The first Bowland Up-Down Relay was a great success with all participants having a blast! It was not without its dramas though... First, with only hours to go to the start, the 'Dunc'Em' team (Duncan Elliott and Emma Gregory) received, literally, a serious blow when Emma banged her head on the garage door and was concussed. A visit to casualty was needed and Em was strictly instructed not to run, leaving Dunc with no partner and no time to recruit another. In typically irrepressible Duncan style, he decided to run both the up and the down leg himself - not strictly within the rules but in the circumstances I thought a bit of flexibility was in order, and it was unlikely to give him an unfair advantage anyway! Hope the head is better now Emma.
Last minute entries came in from Ray Picket and Ian Roberts (calling themselves the "Taking it Easy Boys" now that they are both retired), and Alan Lucker and Will Houghton ("The Big 3 Boys") and the total number of teams making the start was 12, which turned out to be just about a perfect number.
The car park at Downham was a thrum of excitement as people arrived, dodged the vicious rain showers and began preparing (happily, it eventually stayed dry for most of the race). I introduced Joe Smith to Paddy Walsh ("The Young Ones") who had never met before and we discussed some options for finding a team mate for Duncan, though in the end it came to nought and Dunc had to run as a soloiste. There was some anxiety as Stewart Forsyth, one of my stalwart helpers, didn't arrive until almost 6pm and when the group of downhillers set off fror the changeover there was still no sign of Declan O’Duffy, leaving Richard Davies wondering if the "Dic & Dec" team would be complete or not.
Leaving Stew capably in charge of the start/finish arrangements, I set off with Joe for the changeover following a string of other downhillers (plus Roy Rigby, the changeover marshall) who were making their way up the course. A steady walk brought us onto the upper incline as the start time passed and it was not long before we saw the first runners on the lower slopes. There were two figures close together and we knew one of them would be Clive Davis but we were not sure who would be up there with him. We would soon find out.
It was flippin' chilly on the top, with a strong wind gusting around but we didn't have to wait too long before the first figures appeared over the edge of the hill. To our slight surprise it was Alan Lucker in the lead, with Clive a short way adrift of him, both of these had taken well under 20 minutes! This caught Will completely unawares as he was sheltering in a hollow of the fell in full waterproofs! Dashing to the changeover gate, he was helped to struggle out of his weather gear but this allowed Clive, with a final surge, to make up the gap as he handed over to Lee Dowthwaite. Will and Lee actually left almost together but Lee soon stamped his descending authority on proceedings and "The Inbetweeners" established themselves in the lead as we'd always expected.
Next into view was Andrew Knowles, my "Handy Andys" team mate (gulp) closely followed by Declan (much to Richard's relief I'm sure). I headed off down the incline with Richard in pursuit and I managed to stay in front until the flatter boggier bit when my legs began to to say (what kind of stupid pace is THIS??)... Just after the latched gate, Richard eased past but we were both then simultaneously overtaken by a flying Joe Smith, who had taken over from Paddy Walsh in 5th place, 40 seconds behind Richard and 51 seconds behind me! I couldn't live with the pace from here but Richard gave chase and Joe apparently weakened in the final field and "The Young Ones" were pipped to the finish by the strong-finishing "Dic & Dec". Joe still did the fastest descent of the night though, his 8.35 beating even Lee's rapid 8.44.
Meanwhile, "Dunc'Em" (minus Em) had reached the top in 6th place and turned for the descent. He had a 30-second gap over "The Singlespeeders" (Julia Richardson and Graham Lund) but Graham made up the gap and more as he came down in 9:46 while Dunc's tired legs could only manage an 11.38. His combined up and down time was still impressive though.
For the "Little & Large" team John Wade was champing at the bit as he awaited Andy Farmer's arrival but he had to watch "The Lost Causes" (Debbie Cooper/Phil Martin) and "The Walsh 2-Lads" (Martin and Paul) changeover before he could let fly on his descent. He posted the 4th fastest descent of the night, passing Phil and Paul en route to a 9.41, whilst Paul made up a 36 second defecit on Phil to regain 9th overall.
"The Lantern Rouge Chicks" lived up to their name, with Pam Farmer reaching the top in 11th spot (but still only 13 secs outside the 30 minute barrier) and handing over to Gill Ponsford who was running in her first ever fell race. Pam had to break the news to Ian that his team mate Ray had dropped out on the climb with (I think) a calf injury, so Ian was able to keep Gill company on her descent, and he even held open the awkward latched gate for her. What a Gent. Gill struggled a bit with the wet and slippery conditions but despite a fall she arrived back with a time not TOO far outside the 16 mins she recently managed on a recce run.
The jovial bunch at the finish stayed until everyone was down, Richard taking some pics which are now on the gallery page, then dashed for the shelter of nearby trees as a torrential rain shower came on. Lee gave a little vote of thanks speech (I was very pleased that it had gone off so well and everybody had enjoyed themselves) and we then jogged back to Downham as a big chattering group. Excellent club spirit!
The Assheton Arms was closed but the Calf’s Head at Worston was a more than agreeable substitute and we took over a big corner of the pub for a brilliant post race natter to round off what had been a cracking night.
My sincere thanks must go to Stewart and Roy for their help with marshalling and timekeeping (Roy burned the midnight oil to compile the results the same night!) and to everyone who entered and joined in the spirit of what might now become an annual event.