By PIP RAYNER. When you wake up on Boxing Day and your body is made up of 25% alcohol, 25% cheese, 25% chocolate and 25% Christmas Lunch – I appreciate you may not want to get up and don running attire.
But if you ever plan to be in West Yorkshire on Boxing Day then you must make an exception for the Chevin Chase. The Chase is a quite incredible race put on by the Airecentre Pacers. If you don’t know Otley Chevin it’s probably best you keep it that way – if you do you can see why the race helps redress the damage of Christmas Day… you’ll need your trail shoes..
The Chevin is the name given to the ridge on the south side of Wharfedale in Leeds it overlooks the market town of Otley, and often known as Otley Chevin. The Chevin Chase is a hilly, multi-terrain race starting and finishing in Guiseley via a scenic 7 mile circuit of Otley Chevin, always held on Boxing Day and always starts at 11am. The highest point of the Chevin, Surprise View, reaches 282 metres. The Brownlee Brothers live locally and train on the Chevin and can often be seen heading the pack in the Chase – but not this year. Probably off warm weather training is somewhere a little more appealing that Guiseley (nothing wrong with Guiseley you understand).
The race is now 41 years old and I ran it for the second time this Boxing Day. One of 1400 runners scrambling to the top of the Chevin to run all the way back down again, through mud and clart and mixing with people dressed at Santa, Sprouts, Camels. Angels, Puddings, Penguins and heaven knows what else.
Mile one is all tarmac and tinsel as you make your way to the Chevin – supporters line the route all the way all cheering and clapping with many cries of: ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘You’re nearly there….’ and ‘bet you wish you’d stayed in bed’. It’s after mile one that I wish my sister a fond farewell as her legs are twice the length of mine and she shoots off to bound like a gazelle to the summit. Some of you may know it was my sister that got me into this running thing and as she heads off I am half grateful and half wishing I hadn’t listened.
Mile two starts the see the terrain change a little. The road starts to morph into country track but it is still reasonably level and climbing gently. Mile three feels a little like Middle Earth, colossal boulders line the route and you feel like a very small player in a very big game of stone chess. The route is pretty undulating here through forest and with wider paths. It’s really quite breath taking in parts. Mile four offers moments of light relief from the climbing with one or two good downhill stretches. You do need to concentrate though as the tracks are full of loose stones, mud and puddles. There are larger rocks and little gullies but I love any sort of downhill where you have to think and tell your brain it’s ok to just go for it.
Mile Five – well that is the worst bit I reckon. In my humble opinion it is a real killer and there are a few heads shaking and dreams of cheese and beer at this juncture. Just when you feel (when you’re me anyway) that you haven’t got much left after the mud, the stone chess and the steep inclines to get across the park you get the final climb up to the top of the Chevin. There is a single track of stone slabs lined three and four deep with spectators. They are all wrapped up in new Christmas hats and coats. It’s a great sight and great sound but goodness me what you wouldn’t do to swap your trail shoes for that Thermos Flask of Yorkshire tea by that point. By the time you get to the top the crowd are really going for it – it’s wonderful. Their shouting and whooping only drowned out by the start of the Boxing Day Shoot in the valley below. Once you have done that though – you know it’s time to go back down and fly down you must – once you have waded the swamp at mile six.
Miles six and seven are basically descending down along mostly road and or two short and sharp little ups. Mile six has a phenomenal puddle filled mud track which, if you are me, is churned up beyond belief by the time you get to it. Plus, when you are ankle deep you know you are nearly home. Mile seven affords you the luxury of clocking your fastest mile of the year. It’s the culmination of all that climbing and you can just run as fast as your little legs will carry you all the way into Guiseley. So that’s the Chevin Chase. I can’t wait to do it again. When I hope my little legs will carry me faster than they did this time. But never quite as fast as my sisters legs will carry her…