In 1979 I had a battle here with one of the greats of fell running, Joss Naylor. The Cumbrian sheep farmer was at the height of his career, a career with too many accolades to mention. He held the Lake District mountain record climbing 72 peaks in less than 24 hours, a feat covering over 100 miles with about 38,000 feet of ascent and was appointed an MBE for his services to sport and charity. On that July day of 1979 however he had his sights on the Lyke Wake Race, a race across the moors from Ravenscar to Osmotherley, a mere sprint at 39 miles.
In those days the fell running calendar was much leaner than today and the Lyke Wake Race had a much higher profile. The race was run on a handicap basis with the slowest runners setting off first and the fastest last such that, in theory, all competitors would finish at the same time in Osmotherley when the Summer Games were being held. A carnival atmosphere.
Joss and I were both off scratch and I felt good showing him the way across the moors. However in my naivety I didn’t appreciate the amount of drafting I was providing running into the westerly winds. It was about here, coming down from Urra Moor that Joss took the lead. I was spent but did manage to regain contact later at Huthwaite by the judicious use of local knowledge. Joss soon pulled ahead again to take three minutes out of me and win in a new record time of 4 hours 53 minutes. Two years later I did manage to shave 2 minutes of Joss’s time. Vindication of a sort in spite of Joss’s absence.
But enough reminiscing. Today is Joss Naylor’s birthday. He’s 81 and still active on the hills using a pair of walking poles fashioned from hazel rods. Happy Birthday, Joss.