The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge route leaves Pooley Bridge to traverse 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbs 17,000 feet (77km, 5182m).

The inaugural run from Pooley Bridge to Wasdale was made by Joss Naylor in 1990, at the age of 54; in very bad weather with heavy rain and a strong SW wind Joss completed the run to Greendale Bridge in 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Chris Brasher offered engraved pewter tankards to the first 20 runners to do so with the proviso that they raised at least £100 for a charity of their own choice. In January 1997, with 17 tankards already awarded, Chris extended his sponsorship. In 2001, with 33 tankards awarded, Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.

The challenge is offered to fell runners over the age of 50 to complete the run in set times according to their age group. The challenge is intended to be a "supported run" for individuals - each contender is to be accompanied on every leg for safety reasons and unaccompanied attempts will not be recognised. There is more information on the Challenge Details page below.

If you are interested, please have a look at the Challenge Details, download a schedule or contact me using the "Email Ian Charters" form below.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Tash Fellowes (W50) - 09 September 2017

It was Chris's idea for me to celebrate my 50th birthday with a Joss Naylor Challenge. With it falling on a Saturday it seemed a good opportunity for a day out and a bit of a do afterwards. A bit late in the year (September) perhaps, but more time for training. Once I had committed to the idea I was determined to enjoy every bit of training, otherwise what's the point? But I was nursing a tendinitis niggle in my ankle / foot which meant that my training comprised a long day each weekend and maybe 1 run during the week.  I hoped that this would be enough. As the months went by and I started recceing the bits I didn't already know (leg 1 mainly) I got a bit psyched out by the fast splits. Pals kept reassuring me: it'll be different on the day, no rucksack, the buzz, fresh legs.... But I was still bothered by it. If I can crack leg 1, I thought, I know I can do it. I'm very lucky too that I had a great bunch of pals ready to be my support team and help celebrate afterwards. 

One of the funniest things about fellrunning is the reaction you get from work colleagues. I don't talk about it much at work but when asked what I was doing to celebrate my ‘special’ birthday I got some bemused looks when I explained I'd be going for a run all day.  They got into the idea though when I told them I'd be raising money for the MS Society. My Dad has suffered with this dreadful disease for many years, so it’s a cause very close to my heart.

So all of a sudden after a frenzy of butty making and packing of kit, and an early night, it was 3am and my alarm was going off. It was still raining after a horrible wet Friday. Mandy Goth had warned me that the ground was very wet but having been watching the forecast I was mentally prepared for a soggy challenging day. 

Andy Pooler and I picked Phil Hodgson up from Kirkstone on the way to Pooley Bridge where we met John Thompson. Big cags went on, and we set off in the rain at 5am. We'll run the flats and gentle uphills, fast walk the steeper stuff, said Phil. The weather was miserable but we were in good spirits. With no rucksack I felt strong and although I'd only used them once before, I was using poles to let my arms help my legs, and it felt like it was working.

Light began to filter in around 5.30, and by 6ish our torches were off. The daylight helped to relieve the monotony of the claggy dark. As Mandy had said, the ground was indeed very wet underfoot which made it harder going.  I was sensing that we should be moving faster and this was confirmed by Phil as we left High Raise for Kidsty Pike: I'll meet you at Rampsgill Head, you need to crack on a little bit now. I worked out later that we were 15 minutes down at this point. I put my head down and dug in, jogging up High Street, not bothered by the rain; I had dealt with worse conditions during training. The track between High Street and Thornthwaite Beacon was a stream but John raised my spirits by telling me we'd gained a minute or two getting there. Although I felt I didn’t need it now, I kept eating and drinking at regular intervals, hoping to stock up some fuel before it became harder to eat later on. 

The rocky descent to Kirkstone Pass was greasy and slowed our progress but John had shown me a good line and I headed off down it to meet Chris, my other half, leaving the others to catch up. I arrived only 3 minutes down despite a slight detour in the clag on the way to Pike How so I was happy to have made up much of the time I'd lost earlier. It felt like, without any major setbacks, I was in with a good chance. 

It was a great feeling arriving there to my mates singing happy birthday!  I had a 5 minute stop for sweet tea and rice pudding with peaches, ably catered for by Janet Makin and Sarah Rowan, and greeted by my daughter Emma who had got up especially early for the occasion.
Then it was steady away up Red Screes with my slightly larger leg 2 team: Josie Greenhalgh, Keith Mallinder, John Joe McGonagle, Alex Irwin, Robert Green, Paul Charnock and Paul Calverley. By the time we got the top we had already gained minutes and it was good to be able to relax into the pace and start to enjoy the day. I was certainly well hydrated; wee stops started to become frequent and became a bit of a comedy issue (for me) throughout the day. Luckily I've no hang ups about privacy when I'm on the hill, except to try and save other people's embarrassment.

Being the only folk out on the fells was very special, and as we worked our way up Fairfield now and then the clouds parted and we were treated to a glorious view towards Ambleside and Windermere glittering in the pale morning light, a private viewing just for us. Coming off Seat Sandal the sun started to come out and it felt like the whole day was just getting better and better.

The reception at Dunmail was like a party, more singing and my pals chatting happily there made me feel special, and we'd made a few more minutes up on schedule. Again, tea and rice pudding and an egg butty were slurped down in 5 minutes and then we were off again, a shame because I would like to have had a little more time to appreciate the atmosphere and to show my thanks for all the effort that folk had put in to be there with me.

Chris said, you'll start to make more time up now. It didn't feel like it on the way up Steel Fell; the food I'd eaten, although useful for later, felt heavy on my stomach and having stopped and sat down my legs were reluctant to start up again. However the banter of the huge leg 3 support team (Dave Makin, Tony Shanley, Jenny Boocock, Guy and Steph Illingworth, Bridget Glaister, Maria Cook and Rob Green) was awesome and I just got my head down and enjoyed listening to the conversations around me as I plodded up the hill. 

The section from Birks Gill up to High Raise was probably my low point of the day. It's steep, boggy and tussocky and gives little indication of progress, with no views to distract you. I felt weary and heavy and chewed unenthusiastically on the titbits that were constantly offered to me. But the cheery encouraging voices around me combined with an earworm from my son Jack's youth theatre group dragged me up the hill, where it started raining again (luckily not for long). Tony's military style orders to the 'carrier of the cag' resulted in possibly the fastest assisted change of outer layer in the history of fell running, and cheered me up too. And to top it all, John Morrisey appeared out of the mist to join the party.

Another drag up from Stake Pass followed, and then we were on Rossett Pike, greeted by the smiling faces of Carolyn and Keith Daniels, Martin Kirkman and Steve Clancy who had tea and juicy cubes of ham and cherry tomatoes, a fabulous antidote to the sweet stuff I'd been trying to eat.

After a couple of minutes we got back to the business of getting up Bowfell. A steady steep climb over a lot of greasy rock, Getting Bowfell behind you always feels like a milestone.  The ground over Esk Pike and Great End was equally treacherous, particularly the descent to Sty Head. Dave and I attacked it (in a cautious sort of way) leaving the rest of the team to catch up and reminding me of all the fun years I’ve had battering the downhills with him.

Reaching Sty Head was wonderful. Gary Pollard had brought soup and I sat on a rucksack, grimly alternating bites of tuna butty and slurps of minestrone. My daughter Emma had walked all the way up from Wasdale Head just for me and it was great to see her. Mandy and Sarah were there too making me feel better with words of encouragement. 

It was even better to see Chris who would keep me going on leg 4, knowing all the right things to say and do. Oz Kershaw and Andy Ford were along too. By this time my belly felt like a balloon and, knowing that I was about 20 minutes up on my schedule, I announced that I was going to go as slow as felt comfortable on the way up Great Gable. This pleased Andy greatly, having run up from Wasdale Head in order to avoid being late! The best thing was that when we reached the summit we were spot on with the split, so I felt able to relax on the pace a bit. 

Oz had chosen a great route off Gable down a grassy rake in the sea of boulders, a gully and then a scree run. The scree was pretty big so it wasn't easy but it was very efficient and we quickly reached Beck Head. There was no sign of Andy though and I worried that he had fallen. He can look after himself, was the response when I voiced my concerns. Sure enough he soon turned up, breathless from running hard to catch up, and had indeed fallen in the gully and was a bit bruised but seemed OK to carry on. 

Summiting Kirkfell brought a lovely surprise in the shape of my niece Katie arriving at the same time having run up from Wasdale Head. By this time the tops were all clear and bathed in sunshine, and I tried to soak up the magnificent views and watch where I was putting my feet at the same time. We descended Joss’s Gully carefully and then were rewarded with another gang of pals waiting at Black Sail Pass, including Dave Reynolds, Sophie Cunningham, Jaynie Dickinson, Janet & Sean Makin and my son Jack. It was good to be surrounded with chattering happy friends as I got more tired. My legs weren't feeling too bad, but I was starting to feel in need of fuel. Proper food wasn't going down that well but luckily we had bottles of coke and gels on hand as well as fruit pots to help keep me going up PIllar. Oz and I nipped the out and back to the top of Steeple and we soon made the top of Haycock. Another scree run off the top made short work of the descent, and would have been a lot of fun if my legs had been a bit fresher and my feet a bit less painful. But it was still a little fun, and an efficient way of getting to the bottom before the challenge of the grindingly boggy Pots of Ashness and the ever steepening climb up Seatallan, a challenge this late in the day, especially as my calf was starting to cramp up.

The descent off Seatallan was painful because it’s steep, and climbing up Middle Fell was a mixture of the relief of being nearly finished and the delight of what was turning into a glorious balmy sunny evening. I struggled to keep up on the last descent but it didn’t matter – there was plenty of time. Jack had been suffering with cramp too so kept me company at the back. Soon enough we were jogging down through the bracken on the last stretch and approaching Greendale. Chris shouted, you run in with Jack and Katie. I thought, I am running, and I can't 'run' any faster than this! I was definitely getting messages from my feet that me and my toenails would be parting company in the not too distant future. 

And then we were running across to the bridge. I felt light as a feather and strong with the elation of the finish. There were my pals cheering me in, and Joss Naylor waiting to welcome me. I couldn’t stop grinning, what a day! I couldn’t think of a better way to have celebrated my birthday. We stood around chatting and I tried to drink a beer that Chris’s brother Tim handed to me with a smiling ‘Happy Birthday and well done!’ I had a refreshing paddle in the river. Then after a while we headed off over the Hardknott Pass on the way back to Bishop’s Scale, the Ratti hut in Langdale, and were treated to a beautiful sunset over Lingmoor.

It was humbling and gratifying at the same time to think about how many people had made such an effort to help me achieve this goal (I’d finished in 13 hours 10), looking after me as we plodded the miles and ticked off the tops. And I managed to raise over £1300 for the MS Society. Now it’s Chris’s turn and my turn to support!

With Joss (photo: Chris Lloyd)

Greendale Bridge (photo: Jaynie Dickinson)

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