So now the dust has settled on another lakeland weekend, the foon is polished and both cups put away for another time. No idea what I’m talking about? Join the lakeland Facebook group and ask, go on I DOUBLE dare you 😉.
Last year I ran the lakeland 50 (read about it HERE) and I can hand on heart say it was the toughest race I had ever done, so much so I threw my shoes on the ground after I had finished and said to my wife “f##k running and all who sail in her” while blubbing into my pint of uncle Terry!
I’ve told this next bit maybe a hundred times to various people, about an hour after this outburst, Marc the race director walked past me. I shook his hand thanked him for an amazing experience (Lakeland transcends just being a race) but I vowed never to return. Marc just looked at me very much the same way a Great white looks at a goldfish and with a grin on his face said “see you next year for the 100”.
I turned back round to my wife and told her that he must think I’m bloody mental if he thinks I’m coming back, especially for twice the distance!
Fast forward twelve months and I’m stood in the queue for kit check, somewhere in the background Marc is smirking (or at least I reckon he would be if he remembered the conversation.).
You see lakeland does this to people, it’s type 2 fun, much like an episode of love Island,it’s often only fun when it’s finished.
The pre race briefing was fantastic,I won’t spoil it for you in case you do the event but it had just the right amount of seriousness and laugh out loud moments!
The start is announced with a rendition of ‘nessun dorma’ translated into English as ‘non shall sleep’ !
The run through Coniston is great,everyone is out to support,cheer and spur you on,I remember last year, pint in hand outside the Yewdale Inn thinking just how mad everyone was for running 105 miles around the Lake district!
Those shades didn’t get used ONCE!!
The first climb out of Coniston soon wiped the smile from my face!It was so humid outside and I just could not stop myself sweating,even dropping my pace down to what should of been super easy my t shirt was stuck to me.
This was going to be a long long adventure!
CP1 came and went and I bumped into my mate Rob .Rob did not have the best time at last years 100 resulting in a dnf due to stomach issues.This year he looked super strong and I was convinced he would smash it.We would bump into each other again at Dalemain and i’m pleased to say he finished in a great time and earnt his Lakeland legend status!!
I know hallucinations are commonplace in ultras but I thought CP2 was maybe a little early,I turned into the Boot CP to see Centurions James Elson dressed as an elf! luckily for me the CP had a Xmas theme and after a quick top up of water I was off again.
I had been running for around three hours now and hadn’t eaten a thing,Starting with tailwind in my bottle my plan was a mix of that and real food at every CP,but I just felt ‘off’ I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a repeat performance of my DNF at the Chester 50 earlier this year ,I had invested too much into this event to simply quit so I would either ride this stomach issue until it either faded away or I missed a cut off.
The next section over to Wasdale had a lot of open fell and this is where my feet first got really wet through,not a big deal I had spare socks and had wet feet before….
I fell into a group of about six runners on this section and got chatting to a bloke called Alan.
Alan and I got chatting and realised we had both ran the 50 last year,not only that but we sat next to each other on the coach journey up to Dalemain!! We hadn’t spoke since that coach ride last year,yet here we were ready to descend onto Wasdale,what are the chances!!
It became apparent that we both had equal goals in mind and became a team that would stick together to the finish.
The night section seemed to blur into one big climb after another(if I EVER see black sail pass or sail pass again it will be too soon),still not eating well I was hoping and praying that a new dawn would re energise me (not that im a plant and run via photosynthesis) but usually when the sun comes up everything feels a bit less shit!
The CP that saved my race.
We arrived around 5 AM to the sounds of rock music and the smell of hot toast!!
I spotted another friend here Kirk, Kirk is a quality runner and should of been much further up the field than me,but unfortunately like me he was struggling to eat (unlike me however he put in a 2nd half that was blindingly quick!).
Nursing my piece of toast a marshal asked if i was ok,after explaining my stomach issues I was informed of the perfect remedy,a bottle of single malt!! Now i’m a big fan of whiskey but i can’t remember having it in a race with 60 miles to go before but let me tell you it sorted me right out! I maybe didn’t need the half cup full I received but who am I to argue with a trained professional!
My friend Marcus was working at the next CP Dockray and it was great to see him!Appetite fixed I had a couple of cheese sandwiches and some veg soup to fuel the next 10 miles to Dalemain….
Dalemain is the start of the 50 and the point we have access to drop bags.Upon entering I was given a lovely cup of tea and more stew,the marshals really cannot do enough for you.
I had been struggling with my left foot for the last few hours and was looking forward to the clean dry socks in my drop bag.Looking at the ball of said foot I knew I was in trouble,after being wet for so many hours,it had simply split and I couldn’t dry them enough to get a blister plaster to stick.Looking back now I should of probably taken another ten mins here to sort it out but i was tired and wasn’t exactly thinking properly.
Clean socks and T shirt meant at least I was dry again and with Alan ready to go we set off to battle the back half.
Rob and Kirk were both here looking a lot better than I felt and it would be the last time I spotted either of them,I had a brief chat with Kirk leaving Dalemain but now,recharged and refueled there was simply no stopping him and he sailed off into the distance!
Our next real challenge was Mt Fusedale,mention fusedale to any Lakeland runner and watch them go pale,many a lakeland legend have left a part of their soul up there!
The next section along Haweswater was easily the lowest I have felt in any race,ever!My foot was sore,it was chucking it down and the terrain meant that we decided not to run a step due to fear of rolling an ankle (a fear that was well founded as after the race we discovered someone had fell here and had to be stretchered off by mountain rescue!)
It didn’t help however when the front 50 lads started flying past us,skipping over every rock like gymnasts! smug gits ;).
I have never been as close to pulling out of a race as I was when we hit Mardale head CP,I was truly miserable and I think it was partly due to not wanting to let Alan down I carried on,fueled by more cheese sandwiches and veg soup!
Kentmere was the next CP and where I had left my shades last year,even though I realised 400m after leaving I couldn’t face turning back! This year another lovely cup of tea and some pasta we were off,shades firmly tucked in my bag!
I am not usually a fan of stopping at CPs preferring to grab and go but I was just so knackered every mini stop felt like heaven,relieving the stabbing pain in my foot but ultimately delaying the finish for that little bit longer!
Running through Ambleside is always special,much like Coniston everyone is out to cheer you on and this year was made better by my wife surprising me out on course!Round the corner at Skelwith bridge Alan’s wife and kids had come out to surprise him as well and it was really nice to meet them!
Feeling full of joy through Ambleside!
Chapel stile marks both ten miles to go and Nikki’s world famous brownies! With it’s airport lounge theme and roaring fire it was more comfortable than I wanted it to be,at this point I was exhausted,cold and a little delirious.Alan stopped and put on his extra layers,a move I should of copied and then we we were off for the final ten miles!
I think if Alan had a pound for the amount of times I said “I don’t remember this climb to Tilberthwaite” he could of probably bought a new car,or at least a sandwich at Lancaster services!
I was broken,both mentally and physically.I was hallucinating and running even a step was a distant memory.
The final push,I had heard a story of a guy quitting here once and I couldn’t believe it,with three miles to go why would anyone stop? Well let me tell you why,after the CP is a flight of steps that are borderline sadistic! For the last few years they have been renamed Jacobs ladder and a £1 toll is suggested to help with young Jacobs treatment. £5 notes weigh less btw and that was my method of payment this year! you can donate yourself here if you would like……Jacobs Join
The final section is a bit of a blur,I remember thinking that someone was behind me and was getting quite unnerved by the extra headtorch,despite Alan assuring me that it was just us two! Rocks looked like sheep,other rocks looked like runners praying I really was in a strange place!
Off the fells and one mile to go one of my coached athletes Michelle passed,she knew I wanted about 28 hours and was quite shocked to see me.(Michelle was running the 50).I had been taking the mickey for a couple of weeks saying how she would never see me on course,she obviously remembered every conversation and flew past with a “see you at the finish coach!”
The walk through Coniston was very different to last year,Last year I had run through to people outside the pubs enjoying the summer evening,cheering and waving.This year it was a ghost town with all sensible people in bed asleep.
200m to go a light was shone in my face,was this the end?had God himself come to relieve me of my pain?
It was my friend and teammate Chris who was filming for facebook live! he had drove up from Manchester and had spent most of the afternoon driving round the lakes to see me,only to miss me at every turn!It took me an age to work out who it was,I knew the voice but my brain had stopped working correctly! All i will say is,payback is a bitch 😉
Walking into that finish and being announced as a 100 finisher I almost broke down,I can’t describe just how much a marquee full of people cheering for you at 1:25 AM makes everything seem normal!
Alan,the man ,the myth the Lakeland legend
Hearty handshake with Alan we split into the night me to my wife and him to get home for a much needed sleep!
A quick debrief with Michelle,don’t we look happy!
Back at our BnB I couldn’t even reach my feet to take off my socks,the look on my wife’s face when she did it told me everything I needed to know,they were in a shit state.Right now I didn’t care and I think I was asleep almost instantly!
The morning after we popped back down to watch the final 50 and 100 legends finish,I bumped into another friend Victoria who finished to 100 and Rob stopped the car for a quick handshake and congratulations! I really wanted to stay for presentation but I was exhausted and with a two hour drive home I couldn’t delay it any further,so we bid farewell to another fantastic weekend!
Oh my finish time?
31 hours and 23 mins.I should be upset about being so far away from my 28 hour goal time but I think the Lakeland 100 is more than a race,it’s a shared suffering, a meeting of like minded souls who want to push to the very limit of what is possible for themselves. Not one person I have spoken to since the event has asked me my time,they just can’t believe people are daft/brave enough to attempt something like Lakeland in the 1st place!
A week later my feet are just returning to normal,the sole of my left foot has a three inch split that has needed dressing daily while i’ve been at work but compared to others I have come away lightly!
I think It was probably my greatest adventure to date and yes I may not of hit my time goal but met some great people and despite being awake for 40 hours at the end I don’t think I would change my experience.Yes it was wet,yes it was windy at times but it is the lake district and that’s what makes it so appealing ! could you imagine if it was dry and cool all the way round,what would we moan about then?
Lakeland 100,never again?