey 33:23

The day of the race I was really nervous because the week before I had totally messed up in thick mist at the opener of the British Championship (Donard Challenge). Toeing the start line at Pendle I looked around to see, as usual for the opener, that almost everyone in English fell running was there! I knew then that it was going to be really tough to get some good points on the board.

The start was fast and furious with everyone battling for good positions at the front. I got myself into a decent position and stuck with the leading group on the initial trail out. As we hit the first climb Simon Bailey and Morgan Donnelly made their moves. I just sat in. I wasn’t feeling that great at this point, so I continued to sit in. As the climb went on I moved my way through into first place. I had never led a championship race before so it was a bit nerve-wracking but I just tried to keep the pace fast. I opened up a small gap on the rest of the field on the descent down to the start of the ‘Big End’ climb. Once on the climb itself Rob Hope took over the lead. I hung on for grim death, and soon we were racing down the last descent.

Simon, as always, flew down the hill and as we hit the final few fields there was three of us together at the front. The battle was on! With one final sharp climb approaching, I made my move and attacked the hill as hard as I could. I did not let up until I crossed the finish line. I was shocked to have won but it was an amazing feeling to get my first-ever championship victory.

Victoria (wearing mudclaw 300)
1 Victoria Wilkinson 38:54
2 Holly Page 40:40
3 Annabel Mason 41:20

The first English Championship race of the season always carries a fair bit of pressure, with everyone wanting to score good points early on. Racing first, and separate from the men, which isn’t to my liking, we set off up the track. It was pretty murky and chilly but I knew the course well and the places where I could really put the hammer down.

I set off with the front five or-so runners up the track. The pace seemed pretty fast and I didn’t feel great. Suddenly a few doubts started creeping into my mind. Only once we got onto the first real climb did I start to feel a bit more comfortable in my running. I opened up a gap on Annabel Mason and then tried to relax as much as possible on the descent before the ‘Big End’ ascent. Using both my hands and feet I clawed my way up the steep climb to the summit. I again tried to relax on the descent before the short sting-in-the-tail climb towards the finish. I was hurting but I dug in and pushed it hard. I had a big lead but it’s not in my nature to just win, I always want to run as fast as I can.

Tom Addison on his way to winning at Pendle. Photo by Andy Holden.

Tom Addison on his way to winning at Pendle. Photo by Andy Holden.

Coniston -14k / 1065m ascent
May 3

Tom (wearing x-talon 190)
1 Tom Addison 1:07:57
2 Rob Hope 1:07:58
3 Morgan Donnelly 1:09:28

I had recced this route a few times prior to race day and had all the best race lines firmly fixed in my mind. I was still on a high from my win at Pendle and couldn’t wait for this, the second race in the championship.

I played it sensible and ran within myself up the first big climb to the summit of Wetherlam. From the top I tried a line that I had recced and it paid off as I opened up a 30m lead over Rob Hope and Morgan Donnelly. Both, however, had closed the gap by the time we started on the ascent to Swirl How. The three of us were now really pushing it hard over the steep, rocky outcrops. Along the skyline, Rob and I dropped Morgan and rounded the final summit of Coniston Old Man neck-and-neck.

I decided to play it safe on the long final descent off Coniston Old Man, following Rob’s footsteps as we negotiated all the rocks and quarries. As the gradient eased I fought my way past Rob and kicked hard. Rob, however, was having none of it and, with both of us emptying the tanks, we flew down the track section. Approaching the final field I knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish. My legs and lungs were on fire but I wanted to win so badly. I put myself into a world of pain and just gave it everything I could over the final 50m. I beat Rob by the one second! Wow. I was buzzing. I had given it my absolute all and it had paid off.

Victoria (wearing x-talon 212)
1 Victoria Wilkinson 1:17:11 (new course record)
2 Rebecca Sheffield 1:22:25
3 Caitlin Rice 1:24:06

This fell the week after the Three Peaks Race (which Victoria won), so I was a bit unsure how I’d feel. I had recced the Coniston route several times and back racing with the men I found myself able to gauge how I was doing. By the top of Wetherlam I was doing okay. I didn’t feel great but looking around at the standard of the men around me I knew I was running well.

I put my head down and ran hard up Swirl How and across to Coniston Old Man. I must admit, I ducked out of the final descent route that I had recced -no one else ahead of me was on it – and reluctantly followed the crowd of runners in front of me. My legs felt strong as I descended the final fields, so knowing the course record was up for grabs, I pushed hard. I eventually crossed the finish line two minutes inside the women’s record, which had stood for 19 years.

Victoria Wilkinson storming to a new course record at Coniston. Photo by Andy Holden

Victoria Wilkinson storming to a new course record at Coniston. Photo by Andy Holden

Ennerdale Horseshoe -36.8k / 2290m ascent
June 7

Tom (didn’t race)
1 Rob Hope 2:52:16
2 Karl Gray 2:52:28
3 Oli Johnson 2:53:10

I decided not to run at Ennerdale and instead focus on my preparations for the European Mountain Running Championships.

Victoria (wearing x-talon 212)
1 Jackie Lee 3:18:26
2 Victoria Wilkinson 3:19:25
3 Shona Robertson 3:24:48

Not my day, this one. I was not feeling 100% going into Ennerdale and so I was relieved when the route was shortened due to bad weather. However, I underestimated the new distance and failed to fuel up enough throughout the race. I struggled from just after Black Sail Hut and with about 1k to go Jackie Lee passed me. She was skipping along, looking full of energy. I simply couldn’t wait to stop running. A day to forget.

Victoria Wilkinson on  her way to second place at Ennerdale. Photo by Mick Kenyon

Victoria Wilkinson on her way to second place at Ennerdale. Photo by Mick Kenyon

Kentmere -19.8k / 1006m ascent
July 20

Tom (wearing x-talon 212)
1 Tom Addison 1:27:55
2 Rob Hope 1:30:24
3 Karl Gray 1:30:38

Kentmere was the fourth race in the championship. I decided to miss the third race at Ennerdale, which Rob Hope won, so the pressure was really on me. Having had one of the best races of my life when coming 15th at the European Mountain Running Championships the previous weekend, I was fired up and raring to go at Kentmere.

This was a course I knew really well, having recced it to death over many months, so I felt confident. It was a red-hot day and, although not feeling great, I moved to the front on the opening climb up Yoke. Approaching the first checkpoint on the summit of Ill Bell my legs started to feel better and more bouncy so I put my head down and made it hurt. I didn’t look back until I had reached the halfway point on the summit of High Street. I was surprised to see I had such a big gap. I was loving my running and enjoying the feeling of being a lone leader.

I kept pushing and pushing and extended my lead further on the run over to Kentmere Pike. I did, however, pay the price on the long run back down the valley to the finish as my legs were crushed! I had given so much to the race and was literally hanging on. Thankfully I had a strong lead, so I gritted my teeth and just kept it going. I was chuffed to win by such a big margin but I also knew Rob would come back fighting in the next race.

Victoria (didn’t race)
1 Helen Berry 1:50:20
2 Mel Price 1:52:59
3 Judith Jepson 1:54:20

I was racing in the Dolomites Skyrace in Italy, so I was unable to be at Kentmere. I finished sixth in a really strong field.

Tom Addison with a huge lead at Kentmere. Photo by Mick Kenyon

Tom Addison with a huge lead at Kentmere. Photo by Mick Kenyon

Sedbergh Hills -22.5k / 1830m
August 17

Tom (wearing x-talon 212)
1 Rob Hope 2:06:10
2 Tom Addison 2:08:19
3 Mark Addison 2:09:51

This was going to be the decider for me. I knew that if I won at Sedbergh I would win the championship. If Rob Hope won – and I finished well back down the field – then it would give Rob the chance to win the title. I don’t normally perform as well in long races as I’m still learning how to pace them and building the strength required, so I knew it was going to be tough.

I decided from the start that I would try and cover all the moves at the front and thus hopefully still be in contention ahead of the last big climb up The Calf. Rob led all the way with Morgan Donnelly and I sitting in behind. As we hit the The Calf it was, once again, Rob and I out in front. My legs, however, felt knackered and it was really hard watching Rob run away from me. I tried to go with him but I just couldn’t. I managed to hang on to second place ahead of my cousin, Mark, who came third. It was bittersweet because although it was my best performance in a long fell race, I had handed Rob the chance to tie for the championship. A win for Rob in the last race at Hodder Valley, which I would miss due to running for Great Britain at the World Mountain Running Championships, and we would share the title. Despite that I took the positives out of Sedbergh, knowing that it had given me a platform from which to build on for future long races, especially as I want to have a crack at sky racing. It was a real learning curve.

Victoria (wearing x-talon 212)
1 Victoria Wilkinson 2:19:34 (new course record)
2 Helen Berry 2:33:28
3 Mel Price 2:33:54

This was a race route on which I had to make amends after last year blowing up at the bottom of The Calf and missing out on the course record. I spend a lot of time training in these hills, so I felt confident going into the race. Having learnt my lesson from Ennerdale, I made plans so I knew exactly where on the course I was going to get some fuel. I took a drink at checkpoint four and checked my watch -the record was achievable, which was surprising given the very windy conditions. I pushed hard up The Calf, determined to hunt down the record. At the finish I crossed the line in 19th place overall and first woman, taking five minutes off the previous record.

Tom Addison battles wild conditions at Sedbergh Hills. Photo by Holmfirth Harriers

Tom Addison battles wild conditions at Sedbergh Hills. Photo by Holmfirth Harriers

Hodder Valley -6.4k / 470m ascent
September 13

Tom (didn’t race)
1 Morgan Donnelly 32:44 (new course record)
2 Rob Hope 34:11
3 Ted Mason 34:40

I was in Italy for the World Mountain Running Championships and woke up nervous -not only for my own race but also because the English Championship would be decided at Hodder Valley and I was not there to influence it. The pressure was on Rob Hope to win the race and in doing so grab a share the championship with myself. Rob had been in awesome form leading up to the race and was the man to beat. I checked my phone hundreds of times until eventually I found out that Rob had finished second in the race, with Morgan Donnelly beating him. Wow. I was English champion. I had achieved one of my boyhood dreams. Morgan ran a phenomenal race on the day, so thanks Morgan! It was a fantastic tussle all year with Rob, who is such a strong fell and mountain runner. I’m already looking forward to more of the same in 2015!

Victoria (wearing x-talon 190)
1 Victoria Wilkinson 39:46 (new course record)
2 Mel Price 41:23
3 Emma Gould 41:26

Back to a women’s-only race for the last counter in the championship, this was a fast, grassy course. I bided my time until we got onto the first climb, which I ran hard all the way to the top. There was lots of uneven ground between the first and second climb so I made sure I ran sensibly. I was happy to win this race and wrap up the championship season with maximum points attained and three new course records too.

Victoria Wilkinson (left) leads from the start at Hodder Valley

Victoria Wilkinson (left) leads from the start at Hodder Valley

4 Responses to 2014 English Fell Running Championship review

  1. […] Both Tom and Victoria have written a race-by-race account of the 2014 English Fell Running Championship, which you can read at […]

  2. […] in the shape of Oli Johnson, Anna Lupton and Victoria Wilkinson will join the trio of debutants. Like Tom, Victoria is a 2014 English Fell Running Champion and knows a strong run at Limone will propel her up the Sky Series rankings having already recorded […]

  3. […] have had to work hard to improve my downhill skills but that dedication to doing so paid off when I won last year’s English Fell Running Championships for the first time. Here are my top-10 tips to improve your downhill […]

  4. […] redirected my focus to the English Fell Championships. I managed a couple of podium places in the opening English Championship races but continued to be […]

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