The Lakeland 50

The Lakeland 50 (L50), has always been this years A’ race. Training had gone well, combining some decent mileage with a good amount of climb and some good performances in the build up races.

After the usual M6 trauma, we managed to make it to Coniston for around 7:00pm, just in time for Deb to send a drop bag full of food to the Ambleside Checkpoint (CP) courtesy of some lovely marshals (due to her allergies, she can’t eat any of the CP food provided), we then registered, got our kit checked, had a weigh in, and collected our race info (map,number, dibber etc). Once back at the van, it was time to do the pack, unpack, re-pack the kit malarky until everything was in without any pointy bits sticking in any body parts, then off to bed at the Ford Transit B&B.

After a poor nights sleep (due, mainly to a live band on the campsite in the next field), we were up and at the 8:30am compulsory race briefing, at 9:20am we were being transported to the race starting point at Dalemain, about an hours drive away, most of which I spent with a buff wrapped around my forehead trying to alleviate a headache, my thoughts were that it would go as soon as I started running so don’t worry about it!!

The L50 starts with a 4 mile loop around the Dalemain Estate, on undulating, sometimes rutted fields, in quite long grass, from here you go into Pooley Bridge and up the first hill, I decided to take it easy until the top of the hill, once at the top, there’s a lovely, long, fast descent to the first CP at Howtown.This section came and went without incident, reaching the CP though, I’m aware I still have the headache, I dibbed in, took two biscuits and headed out again.

L50 (me).JPG
Heading For Howtown. Photo: SportSunday

Leaving Howtown, you turn back on yourself and head up a small hill, followed by a little flat running before the first major climb up Fuesdale Valley to High Kop, it’s the highest point of the course, and it’s a long climb,  just a case of grinding it out to the top, again, once at the top, there’s some quick running along, and down the fell, that is, until you veer off right, where, after a short while, the descent becomes steeper and narrower until you reach the path running alongside Haweswater, already both quads and knees have started to object and are quite painful, on the plus side, the headache has gone. A lot of the competitors hate this section, it’s a 4.5K path that contours Haweswater and seems to go on forever, I don’t mind it!  it’s a good runnable section were you can just switch off the brain, run, and put some time in the bank. Speaking of time, aside from just wanting to finish, my aim for the L50 was to run sub 11 hours, I’m not sure were that came from, but I know a couple of people from different clubs, who, on the road, are of a similar ability to me, that have run 11 to 12 hours, so I guess that may have influenced my target, I’m not even sure if I can do it, to be honest, I’ve no idea if I can do it!!  It took me just over 2 hours to reach the CP at Mardale Head, I was feeling a little fuzzy in the head so had a couple of cups of Rola Cola, two biscuits, filled up the water bottle and set off again.

Climb Up Fusedale (Recce Pic)

leaving  the CP, it’s an immediate climb up to Gatesgarth Pass, it’s a solid, wide, rocky path that just seems to wind its way up for all eternity (it’s actually 2K) to make matters worse, I’m struggling with my ascending today, I’m normally pretty good at just slogging out a climb, today I’m just not on it, I haven’t really got into the run. Finally, top reached, it’s a long descent on a stoney path, something else I’m struggling with, my legs are hurting far too much and far too soon, at some point on the descent I’ve started to get sporadic cramp in both feet, first one foot, then the other, on the plus side – no fuzzy head!! I’m running well as I approach the CP, and was pleasantly surprised to see Greg, a mate from Lytham Road Runners walking up the path, camera in hand. I dib in at the CP, take a couple of minutes to refuel (many Jelly Babies, much Rola Cola), fill up the water bottle and have a little chat with Greg, that gave me a much needed boost, and I set off for Ambleside.

L50 (me 2)
Approach to Kentmere CP. Photo: Greg Oulton

Yet another long climb (Garburn Pass) from the CP, followed by a long descent to Troutbeck, it still hurts, I still get cramp, I have to accept it and just run slower. I’m running solo as I pass through Troutbeck, there’s good support and on the climb up to the path for Ambleside I’m gaining on some runners, I pass them on the undulating Ambleside path, faff a bit on a rocky, technical descent in the woods, but run well on the downhill path and tarmac road into Ambleside. The support here is fantastic, something I will never forget, helped by the weather no doubt, (perfect running weather, cloudy, sunny spells, 15deg ish) but every bar, pub and cafe is full of people standing outside, shouting, clapping and cheering, the roads are lined with people doing the same, I hear someone shout my name, tap me on the shoulder and say, “It’s Rob, Deb’s mate”, (more on him later) we have a brief chat before I get to the CP.

I’m quickly in and out of the CP and running across the park, I’m pretty positive now, still have all the pains, but I’m 35 miles in, just 15 to go! On the climb up to Loughrigg I’m caught by two runners, Simon and Neil, both are suffering with leg cramps, they leave me on the climbs, but I catch them whenever it levels out or descends, so we run together, they get out in front, I catch them, leave them, they catch me, with some chatting along the way, it’s a routine that works well for us all the way to the Chapel Stile CP.

We don’t hang about, dibbed, fed and watered, we head for the self dib at Wrynose, no CP here, just a dibber dangling on a piece of string from a gatepost.I make a point of saying, “10 miles to go”, Simon knows, he’s done it before, It’s Neils first time, I think knowing that picked him up a bit.We make good progress through the Langdales, Simon’s running better than us, and we agree that if he wants to leave us at the self dib, it’s not a problem, I know the route and can get us round. We get through the technical trail section relatively easily, hit the boggy marsh and the self dib comes into view, all dibbed in, Simon leaves us.

Neil is slightly ahead of me,but struggling, I want to try and make up some time, and I’m running well, so I catch and leave Neil, I know that there’s a climb coming and he’ll catch me up again, as I turn right, I look over my shoulder to make sure he’s seen where I’ve gone. As we start the climb up the rocky path to Tilberthwaite, Neil catches me, we chat and run our way to the final CP at Tilberthwaite. It’s not dark yet, but it will be in about half an hour, so we put our headtorches on ready, grab some food, have a drink and leave, 46.5 miles done, 3.5miles to go!

We jog to the bottom of the stairway to heaven, as some affectionately call it, it might only be 3.5 miles, but about 2 miles of it is up, and about half of that is steep. I know Neil will leave me here, he’s climbing well, my cramps may have gone, but my knees and quads are still mad at me, I give one last instruction as we climb, to keep the water on the right,and he slowly pulls away. I climb quite well and enjoy it, I pick off a couple of runners and break into a run whenever I can, as I cross the stream at the top, it’s dark and I flick the headtorch on. For a short while, I’m running alone, in the dark along the top, a brief moment of absolute freedom, I then begin to descend, gradual at first, but I soon hit the difficult, technical, rocky section, I faff my way down here and I’m soon caught and past by two runners, it seems to take an age to get through the rocks, finally the rocks peter out and I’m on the steep tarmac road, running down into Coniston, the knees and quads make sure that this is hard work and painful, as it flattens I pick up the pace, turn right and go up the main road, a quick left and the finish is in sight, 30 seconds later, I’ve finished and it’s all over, I’m handed a piece of paper with my CP splits and finish time – 10:52:54.

How Did Deb Get On?

Well, she deserves a paragraph all to herself. She first ran the L50 in 2012 with Rob, remember him? the guy who accosted me in Ambleside? in a time of 17:04:58. Rob has since emigrated to Australia and was back over this weekend to run the L50 and attend a wedding, I think, so the plan was for us all to run separately with our own time targets, but Rob got injured and couldn’t compete, but came to support us anyway.

Deb decided she would go for a sub 15 hour time, only a 2 hour PB!! well, she did a bit better than that, she ran – 11:17:24 – almost a 6 hour PB!!

She even does it with her eyes closed!! Photo: Greg Oulton.

Many thanks to all those involved with the L100 and L50: Marc & Terry, all the organisers, sponsors, volunteers, marshals, medics, supporters and fellow runners, you all combined to make it a fantasic experience.

Here’s a glimpse:

I’ve also put the route on my Strava page, find me to view!!






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