There’s only so much I can squeeze into my waist pack. My waterproofs are not designed to micro-size by NASA. For extra protection, I also prefer to wrap them – separately – inside plastic bags. Unlike some of the lithe, size-small fell racers, who appear to carry their mandatory kit in titchy carriers, I never seem able to reduce the extra bounce of my load. This is not fellrunning parlance or a euphemism.
And I also need to pack the extra weight and volume of water. What then unfolds resembles a head-scratching dilemma from the Krypton factor. Thankfully, I descend from a long lineage of hunter-gatherers and my spatial awareness ranks high on the scale for Neolithic know-how. By luck more than design I always somehow manage to compress a few small fluid containers among other items of my mandatory kit. When I finally zip shut the waist pack I immediately prey that I’m not kit-checked at race registration as I’ll need to repeat this highly technical undertaking.
Alas, at the Fairfield Horseshoe fell race last Saturday every entrant was checked. A very slick production line was assembled by the host club, Ambleside AC. After completing a registration form, marshals inspected that runners were carrying all mandatory items on the check list. Their registration form was marked to confirm compliance and the entrants progressed to the next desk to pay and receive their race number. A most excellent system – bravo for insisting and checking.
” The marshal then eyed me up and down before asking if this was my first fell race?”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, during my kit inspection items were questioned. Firstly, I’d recklessly advance completed and printed an official FRA registration form (to avoid the usual queue) which did not have a box to tick that my kit was compliant. Thankfully, not a big issue, my checker agreed. More worrying for me was his challenge that I must carry a colour map. He began to suggest I needed to return – over half a mile there and back – to the Pete Bland Sports van at the parking field to buy an official race map.
I protested on two grounds: firstly, I’m Scottish and therefore genetically very prudent; and second, my black and white OS copy sufficiently displayed both the race route while demarcating features, should I need to perform an emergency exit. With the sun wrinkling and cracking the canvas of the marquee tent he agreed, on this occasion, to let me enter. As I progressed to pay my fee and claim my race number, the marshal then eyed me up and down before asking if this was my first fell race? Oh, the final insult.
With a bit extra venom I pinned my race number to my vest and gritted my teeth as I folded my map back into its small plastic bag. Yes, the marshal was only performing his role with a concern for my safety and that of route marshals – I support this entirely. Though, I did wonder how many Lakeland runners would be grilled, or even refused entry, for not carrying desired types of the mandatory kit?
Inevitably, as more runners clearly decided to take advantage of the glorious weather, the start was postponed by 15 minutes. Still, bravo to the race organisers – each arrival was fully processed through kit check to registration. Meanwhile, I re-inserted all necessary items back into my waist pack. The mandatory kit first, then the usual battle to force in a 500ml flat satchel of water, two 100ml electrolyte solutions and a DAB radio for race updates!
Some runners nearby boasted that they wouldn’t be taking any water. I reckoned that I’d likely be out for over 2 hours. Yes, it’s always a faff to carry, but I’d sooner squeeze in some fluids than later attempt to squeeze out a foul-coloured wee. Each to their own – provided of course their own is compliant, adequate and there’s no need to draw on the use of my large, heavy waterproof trousers.