Some Stats 542 starters 346 finishers
It’s the Saturday of the race at 9:55 and already is 25oC and extremely humid. Despite the hic ups to our training my son and I are strangely relaxed about the race that’s about to start. 10am and we’re off, the first checkpoint is at the top of Kirkstone pass, it’s a tough climb from Ambleside and one which normally takes us around 55 minutes, today it took 10 minutes longer but we still left the checkpoint 40 minutes ahead of the cut off time.
After topping up with water we were off down the long decent to Patterdale and on to Glenridding. Much of the decent is along technical single track and this section is one where you could normally make good time, today however, there were too many runners walking and some who seemed hell bent in not getting their shoes muddy, so making a good time was difficult. Still we arrived at CP2 an hour ahead of the cut off time.
Perhaps not surprisingly there were already several runners there who had decided to withdraw. More water and Nuun tablets and we were off on the next climb up the Tarn and on towards the long climb up Grisedale Hause and Fairfield Peak. At the top of the Tarn I was struggling to keep up with my son and suffering from the humidity, so not wanting to turn back or hold him up I convinced my son to go ahead to Grasmere whilst I would walk the route to Grassmere and withdraw. I sat down for a while took an energy gel and set off on the technical and undulating path to the bottom of Grisedale. Ahead I could see a runner walking very slowly and so jogged to catch up with him, drawing alongside I suddenly thought I can do this so after a short conversation I set off and soon was at the start of the climb another gel and I was off up the climb. Ahead I could see a runner moving very slow and stopping every few steps. It seems crazy now but I was actually encouraging myself out loud to overtake her, having caught her up we continued together for a while until she decided to stop for a rest.
Half way up the long climb I took another gel and soaked myself in a stream the ice cold water was wonderful and I took to doing this whenever I came across running water. Taking care down the stones at Grisedale where I’d fallen the week before I lost a little time so pushed myself beyond my comfort zone up Fairfield Peak but I soon found I’d completed both climbs and was actually on the rough path down to the road section just 2K from Grassmere , again I could see runners walking ahead so kept running the downhill stretch to overtake them promising myself a spell walking once I’d reach the tarmac stretch 1.5K from the checkpoint. At the tarmac section I saw my grandson running towards me he’d come to meet me with a bottle of water. My spirits were suddenly lifted I’d been without water for about 20 minutes and downing the whole bottle in one I jogged on with him encouraging me the whole way thoughts of walking this bit were now gone.
I made CP3 with 30 minutes to spare and on entering the room I saw a table piled with race numbers of people who had withdrawn. My wife and family were telling me I’d managed 20 miles and there was no shame in adding my number to that pile. I sat down and drank cup after cup of water. 10 minutes later I decided with some trepidation to try and carry on, much to the family’s concern.
CP4 was in the Langdale valley on route over Silver Howe. Leaving Grassmere the distance is around 7K part of it good underfoot-undulating tarmac but then some very technical off road paths. I managed to run and walk at a good pace arriving at the Checkpoint with 35 minutes to spare. It was here that my spirit sunk to an all time low. They’d run out of water I sat down, fate had taken a hand, it would have been foolhardy to continue so sat down with those who had withdrawn and waiting for the van to take them back to the start. I had a problem taking my backpack off and with some frustration yanked at the strap, which decided to teach me a lesson by coming apart at the joints stitching. The van arrived some 15 minutes later with water!! Decision time again. It was 13K to the next checkpoint and once I left for it there was no turning back because the route was remote. I knew it was a tough section of the course and I wondered if I could maintain a fast enough pace. It was then that the marshal informed me that the organizers had decided to extend the cut off by an hour, without a second thought I set off up the technical path through the woods and on towards CP5. There are some long climbs and deep bog sections but I now thought I might actually finish. Again I found I had finished my water too soon, but I knew that there was a stream further on the route, thankfully before needing to make use of it I caught up with a Scottish runner who told me there’d been an extra water point put on at the top of the current climb, spurred on by this I ran whenever I could Holding my broken strap with one hand and sticks in the other. At the extra water station I quickly topped up my water and set off just 5K now to CP5 coming to the next junction the marking flags weren’t there, but I knew I had to take the right hand path except to the left in the distance I could see 10 or more runners. The heat must have made me brain dead because I turned left to follow them only to find when catching up with them some kilometer later they were in discussion with a local telling them they’d gone wrong. This stupidity had cost me time I didn’t have. Retracing my steps I ran back and glancing at my watch it looked touch and go whether I’d make the new deadline.
Arriving at CP5 I had minutes to spare before the cut off, grabbing a quick drink, and consuming another gel I set off on the long climb back towards Ambleside and the finish 10.2K away. I had 90 minutes to make it.
I could see runners ahead so I targeted each in turn, after overtaking a few I caught up with ran with a girl from Liverpool who kept me going up the climb and sooner than I expected we were at the top where she left me. Stopping to put on my head torch I set off again. Just 4K and mostly downhill left now. Passing a runner leaning against a wall I tried to get her to run with me saying there is nothing but downhill to the finish now but she was going to walk after a rest. I set off with renewed energy but still not convinced I’d make the cut off, but there was the Finish line I’d made it with some minutes to spare and not last. This had definitely been the most challenging run so far.