The Wasdale Fell Race (sometimes known as the Wasdale Horseshoe) is an annual Lake District fell race held in July, starting and finishing at Brackenclose in Wasdale. The course is approximately twenty-one miles long with around 9,000 feet of ascent and takes in checkpoints at Whin Rigg, Seatallan, Pillar, Great Gable, Esk Hause shelter, Scafell Pike and Lingmell nose wall. The route between Pillar and Lingmell is very rough, with steep technical ground and boulder fields. Among long fell races, Wasdale has one of the highest ratios of feet of ascent per mile, and it is often considered to be the toughest of the British races.
Wasdale Fell Race Wikipedia
The race, organised by the Cumberland Fell Runners Association, was first held in 1972 when it took place during a heat wave. The descent from Scafell Pike that year was routed via Lingmell Col, Brown Tongue and Lingmell Gill, but from the following year, a new checkpoint at a wall crossing on Lingmell was included to give spectators a better view of the final descent. In 1978, the route across the valley from Whin Rigg to Seatallan was altered, slightly increasing the distance. A ladies’ race called the Burnmoor Chase was run in 1977 in conjunction with the Wasdale Race. This went from Brackenclose up onto Illgill Head, around Burnmoor Tarn and back down. This was also run in 1978 and 1979 but in 1980 there were insufficient entries and the women competed over the full men’s course instead. In 1981, the ladies’ race followed the men’s course to Pillar, from where it descended to the finish. From 1982 onwards, women competed over the same course as the men.
In 2001, the trend of decreasing numbers of runners entering long category A fell races, including Wasdale, was discussed. The following year, Brian Martin and Selwyn Wright developed the Lakeland Classics Trophy series to raise the profile of the long Lakeland fell races, to encourage runners to compete in them and to recognise the achievements of runners who perform well in such events. Subsequent years saw the entry numbers recover.
Although it is held in July, the race has on many occasions been affected by inclement weather. Navigational problems in poor visibility have often caused runners go off course. In 1985 even Billy Bland, the course record holder and winner on several occasions, went the wrong way in the mist after Seatallan, finding himself on the wrong side of Haycock and having to go over Haycock and Scoat Fell to get back on course.
Wasdale has frequently been one of the counting races in the British and English Fell Running Championships.
The men’s course record is 3:25:21, set by Billy Bland in 1982. Bland considers the record to be one of his best performances along with the Borrowdale Fell Race record, and better than his Bob Graham Round record which he had set three weeks before the 1982 Wasdale Race. No other runner has run within five minutes of Bland’s Wasdale record.
The women’s record is 4:12:17, set jointly by Jackie Lee and Janet McIver in 2008.
Billy Bland has the most wins, with nine between 1980 and 1988. Jasmin Paris has won the women’s race five times between 2012 and 2016.
The winners have been as follows.
Note 1: Burnmoor Chase route.
Note 2: The women ran a shorter course than the men in 1981.