• Henry Morris

Wadsworth Trog 2019



My brother, our mate Tim, and me enjoyed a picturesque drive to the start of the

Wadsworth Trog: a 19-mile fell race with 3500 feet of climb that is run on the first

weekend of February in Calderdale. In 2019 there were also a couple of inches of

snow.



We assembled at Old Town Cricket Club, near Hebden Bridge, leaving the

heated seats of a car that warned us it was minus two outside. Our cousin Jack, a

seasoned fell-runner rather than a part-timer who has moved south, was also

running. He wasted no time in calling us ‘metropolitans’ for having hot drinks. Two

hundred runners started under blue skies and encircled by snowy hills.



The Trog began with a climb up several hundred feet of slippery compacted

snow and ice onto Wadsworth Moor. After a couple of bottlenecks at stiles, the race

thinned into a long single file of fell-runners making their way through the ankle biting snow. We crossed High Brown Knoll, where steep gradients and chilly views set the tone for the day, and toppled into a comically steep descent off Bob Hill. As I slid down with little or no control, and as fellow runners faceplanted and forward rolled, I reflected that this was a far cry from the usual life of a la-de-da personal trainer in North London.



At Upper Dean Reservoir the route levelled out temporarily, before another

sharp climb onto Midgeley Moor followed by some steady running around the

contours of the upland. Up here I was struck by the first of many massive concrete

drainage ditches that scar the landscape. They are said to be there to stimulate

heather growth so that there can be more red grouse for the handful of people in the

UK who can afford to shoot them; but they are disastrous for local ecology and the

science seems to suggest they are a significant contributory factor to the flooding

which the people of Hebden Bridge know only too well. While wondering how to

persuade the landowner to remove them, we headed over a checkpoint road

crossing and started a ten-mile loop of Wadsworth Moor.


Large sections of clearly boggy ground were sufficiently frozen to run on and I

maintained a sensible pace. However, as the bloke next to me who dove face first

into a mire near the aptly named Stairs Swamp can testify, not all of it was firm. I was

feeling good, which always poses the risk of crashing further on, but I tried to remain

sensible as we went due north towards Haworth Moor, down Stairs Hill, through the

checkpoint at Harbour Lodge and back down to Walshaw Dean reservoir. There,

with more than half the race gone, I started to think about pushing harder. But an old

injury in my left foot, probably annoyed at having been forgotten for several years, took

against the plan and reactivated itself. So, as we entered the last third of the race, I

hobbled on the climbs past the grouse butts on Old Dike Hill, over High Rakes,

down to Walshaw and back up over the road on the return visit to High Brown Knoll.

Several runners motored past. Opportunities to run these races are few and

far between, so with less than five miles to go, I reckoned it was best to overrule the hot coal in my shoe and I plunged the foot in some broken ice and kicked on over Dimmin Dale, past Sheepstones Edge. I even caught up some people on the long descent to the penultimate checkpoint at Wood End.



Here, I should say that this race is also known as ‘The Beast’, and by and

large is only tackled by seasoned and experienced fell runners. The second to last

checkpoint is sited by a stream at the lowest point of the valley beneath the Race HQ

and dictates that the run in to the finish is a four hundred foot climb up steep snowy

mud. In other words, the checkpoint is not there because it’s convenient, but

because it makes the finish stimulating. About which I can say, as I recall my heart’s

thumping efforts to leave my chest at the time, it is. After a brisk lap around the

cricket pitch to contemplate everything that had just happened, I fell over the finish

line in 3.41.55 and was pleased.

My brother came in about ten minutes later. Entertainingly, Jack and

Tim bracketed the race by coming in first and last, respectively. Both results are

impressive. Jack’s time of 2.35.46 was stunningly fast, while Tim’s intensely relaxed

approach to training meant that he’d completed The Beast having barely done any.

This is surely an achievement in its own right.









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