Sunday 6th November saw the now infamous Dovedale Dash, probably one of the most famous local fell races. The race this year attracted a phenomenal 1590 runners which when compared to your average race of up to 300 is astonishing stuff. Part of the reason is probably down to the fact it has been going for so long, with this year seeing the organisers celebrating the 60th race. The other reason is because it is so damn fun!
Many runners return year after year to hurtle down Thorpe Pastures and through the freezing cold waters of the river (or over the stepping stones for the more faint hearted). It really is a sight to behold, a swarm of runners streaming down the hillside; imagine Mel Gibson leading the charge in Braveheart and you won’t be far off the mark!
This year was my 4th attempt at the dash. This race holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the very first fell races I had done which my partner took me along to back in 2012. I had none of the proper gear and got around in a pair of old road shoes which were thoroughly useless in the quagmire of mud that always appears on this course. Fast forward a few years and with a lot more experience and some decent footwear, I was at the start-line once more.
A freezing cold and windy day, the blue skies soon gave way to icy rain and sleet. As soon as the starter horn was blown, the mass of runners hurtled down and over the tussocks of the pasture and towards the river. There is always a debate at the start of the race, do you head straight through the water or keep your feet dry for a little longer and go for the stepping stones. Every year the water wins out for me, it’s all just part of the experience! Luckily this year the levels were low, but so was the temperature! The next few metres are always ran with numb toes and soggy shoes.
A significant lack of recent rain meant what is usually a muddy course was relatively dry with just a few boggy bits to negotiate. There were a fair few canicross dogs involved this year which was nice to see, although sometimes a little difficult to get around. I could tell I had more hills in my legs this year as although the course is always quite tough, this year it didn’t feel half as bad and there was no need for any walking. The shocker is always the uphill finish but I pushed through to the line which was lined with few chilly but cheerful onlookers. Fantastic organisation by the race hosts, they try every year to get finishers through and times recorded as quickly as possible. Everything is done manually to keep costs down but with so many people, a queue invariably forms. Luckily I managed to avoid this and escaped to the warmth of my car as quickly as possible. Usually I like to stand and cheer fellow runners in but this year it was just too darn cold unfortunately.
My final position was 145 overall with 6 minutes knocked off last year’s time which I was absolutely thrilled with. I am not sure of my position in the female category as this doesn’t seem to have been recorded but I think it was about 5th. Fingers crossed for a bit more improvement over the next few months and let’s see what next year holds. I can’t recommend this race enough, there really is nothing else quite like it. Happy running x