Scribbling thoughts down reflecting on my 3rd Lakeland run in a row , starting with the L50 in 2013 , completing Two L100 epics over 2014 and 2015 gives me a real feeling of achieving something rather special.
Really enjoyed last years L100 and had no doubts about having another attempt in 2015 if I was lucky enough to get a place, and after only Twenty minute’s after registering then selling out, I realised how very lucky I was to get a slot on the starting grid with the Legends this year.
I had a very slow recovery from last years run, lost my mojo a bit, my feet were very sore from blisters and numb with loss of feeling for over a month and my legs felt like they did not belong, so plans I had of races and time goals shortly after were put on hold, but I was very happy to pay the price knowing things would be cool soon and hopefully as my body got used to the Hundred , maybe recovering more quickly would improve too on the next one.
I ran an odd club race finding my running feet but my weekly mileage was very low and I wasn’t able to train for the Kielder Marathon in October as I had planned, but still turned up and had a canny run, enjoying the miles of the tough trail run, proving that the miles and hills stay in your legs for far longer than you consider.
November was a nothing running month for me and I was worried all the training and effort from the previous Two years was starting to be eroded so I considered I needed a goal, something special to focus my running on and stretch myself, I remembered entering a challenge the previous December to run every day of the month and hunted out the site with a view to re-joining it and ramping up some miles (I think I ran about 325 in Dec 2014). To my disappointment, the FB site was no longer active, I wasn’t aware of the famous one Marco & Debbie had, otherwise I would have jumped at that. Over a cold beer I decided to set up my own” Run Every Day December” (RED) group, I simply invited all my Facebook contacts and challenged them to join me in running a minimum of 1 mile, but a must- run every day a minimum requirement too. Some of my friends have never ran a mile before and started to and still do, but most are brilliant runners, few mind have ever ran every day for a month. Two in the group ran every day since the project started, I don’t think they will ever stop .
I sent out the invite , went to work not getting back home till 10.30 pm and got ready for my first run of the 31. When I got back after a shower, I was astonished to see how active the group had become, and there must have been over a hundred runners that ran and posted their efforts, there was a real buzz about the challenge and the group, I recorded my 16 mile run quietly and it went unnoticed and carried on with life. I don’t think it was till about the fourth day that I got questioned what I was up to after I reposted the same 16 mile regular run I had done from Roker to South Shields Red pier every night, with my monthly mileage target of 500 miles needing me to find only 4 extra miles to succeed. Well people thought me mad, some considered it beyond me and some thought it would cause me injuries, One clever friend suggested I raise money for the Local Sunderland hospice and I finished the month having ran 508 miles ,after 31 average runs of 16 miles over 84 hours and raising over £2000 for a great charity too. Really pleased with my December running for a number of reasons and it kept me fit and active for my July challenge to come.
My plan was to complete my 2015 L100 a little quicker than last year if possible 38.39 and I am proud to have done that and got my PB (38.11) 168th, but the main aim was to successfully finish under the 40 hour time out, so working on the principle that last years training was good enough, I pretty much, mirrored the monthly miles, hills and efforts and entered the same races throughout the year too more or less. That was fun and a way of testing my fitness v last year. I hadn’t visited the lakes as much, but was actively running the North York Moors as often as I could get a chance as a good second best.
The Strollers had a very large and talented field running the L50 and as we know had tremendous performances from the Girls and Boys smashing many Pbs and winning prizes in style. In the Hundred the club had 5 runners having a crack (3 successfully finished) at this years race and after a training run in the lakes a few weeks before with Stroller Stuart Percival ,an experienced lakes man , it would be his 1st Hundred with a similar mission ambition to simply complete. We then decided to run together if things allowed and enjoy winding the miles back getting to know more about each other and ourselves on route.
Kit packed , I headed off to the Lakeland camp with my best friend and the rest of the Strollers filled with a mixture of excitement and a little fear, but drifting in to the zone that soon found me once again at the start line of this 105 mile adventure, looking around , again, considering everyone to be stronger, fitter and more determined than me, oh lordly, bricking it a bit before the off.
Weather gods were on our side this year, and the 1st climb out and towards Seathwaite was effortless it appeared in the cool air. So very different from last year.
My first drama of the run , just before saying hello and thanking the Cow Bell Girl for her support ( sitting in a similar spot as last year and equally beaming with enthusiasm this year too) One of my running friends in front of me with his poles collapsed to halve size , with a Very sharp and deadly point, was drawing them back in a stabbing motion, randomly as he ran in front of me, just missing me Two or Three times, it was a little congested and getting past him was an effort worth striving for, not sure how many runners Jeff killed on his travels , must have been lots ;0) .We hit the summit after about an hour climbing up the Walna Scar road and just over Thirty minutes later we entered the 1st Cp @ Seathwaite . Our Race was on.
I was becoming a pro, guessing the location of the Sport Sunday photographers from last year and , then gathering myself and trying to look like I was either running or enjoying myself should they snap (poser!) , something that would get harder as the miles rolled by. Stu and I were settling down to a nice relaxed running rhythm and arrived to a Hello Hello French reception @ Boot, and we started to eat! boy did we eat.
We loved the next section as it was short, about 5.5 miles, flattish really and just starting to get dark over Burnmoor Tarn and we were heading towards the Stroller camp at Wasdale Head. I was enjoying chatting to Simon and other runners as we started to bleed in to each other and I was keen to get in to Wasdale without head torches on. That we did, not that we beat the sunset in the end and had a hilarious run jumping rocks and streams in pitch black before a fantastic reception by our Stroller marshals dressed in 80,s Disco stuff. Once again a real high point of the run.
The costumes once again brilliant, lots of effort, planning and hard work just made everyone smile , true of all the checkpoints amazingly now , after 20 miles and just under a 5th of the way home too. We said are goodbyes , Torches on and off we set, turning right towards Black Sail pass, the climb again was little effort from the pair of us and soon to be crossing the fast flowing Gatherstone beck that I could hear well before I could see it , and hitting the switch backs with plenty of new steps , rocks and work done on the paths by the fixing the fells people. NB: after 80 miles I wanted to start a group called flattening the fells, removing all the hills and rocks and tarmacking the entire lakes, when I got grumpy every now and again with the sore feet yet to come. Bad T !
We paused at the top of Blacksail and looked back and down, the image of a train of torches slowly making progress upwards in multiple “S” shaped streaks, hundreds of feet down, with other torches way off in the distance was just One of the perfect and memorable visual images of the weekend, really special and worth considering doing the hundred for that alone. No time to dally, off over the top, and a Very wet, boggy, slimy top it was up their, the decent towards the River Liza and passing the YHA hut was dangerous really, a number of runners were losing their footing and landing on there backsides, sometimes receiving a soft soggy reception and others a little less lucky like Stu and Adnan I later discovered ,smashing in to hard and un friendly rocks, causing quite a bit of pain and worry. Another short sharp accent of Scarth Gap then on to another nasty wet and precarious decent to the Lake at Buttermere. A very welcome soup station and time to refuel ,I noticed we had been running the first 6 hours at just around 32 hour pace, way faster than intended, it gave us a bit of a time cushion and a chance to take it slowly out of Ghyll wood and on to Sail pass . This would lead us to Brathwaite again around that technical bit, you know the one with the big drop in to the quarry! Did I mention that I am frightened of heights :0/ lol.
Coming in to Buttermere I could hear an infections and enthusiastic girl from behind chatting, totally clearly enjoying her adventure too. Turned out to be our friend Hester. She caught up with Stu and I as we travelled in to the dawn together, enjoying each others banter, working the hills and heading for Braithwaite Cp. I had the same small navigation trouble finding a cairn in the darkness to find the last path getting us over Barrow Door, but with a little help soon sorted and on to that lovely soft grassy decent in to the village. Still in very good spirits, it was pitch black and legs were fine, we really pigged out at this feed station with cakes and Rice Pudding with Jam mixed in ! Been looking forward to that .
On to Keswick and That A66 Road section, we walked as we digested our meals a bit, One or Two runners ran past us and then we were joined by a chap called Gareth, he had a very similar sense of humour that Stu and I shared and the Three way banter was hilarious (little did we know but we stayed together from then on till the finish) , it was just starting to get light as we were in the woods on the old railway line that we would re join later in day ,after running around the saddle hunting down Little Dave in his pink Tutu.(extra scary this year Dave ;0))
It started to get a little cold for the 1st time at around 5.am, looking up at amazing cloud inventions , another amazing Lakeland image only lunatics like us up @ nuts o’clock could ever witness. There was a larger group of us now on the pavement covering ground well soon to be scattered by a Crazy Mad woman on a bike (with red eyes)! who charged right down the middle of us, screaming for us to get out of her way! How she didn’t get spiked with a pole , I couldn’t understand? What was her hurry, where on earth was she going at that time and at such speed and what was wrong with the road lol She did make us laugh though.
A nice steady accent up and passing Latrigg woods ,taking us on a path affording amazing views over the lakes, as we could see so far back where we had come from hours ago, really stunning. One runner had to stop, get his good camera out and record it for himself for another time. Now we adopted a run walk strategy on to the path after the car park, eventually heading towards the first self clip, envious of the moving dots on the other side of the valley on our right a few miles ahead of us and heading for an early breakfast at Check point 6. Elise was to join Stu, Gareth and myself adding to our circus at the most Northerly point of the route ( something nice about heading south now) and we ran with her off and on till her sad retirement feeling ill at Kentmere, brilliant runner that laughed at hills.
Stu had been having awful hassle with a pebble that wouldn’t reveal itself in his boot , even after a few investigatory stops, it had created a blister but this was sorted at the Blencathra centre CP thankfully. The smell of Bacon & Eggs the staff were about to scoff for their hard work was driving us crazy, so we all quickly moved on to Dockray very much looking forward to Fun on the Old coach road and did we have fun ( not) lol.
After a sweaty climb up to the coach road from Newsham, as the sun now made its first appearance ,through a very wet and boggy section, lots of jokes and leg pulling helped us on this difficult chunk,(I nearly got swallowed up in to the mud more than once) once again stopping to pause and looking to your left at the Blencathra range in perfect visibility. We all commented how lucky in truth we were to be enjoying this road trip. Pleased to get that one done and grab some soup for the next haul after the horrid coach road section, we had decided to see if we could get to Dalmain before our L50 Crew had at least left the estate , so we could all wish each other good lucks, I estimated it was well doable and off we went.
This next section is 10 miles , its tough but has the most stunning of views looking back over Ullswater around the Gowbarrow fells, it enjoys lots of dull tarmac road sections in the last Four miles towards Dacre with drop bags full of treats and a full fresh kit change, and the possibility of seeing our friends , even though the sun was beating down hard, we cracked on and covered ground well again. Half way around the lake we were astonished to find Adnan, our speedy L100 Stroller Ultraman , attempting a sub 30 hour run, struggling along with really sore feet, it looked certain he may have to retire and he lay down in the bracken for some rest. To our delight, a couple of miles up the track, he caught us up again,shot past , at the speed of sound, reborn after a pain-killer and running sub 6 min miles lol, we wouldn’t see him again and he finished in a very decent time too.
Around this point Two lovely lady spectators jumped out of the bushes playing air guitar and started to sing the Bon Jovi 80,s Rock anthem, “living on a prayer”, underling the “half way there” ! in their lyrics, Really funny @ around 50 miles , really loud and very much welcome, passing the time and miles nicely now.
We ground out the next few miles and were pleased to see the back of them, we wandered in to our tent at Dalemain and dived in to stew, and cake and custard, batteries were replaced in torches and water topped up, then we set about changing our stuff and getting cleaned up a bit , I put new shoes on, Stu wasn’t changing a proven formula and stuck with his originals, We chatted to Hester and Lawrence from Low Fell who had just arrived with Tara his daughter looking strong too, they would pass us again coming into Ambleside ( I was chuffed to bits for them) Sadly we noticed Simon had retired who we last saw what seemed ages ago at Wasdale head, really top lad.
Yes!! The 1st L50 runner passed our tent in a flash, our timing was perfect after all ,then another then more, we quickly finished getting changed but not quick enough as (Strollers) Ken Maynard and Jon Davies running as a pair flew past with the fast pack, I started to notice some friendly faces now and got a fab shout out in to the tent by Speedy Lou, my L100 buddy last year, that was something and someone I was very keen and pleased to see, and running so well too in the heat to claim her PB in the 50. Lots of the Strollers stopped and shook hands or hugged us, really amazing mid race!. Time for us to re-join the race so we literally jumped in and jogged on, perfect.
This next section to Howtown was to prove to be my race favourite from a people perspective, and the miles passed so very quickly as a result. As L50 runners passing us or indeed as we were now running well again into pooley bridge us passing them often. We would get the nicest comments and compliments for competing in the hundred. We came up on The Kevin Oneil and his fab Mrs, supporting us, not long after passing DJ and Julie also in support of the runners on route. Again some lovely shouts of encouragement’s from our running club mates and friends who hoped to spot us on our travels. We were now getting overtaken by the rest of our club mates and friends who clocked our names or numbers and shared the trails with us to the Cowboy ranch as it now was at Howtown where it seemed I was One of a select few “Wanted” Dead or Alive and with a price on our heads.
Sill in good spirits , we moved onwards up Fusedale, this was a bit of work for sure, but steady away and with lots of jokes we soon reached the top sniffing out High Kop , surprisingly leaving many L50 folk in the distance far below. My feet were feeling tender as was Gareth’s but Stu was getting stronger as the miles were rolling on. It was colder and windy over that section and I put my Jacket on for an hour for the very 1st time. Looking off into the distance at a trail of runners was a fab site, I found the decent in to Haweswater visually stunning but difficult to truly enjoy with rough feet and my legs for the 1st time too felt weak. I needed fuel and pretty much hated the rocky trail that just seemed endless towards Mardale around the lake.
Amazing what soup and sandwiches can do, we all rested and got set to get out of Mardale, Gareth set off in advance and we added club mate L50 runner Richard as we all set about Gatesgarth (more fun!). My feet felt good again and we joined Gareth shortly before the summit. The decent was nasty for us all , really hate that bit but we kept a good pace with really positive attitudes. We could start to visualise the finish and knew we had broken the back of the run , the last 3 miles in to Kentmere seemed to start at a sign saying 1.5 miles to Kentmere. if ever I meet the chap that put that up I will disembowel him with pleasure. I was now starting to do the howtown shuffle, a dance I remember doing last year, kind of jogging on the spot, swinging my arms about in the hope that would take away the pain from my really sore feet.
Kentmere to Ambleside started well after treating my pain, and the views , skyline , colours on the fells with the various shading and smells at that time in the evening were lovely. It was getting cold, we had wrapped up with buffs, gloves , warm jackets and had our head torches in situ waiting to activate in an hour or so. Soon in Troutbeck then descending through the woods of Ambleside, soft cold rain was cooling us as we hit the main road shortly taking us up to a very friendly reception from the Ambleside crew. I think I must have had a sleep walking nap on the way to the next CP , what I can remember is over taking a chunk of runners and my eyes lighting up walking towards the log burning stoves that looked and smelt wonderful at Chapel Stile. Lots more food then on to the Blea Tarn and daylight on the way soon. Again this section went quickly in my head, no hallucination’s at all this year but my perception of time was jaded as lack of sleep was there. We dibbed out of the self check and headed on the small road section towards the final Cp, I was ok on the smoother surfaces but the sharper rocky paths were killing my feet now, Gareth was in a similar state but Stu had managed to keep his feet a bit dryer or maybe his pain threshold was higher , either way he was looking great .
No stopping , we just pushed our pegs in to the dibber sockets and started to take the steps, I was much slower on the last section than last year and suffered like never before on the final climb down, legs and everything were fine, just the feet made me literally grind out a final result, instead of the spring down as I had last year with Lou. That said I was like Gareth enjoying around half an hour faster than last year and over One Hundred runners who sadly were unable to finish would be delighted to suffer for a little for the prize of that medal and Tee. 38 hours 11 mins and we bagged it, Three very happy Lakeland runners. One of Stu,s pals got me a cold beer and within minutes I was fast asleep in my tent . That night the Strollers pretty much took over the Black Bull , it was a brilliant to celebration , I was so very proud of every one of them, everyone had a story and once again , I still struggled to accept I managed to complete the L100 It somehow didn’t seem real, I didn’t dream all this did I?