Bob Hughes’ Naylor Challenge
A Pacer’s Report
from Dunmail to Greendale by Eddie Dealtry
on Saturday 25th April 1009
in the company of Bob Hughes, Dave Murray, Craig Brown, John MacEwan, Lisa MacDermaid, Dave Scott and Allan Miller as pacers and Kate, John and Quin as road support
So big is the success of this cold soup on the hills that there’s no order for starters on our dining table. Dave threw the towel in on Pillar. The Carrot and Coriander stained towel so to speak.
Bob Hughes? Oh, he’s as reliable as he ever is. That’s him sitting on the next table: he’s just run a Joss Naylor Challenge. Half way through the main course, he’ll discover he can’t eat the rest. John and I will scavenge the remains. It was all so predictable: “so we’ll be in the pub before dark”!
Predictability of a kind. Everyone wishes the contender good luck and good weather. Bob had nearly come up trumps. I never saw a compass once. But then again, after the lightening it was less than two seconds until the thunder banged. The irony of that thunderstorm: breaking out just along the high, exposed section: from climbing onto Bowfell’s soaking wet peak to Esk Pike’s hail covered ‘pike’, sticking up into the flashing void. In the cold and the dark gloom, without a glimmer of light promising anything better to follow, the one hope was the violence of this storm must mean it will subside eventually. Trying to keep up with five glistening caggies skidding along the ledge behind Bob I’m thinking: ”Good try Thor. But, wrong sport, wrong club and wrong bloke”.
No, even before the storm broke the show was back on the road. Now, cheerful remarks puncture the static laden atmosphere. The storm gives over. Ochil Hill Runners try to force more Leek and Potato down their contender.
Bob’s hardly eating any of it. From a hill running club over-stretching their meagre forces down into the fells, Ochil’s can nowadays self-impose regulations like: “better keep one fresh pacer per section”. (The Brown family alone will soon be able to supply all the pacers for a challenge). In the end it ‘s Bob himself, as reliable as night following day, who throws in the unpredictable. And, how he shows us all up as so naive and vulnerable.
Bob’s leaping about at the foot of High Raise like a jumping bean. The old timer’s got a bit of cramp. If we were racing, it’d be: “Tough. You’re on your own, Bob. More training.” Now though, it’s a comrade who’s in trouble, with eight hours running to go. Ochil’s pour water into the contender.
The salt’s all over Bob’s face. None of us know how to get it on the inside. Stubbornly, he twangs his legs up High Raise. Predictably, on the descent, stretching over a beck, he’s brought to a rigid halt. “What do you do for cramp”? In the company of five pacers, with an a total age that make’s Bob look like a toddler, he is as good as on his own. Allan, press ganged in from Kendal for some first class navigation, offers a piece of, self confessed, un-useful bio-mechanics. In desperation I offer advice received in the Victorian swimming baths half a century ago: “Reach your fingers high into air and stretch”. Bob is so desperate, he tries it. Bob’s on his back.
An attempt at a massage resembles some kind of thigh slapping ritual. Bob expresses his appreciation: presumably that one of us should be willing to attempt such an intimacy. Phoenix-like he rises up from the peat. It’s no flight though, as he limps off down the trod. It’s painful to watch.
Over Stake Pass towards Rossett the pace imperceptibly increases. Climbing up the boulders to Bowfell, Bob’s got back one leg. Half an hour through Thor’s thundering forge, as though knocked up on that ear-splitting anvil, he’s demonstrating descending on a new pair of old thighs.
Nevertheless, we’re keen to get this soup into him. It’s liquid and it’s got salt and things in it. I’m chasing Bob up Great Gable with an opened carton in my hand. I need to have a word. Bob, old mate. Granted, this new fangled two point five percent body fat and four percent cholesterol might be crap. On the other hand this running straight through rest points looks a good strategy. But, I tell you, the half a litre an hour also works. We’re all concerned that you’re not taking in enough liquid. Trouble is I can’t catch him up. The open carton, hand held, gets carried all the way to the summit. Then Bob takes just one sip.
And, now I feel bad about the Carrot and Coriander incident with Dave on Pillar. I thought I’d won the pass the parcel: leaving Dave with the carton. Little did I realise, he was in Mr Sensible mode. He never drank a drop, preferring to take up the task of chasing Bob with the liquid. Dave reckons he was souped out. Well, he had been in this challenge from the start (again). Excess doesn’t prevent one old dog seeing away what nobody else appears to want at the top of Scoat Fell.
As Dave points out, it’s the old team, from Lisa’s Challenge, back together on the final section: Bob, Dave, Lisa and I. Except for Dave, the all sections pacer, roles have changed: Bob’s the contender, Lisa’s pacing and I can repeat over and over: “it’s nice not to need to navigate (that’s an ironic joke) and to not be under time pressure”. Problem is, on every summit, Dave keeps chiming: “One minute slower than the schedule”. Surely, he’s up to some prank, Bob’s running a keen pace. I assure Bob that, if he liked, he could lose five minutes a summit. But, he’s getting anxious. I would if I were him. A quarter of an hour, twenty minutes: it’s all as nothing when you’re as far away from Greendale as Pillar.
Lisa attempts to correct Dave to six minutes in hand over the schedule. I back her up, trying to sort out a tired brain. Thankfully, Club Captain Sensible, Dave Scott, meets us at the foot of Seatallan and confirms Mr Sensible’s last report: Bob’s bang on schedule. To a ‘fresh’ pacer, Dave Scott’s already run the first leg, there’s no problem. I’m out of this. See you all on Middlefell.
A rest away from me is as good as a change for everybody else. Four bouncing runners cross from Seatallan and climb from below up Middlefell. Nobody wants to challenge the fates but it looks nearly all over. There’s no sign of cramp in those thighs. I miss out last year’s sightseeing diversion down a gulley that Lisa seems to think I might find familiar. There’s no crisis before Greendale Bridge. Craig, John, Karen, Dave, Quin wait with Joss Naylor on the stone bridge.
Up runs Bob Hughes: Fell Runner and Hill Runner. It was always just so predictable.
Ochil Hill Runners