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Old County Tops 2016

24/05/2016

The "Old County Tops" is a classic Lake District fell race run in pairs and held every May dating back to 1988. 

The race is a circular route, starting in Great Langdale and taking in the three highest points of the old counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire (being Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston respectively) before returning to finish in Great Langdale.The exact distance and amount of ascent are dependant on the route you choose, but the general consensus is about 38miles and 10,000 feet of ascent.

 
A last minute decision saw Jo Zakrzewski joining the field of 130pairs as they huddled in a marquee out of the rain prior to the 8am start on Saturday. Although she had agreed with her partner that they were going to treat it as a fun (!) day out in the hills with no pressure for times or being competitive, they found themselves as the leading mixed pair as they headed down the first descent into Grasmere. Positions were hard to work out due to slightly different route choices, especially with the low cloud cover, and Jo expected that they would have been overtaken by the time they got down to the road crossing below Helvellyn, as descending has bever been her forte.
 
This was not the case and they carried on in the lead over the next two summits, though Jo did think that she would rather be anywhere else than where she was as they ran across rough terrain into driving rain and strong winds towards Angle Tarn. An out and back section along the ridge to Coniston Old Man meant that they could see the second mixed pair appear out of the cloud when they had gone less than 25m from the summit, but it was not until Jo landed in a bog up to her thigh at Three Shires Stone that the gap finally closed.
 
This meant that the last couple of miles became a rather hard effort for both teams, as the final margin was only 90s after over 8 hours of running. The spread of sandwiches, soup and cake was worth the run into the finish and Jo was over the moon to have finished in one piece, never mind to have actually been competitive, finished in the top 10 overall and pushed seasoned local fell runners all the way.

 

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