I’m just digging the mud out from under my nails a good 7 hours after finishing this race. If you want great views, all types of terrain and all types of weather this is the race for you.
I was excited about coming to do the 15k challenge which starts in Keswick Fitz Park and undulates around Latrigg out towards Blease Fell and back via Lonscale Fell to Fitz Park. I did this race 5 years ago and it took me a long 1hr 53 minutes to complete so I was certain with my increased fitness and training I would easily beat this time……. 🤨
We set off in lines of 5/6 people maybe 3-4 metres from the next line of people and at 1 minute intervals crossed the start line. Everyone had to wear masks at the start until out of the park and put them on again after the finish. It was incredibly well organised and hats off to Lakeland trails for managing something so sophisticated where you felt completely safe in these times and yet still able to do the thing you love.
I knew the first mile would be different to the last time I did the race as the start had changed due to Covid, this is so the exit and return did not cross each other. However a few kilometres in I was thinking hmm this feels completely different and most definitely tougher. There was a slow ascent in the first 2km, nothing difficult particularly. After that we went onto trail and the narrow path undulated up and down steeply with an ample supply of slippy mud to navigate as you went along. This made for slow progress for me as I’m a bit of a ‘slipping phobe’. However admittedly I was also suprisingly tired quite early on. Strava tells me my heart rate never dropped below 160 for the entire race even when walking. I have felt a little under the weather this week so its hard to say if this affected me or if it was the drinking the night before, (oops), lack of water or just not being quite as fit as I would like.
At one point this guy was running just slightly in front of me and I asked him if they’d changed the route and it felt different. Oh yes he says, there was a landslide and a part of the old route was flooded/buried. Oh right says I looking down at the drops as I run hmmmm.
We seemed to run up and down over and over for quite some time before finally coming to a part of the run I recognised from last time – welcome to Bogland. They should seriously have a sign here that says exactly that! ‘Welcome to Bogland, beware of losing legs and shoes’. Bogland went on for at least a mile maybe two. There often seemed to be no path at all, you are simply trying to either walk or at best ‘trot a bit’ over long watery grass, mud and avoid the sink holes where your feet disappear down up to your knees. Of course you dont succeed but its great fun trying 🙂
At this point I stopped a few times to take a number of photos. For one thing I already knew that a) I would be considerably slower than last time, b) I had no chance of currently making up the time and c) I may as well look up and take in the fantastic views around me; after all thats why we run right. Every now and again you have to remind yourself to stop and take it all in.
As I was navigating the bogs and the river crossings (did I mention those?) and bearing in mind this is all on a slant as you are running on the side of a hill but also going uphill at the same time. The rivers run from your right uphill to your left downhill so you have to cross them ‘carefully’. Anyway as I was saying….as I was navigating through the here I saw this lady pass me who was managing to make faster walk/trot progress than me. I decided to follow her foot placement and style to catch up a bit. She clearly had it ‘down’. I should add that running at this point was pretty much impossible even for the die hard fit crazy people. So we all plodded, speed walked and bog jumped our way across this never ending mire.
Eventually we escaped Bogland and a chap with a lovely smiley face and dreadlocks said ‘its all dry ground from here’ and I thought oh cool. Unfortunately he clearly hadn’t actually verified this statement as a mere minute later I was running puddles, I mean 6 inch deep puddles. In fact there were so many of them linked together, lets be honest we just seemed to be running through a river.
We then turned a corner and started the ascent up around Lonscale Fell. Ironically this was the first time in a while I was able to run again. It’s not an impossible elevation to run and the number of stones make it easier to run on. It does get narrower though and the drop on your left gets ever higher. As we moved up the hill, I found myself finding my ‘groove’ but I was also exceptionally tired considering I’d only done about 9k by this time. None the less I very much wanted to press on now having lost so much time in the first half of the run, however, the speedsters doing the ‘race’ (I was doing the challenge) who started 10-15 minutes behind us from the start had now caught up and were wanting to pass me. There weren’t really many passing points along the last bit of the climb. It’s quite narrow and there are smooth, slippy stones that you have to navigate. However, I respect people’s need to pass so would step to one side every few minutes to let another one of these fast people pass. I would watch in awe at their technique on this terrain. They run with very little kit and clothes in some cases (well the minimum shall we say) and run with a fast cadence and effortless glide over stones, rocks, mud and seemingly oblivious to the drop on the left. I guess if you can run the race in an hour you dont need things like clothes and water…
Once over the top I felt an increased high as the knowledge hits its all downhill from here. Although tired in a way I haven’t been in quite a while and already reaching for my cliff bar having knocked back two gels already (which over this distance is just ridiculous really) I then managed to step it up a gear and speed my way down the hills for the last 4km into the finish line in Fitz Park.
Unfortunately it took me 2 hours to run 15km which saying this out loud sounds crazy and my very fit husband did it in 1hr 35 so chapeau to him. It was incredibly technical I would say as races go so I’m pretty happy with my performance on balance.
I would recommend not only the race but the Lakeland Trails in general to anyone. They are well organised and very well signposted. I did find myself at the front of a group a few times navigating the way and anyone that knows me would know that this is a bad idea but I didn’t get lost as its just so well flagged and there are also plenty of Marshall’s on the route to show you the way.