International fell, trail and road runner Chris Holdsworth, who has represented Lancashire, England and Team GB on the international stage, was triumphant in Sunday’s Lowther trail run — the first competitive fell race in England to go ahead following the COVID-19 lockdown.
The 29-year-old, who runs for Calder Valley Fell Runners, took top spot in the 13-mile race in a time of 1hr 19min 54sec.
Participants, many of whom had last raced at the Carlisle half-marathon on 15th March, had to contend with hot conditions as they set off in six-strong groups at five-minute intervals from separate zones.
A total of 240 runners travelled from different areas of the UK to take part over a 21km course complete with 1,400ft of ascent.
Changes designed to ensure social distancing were welcomed by many runners who have been eagerly awaiting a return to racing for five months — and have been doing a lot of solo training.
Sweltering conditions made the hilly 13-mile course that bit tougher and so a river crossing at the halfway point, whilst highly unusual, was a great opportunity for many to cool off.
There were several steep climbs on a course which started in front of Lowther Castle and then crossed Askham Fell and the Lowther Valley. Those taking part climbed through Askham village on to the fell at Heughscar Hill and then turned south and descended to the Cockpit and onwards across the valley of Heltondale to Butterwick. After this came the fording of the River Lowther.
A stiff climb followed on to Knipe Scar, which most walked. The final section of the run was across grassland to Whale and from there along the river and back to Lowther Castle.
There were 35 competitors from Eden Runners out of a field of 234. The separate groups made it tricky for competitive running, although five of the top 10 started in a group together and included winner Chris Holdsworth (Keswick AC, 1hr 19min 54sec) and third placed Jonny Cox (Eden Runners. 1.25.21).
Eden-based James Douglas, of Border Harriers, was a late entry and ran alone but chased most entrants to gain second place in 1.20.56, a minute behind the winner.
Eve Pannone, of Eden Runners, was the first under-23 finisher (1.36.53) and women’s senior race winner.
Other notable results were (Eden Runners unless stated): senior men — 6 Michael Parkin (1.30.17) and 7 John French (1.30.47); W40 — 1 Nicola King (1.53.16); M50 — 1 James Haworth (Keswick AC, 1.42.12), 2 Philip Dixon, 3 Jon Tombs, and 4 Paul Nickells; W50 2 Susanne Enhard (1.53.06) and 3 Karen Bridge.