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
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.