Ventnor. Famous for its micro climate, bohemian ways and oh yeah……it’s hills. Within its mile and a bit width, the town climbs from sea level to the Islands highest point, some 791ft above said sea level. It’s the location for Ryde Harriers annual Fell series with this year being its 25th Anniversary.
Started in 1995 by founding member of the National Fell Association and Ryde Harriers and Mayor of Ventnor at the time Brenda Lawson, these races also incorporate the South of England Athletic Association Fell running Championship. Popular with many of the London clubs, this event attracts some of the best Fell runners in the South.
With ascent totalling 1165m over the 3 races, (that’s 3822 feet in old money), the tired legs of competitors will have climbed the equivalent of Mount Snowdon plus a bit more for “luck” by lunchtime on Sunday.
Kicking off at 11am on Saturday morning, the first race is short and sweet. Well…. it’s….short. Just 2 and a half miles. However, it is from sea level straight up to summit of St Boniface Down and back. So steep it’s hard to run down, let alone run up!
But what goes up, must come down… and down they came….
All our tenacious team returned safely to the finish line at the race HQ of St Catherine’s School in Grove Road, Stu and Hayley quicker than last year, despite the heat. Ross came a cracking 24th with Stu nipping at his heels in 25th. Hayley smashed it by coming 13th woman overall.
Race 1 – The Boniface Fell
Ross Wilkes – 20.05
Stuart Backhouse 20.11
Steve Apsey – 23.06
Hayley Baxter – 24.16
Rob Hunter – 24.51
Claire Mucklow – 27.47
Ian Dyer – 28.13
A couple of hours recovery and;they were back down on the seafront for round two.
This time 7.5 miles and 443m (1453ft) of elevation lay before them. Once again they set off on the extreme uphill start as the first 2 and a half miles took them back to St Boniface Down, but this time up the other side and onto Down Lane.
Over toward Wroxall they went before some welcome flat ground heading along the cycle path to the the outskirts of Shanklin.
Finally they turned for home and back onto the downland and finally back to the school. Stu showed no ill effects from the mornings outing as he ran faster than the previous year and again returned in 25th place. Hayley returned in 11th place lady overall.
10 miles combined done.. 13 left in the morning….
Race 2 – The Ventnor Horseshoe
Stuart Backhouse – 1.03.20
Ross Wilkes – 1.07.02
Steve Apsey – 1.10.13
Hayley Baxter – 1.13.14
Rob Hunter – 1.19.11
Ian Dyer – 1.29.49
Day 2 and most of yesterday’s competitors were joined by a few more club runners, taking on the longest and last of the events on its own.
The runners once again congregated at the paddling pool on Ventnor Seafront for the 10.30 start. Like the previous day, the sun was shining and an unseasonably warm 25c was forecast.
A more gentle start this time, as the runners ran along the seafront and cliff path through the temperate Botanic Gardens. They began their ascent through St Lawrence, passing the football ground at Watcombe Bottom before continuing further up to the never ending climb of Stenbury Down.
The runners then continued through the countryside skirting Wroxall and Godshill before passing through the Donkey Sanctuary, which was hosting a family fun day, which really gave the runners a boost as they went through.
A welcome flat section along the old railway line was soon negotiated as they then ascended what are lovingly referred to as “The Steps of Doom”. So steep are these, that you have to use the handrails to drag yourself upward.
At the top, they found themselves back on St Boniface Down and the final descent to the welcome sight of the School for that last torturous uphill push. Tired but triumphant our heroes returned with smiles on their faces. Again Stu excelled himself taking 21st place, not letting Ross pass him this time. Ross finished in 27th with relative new comer Jamie Brenchley less than a minute behind him to take 30th. Paul Muffet showed his form is definitely returning by taking a superb 34th. Hayley took the 12th ladies spot.
Race 3 – The Wroxall Round
Stuart Backhouse- 1.35.11
Ross Wilkes – 1.37.29
Jamie Brenchley – 1.38.19
Paul Muffett – 1.40.49
Steve Apsey – 1.45.20
Hayley Baxter – 1.55.14
Charlotte Williams – 2.18.25
Ian Dyer – 2.23.27
Ian Williams – 2.26.21
Dave Wilcock – 2.37.08
As is usual with this weekend of racing, most of the overall top prizes were swept away by the overwhelming presence of some very high class runners from clubs such as Victoria Park, Frontrunners and Serpentine. Huge pat on the back to the #teamawesome of Stu, Ross, Steve, Ian and Hayley for completing all 3. A particular mention must go to Hayley Baxter whose consistent performance all weekend earnt her 1st IOW lady in all three races & overall, 10th overall and 2nd V40, Stuart Backhouse who was first IWRR back in 2 out of the 3 races earning him first IOW Male, 20th overall and 3rd V40 and Paul Muffett who despite only competing in one race, took 7th V60 overall amidst some top class competition.
Prizes and overall positions
Hayley Baxter – 1st IOW lady, 10th overall and 2nd v40
Stuart Backhouse 1st IOW Male, 20th overall and 3rd V40
Ross Wilkes – 28th overall
Steve Apsey – 49th 11th V40
Ian Dyer – 82nd overall