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Thread: Early female fell runner

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    Early female fell runner

    The Cilcain Mountain Race has been held annually since 1973, which would appear to make it the second-oldest fell race in Wales (after the 1000m Peaks), although it didn't start appearing in the FRA Calendar until some time in the 1980's, and Bill Smith appeared unaware of its existence when he wrote Studmarks. However, according to the Cilcain Show website, the first race was held in 1960 (and there is no mention of any races between 1961 and 1972). There is a rather interesting sentence about the 1960 race on the webpage about the Show's history:

    The outright winner was George Young (45) of Chorley, second Harry Williams (20), the Crown, third John Beach (21) the Homestead (now Ty Coch) and First Lady was Susan Beach (14).

    Apart from the revelation that Darren Fishwick is not the first elite veteran fell runner to come out of Chorley, what caught my attention was the mention of the First Lady. Less celebrated than the feat of 16-year-old Kathleen Connochie in finishing the Ben Nevis Race five years before, we have an even younger lady racing up and down Moel Famau. She would appear to be a local, presumably the sister of the man who finished third. There is no hint in the report of any controversy (as there was in the case of Kathleen Connochie). There is no mention of any other female runners (it just says that there were 19 runners), and the website doesn't have an archive of results, so I don't know if women were running when the race was revived in 1973.

    It is interesting to note how young both Susan Beach and Kathleen Connochie were. Was it maybe considered acceptable for young girls to do such athletic activities but still frowned on for grown women to behave in this way?
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    Senior Member Steve Chilton's Avatar
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    Interesting point, Anthony.
    There were female entrants in fell races before the Connochie controversy of 1955. As I noted in 'It's a hill, get over it': "The Lake District Mountain Trail had actually added ladies’ races in 1953 and 1954, but attracted few entrants and it wasn’t a success." Bill Smith in Studmarks notes for the 1953 (Coronation) LDMT: "There was also a ladies race this year which went up Rossett Gill, across Esk Pike and Bowfell and back down the Band. There were 4 competitors, of whom Jane Allesbrook of Cark-in-Cartmel was easily the fastest in 2-14.39, being accompanied by her two dogs; and she was followed by 17-year-old C.H. Mawson of Windermere in 2.46.12 .....".
    NB: only 15 runners started the men's event that year.
    One of the 20 runners in the first LDMT (also in Langdale) in the first year of 1952 was 16-year-old Peter Fleming, who finished 4th after going off first in the staggered start for the 16 mile course.
    All this in a climate where the Olympic Games didn't even include the 800m as it was 'too dangerous for women to run' (after having been included in 1928, and eventually being re-introduced in 1960).

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    Yes Steve, there is an interesting disconnect between attitudes to women in orienteering-style events like the LDMT and in what might be called standard fell races. Was this because the latter were governed by the Athletics authorities (e.g. AAA in England) which, as you point out, still maintained rather 19th-century attitudes well into the 20th century?
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by anthonykay View Post
    Yes Steve, there is an interesting disconnect between attitudes to women in orienteering-style events like the LDMT and in what might be called standard fell races. Was this because the latter were governed by the Athletics authorities (e.g. AAA in England) which, as you point out, still maintained rather 19th-century attitudes well into the 20th century?
    I think you mean the WAAA Anthony. Women ran under regulations determined by the Womens AAA and it is wrong to suggest it was always we awful men who were to blame.

    I once set out a XC course at Nunroyd Park,Guiseley (home of Skyrac AC) for the West Yorkshire XC Association on the standard route, but which that year included about 15 feet of mud a few inches deep in a shallow hollow.

    Shortly before the start the West Yorkshire Woman In Charge came up and instructed me to retape the route away from the hollow because she wasn't having "her girls" running through mud.

    And so they didn't.
    "...as dry as the Atacama desert".

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    Presumably after running a cross-country race without mud, the "girls" sat down to a meal of curry without spice, washed down with wine without alcohol.
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

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    Footnotes to my original post:-

    This page confirms that there were no races at Cilcain between 1961 and 1972. It also appears to show that after the race was revived in 1973, no women ran until 1980.

    I have just looked at the 1981 FRA Calendar cover, reproduced in Graham Breeze's article in the last Fellrunner magazine. Cilcain is listed there, but is given category C; the race is now AS, and has always gone up Moel Famau, so category C can't be right! Its appearance in the Calendar as early as 1981 makes it slightly surprising that it is omitted from Studmarks, although in his preface Bill Smith does say that "My main concern has been with races and runners from the traditional fell racing areas of Northern England and Scotland . . .".
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by anthonykay View Post
    Footnotes to my original post:-

    This page confirms that there were no races at Cilcain between 1961 and 1972. It also appears to show that after the race was revived in 1973, no women ran until 1980.

    I have just looked at the 1981 FRA Calendar cover, reproduced in Graham Breeze's article in the last Fellrunner magazine. Cilcain is listed there, but is given category C; the race is now AS, and has always gone up Moel Famau, so category C can't be right! Its appearance in the Calendar as early as 1981 makes it slightly surprising that it is omitted from Studmarks, although in his preface Bill Smith does say that "My main concern has been with races and runners from the traditional fell racing areas of Northern England and Scotland . . .".
    FRA Calendar Listings

    27th August 1979 8 miles 1100ft Record: A Blackwell 1976 27.50

    25th August 1980 6 miles 1200ft D Messum 1979 27.10

    31st August 1981 4 miles 1200ft J Wild 1980 25.08

    sic.

    Then not listed for several years.
    Last edited by Graham Breeze; 05-04-2018 at 12:52 PM. Reason: 1100
    "...as dry as the Atacama desert".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Breeze View Post
    FRA Calendar Listings

    27th August 1979 8 miles 1100ft Record: A Blackwell 1976 27.50

    25th August 1980 6 miles 1200ft D Messum 1979 27.10

    31st August 1981 4 miles 1200ft J Wild 1980 25.08

    sic.

    Then not listed for several years.
    Very strange, since the course didn't change at all during that period: see http://www.clwydianfellrace.org/?page_id=375 . The organiser finally sent the correct details to the FRA Fixtures Secretary in 1981, and then gave up sending them for a while!
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

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    8 miles in 27 minutes would be pretty impressive, regardless of the terrain.

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