The Lakeland 50 is one of the greatest ultra running and walking challenges in Europe with very rough terrain and approximately 3,100m of ascent to deal with. I completed this last year, however thought it may be of interest to anyone contemplating an ultra. I am no expert but my advice would be time on your feet and get those hills in your legs.
Why did I enter?
In July 2014, I went to Ambleside to support my cousin and his friend who were running the L50. I was chatting to my uncle who had completed the event the year before together with numerous other ultra events, and I felt inspired by his achievements and knowledge. I had spent the previous ten years fell walking in the Lake District so already knew most of the route, I just had to learn the whole route and do the training.
I started training in January 2014 which with hindsight, was probably too early but I really wanted to build up as much stamina and endurance on the hills as I could.
So, over 29 weeks between January and July, I averaged 27 miles per week which doesn’t sound much until you add the ascent into the equation too. I had one rest week but even that consisted of running 9 miles. The week of the event, I only ran 4 miles on the Monday.
Some of my regular training running routes with full kit included:
Fairfield Horseshoe, 11 miles with 3,500ft climb
White Coppice, 10 miles with 1,100ft climb
Guild Wheel twice
Ambleside to Coniston, 15 miles with 2,600ft climb
Extended Kentmere Horseshoe, 23 miles with 5,500ft climb
In May, I attended the Pooley Bridge to Ambleside organised recce weekend. I travelled up to the Lakes on Saturday and attended the very informative presentation and guest talks in the evening. One of which was by sports psychology lecturer Dr Ian Boardley who has multiple Lakeland 100 finishes to his name. He explained the psychology of finishing and how to apply it to the Lakeland 50 and 100. Looking around the room, I was feeling out of my depth but also relieved to know that I was not the only first timer.
At 7am on Sunday morning, I got on the coach in Ambleside to Pooley Bridge. As per usual, it was raining. There was no turning back now, I had to navigate my own way back to Ambleside. This was my longest run of 27 miles with 5,700ft climb. I was absolutely exhausted at the end and the realisation of what I was hoping to complete had set in however, completing this run was a major confidence booster.
Inskip half marathon
Grizedale half marathon
Howgills half marathon
In June, I ran my first marathon at Coniston. I wasn’t concerned about time, purely completion.
Throughout training, I had minor knee and hip niggles which thankfully didn’t turn into anything serious. There were problems with shoes and orthotics which after much tweaking turned out well in the end. Salomon speedcross 3 were so comfortable, no blisters at all but I did lose three toe nails after the event. A small price to pay, I think!
During training, I basically ate as much and as often as I could.
Friday – L50 Eve
I arrived at Coniston School mid Friday afternoon and went straight to registration for kit inspection and weigh in. The school was buzzing with activity, runners, marshals, friends and family. I was starting to feel part of something really big.
In the evening, I watched the 100 runners set off which was quite emotional, thinking of the enormity of what they were about to embark on.
Later, as I sat in my brother’s campervan eating my bolognese, I looked up at the Coniston fells and at that point, I had serious doubts that I could complete the challenge. A super, major head wobble, for sure!
Saturday – Event Day
I attended the compulsory briefing at 8.30am in Coniston School. Marc Laithwaite, the organiser was very humorous and said all the right things to get everyone motivated. Any doubts I had from the night before were now gone. I was ready. I had trained so hard for six months and was determined I was going to complete this.
I was driven to the start at Dalemain by my cousin and brother where my aunt and unc were already waiting. The sun was shining and there was a very relaxed, happy atmosphere. Everything felt good as I made my way to the start line and we were off.
A four mile loop of the Dalemain Estate then the route goes through Pooley Bridge and follows the Eastern shore line of Ullswater to the first checkpoint at Howtown (11 miles, 294m) which was manned by Chia Charge.
As soon as I arrived at any checkpoint, the volunteers would ask if I wanted my water re-filling, did I want anything to eat, was I ok? They treated all the competitors like VIP’s. They were all so amazing, helpful, happy and encouraging. I can’t praise their efforts enough, absolute super stars.
A big climb of 765m up the Fusedale valley, down to Haweswater and along to the next checkpoint at Mardale (20 miles). Fuelled up and off again.
The second climb was 511m then down to Kentmere church (27 miles) where AC/DC was blasting out. This was the rock themed checkpoint, I was really enjoying this journey. I was starting to feel tired and in a bit of pain now. I kept telling myself ‘don’t stop, keep going, keep moving forward’. In fact, I said that a lot!
Onwards to Ambleside (34 miles) climbing another 491m. One motivational factor of getting to Ambleside was that friends and family would be waiting, I was really looking forward to seeing them for sure.
The roads were lined with supporters cheering and clapping as I ran through Ambleside. It was amazing. I dibbed in at the checkpoint and was greeted by my aunt, unc and cousin, my brother Stu, Pita and Ray arrived minutes later after leaving the pub! They had a long wait. I did spend too long at Ambleside, however was very grateful for the support and was soaking up the atmosphere, it took me half an hour to eat one sandwich! I set off again with head torch about 10.00pm as it was going dark very quickly.
234m to climb to the next checkpoint at Chapel Stile (40 miles) and I was still managing to run the flat bits. Unfortunately, this is where my garmin died so I had no route backup for the night navigation. Luckily, I had reccied Ambleside to Coniston three times in the day so I knew the route very well. I was just gutted the whole distance wouldn’t be recorded. A tricky section in the dark getting over Bleamoss, you must stay high due to it being so boggy. There is an unmanned checkpoint which must be dibbed. It’s sited on a gate, is very well lit and easy to see as you approach it.
Tilberthwaite (46.5 miles) with 387m. My thoughts were, ‘I am going to do this, I am really going to do this’. I was excited but had to stay focused for the last few miles. A slip or fall now and it could be over.
At last the final of 283m climb and the descent to the finish at Coniston (50 miles). I dibbed in and as I entered the school, I was announced as an L50 finisher and everyone in the School cheered. It was absolutely fantastic, a truly amazing experience, a great route with stunning scenery.
Despite the event consuming every waking hour for 6 months I hope to complete it again in 2017, hopefully a bit quicker.
In 2015, 615 competitors started the L50.
I finished 363rd out of 585 finishers in a time of 15 hours, 21 minutes and 8 seconds and was 4th V45.
Entries open 1st September, 9am each year. 2015 entries were full in 20 minutes and 2016 full in 6 minutes. There is a time limit for the Lakeland 50 of 24 hours and 40 hours for the 100.
If this blog has inspired you, full details of the event are on the website http://www.lakeland100.com/