It’s been a long time since I’ve worn my Walsh PB fell running shoes. In fact, despite owning them for a year, I’ve only worn them once.
They were bought on a whim last year during a wonderful Lake District vacation. To be honest, I needed an excuse to visit the Pete Bland Sports Shop in Kendal, a small establishment steeped in fell running history thanks to their infamous founders. Being on holiday, I took the time to chat to the staff about this and that runner and race. And before I knew it, I found myself in the shop’s shoe section and had purchased my first pair of Walsh PB shoes.
I did it for the grip. With rows and rows of little pyramid studs on the base, this was the sort of shoe that you could plant and know your foot was staying firmly put.
But this shoe is not just any old fell running shoe. Being originally designed back in the 1970’s, this shoe is in itself a part of fell running lore, perfected through years of abuse on the toughest of mountain running terrains:
“The shoe that took the British fell-running sport to new heights was the ‘Walsh Trainer’. Its color was, and still is, blue with yellow flashes. It had all the requirements for becoming a classic running shoe: no bulk, a great lacing system that gave a tight fit at the toe crease, a thin sole for minimum shock absorption, good heel cushioning for navigating those descents, and made from a quick-drying fabric. These were all the factors that contributed to winning races.”
Back in Ireland, It rained less than 24 hours before yesterday’s IMRA’s Sorrell Hill race. “Hmmm”, I thought, “Could this be the perfect moment to give the Walsh PBs their second outing?”
The Sorrell Hill course starts with a kilometre of forest-road, ascends through a boggy forest ride, before emerging onto open mountain. There’s a few leisurely ups and downs before the course abruptly climbs Sorrell Hill itself. Despite last week’s days of dryness, I suspected that the bit of moisture on Tuesday could render the course muddy again. This combined with a fast, steep descent of Sorrell Hill meant that the Walshes could get a real run for their money.
I was right. Though the forest-road was hard on the old feet given the shoe’s flat and thin sole, the Walshes PBs cruised anything with the slightest bit of bog. I felt sorry for the girl who entered the muddy forest ride ahead of me wearing only her asic road runners. “Get a load of these studs love”, as me and my Walshes slipped by her on one of the wetter sections.
Walshes PBs might be the brand of choice for the UK fell running market, but their popularity have yet to cross the channel to us lads in Ireland. Online orders are still the only way to get them delivered to our feet as Irish outdoor stores concentrate on selling Salomons and Inov-8s. Alternatively, pop into the Pete Bland Store on your Lake District hols and you might be running out the door with a pair before you know it. They are a definite recommend to stop any slip sliding around on courses such as Sorrell Hill.