Tour of Pendle Fell Race

This year’s race was my eleventh consecutive Tour of Pendle. Pre-race and true to form I was awash with feelings of mixed emotions. Pleasant memories from past races are aplenty but there’s certainly been low-points to dwell over. Ironically my ‘lows’ are usually geared towards the final three climbs. Fell running stalwart Leigh Warbarton once advised me that when the going gets tough he finds it helpful to reminisce about whatever’s been a personal highlight of the week. During Saturday’s race, especially when trudging up the penultimate climb, I put Leigh’s theory to the test.

At the bottom of the Big Dipper the task at hand looked daunting. Feeling there’s no time like the present I heeded my friends words of advice and tried to achieve respite with thoughts of the affluent seaside town of Lytham. With each heavily laden step I reminisced about the previous day when a significantly easier outing along a prestigious coastline path was enjoyed. Gentle walks have recently become one of life’s simple pleasures. Even the satisfaction attained from the first sip of a morning brew has been surpassed by the heartwarming enjoyment I experience when accompanying my dog on soothing strolls. I’m not delusional; my rational side is fully aware that my beloved 16 year old border terrier is showing increased signs of old age and days out with Nellie have become increasingly precious. She’s in her twilight years and more so than ever her comfort and companionship is paramount - both of which are provided for by means of a dog pram. I’ve previously written about the less than favourable comments I’ve received when out and about with Nellie and her pram, but I’m pleased to say the residents of Lytham were very accommodating and not once did anyone shoutout “dog pram wanker!”. The residents of my hometown of Chorley remain less understanding...wankers!

When my wife took to the helm, Alison unsurprisingly steered the pram towards Lytham high street and its collection of independent high-end shops. Nellie didn’t seem to mind, but I was less enthusiastic. Whilst Alison browsed the various boutiques, I entertained myself by watching a workman mow one of Lythan’s well-tended greens. It’s a spectacle that sends Nellie to sleep - evidently lawn maintenance isn’t her thing. I was joined by an elderly gentleman who took great delight in boasting about his own recently purchased petrol mulching lawnmower. Apparently his orchard looks resplendent since he’s had the capability to recycle cut grass clippings back into the lawn - the mulching plug has been a godsend. I nodded like I understood what he was talking about then asked how many trees constitute an orchard? I’m informed it’s five. I then asked how many trees does he have? He puffed out his chest and with grand bravado said “five large apple trees”. He then scowled when I replied, “an orchard by the skin of its teeth”. I wouldn’t have normally said anything but I found his pretentiousness annoying. My late grandad Bob would’ve been proud of me, he didn’t tolerate show-offs.

I rejoined my wife and noticed she’d made a purchase. Alison had bought some essential oils. I asked how essential are essential oils because to my knowledge in almost 52 years I’ve never used them. I’m informed that the aroma emitted from the likes of lavender oil helps to activate emotions that have a calming effect and are therefore essential…especially when married to me. Abruptly changing the subject I told Alison about the modern technology used in today’s lawnmowers and asked if she knew how many trees constitute an orchard? Instead of attempting to answer my question I was amused to see her pretending to inhale from a bottle of lavender oil. Subtlety has never been one of Alison’s strong points.

Whilst in Lytham I started to practice etiquette and referred to Nellie’s pram as a perambulator. We then encountered an obstacle on the high street whereby an elegantly dressed lady had rudely blocked the footpath with her car door - she’d left the door open whilst she talked loudly on her phone. I said, “excuse me can I squeeze past with my perambulator”. She gave me a hard stare and reluctantly shut the door. I said to my wife “all fur coat and no knickers”. Alison nodded in agreement and commented that good manners cost nothing and bad manners can cost you your reputation. I’m keeping up the etiquette whilst approaching a furniture shop and stopped to view a window dressing containing a chaise lounge. I told Alison I could just imagine her lounging on a chaise lounge. If we purchased one we could re-enact the scene from Titanic where Rose told Jack she wanted to be drawn nude wearing nothing but her beautiful necklace. Alison laughed and said “no we couldn’t”. Undeterred I put forward another suggestion where we could re-enact a stereotypical scene from one of those old black and white romantic movies. Alison remained silent, so I continued. I suggested she could play the stunning sophisticated leading lady and I’d be type cast (yeah, whatever) as the handsome successful gentleman. She’d lounge on the chaise lounge with a pretend cigarette holder suggestively waiting for a light. I’d courteously oblige and say “I am your servant, may I light your cigarette?”. Once again Alison laughed and said “that’s a pram and that’s a sofa, please drop the etiquette”. I think more calming essential oils will be purchased.

I’m pleased to report that reminiscing about an enjoyable day out had certainly helped with the ascent of the Big Dipper. However the final climb of Big End is less forgiving, it remains a ‘low-point’. Many thanks to Kieran and all his amazing helpers. Congratulations to race winners Harry Bolton and Vic Wilkinson - fantastic running. It’s also pleasing to see that given the large numbers in attendance, Tour of Pendle is still as popular as ever…beltin’.

Finally, I couldn’t possibly do a Pendle ‘race report’ without mentioning the good folk of Burnley. And only last week one of my work colleagues provided me with a perfect recollection. I noticed my friend was struggling to walk; his gait appeared uncomfortable and on first impressions I surmised a groin strain. I asked about his well-being and without any hint of embarrassment he blurted out, “I’ve shaved my balls”. At first I was surprised by his confession but I then remembered he’s from Burnley. I asked what prompted him to do such a thing? He said “her indoors likes me having smooth balls”. I couldn’t help myself and said “mums can be so demanding”. He belly laughed loudly and asked if I’ve any recommendations for chaffing. I said “you could try essential oils for their soothing qualities”. Unsurprisingly he’d never used essential oils...Burnley folk, my kinda people!