My son and I have entered the Lakelandtrails series for the last 6 years and each year after running the Staveley race, we’ve both commented on how much we dislike the course and that we were not going to enter the following year but then of course we did. This year however, we actually did not enter Staveley, then fate took a hand and due to a sad family bereavement we could not run the Hawkshead coffin trail race in April and Lakelandtrails despite their policy of no refunds or transfers allowed us to transfer our entry to Staveley. Hence we found ourselves once again at the Staveley Start line. The weather was rather odd, in that the sun was really hot when in shelter from the strong bitter cold wind, but once out of that shelter it was bone chillingly cold.
Once the formality of the safety briefing was completed, we were off. Almost immediately you begin an energy sapping steady 4.5K climb along tarmac roads; lanes and after about 3K fields. I knew my lack of training would have it’s affect on me and it certainly did. Crowds of runners were easily passing me but I had already reconciled myself that the best I could hope for was to simply get around. Just before I got to the first peak at 4.5K there were 8 very bemused cows in a straight line along the edge of the trail watching the runners, in what other race would the spectators be cows I wondered. At the top of this climb there were 2 marshals braving the almost gale force wind warning runners of the extremely steep and technical decent. Putting my brain in neutral and my feet in top gear I flew down the decent jumping from side to side as I navigated the rocks and loose stones. I now was passing many of the people that had left me for cold on the climb. Of course if there’s a descent there is usually a climb to follow and sure enough at around 6K there it was ahead, but the descent had allowed me to recover and in any event I wasn’t planning on letting too many of the runners I’d passed overtake me. Around 200 yards ahead there was a runner from Blackpool and I made him my target telling myself I could pass him before the summit and although I did make some progress he was still some 100 yards ahead when I reached the summit. The next section was steadily downward on grass allowing me to recover but I still wasn’t making progress on the Blackpool runner and he too seemed to have recovered from the climb.
At around 9K there’s a short but very steep climb as I reached the bottom of the climb I was seduced by the chimp in my brain that told me a short walk up this climb would be fine and so it was I began to walk. Fortunately I had no sooner started to walk when a couple I’d been chatting to from Bolton at the start line were walking ahead and my competitiveness kicked in and I began running again to overtake them, well I say running but I’m sure it was no more than a shuffle, passing them and receiving some encouragement from them I reached the summit and on towards the sting in the tail part of the course it doesn’t look much on the course profile, but it truly is a killer it’s the final short climb to the actual high point of the course. There were 3 marshals at the top shouting encouragement and ringing their cowbells, which helped me keep running up although my legs screaming and demanding to know what I thought I was doing. These marshals were real heroes because the icy wind at that point almost blew you over.
After the Sting in the tail there’s a long real steep and technically long decent and once again with my brain in neutral and with my little legs going faster than they thought possible I overtook the runner from Blackpool and was soon back on a tarmac road. After the road section you enter a narrow lane where overtaking isn’t possible. At this section I heard footsteps close behind me and since there was no opportunity to pass me I was forced to up my pace beyond what I thought I could maintain but didn’t want to spoil their time too much and reasoned that once we were out of this stretch whoever it was could pass me then. At the end of the lane there’s a tarmac section before crossing a bridge and you turn into the park and the finish. Oddly when I reached the tarmac the runner behind me stopped or at least slowed down considerably, so I tried my best to maintain my pace. Turning into the park you have run around the park field to the finish line but of course with the finish line in sight one always seem to manage that little bit extra and although I couldn’t manage a sprint finish I think I kept my pace.
There’s too much tarmac for the race to be truly classed as a trail and too much off road for it to be a road race. Classed as a 10k race it’s actually 11.7K Despite my initial fears my position of 336 out of 450 finishers was better than I could have expected although my time was disappointing. Will I enter next year? Maybe!!