How did it come about your decision to do this?

Chris: It all started in Mytholmroyd in Oct 2012. We had just finished Seasons of the Mist Audax and I joined Ant and Ade at a table in a cafe there and the discussion turned to the forthcoming LEL the following year and who could be mad enough to do it…………..right there and then we all decided to give it a go, though Ant never signed up along with a few others.

We had already done plenty of 200K audax and I had done one 300K but the time limit and distance is still daunting.

What did you do in terms of training/to prepare for the event?

Chris: We both trained differently though still did the 200K Cheshire Audax’s together through winter. I had resolved to do an Audax SR series whilst Ade did multi 200k events, sometimes back to back over a weekend. An SR series is completing a 200/300/400/600K series of Audax within a year, I did it in 6 months. I figured that if I could do 600K within 40 hours I could ride anything. In my opinion I got my training spot on, doing the distances and with the bike loaded just like I would on LEL.

My set up was to be efficient as possible but to carry enough stuff to get out of any mechanicals and contend with the UK weather. I had a Carradice saddle bag and an Ortileb bar bag. At the start I was amazed at how little some of the people were taking, it was as if they were on a Sunday 50k ride out. These were the fast or daft ones 😊.

Ade: I also had a Carradice Barley saddlebag, and on the crossbar a Topeak Fuel Tank. This gave me about 8 litres of storage which was enough as we were travelling extremely lightly. I had 3 lights at the front which had about 500 lumens at full power, and more importantly ran on disposable batteries that I could replace at the bag drops. I took clip-on SKS race blades for mudguards.

Can you tell me about the route and organisation?

Ade: Basically audax is an entirely volunteer organisation that has been run for years by organisers who gave up their time to do it all. There’s an interesting backstory to LEL, which I heard about on an audax one time. I was riding on my own on a 300k audax and this mad scouse bloke with long hair (who I’d seen on other audaxes) caught me and insisted on talking to me for what seemed like ages. It was more talking at me as he didn’t stop for breath.

He told me about LEL in 2009 and how badly it was organised but that it was brilliant. There’s a book on Kindle about it – “Barring Mechanicals” which is a great read. Anyway, one of the guys who rode 2009 made a case to the Audax UK club about this being the premier event and, therefore, deserving of proper organisation. What he did, completely with volunteers, was nothing short of staggering. And the route was planned a year or so in advance (as I understand it) with people riding sections of it and suggesting amendments and contingency options etc. The route was published as a set of instructions to be printed for the old boys, and gpx files to download onto Garmins for the youngsters like Chris and I (and I think we were in the younger demographic!).

Chris: The LEL Audax, (not a race though you would never of guessed it), rolls around every 4 years with PBP (Paris Brest Paris) nestled in between. The entry was at midnight on something like Jan 3rd and it sells out incredibly quickly, with worldwide participation. The 2013 version was a 1,418Km ride from London to Edinburgh and back with a time limit of 116 hours.

(We set an internal goal of 100 hours or better for ourselves though). Both myself and Ade signed on and the training began.

How was the event experience and race day start for you?

Chris: Race day was 28th July 2013 and Ade kindly drove down to the start the day before. We were booked onto Debden house campsite but ended up staying in a travel lodge or premier inn not too far away. I remember us having a meal and a beer and getting to bed early only to be woken by a massive clap of thunder in the night, fortunately it had passed by morning. Debden house was the parking lot.

Our start time, was about 6.30am in the morning and we were in the B group. The really fast lot had set off before in the A group. The riders set off 30 mins apart with the last lot not starting until Midday!! You do get to choose your time. You get two bag drops which you choose prior to the event to drop small items at, anything from new kit to gets to chamois cream etc.

It is an Audax, so you have to follow the route as closely as possible and pass through specific controls, these are set out on the route card and Brevet card. At each control you have to get your Brevet stamped and you get fed – for free! Well you paid a £230 entry fee but we ate £230 worth of food at every control 😊. There is also an option for a bed. When we got to Thirsk at 401K we asked for a bed and to be woken up 3 or 4.5 hours later, it was really efficient. The control centres were utterly amazing. The food was excellent.

I remember the first time I spent money on the way north was at a petrol station between Lockerbie and Moffat, we had done about 600K, had a nights sleep and I just wanted a Lucozade for energy as it was a hot day so I got us both one. 600K and I spent £2, not bad at all! The controls are also set up with water/isotonic supplies and mechanics who will fix your bike for free!!

Ade: Beforehand we’d sketched out a rough plan of which controls we were going to travel to each day. (We had a full spreadsheet lol).

Our plan was:

  • Day 1 – 249 miles Loughton (London) to Thirsk
  • Day 2 – 189 miles Thirsk to Edinburgh
  • Day 3 – 184 miles Edinburgh to Thirsk
  • Day 4 – 187 miles Thirsk to St Ives
  • Day 5 – 74 miles St Ives to Loughton (London)

The majority of the controls were schools making use of the kitchens and halls and all the check-ins etc were computerised so people following could see the last control a rider had checked into.

Another nice touch was that our rider numbers had our names and country printed on them. There were 33 countries represented and over 1000 riders.

Just to play up to Chris’ stereotype it took us:

  • Total time taken 104 hours 43 mins
  • Total distance 885.4 miles
  • 59 hours and 59 mins actual ride time
  • Average speed of 14.8mph
  • 30,846ft of climbing

Chris: The route is amazing, as you know Audax routes tend to take you on the quiet lanes of the country, far from the madding crowd and this is exactly what it was.

Any incidents you had to deal with?

Chris: TBH not too many, the main one was both of us nearly getting wiped out by a van about 400 metres from the finish line LOL. Our fault too as we were being giddy kippers eulogising about how great we are and prob going too fast 😊. I think we had one or two punctures the whole route but other than that no mechanicals that I can remember. Ades bum sores could be classed as an incident lol.

Ade: Chris and I rode a lot of audaxes together the year before and we just got on well which is hugely important. Also we complemented each other as riders – both a similar standard/level of fitness. There was a descent that was about 15 miles long after Moffat and I noticed that every time I braked my bike would make a grinding shuddering noise. This turned out to be a broken axle (didn’t find out till after LEL though). In the end I just carried on and tried not to use the front brake that much!

Chris also kept me going when my knee was really bad and stayed with me whilst I was riding in the small ring on the flat and one-legged uphill!

What happened with your knee? Any other physical aches and pains?

Chris: Ade suffered with saddle sores and a sore knee going North but was stoic in his approach but I worried about him,when you’re worrying about your mate it adds a different pressure, he sorted his knee though, at about Branard Castle he realised it was the little top bar bag forcing him to widen his knees, so he wasn’t in his natural position, removing the top bag and his pain dissipated, relief 😊. I was lucky in this respect, I didn’t get any pains, I didn’t change my shorts for 1000K, only changing them when I knew the end was in sight and it would take my leg being sawn off to stop me. They were stuck on lol!!

Ade: I started to feel the first pain in my knee on day 2. By the end of the day I was wondering how I could go on with it as it had become so bad each pedal stroke was painful. As Chris says removing the top bar bag helped enormously.

Feelings and thoughts before, during and after?

Chris: Personally I loved it BUT not every minute. There were a few dark moments but it is endurance. I think the single most mentally difficult time was us pushing into a 20MPH headwind for 100k in the middle of the night through the Lincolnshire fens on the way south after about 1200K.

Both taking our turn on the front, secretly hoping the other wouldn’t flick is arm out for the other to come through. That was a very tough 5 hours with only Ade commenting how depressing it was not to have a single turning to break the monotony or a traffic light. We were desperate for a turn in the road lol. Beforehand I was confident, I think we both were, it was an adventure, that’s how I saw it.

Ade: Yes, my low point came cycling up Yad Moss. I had a support on my knee and I just couldn’t think of anything other than letting down all the people who had sponsored me (I was doing it for a Kids Cancer charity). My mind was working overtime and that was when the clarity came – I knew what the problem was and the bar bag and knee brace went in the ditch (metaphorically – I gave them to Paula, Steve’s wife). I still couldn’t sit for long on the saddle due to the saddle sores but at least I knew I’d finish. I’m not sure I would have if Chris hadn’t put in all the work on the front over the previous 2 days.

And what was it like to finish?

Ade: When we got to the end though, it was emotional. We shook hands as we rode in to cheers and cowbells.

Chris: Triumphant! 😆. In all honesty the end is a bit of a blur, I think it was emotional.

Would you do it again?

Chris: Deffo!! Though maybe slightly differently. On the way back at 1,000k we had booked a B&B for a few hours overnight at Thirsk to freshen up. This meant we slept far too long and when we got up my legs were in recovery, it took 100K to get them going again. Although the luxury of the B&B was nice it wasn’t conducive to our sub 100 hours and this made us miss it. (I think we did it in 104 hours).

I would like to say we would do it more casually but I know that would never happen, maybe when we are 80!

Ade: I hope to do it again one day 😊

What average speed and distance would someone need to be able to do to consider LEL?

Chris: Honestly, anyone could do it. If you have a good level of fitness and good mental strength with a few 200s under your belt you could do it. You don’t have to ride it fast. The lowest average speed is 12.5km/h non stop. A friend Becky was gutted as she was just outside the cut off time and didn’t get a finishers medal. She still did it though, just took her 4 hours longer.

Do you have any special memories to share?

Ade: I didn’t like riding across the Humber bridge – they move and I don’t like heights! Head down and ride!

Riding across the Humber Bridge

Chris: Going north we went mental! We forgot what everyone said,(don’t go mad on the first day), and went mad. 400k at approx. 29km/h. We were only 30K from the start when some old guy who didn’t even have a map started drafting us. DROP HIM came the cry and then we tried to drop everyone and everything that came near us after that lol. We would do that again though, I just know it.

Ade: Yes agreed we went too mad on the first day. An old audaxer called Peter Bond had told me before that the adrenaline would kick in and he was right. Plus a monster tailwind and we absolutely smashed it for 200 miles. Looking back it was ridiculous.

Chris: Ade going mad 30K from Thirsk going north, pulling a long line of riders along at about 30KMH, it was pitch black and close to midnight. We were going along undulating lanes in a wood or forest and I dropped to the back. I just remember seeing a long line of blinking red lights rising and falling in front of me thinking about how great life is.

Ade: That ride in the dark was amazing. I was determined to get us to Thirsk somewhere near our schedule as we were behind (and that meant less sleep) so I just hammered it. My lights weren’t great and unbeknownst to me I’d hit some potholes so hard I’d snapped the axle in my front wheel. Also, when we came back the same way in the light on the way back I realised how lucky we’d been – a few people had been wiped out on gravelly corners and bigger potholes – but at the time it seemed fantastic. The next morning we were quickly aware of how stupid we’d been the day before when our average speed dropped considerably. It was on this day my knee starting hurting and I started popping nurofen.

Ade: The distance we were covering meant changing scenery and weather which was great. We only went up by 38ft in 62 miles across the boring Fens (only made bearable by the joke Chris made up when we found a guy lay in the road in front of his car – you had to be there really). Also, we went from sunny weather and blue skies to flash floods near Market Rasen where we had to ride on the pavement because the roads were flooding!

Chris: Leaving Edinburgh at 700K going to Traquair, we left at around 5:30 after a couple of hours kip. It was July and it was 5C, bloody freezing but what a route to Traquair through the mountains.

At Traquair heading South

Ade: That ride was amazing, the valley was beautiful. Breakfast at the control was some fantastic cake (Madonna’s cake maker) and a tot of malt whisky!

Chris: The route from there to Eskdalemuir was arguably even better, lush pine forests and car free roads.

Ade: Getting a massage from a blind bloke at Brampton to try to help my knee – his guide dog was sat there as good as gold as all these riders trooped in and out.

Ade: Its stupid really but on the last day it felt like 74 miles was like nipping to the shops. I guess relatively speaking it was.

Chris: Driving home after the finish, we stopped on the services at Birmingham on the toll road, opened the car doors and had to crawl out, we couldn’t move our legs LOL. Some women were watching and laughing at us as we tried to stand up. We must’ve looked bladdered but we just rolled about laughing.

Laughing, we just laughed a lot. There were dark grouchy times, that’s endurance for you but overall a lot of laughing.

Overall it was a great few days on a bike 😊

The guys at the finish 😁

Useful Links:

The LEL site which has a brilliant FAQ section : https://londonedinburghlondon.com/about

Ade wrote a blog after the event which is brilliantly written, also providing all the maps, facts, stories and humour. For Ades Blog go to: https://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com/category/lel2013/

There is a fantastic documentary on the 2013 LEL which you can find on amazon prime called ‘London Edinburgh London’ (quelle surprise). See if you can find the guys in it talking about their visit to a pharmacy to ask for “face” moisturiser for their sore bits 😂.

The finishers medal – so worth it

UTMB – OCC – Ultra trail Mont Blanc by Emma Bennett

The OCC race is 56km long and has 3,500m of ascent with a total cut off time of 14 hours. There are 5 check points and each of these have individual cut of times you have to meet also.

I’d wanted to do this race for a long time. I didn’t get in for the first two years. You have to collect enough qualifying points in order to enter, which I had, but then you have to apply via lottery. If you don’t get in for two years you then have a higher chance of getting in the next year. So for those two years I didn’t get in, I did the Cortina trail in the Dolomites and the Eiger Ultra Trail in Switzerland instead. In the third year I got a place on the OCC and my great friend Nicky said she’d come with me for moral support.

Nicky ‘the Legend’ and me

The day before registration we were supposed to fly out to Geneva but the flight got cancelled. So on the spot we had to decide what to do. I was starting to flap that we wouldn’t make it in time for the registration but Nicky said she was prepared to do the 6 hour drive through the night from Basel to Chamonix if first flew to Duesseldorf, then took an onwards flight to Basel. Nicky is a complete Legend for doing this.

We arrived at our ‘digs’ at 2am and made it in time for the registration the following morning at which point I also had my bag kit check done. Our chalet was so lovely and cosy and right in the heart of Chamonix where the race finishes.

Our Chalet and my snoopy who has accompanied me on all my races (I’ve had him since I was a little girl).

On the morning of the race we had to be at the bus stop at 5am in order to take an hour long journey to the start line at Orsieres. The journey was very hilly with lots of bends. Once we got there, everyone piled out in their amazing ultra trail wear and I looked at them all and felt like I didn’t quite make the part. The start was in this small beautiful street in the village and the adrenaline started to kick in.

After they started the race everyone was walking initially as there were so many people and the street is so narrow. The start is at 8am and the school kids are out with clackers and cowbells. In fact all you can hear for the first two miles is the sound of cowbells which is so amazing. Once we were out of the village we came to our first climb – Champex Lac, which is a 7.5km climb to get to the first check point.

The first part of the climb out of Orsières
Inside the first checkpoint – a cow shed

That first climb was a really narrow trail, going in single file through Forrest. You can’t really see where you are going at this point as you are surrounded by trees but it was very steep, climbing 1500metres in the first 10k.


The next bit was flat but you know you have more ups to go, so you just put one foot in front of the other and remember to stop and drink in the beautiful views. Everyone was running once on the flat and then the next steep climb came up to a point called La Giete at 2,000metres around 18km into the race.

We then descended down to Trient where the second checkpoint would be. The descent was about 5km, not too steep but quite gnarly with lots of roots. It was open and so we had glorious views of the mountains.

A bridge up high just before Trient

The village of Trient, which was picture perfect, had a beautiful church and it was also where I saw my friend Nicky at the check point. She wasn’t allowed to pass me drinks or food but she was always there with a hug and a smile and it really lifted my spirits to see her.

Stunning views from Trient – the dam in the distance up high

The race is so international. There are so many languages there that you could hear when you were at the different checkpoints. There are equally moments where you are out there running and its so meditative and quiet. All you can hear are the sounds of peoples feet and breathing.

After the second checkpoint I started to feel a bit sick and struggled to get water or food in me. The next climb was 5.5km and about 1,000m up plus it was hot so I knew I needed to drink so I didn’t get dehydrated. I forced myself to drink and then I started to feel a bit better but I still wasn’t quite right. I used my poles which helped on the ascent. I looked around at one point and wondered if others felt as bad as I did, but no one was talking at this point; everyone was dealing with their own demons and making their way up the hill.

I got to the highest point which was Catagone at over 2,000m. After that we descended 5km, 940m and arrived at our third checkpoint in Vallorcine. Nicky was there again, which was lovely but I still couldn’t eat anything. I felt like I needed to be sick. I refilled my water though as I knew I needed to keep drinking. I also started to get cramps in my quads after that last descent.

I remember the views being amazing at this point, I saw dams below us, but they were up high which was strange to see. It was an awe inspiring place to be, to be able to see all around you amazing views and to know you are nearly half way. The whole run is just one amazing long view though with sunny skies, mountains and streams.

One of the many beautiful streams along the way

After this there was another little climb up to Argentiere on top of the mountain, and I started to feel a lot better at that point. I came down again to the checkpoint in the valley of Argentiere (most of the checkpoints are on the way down or in the valleys). This was around 40km into the race and I managed to eat something, which was a relief as I’d gone 2 hours without any food or gels at that point. I had a couple of bowls of noodle soup and some some cola. It sounds disgusting and I don’t even normally drink cola but it was definitely needed!

After the yummy soup stop there is another climb and its completely awful. Its very steep and 5km long. It’s also covered in scree so its slippy and your legs are already fatigued. I got to the top of that and there was another checkpoint. That 5km took a really long time – like an hour and a half or longer which gives you an idea of how steep and difficult it was. The views at the top were worth it though, utterly breathtaking. The checkpoint there was called La Flegere and is a ski resort.

What goes up must come down! Of course you then have to descend again and the next 7km descent was as steep as the previous ascent had been. I’m a strong downhill runner but this was tough! There were lots of roots and things to look out for. It started off as a ski slope and quite narrow, then it was rocky and there was also scree again. I fell over on this descent but thankfully landed on my bottom with no injuries. Luckily I live near the Peak District and do a lot of technical downhill training, which really came in to its own in the really tough downhill bits.

This last descent took us all the way down into Chamonix. I didn’t realise there was another 1km to go after you get to the village. Its like there is a mini start line and then finish for this 1km. I couldn’t believe it but the adrenaline kicked in but I managed to sprint it, passing a number of people along the way. I was running on the sheer feeling of elation and listening to the people cheering. It felt great at the end and I was so pleased I’d got over that really bad dip in the middle.

At the end of the race we were all given a free beer but I couldn’t drink it; in fact I couldn’t drink or eat anything for many hours after the race as I started to feel really awful again. I did recover later on in the evening though and at 11 o’clock that night we went out to watch the people who were doing the big race start. And then it hit me; how are they going to do more than double what i just did?

Next year I’m looking forward to an Ultra in the Pyrenees – bring it on 😁

Me at the finish line – elated

Beautiful Lakeland trail race – Derwentwater 15k

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.

Beautiful views during the trail race

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……. 🤨

All masked up ready for our run

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.

Hubby is in his line and I’m getting ready to join the next line before the start

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.

This photo doesn’t do the bogs justice or the depth of them!

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.

Another river like section but very fun

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…

Just after the bogs and before the ascent around Lonscale

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.

Me on the downhill section
Chris on the downhill section

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.

Running into the finish line and realising when the commentator said ‘I think she is smiling, I cant tell’ that I didn’t need to mask up until after finishing. Whoops 😬