That was the most brutal, spectacular weekend I’ve ever had. Definite type 2 fun.
My legs and feet are battered. I keep falling asleep and I can’t wait to do it again! What the hell is wrong with me?
I traveled the hour and a half to the start on the bus with Paul. It was really good to get tips from him, like “don’t start too hard”. Although I’m not sure why I was listening to someone who does a 50 mile run race six days after an ironman. The bloke’s a legend!
We started at 11:45 from Dalemain. This section is a 3-4mile loop. It starts uphill! I took it really easy and jogged this. It was really hot and its so easy to wreck the entire day by starting too hard. After the Dalemain estate we headed to Pooley bridge and up the fells. I ran most of the way to the first check point at Howetown. About 10.5miles of narrow rocky trail, with fantastic views of Ullswater. We then had to wait 30mins in a line to fill the bottles. (covid spacing restrictions). Thankfully the field spread out after this and the rest were quieter.
The next section was from Howetown to Mardale Head. This was really unpleasant. A climb up and over Fusedale and on to a narrow rocky path along Haweswater that went on and on. It was really, really hot. My water ran out soon and I had to keep refilling from streams. The first climb was brutal and the decent hard on the quads. The trail was so rocky that it was run for a couple of hundred metres then hike for a bit. Over and over again. We reached the checkpoint at 20miles and I ate everything! Sandwiches, soup, coke and a gallon of water. I refilled bottles and carried on.
Mardale Head to Kentmere. This was when I really started to enjoy myself. It starts with a massive climb up to Garthscarth Pass. I was in a group and we chatted as we went up. The rest of this section was fairly runnable as is wound down trails and roads all the way to Kentmere. I was really tired by the time I got there and only 27 miles in!
Kentmere to Ambleside. I met Sara coming out of Kentmere and we ran the rest of the race together. She had recced the course before so it was great having a local’s support all the way to the end. Really good to chat for hours and we supported and cajoled each other through to the end. The 6-7 mile section to Ambleside was awesome. Started with running into the sunset through fells along rocky trails and ended through forest in the dark lit only by our head torches. The sunset view over Windermere was breathtaking and coming through Ambleside with everyone outside the pubs cheering us on was fantastic, it really gave me a lift. (Actually the support all the way through was great. Pooley bridge was jammed with crowds, Ambleside and every village the same. Even at 2 am people were in lay-bys and outside their homes cheering. I think they must be crazier than the runners!) At this point you really do feel like your approaching the end, even though there was still loads of climbs, 16 miles and six hours to go!
Ambleside to Chapel Stile. I can’t really remember much about this section. We ran in a group for a while after a massive climb out of the town. I can remember a few small villages, farm trails up and down and almost getting lost but rescuing it after a hundred metres. The main thing I remember is the smoothy at the check point. Best thing I’ve ever tasted!
Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite. This bit was again great. More hiking rocky trails and eventually across a boggy fell. Side Pike Pass was behind us and after the fell there was a road section that was runnable in the dark, although our running resembled a weird drunken shuffle by this point. We came down into the last checkpoint and after more sandwiches and a bottle refill and we were off. I do remember eating a jam sandwich dipped in beef stew. Weird but actually really tasty!
The last section from Tilberthwaite to Coniston was hard. Legs were broken. Feet were painful. It starts with a massive climb up Jacobs ladder. A steep rocky climb past quarries and a deep ravine on the right. This climb goes on and on for ages. Just when you think you are at the top it goes up again. It levelled a bit through sheep fields and the styles on the trail over drystone walls were hard to get over with legs that wouldn’t bend. Eventually you get to the top and the descent to Coniston was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t place my feet or running poles properly. I hurt so much that coordination was really hard. The trail was rocky, really steep and I have no idea how I didn’t face plant. To make it worse my head torch started to flicker. Luckily we were approaching dawn so visibility was improving. Eventually we reached a trail which had a more gradual downward slope and actually ran/stumbled for a bit, the lights of Coniston approaching.
The finish was fantastic. Even at 4 am crowds lined the road. We ran the last few hundred metres and crossed in a time of sixteen and a half hours from the start. Strava has my moving time at fourteen and a bit hours although it still kept the half hour at the first checkpoint? To be honest time didn’t matter though. Just an epic, enjoyable, painful day out.