I was up and awake at 6am, too excited to sleep! I say excited, I’m not really sure what the feeling was… apprehension maybe? It was the not knowing that caused the nerves, rather than the actual event. Would I be able to run through the night? How would my legs react after 70-80 miles having only done 53 previously?
We got the van loaded with my kit, drop bag, sleeping bags and the tent and we set off for Coniston, its only 1 hour 30 minutes from Carlisle. We arrived at John Ruskin School (race HQ) around 1.30pm, set the tent up and headed for registration. It was a slick operation, as was every aspect of the weekend, I was checked in, tagged, weighed and ushered through the metal barriers like a lamb to slaughter in double time (help me??!).
Race briefing wasn’t until 4pm so we filled the time by getting stuck into the pasta and salad available in the marquee. £5 for multiple helpings (I sampled every type) followed up by a coffee and I was set. The briefing started at 4.30, it was ideal for relaxing the runners. “Look the person next to you in the eyes….” “One of you won’t be finishing. Decide now between you who it will be…” You. You bastard!
Post briefing I mingled with some of the DH Runners down for the 50 registration and Curly (Michael Irving), also a DH Runner, running his second Lakeland 100. Mum and Dad (Maz & DH) arrived at the same time as Rosie’s parents John & Jo (nearly related Jo!) It was a a quiet sort of atmosphere, lots of people were chatting with old friends, but with minds on what was to come in an hours time. I found this bit quite frustrating, I just wanted to get going and was full of nervous energy. We were shepherded into the start area where we had to dib in, I bumped into Jacob Snowchowski, who I’ve seen at nearly every race I’ve done this year, and Marcis Gubats. Both were running their first 100 milers too. Although they would have much higher expectations than me. Marcis finished 2nd!
Standing in the start area we listened to a fantastically sung Nessun Dorma, which got the juices flowing. I made sure I told myself to set out at MY pace, if people wanted to pass I’d step aside. If I wanted to pass I’d wait and be happy to go at an easy pace. I had zero expectations on a time or position. My only goal was to finish. I knew that if I had a good race and my nutrition, legs and everything else held up I’d be able to sneak under 26 hours.
Start Coniston to CP1 Seathwaite
We got a count down from the crowd.. 10….9….8…. skip a few 3….2….1….off you pop! We ran out of the school entrance and up the road, I couldn’t believe how many people were out watching! Probably a testament to the popularity of the event amongst runners, supporters and the locals too. As we climbed it seemed like a nice evening. Marc Laithwaite had promised light showers and nice weather during the briefing so everything was going to plan… we turned a corner and so did the weather. Out of nowhere it was jackets on and hosing it down. This set in place some issues for later in the race. Some sensitive issues. Where the legs join the body. Its a nice track to run on the whole way on this section with a bit of tarmac into the CP, grabbed a couple of custard creams and refilled a water bottle and I was on my way.
Feeling – apprehensive
7 miles | time 1:20:14 | distance covered 7 miles | elapsed 1:20:14
CP1 Seathwaite to CP2 Boot
As I entered the CP Curly was leaving, he slowed down and waited for me. We ran together for this whole section. Chatting away and getting gates for each other. It was great to run with someone early on, it helped to pass the time and we ran nice and easy along the farm track and into the plantation, the midges started to rear their ugly heeds and the going got much wetter, from now until 4pm tomorow I’d have wet feet… get your head around that. Descending towards Boot we ran down a grassy slope that was soaking wet, Curly skidded onto his arse and came up with a broken pole. Not ideal after 10 miles of 105! He carried on and tried to assess the damage as he went. In the end he was able to jam one piece of pole into the other to make a slightly shorter one than the other, but it still worked. We got into the CP, manned by a bunch of Flingers in their finest tartan. Water refill and a handful of custard creams to go.
Feeling – happy
7 miles | time 1:25:24 | distance covered 14 miles | elapsed 2:45:38
CP2 Boot to CP3 Wasdale Head
This section seemed much shorter than during the recce. Maybe as I was feeling like death then, but I got a good march uphill going on, passing a few runners without really breathing hard. I lost touch with Curly for half an hour or so but he caught me up at Burnmoor Tarn and we ended up running as a biggish group into Wasdale just as the light was starting to go. By the time we were running into the CP it was pretty much dark. This was one of the livelier CPs, The Stroller Disco was in full swing and I was greeted by Rosie and Agnes (the hula girl) as well as an inflatable shark and dolphin. Got myself a cup of tea and had a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches here. I was starting to feel hungry through the leg and wanted to keep plenty going in. Especially with Black Sail coming up next. We donned our head torches and as we were about to leave Curly shouted me back for a photo (see below), we were the first to use it, so that makes it a DH Runners one two on the photo stand thingy.
Feeling – fresh
5.4 miles | time 1:09:50 | distance covered 19.4 miles | elapsed 3:55:28
CP3 Wasdale Head to CP4 Buttermere
Head torches on it was out the CP and along the valley bottom, slowly climbing to the base of Black Sail Pass. My etiquette seemed to be terrible with a head torch on. I was using a battery pack powered Silva one of Craigs, and it was pretty powerful. This meant that when I was running behind someone too closely I would cast a shadow of them where they wanted to put their feet. I did this crossing a raging stream and the lady in front was stood on a rock in the middle not knowing what was in front of her. Whoops. Ever wanted to work out who is from the countryside and who is from the city? Just have them walk up Black Sail Pass in the dark and have a couple of cows stand on the path you’re going up. Folk were scrambling through the bracken to get away… I gave it a pat and said “hello cow”. Now at the front of the group the next cow sniffed my head before I knew it was there. I didn’t say hello this time. Just nearly caked myself. The descent from Black Sail Pass was wet, rocky and slow but I was happy with that. I just accepted that it was going to be slow and that it was better to walk downhill than hit the deck like a few around us. It was then up and over Scarth Gap, halfway up I looked back and the head torches descending Black Sail Pass was awesome to see! Once over the top it was the rocky descent to the shore of Buttermere, I felt good here and picked my way down nicely. Spotted a mouse! I moved ahead of Curly by a couple of minutes as he’d bumped into someone out spectating (at 11.30pm. In the drizzle. And the dark.) but only by a couple of minutes. I arrived at Buttermere ready for something to eat, it was supplied in the form of hotdogs (multiple) and coffee.
Feeling – easy
6.9 miles | time 2:04:31 | distance covered 26.3 miles | elapsed 5:59:59
CP4 Buttermere to CP5 Braithwaite
Out the door and through the woods before heading up the valley towards Sail Pass. During the briefing this was highlighted as a place where you could easily go wrong in a couple of places. “Theres a small cairn of white stones put there for you, turn left here.” Nope. Didn’t see them. Should have been a large cairn of white stones. It took a little while to notice I was too low as I could see a few headlights ahead and much higher. A group of runners had followed me but assured me there was a left ahead and that not much time was lost. They were correct and I was soon back on track. Having made one mistake I was determined to get the next split in path right. It was easier to miss the next one but I didn’t have to worry. Shaun and Craig had walked out from Newlands Valley with Molly to see me, I stopped for a chat and a photo with the dog. I was happy to let a few folk repass me, I quite enjoyed the rest! It really made a big defference to my morale/state of mind to know people were out on the course in crap weather, in the middle of the night to cheer me on. It made me smile as I reached the top when I could hear Shaun’s booming voice from 200m below as they made their way back to the car.
Repetitive thoughts of random crap always seem to get in my head during ultras. This time it was slugs. The sheer number of them. Fecking thousands. I ended up wondering how many would be killed over the course of the Lakeland 100/50 weekend. HEADLINE: Slug population decimated by heavy footed ultra runners. I jogged the gentle descent to Braithwaite, with thoughts on my slugs, a few runners cruised passed me and I followed them into the CP. The spread was unbelievable but I only had eyes for the rice pudding and jam, it was AMAZING. The best thing I ate at any of the checkpoints. I went back for a 2nd. This was the first time that I noticed people were struggling, some were lying across chairs or sitting to the side not eating. There was a big number of drops at Braithwaite. I was feeling ok but the lateness of the evening started to make me feel drowsy. I had a couple of caffeine tablets with my tea before setting off again.
Feeling – sluggish (chortle)
6.5 miles | time 1:41:41 | distance covered 32.8 miles | elapsed 7:41:40
CP5 Braithwaite to CP6 Blencathra Centre
This section was one that I was worried about. On the recce I got a couple of blisters here from the quicker running on road and stone tracks, I had decided to wear my Inov-8 Roclite 290, a lower, less cushioned shoe but with a bit better grip than my other (many pairs of) trail runners. I was wishing I could have changed my shoes at Braithwaite rather than Dalemain. My toes were getting a bit beat up and were feeling tired and aching (I guess 33 miles and 8 hours of running will do that). But, I still had 17 miles to go. I was keen to look after my feet. Along the A66 (lots of slugs, dead and alive) and then the old railway line. I was excited to see Rosie at the base of Latrigg, Craig and Shaun were there too so I stopped again for a chat and took the chance to clean out some grit from my shoes and give my feet a rub. Another team photo and I was off up Latrigg. It’s always good to have Craig out following me when I’m running. I know I’m fairly cautious but he is even more so, this is a very good thing as I was feeling good and wanted to push on. “Don’t race anyone!” were his words when I enquired what place I was in. He didn’t tell me. I agreed and said I’d walk all the way up Latrigg, even the flat bits. Once up I pootled round Glendeterra and to the unmanned dibber to stop corner cutting. I had my first collision on the path to Blencathra Centre, with a mouse. I’d seen 3 already, scurrying around the path edges, but this one ran out in front of my right foot. I kicked it, it rolled up my foot, hit the path and I nearly stood on it. Thankfully it bolted from under my foot. Shaken from my near fatal accident I was glad to arrive at the next CP. I was fully aware of what was in store here. Little Dave’s Mum’s chocolate cake. A thing of legend amongst Lakeland 100 runners passed and present. If I’m being critical, now don’t kill me or troll me fro this but… I thought it was a bit more of a tray bake, with the texture more like a tiffen. Delicious all the same. Hopefully that comment won’t see me barred from future events!
Feeling – content
8.5 miles | time 1:55:50 | distance covered 41.3 miles | elapsed 9:37:30
CP6 Blencathra Centre to CP7 Dockray
Good, bad and fantastic. My feet were now very tender, I was looking forward to Dalemain too much and that was annoying me. I was telling myself to concentrate on whats happening now and on what I can control. Sore feet wasn’t one of them. Moving forward and keeping nutrition and pacing right would see me to Dalemain in due course. Don’t jump the gun. I started to feel a little sick (too much tiffen-cake) soon after the A66 unmanned dibber, just as I was dreading the wet slog up to The Old Coach Road (OCR) a bat flew straight at my light and swung away about a foot from my face. I’d say I didn’t shit myself, but that would be a lie. As I shouted out my headtorch ran out of battery. Highly confused, stumbling in the dark and my heart rate through the roof, I had to rummage through my pack for my smaller Alpkit light, which next time I’d start out with as it was more than adequate and much lighter. I slugged up climb feeling terrible, it started to rain, and I had to get my wet jacket back out. As soon as I hit OCR I felt great, the sky was lightening and I turned off my torch, 15 minutes later I saw a glimpse of pink sky on the horizon! I immediately started running and shouting, delighted to have made it through the night. I cruised along to Dockray, leapt the ditch into the CP and had a couple of plain cheese sarnies, a cup of coffee and I was off towards Ullswater. Making a dent into the distance now.
Feeling – elated
7.7 miles | time 1:43:15 | distance covered 49 miles | elapsed 11:20:45
CP7 Dockray to CP8 Dalemain
Running out of the CP along the road to Dockray I came along side a runner limping along looking in some pain. I stopped to walk alongside him for a spell and offered him some paracetamol. They’d gone soggy and were useless. His name was Bryn Jones and he’d taken a nasty fall. He had a tennis ball lump on his knee and a golf ball lump on his forearm and elbow. “I’m alright, I’ll just walk it in.” Just walk it in. 56 miles of walking it in with a busted leg. He finished in 34 hours, walking through a second night. As I hit the path around Ullswater there was a touch of mist on the lake, the sun was making the clouds slightly orange and at the same time lighting up the little bit of rain in the air. It was one of the nicest images I’ve seen in the Lakes. I stood still and enjoyed the view for a minute before carrying on. 50 miles came and went, almost at halfway.
My watch was beeping at me about lack of battery so I turned off the GPS, I wanted battery to be able to tell the time for the rest of the day. I took my only fall here, kicking a tree root coming straight up out the path, both hands went down but I didn’t land hard. Told myself off for not concentrating. I was starting to get over the number of slugs and started thinking about another Harry Potter reference. I kept saying “The Adventures of Martin Miggs The Mad Muggle”… don’t even ask. I was still saying it in my head 8 hours later! The couple miles of road section into Dalemain seemed shorter after the recce run, I spent it drying my jacket in the breeze while running along. I came into Dalemain to see Mum and Dad, Rosie and Agnes waiting for me. Agnes sprinted over to say hello. What a dog. In the CP I was able to get into my drop bag. I changed my clothes, towelled down a bit and changed my shoes and socks, applying liberal amounts of talk to my feet and glide to my chafage. I had a couple bowls of veggie broth and a muller rice, washed it down with yet another tea and got ready to leave. It started raining. FFS.
Feeling – confident
10.1 miles | time 2:07:58 | distance covered 59.1 miles | elapsed 13:28:43
CP8 Dalemain to CP9 Howtown
Leaving in the rain really pissed me off, my feet were nice and dry! I’d gotten a bit cold after stopping so went to put my gloves on… not there! I’d had them in the CP. I turned around and trudged back to the tent. Having explained what I’d done, ratched through my drop bag and in the tent I gave it up as a bad job. Curly was in and he kindly lent me a spare pair he had. What a guy! This cost me about 20 minutes. After the couple of fields theres a left along the road and a right through a kissing gate. Hold on. That chap seems to think you go straight aross the road and diagonally across a field… the same guy I heard saying he’d done it a couple of times before. YOU’RE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF! Seriously… why bother? You’ve saved yourself 250 metres out of 105 MILES! Anyways seems a few people had done it through a different gate as there were footprints in the wet grass across the corner. My back was well and truely up! “I’m taking down that guy” were my first words to Rosie in Pooley Bridge. I didn’t. Running along Ullswaters east shore was ace, I felt good, passed corner cutter and dropped into Howtown. I’d taken the wrong route though, I ended up entering the CP from the road after wasting more time checking if I was right or wrong. Had a couple of packets of crisps and a Chia Charge bar who were running the CP and more tea or coffee, can’t remember which. One lady pointed at me and said “You look brilliant!” Boom. The perfect words. Thanks you!
Feeling – frustrated
7.1 miles | time 1:55:27 | distance covered 66.2 miles | elapsed 15:24:10
CP9 Howtown to CP10 Mardale Head
Horrendous. That’s about all I need to say. Pouring down, cold hands and boggy. I climbed strongly and by the time I got near to the top of the climb I had caught up to 4/5 others including Steve Edwards and Janson Heath. They were running together and Janson seemed to be battling. Steve navigated us nicely across the bog to Haweswater. As we dropped to the lakeshore we had our first and only sunshine since the start of the race. Janson “it’ll probably only last 20 minutes..” it lasted 15. It’s a long section and after the slow climb then over and down High Street its a slow rocky path to Mardale Head. “Michael Holliday?!” What? Who said that? Ahh Lindsay Cowen, stood on the top of a rocky outcrop, turns out Dave and Lindsay had come to watch me run by and do a spot of fishing at the same time. They’d gotten their timings wrong and had been waiting for over 2 hours in the rain. Sorry, should have run faster. Not sure how much fishing got done. We arrived at a battered CP being run by Dellamere Spartans, 2 marshalls were having to literally holding things together. The roof had blown off the tent in the morning. Had some tea and soup then hit the climb up Gatesgarth.
Feeling – wet
9.4 miles | time 2:35:22 | distance covered 75.6 miles | elapsed 17:59:32
CP10 Mardale Head to CP11 Kentmere
We set of up the climb spread out, I again, climbed quite well, passed a couple of guys who took less time in the CP, ran over the top and set off on the rocky downhill. As soon as I began descending I got pain in the centre of my shin, like I’d been whacked with a sharp stone. Which I hadn’t been. I was caught by Steve who checked to see if I was OK and we jogged down together, Steve informed me Janson was struggling with his stomach and had barely eaten anything since Dalemain. We stopped briefly to chat with Mum and Dad who’d made another big detour to see me again. We started the next climb, we stopped to take off jackets and Janson caught up. He looked terrible. We decided to wait for him and see if he improved or dropped at Kentmere. As we ran along the road into the CP a sheep came up the road and asked us if we’d like any pasta? Yes. A sheep, but only a member of the Mountain Fuel aid station. It got my friendliest aid station award. Emma Hardwick introduced herself, she’d met Rosie during The Highland Fling and I said hello to fellow Instagrammers and awesome ultra runners Cat Simpson and Jen Scotney too, it was so good to see friendly faces. We had a bottle of Mountain Fuel to go and pulled ourselves out the door.
Feeling – weary
6.5 miles | time 1:51:45 | distance covered 82.1 miles | elapsed 19:51:17
CP11 Kentmere to CP12 Ambleside
The beginning of the end. Even though there was still 23 miles to go, I knew it was in the bag. We started a to and fro with other runners. As a trio moving quicker than those around us, but spending longer in aid stations. Some were in and out chugging away, we got more food in but was harder to get moving after every stop. Janson looked like he might drop at Ambleside, he was a ghost. But, he got out the CP first and set off walking, we would catch up and we’d start a shuffle/walk strategy to next CP. We caught Janson climbing Garburn pass, he had improved with some coke and Mountain Fuel. We reached the summit and turned the corner and as we began a run there was an almighty clatter up, Janson had stood on one of his Salomon quicklaces (that should live in their pocket) and army rolled over rocks and through a 6 inch deep puddle… I was certain he’d jack it in now. How wrong I was. It’s like he decided to stick two fingers up at his situation. I was looking forward to Ambleside as the rents, Rosie and a fair tribe of DH Runners would be there, turns out Dan, Steve and Jess had come down to watch too. So good to get a big cheer when limping into the CP.
Feeling – grim
7.3 miles | time 2:00:57 | distance covered 89.4 miles | elapsed 21:52:14
CP12 Ambleside to CP13 Chapel Stile
This was a tester! With 15 miles to go, the end was in sight but I was also aware that at current pace it would be 4 hours more of shuffle/walk/feel like crap/repeat. I didn’t know this section at all so it was great to run with people who did. All I had to do was follow. As we left Ambleside and entered a section along a river/camp sites the words that escaped Janson were “I fucking hate this section.” turns out I do too! Flat concrete paths that you have to run. The long and painful winding road.
Feeling – shit.
5.6 miles | time 1:20:42 | distance covered 95 miles | elapsed 23:12:56
CP13 Chapel Stile to CP14 Tilberthwaite
This was just a couple hours of misery. Shin now prevented me running at all downhill and the back of my opposite knee was now rigid. Don’t really know where this part of the course went. Head down and get to Tilberthwaite. The mandatory self dib CP seemed miles away though.
Feeling – broken
6.5 miles | time 1:51:50 | distance covered 101.5 miles | elapsed 25:04:46
CP14 Tilberthwaite to Finish Coniston
Hallelujah. With the finish just a parkrun away, a 1 hour and 15 minute parkrun (not a PB), it was all good. We’d done it. Apart from climbing that greet, steep set of fecking steps, stumble over that wet boggy path and descend down the rocky, loose, treacherous trod down to the miners road. I was far slower than the others descending now and they waited for me as we hit the road into Coniston. We jogged side by side, passed the packed pubs to massive cheers. One dude, dressed as Scooby Do’s mate (the blonde one who wears a cricket jumper and a cravat) offered me his pint! A wave at Steve and Jess sat on the bridge, passed the petrol station and left into the school. I heard Rosie before I saw her. She ran along the road just behind us with Agnes. We turned in and finished together, having a mini group huddle (I won’t call it a 3 way man hug) at the finish line. A quick hug for Maz (mum) who was in tears and a handshake from DH. We got a quick photo and walked into the marquee together and to more cheers, so much love!
Feeling – proud.
3.5 miles | time 1:10:15 | distance covered 105 miles | elapsed 26:15:01
What a feeling. So so good! I would honestly recommend having a go at the Lakeland 50 or 100 to anyone, as long as you put in a bit (read; a lot) of training and it will be one of the most rewarding things you could possibly do. I stood leaning on the barrier in the Marquee and Marcis came over to say well done, no mention of what he’d achieved! He let me know that Jacob had unfortunately had to pull out due to a hip injury. Yet again I think it’s more the people that I met over the course of the weekend that really shaped my experience. Ultra running and it’s community really is amazing.
Rosie kindly went for my clothes while I sat next to Janson in the Marquee not speaking and staring at the table leg. I had the worlds longest shower as I could barely take off my socks. Assessed the chafing damage… could have been worse. No blood. Got some Chilli con carne and a lemonade into me and limped towards the tent. Flat out by 10.30pm. I had a solid 8 hours, 8 more than many of the heroes still out on the course in the pouring rain! The next morning I left Rosie to sleep and went in search of a sausage buttie. Sitting watching runners coming in after 35, 36, 37 hours on their feet was unreal. Such respect. I caught up with some of the DH Runners and shared our experiences before heading back to bed for another hours kip. We waited for the presentation of prizes, some of the stories Marc Laithwaite mentioned were amazing, from a runner going off course to inform a farmer his dog was having pups to the lady who had to stop at the CPs to breast feed her baby during the 50. Outrageously good.
Then we went home. Via Greggs, of course.
Distance – 105 miles | Elevation Gain – 6300 metres | Time on Feet 26 hours 15 minutes