Sunday, February 23, 2014

High Cup Nick Fell Race 2014

High Cup Nick near to the start of the climb

Results are all relative.  My running certainly hasn't been at its best lately and success today would be measured by getting round without trashing my foot.  I found the climbs very hard, was pleasantly surprised at being able to hammer it downhill and was grateful to be able to run into the finish.

As I type this up, the day after the race, I realise is that my greatest success is not having any pain in my foot the day after.  Plantar fasciitis presents itself in the most painful form when first stepping out of bed in the morning.  The injured plantar fascia tightens overnight, while the foot is in a relaxed state, meaning that the first stretch, as part of that first step, is painful.  This morning I stepped out of bed without pain.  I'm very happy with that.

Dufton Village invasion
The High Cup Nick Race is a 9.3 mile fell race, starting in Dufton Village, just outside of Appleby.

We got to Dufton an hour before the race and just managed to get parked.  I imagine there are people living in Dufton who don't enjoy a few hundred fell runners parking on the edge of the green, blocking access and generally muddying up the lanes.  If this is the case, it wasn't evident, everybody was friendly and welcoming.

The village hall was the sign up place.  We sat for a bit, sorting race numbers out etc.  Gerard took us for an easy warm up run down to the first turn off and back and then along a lane past the car park to some interesting looking trails.

Before I knew it, it was time to get ready and line up at the start.  It was difficult to hear the instructions but I managed to pick out that the wind would blow us up the Nick and then we would be running into the wind on the way back (this proved to be true).

The race starts by going through the village before turning left up a track (helpfully signposted 'High Cup Nick 3.5 miles').  After about a mile, the route turns through a field.  This was very muddy and I managed to slip onto my hands (gloves retired for the rest of the race).  There were some duck boards at various stages, which created a bottleneck (also known as a chance to catch breath).  The route carries on until you eventually start to climb and turn a corner to see your first view of the High Cup Nick valley.

first view of High Cup Nick

This is quite a sight.  High Cup Nick is a remarkable geological feature, the visible crags around the valley being of more hard wearing rock than the softer ground around have maintained the U-shaped shelf of the valley top as the ice and water carved the rest of the ground away.

From here the run goes down to the valley bottom, across a small river and up to the top of the valley, where the water flows down (the acutual Nick).  This was very muddy and heavy going.  It's a gradually undulating part of the course but the mud made it the hardest part of the race for me.

at the start of the climb up to the Nick

Towards the end of the valley is a steep climb up to the Nick.  The wind became fiercer as we got to the top but the climb here was not as bad as it looked from further away.

procession to the top

As soon as we got to the top, the ground became firmer.  However, here the running was impeded by a strong cold headwind.  Once the course started to drop a bit, it became easier and a decent track, which was mostly downhill, took us back to the village.

looking back from the top

I manage to overtake quite a few people on the downhill (another small victory).  Races do bring out the natural competitiveness, no matter how much you tell yourself that you are going to take it easy, and I did take pleasure in standing at the finish line, watching those that I overtook come over the line after me. 

9.3 miles in total

This is a really nice race, a bit tougher than you expect, probably due to the mud in the valley bottom and the wind at the top.  A very nice route.  There is my benchmark, now to build some leg strength and flexibility in my foot to come back next year.


  1. I too enjoyed and suspect we may have chatted at the end; I finished just a few mins ahead of you & can be seen in your pic on approach to the Nick. I'm wearing a yellow vest & carrying hi-viz pack. I too found the beck, bog & marsh heavy going. Will return in 2015 though. Well done.

    1. Well done. Despite my poor performance, I really enjoyed the day. It's an area that I want to check out a bit more.

  2. Fab - off to try it today

    in Milburn