- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
...and when I sought repose
In a race of any distance I don't need to be persuaded to start slowly. Ordinarily, this is good strategy for a runner like me. I'm able to get loose and then pick off a few fellow runners who imprudently had sped off at the outset.
In the fell run I started slowly, of course. I'm still happy about that. But I picked off next to nobody in the home stretch. In fact, although I felt O.K. throughout the event, I was gunned down by three or four runners on the final descents. But we'll get to that later. The point is, British fell runners know what they're about. They don't enter these races casually. They've put in their miles in the hills, they've developed technique and they do not quit. That old guy who zipped past me was a runner, genus Fell, which is sui generis in the extreme. It's a species of runner you just don't find on our side of the pond.
We pushed on, over Great Rigg. Fairfield came into view. It was a steep climb to this 2,863-foot peak, and when it was scaled it would mark the completion of the 2,400-foot ascent that is the meat of the Horseshoe race. Twenty-four hundred feet is a substantial vertical climb. The statistics on the Lake District mountains are deceiving, because these rises are situated so close to the sea. On paper, they seem piddling things—3,000-footers—but when a mountain starts close to ground zero, that's a good-sized bulge. What we were doing on these minimounts was the equivalent of running up one of New Hampshire's White Mountains or one of Vermont's Greens.
Near the top of Fairfield the breeze freshened, and my heavy, soaked T-shirt grew cold. I was worried for a moment about the chill, and then I popped over the top and all such concerns vanished. Gaining a mountain summit is always a moving experience, but charging up a mountain and, in a final thrust, suddenly finding yourself in the wide open air, well, that's almost indescribable. A poet spends a lifetime trying to describe precisely such things.
'Tis the sense of majesty and beauty and repose
That bit of verse would certainly apply once again. Or, rather:
Hung o'er a cloud, above the steep that rears,
That really happened up there. Its edge all flame, the broad'ning sun did appear, if only for a second. It happened at the precise moment I summited. It was glorious. And it spurred me out of my laggard's pace and into a jog, as I chased the line of runners along the ridge.
It was gorgeous up there—the subtle canyoning of these fells, falling to the pond-spotted valley that now seemed quite far below us. It was chilling. A cliff dropped off steeply to our right, plunging precipitously to the meadow from which we had climbed.