Cheviot Three Peaks Trail – Race Review
It seemed like a good idea back in January to enter my first hill race with a 1000 feet climb. The Cheviot Three Peaks Trail Race sounded perfect and, having been reassured by the race organiser that the marshalls would be there no matter how long it took, I contacted my best friend and partner-in-crime, Teddy. She is always up for a challenge too, so we entered the race so that we could run it together.
We were so excited, having spent three whole days together and eating a lot of birthday cake. Even the sight of the first peak, Humbleton Hill, on our drive north didn't dampen our spirits.
Cheviot Three Peaks Trail Race
We arrived in plenty of time at the start in Wooler. We had that lovely nervous/excited adrenaline mixture (I never know why, given that we are never going to win anything!) and were pleased that even in such a small field there were a lot of women and they didn't all look like they were under 30!
As I like it, there was no fuss at the start - a brief brief from Glen, introduction to the tail runner (phew) and we were off.
I had sussed out Humbleton Hill a few weeks before and found it a real leg burner. Thankfully it was quite a gentle start up the road and across a field with a gentle incline, all the time with the hill ahead. At upper Humbleton we turned left and through a gate, before turning right and starting the ascent proper.
As a view from the back of the field it was quite impressive, with all the runners streaming up ahead of us. The great thing about hill/fell races is that most people are not expected to run up the big hills, so everyone was getting up as best they could.
I reached the top slightly in front of Teddy. It made me realise that the last year of hillwalking in Scotland has really helped my fitness. By the time Teddy reached the summit she was cursing me roundly. (I was getting my own back for that cross-country race she persuaded me to do a few years ago!)
After a drink and a look at the view we had a lovely descent down the back of Humbleton Hill. I saw something move close to my foot. It was an adder - I turned to warn Teddy and by the time I turned round it was wriggling away across the heather. It is the first time I have seen one alive, so I had to take a photo. My mum always said "they are more frightened of you than you are of it" and I think that is the best way to approach them. They will only bite if they are threatened, so standing on one or a dog sniffing it might be a problem. If we leave them alone they will leave us alone. It must have been a shock for it though to come out of hibernation into a nice warm spot only to have 90 pairs of feet running past!
After the fabulous descent there was a bit more gentle climbing until we reached the St Cuthbert's Way and turned left towards the second peak, Coldberry Hill.
It was a nice run along the tops here and easy enough for me to be clocking flowers (wood anemones and wood sorrel) and the curlews calling close by. The route then veered off to the right across the hill and towards the cairn on Coldberry Hill. By the time we arrived a path was evident, but I think for the lead runners this would have been a small sheep track at best.
The descent down Coldberry Hill was described in the course info as "technical." I loved it, by far the best bit of the course in my opinion - in my mind I skipped down the hill although I suspect I wasn't as fast or as graceful as I imagined!
Anyway, my love of this descent wasn't shared by my running buddy. By this time the last runner and sweeper were catching up with us and Teddy magnanimously suggested I went on ahead and she would join the other two runners behind us.
The final climb up Brownslaw hill was easy enough, with just a little walk up. Then another descent round the back and a swing round the contour line to the left, finally reaching the track back down to Humbleton and then retracing our outward route back to Wooler. I had targeted a 1hour 30 finish time and was pleased to be inside that by about two minutes. I got my breath back and walked back up the course to meet up with Peter and to cheer on the three people remaining on the course.
This was a brilliant race. Lovely course that was well marked and marshalled. I loved the small field and no-fuss attitude and was quite happy with just a mini-egg as the reward. I will certainly be back to do another event with this company. I think hill/trail racing is definately what I love the most and can't wait to do more. Teddy didn't share my enthusiasm, but did say she would do this event again.
The rough route is shown below and would make an excellent walk or trail run if you are in the area.