Early December saw Montane Athlete Tom Hollins take on the Northumbrian Cheviots in challenging Winter conditions by running the Montane Cheviot Goat. Battling the elements, terrain, and bogs he finished a very competitive join 6th place in a climactic finale to an excellent years' racing.
Conditions this year were wet, turning the peaty Northumbrian hills into boggy quagmires.
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Wild Man Media
This year was my first goat and my last race of the season before my first Spine Race free Christmas for 3 years. This means I wanted to make the race a good one. I had managed to come up and do a two day recce in November but half of it had been after work on a Friday in the dark. This gave me a good feeling that there was going to be a lot of fast runnable trail interspersed with some horrifically deep bogs which were very easy to get lost in. I skipped the summit of the Cheviot during my recce. That is the only section of the Pennine Way not covered in the spine race and I wanted to save my full Pennine Way completion for race day.
A lot of familiar faces pre-race meant a lot of good banter. There were also a lot of unfamiliar faces whose names I knew. Some fast runners. For me, this is a fast short ultra. I needed the weather to be bad to slow the faster runners down. Weather looking pretty good compared to the previous year. So looking like a top 10 finish was going to be a good one. A couple of guys even had shorts on. Even in good conditions, I reckoned the Cheviots were going to teach them to regret that.
Drew set a great atmosphere at the start. Everyone was pumped. I knew it would be a fast trail from the off and that would mean a lot of people would go off too fast. I would follow my usual start slow and finish faster. The start went well. Chatted to Carol Morgan and Paul Nelson in the dark before making a couple of new friends including Dave Douglas before the halfway point. I kept catching people up and being asked why I was so far back. Thanks for the motivational pep talk guys! Arctic John was sadly watching from home this year. Post race he informed me he thought I was way too far back to get anywhere near the top 10. I hoped I knew what I was doing.
Frontrunners such as Tom enjoyed better weather than that which was experienced by most!
The sun came up and it was a truly beautiful day in the Cheviots. That perfect balance of light cloud with shafts of sunlight coming through. Wonderful wonderful views. This is why I run, why I wanted to come. Now I was moving up the field. Hitting the Pennine way bought the best views of the day and bought back fond memories. Despite the fact that I was delirious and moving sideways as much as forward the last time I was here. I took another 4 places and knew I was around 6th or 7th place. I could see 2 runners in front and I was gaining. Starting to think about a top 5 finish. Then some knee pain hit and it took me all the way to the top of Russell's Cairn before I caught the next runner, Howard Dracup.
Howard took one look at me, said 'hello Tom', and legged it. Challenge on.
It was now misty, rainy and getting cold and vis down to 100yds. I took some paracetamol and put on another couple of layers. Definitely not shorts weather. Grateful for my Montane Trail Series Tights
and for the Montane Minimus Waterproof Mitts
integrated into my Montane Dragon Pull-On Fleece Jacket
mid layer I set off after Howard.
Tom in his Montane Dragon Pull-On Fleece Jacket mid layer.
I slowed a bit to the bottom of the climb to the Cheviot and for the first time in the race got passed. I was limping a little. Not enough to slow me down a huge amount but knowing some of the worst bogs lay ahead in the crossing of comb fell I was starting not fancy it with a dodgy knee. I got to the out and back to the Cheviot and saw 3 runners on my way out coming back. That felt good. The paracetamol starts to kick in, and the knee starts feeling good. Finally finishing the Pennine way; now that feels really good. And now I am flying. Past the runner who came past me before. He shouts 'good running mate'. Love ultra runners - no elbows out to stop me passing, what a great bunch. 'Thank you mate - have a good finish'.
Now I need to catch Howard. Dragging, sliding, crawling and occasionally running through a misty bog fest. Every checkpoint I am gaining. But he is moving fast too. Until I catch him on the last hill - Dunmoor Hill. He's going the wrong way. I call him back. He tries to run off again. But goes off the wrong way again. I call him back. We smile at each other. Who knows who is the stronger finisher? He's had a good race trying to escape me, and I've had a good race trying to catch him. We smile and shake hands, agreeing to finish together. And what a great finish - a cheer home from Drew and the team, big smiles, a pot of tea and some soup. Joint 6th place and a great day in the hills.
Thanks to the Montane Cheviot Goat. See you next year.
For an insight into the type of kit suited to this race, visit our Winter Running Essentials: