Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Brough Law Fell Race

on 15 March 2020

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P and I are not from the North-East, and we often like to try to guess how North-Easterners would pronounce place names. We come up with several alternatives from what we would class as fairly normal to bizarre. We’re usually still wrong and a complete curveball gets thrown our way. I have only seen ‘Brough Law’ written down, and only in the context of this fell race. I would say ‘Brow’, but could also see it pronounced as ‘Bruff’ or even possibly ‘Brogue’. I am still in the dark as to what the locals would call it. ‘Braaaaaarrr’?!?! If anyone would like to enlighten me, answers on a postcard please!

I’ve been looking forward to doing this run since it went on my calendar in January (discovered as part of my hunting for Races Under a Tenner) – and that should have been enough time for me to build up enough fitness to be comfortable with doing it. As it happens, it’s fallen at the end of about a month of me being crazy-tired mostly with work and therefore doing very little regular or intensive exercise. I’m also REALLY tired – like falling flat out asleep by 8:30 every night. Not exactly the jumping bean fit I’d like to be for my first fell race.

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My confidence was not improved by seeing the route elevation profile – some massive hills, and a 400m elevation profile. I packed the night before but checking the weather forecast in the morning and seeing the wind I decided to chuck in an extra thermal layer just incase it was really cold when I was walking, and my windproof jacket on top of the already shoved in full set of waterproofs…kitchen sink may also be in there somewhere. I didn’t actually need any of it in the end…better safe than sorry though 😉

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I picked up another runner (CL) from the Metrocentre on my way up – he’s done many fell races including this one before, and off we went on our adventures to Ingram.

The wind at the starting area was ridiculous – even doing a short warm-up trot was a struggle and I heard people who’ve braved the starting bank say it was even worse at the top. I thought the first little kick you could see from the carpark looked bad enough for the opening few hundred meters, but it just kept going up and up and up for the first mile!

(sound on if you want a gale in your headphones/speakers!)

As I wheezed my way up the first few inclines, which I can now see is where my heartrate was lower and therefore probably wasn’t pumping things round enough for me (this is why we should do proper warm-ups on flatter bits people!), I did wonder why on earth I thought this was a good idea to do right now. The truth is I wanted to – badly – and decided as I was going to likely be tired at work on Monday anyway I might as well have done something I wanted to to make me like that rather than just ineffectually vegetating my way through the weekend.

The wind on the way up was ridiculous. It didn’t lessen at the top, you just weren’t fighting the elevation and a headwind at the same time – just the headwind. This has allowed me to take the world’s worst run selfie, and this makes it amazing.

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There was so much wind it was inflating one side of my open gob like I’d stuck my head out a car window on the A1 outside rush hour (it looks like I have a very aggressive dentist!). Inhaling was optional – the wind just filled your face – but exhaling was hard! You had to laugh. I did anyway.

Once I’d got up the first half mile or so and decided I was in it for the long haul (helped by knowing the second half would be much easier than the first) and was happy to plod up the hills where necessary, I really enjoyed all of this run and spent the remaining four miles waving at marshalls and laughing at myself. I’ve decided the sort of people who want to run in these sort of places and conditions are an unusual kind, but their supporters are something else. To go and sit facing into the roaring wind long before anyone comes past and wait until the last runner has plodded on just so you can cheer people on, take photos, sit in your tractor and check they don’t take the wrong leg at a crossroads takes something very special – and I hope those brave souls out today know how much their waves and cheers and time meant to us plodding around the hills.

The views once getting past the first patch of trees were fabulous, and I kept turning round to try and see more of where I was right round the course. It’s the first time I’ve been in the ‘hillfort country’ of Northumberland, and I could see several from the hills where we were, as well as passing what I assume was the stone remains of one on the last hill back down to the finish.

I have also discovered I am a very poor camera spinner – will try to move slower next time!

The wind more or less didn’t relent all run except for the incline to the start/finish which was sheltered by trees, but the terrain varied more than is apparent from my scenery photos – we had tracks, lumpy grass, streams (bridge not always present!), boggy bits, muddy bits, wet bits, dry bits and I was wondering if I would have trenchfoot when I took my trainers off. I did my best marching impression up the hills – on one occasion my best frog-footed impression as it was too slippy to do much else – and my best airplane impression on the way back down or across anything. The wind direction relative to me changing as we looped round meant that I spent quite a bit of mile 3 running on a slight sideways diagonal desperately trying to stay on the track and upright!

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(photo taken by H. Ransome)

This was one of those races that was so completely ridiculous in conditions and terrain that it became funny – and I confess I loved every minute and actually wished there was another mile or two before the finish I was enjoying myself so much. CL and two of his friends from Newcastle Uni were very kindly waiting for me near the finish to cheer me in, which I was very touched by – especially as it turned out they’d probably been there a while as they’d taken a raft of prize places between the three of them! CL had won it outright and the two ladies had podium finishes whereas I’d been I think dead-last apart from the tail-walker and taken twice as long as they had! I was pipped at the post by a lovely chap in his seventies who’d been following me for most of the rest of the race. I was enjoying myself too much to care 🙂 I finished, not far off the back of the pack, and I had a fantastic time 😀

So far, my knees seem to have forgiven me – tomorrow may be a different story but every ache was worth it as far as I’m concerned. I feel mentally the best I have in weeks, (it’s 9pm and I’m still awake!) and I’ve spent the morning in the outdoors with a big grin on my face and a LOT of fresh air. Winner.

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Who’s coming next year?!

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You can download the GPX file for this course from my Dropbox account by clicking here.


One response to “Brough Law Fell Race

  1. […] 15/3     Brough Law – 8km – Powburn – Northumberland Fell Runners – £5 – 2020 […]

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