This year was the Lakeland Trails third year of the Ultimate Trails 110km and 55km. Both courses are fully waymarked and marshalled, with well stocked feed stations along the route.
They invest heavily in all aspects of the event, in particular safety on the course, with event paramedics, radio communications and marshals (they pay local organisations and charities a bursary to provide them with over 200 marshals). They also provide an iconic start and finish venue at Ambleside, with entertainments to give a great, well organised ultra marathon course through dramatic Lake District mountain scenery.
I entered this event last September as I missed out in 2015 when I tried to enter it in March last year as it was already full.
I arrived in Ambleside early for registration and kit check.
• Full waterproof body cover, top (jacket) and bottom (trousers) must have taped seams and the jacket should have a hood
• Head torch and spare batteries
• First aid kit (to include minimum blister plasters, bandage, zinc oxide tape to secure dressing)
• Spare base layer top, long sleeved
• Hat and gloves
• Mobile phone (fully charged)
• Emergency foil blanket OR bivi bag
• Emergency food and drink which should not have been opened when you cross the finish line
• Photo ID
The weather forecast was rain showers all day which I was not looking forward to and was hoping they had got it wrong as they so often do, but this is the Lake District which has its own weather system and looking towards the tops of the fells, it was obvious it was going to be a wet day.
I wasn’t feeling 100% and was seriously thinking of not even starting because I wasn’t sure I would actually finish it. My thoughts turned to Ben Ashworth and his family and told myself to get a grip, crack on, see how it goes. I also managed to see my cousin, Mike his mate Geoff and Annie at the start which helped with motivation.
Compulsory pre-race brief, the hooter sounded at 10.30am and we were off.
“A Struggle to Kirkstone Pass” (3.4 miles)
All uphill walk/run on good paths to the Kirkstone Inn at the top of the pass for the first checkpoint. The weather was calm with only a few spots of rain. All was good.
“Downhill to Brotherswater and onto Glenridding” (10.4 miles)
A nice long downhill run on the grassy path that runs alongside the Kirkstone Pass which was very wet underfoot. The route then crosses the road at Cow Bridge and goes from Hartsop to the second checkpoint at Glenridding. It was extremely busy here with a long queue for drinks, food etc. I decided to eat one of my sandwiches on the move, I didn’t want to stay too long so early on.
“The Big Climb of Grisedale Hause to the home of Gingerbread, Grasmere” (19 miles)
The route then climbs alongside Grisedale Beck to Grisedale Tarn for about four miles on a very slippery rocky path. The weather had changed, it was horrendous at this point going uphill against the wind and was raining heavily. There are numerous becks and mini waterfalls to cross which were at least ankle deep sometimes deeper. On reaching the tarn at the top, there are stepping stones which cross the beck, I opted to walk through it not wanting to risk a fall into the tarn. I had to keep moving as it was extremely cold and I was absolutely soaked. On reaching the top at Grisedale Hause, there was a marshal who must have been frozen yet was still cheerful whilst motivating everyone. What a star! It was thoroughly miserable weather up there. The downhill rocky path was very slow going as it was so slippy. I was petrified of falling so was extremely cautious and very slow until reaching the more level paths. It had stopped raining now and I felt relieved to reach the Grasmere checkpoint in five hours. I was seriously thinking of packing in at this point, the pain of the mortons neuroma (nerve damage in both feet) was becoming unbearable. I stayed for a short while to try and warm up a bit, get off my feet for ten minutes, eat and decided to focus on getting through the next section. A few familiar faces from the Lakeland 50 and a quick chat was brilliant. I had hoped for a sub ten hours which was looking doable now if I just kept moving.
“Over Silver Howe to Langdale” (23.3 miles)
I set off feeling ok with more uphill to come, thankfully not as extreme as earlier. I was just about drying out when it started raining again but at least I was on lower ground without the wind chill. I had to keep moving.
“Tour of Little Langdale” (29.8 miles)
This felt like an extremely long loop, raining on and off throughout. There was a bit of road, trail, rocky paths, fields and through woods negotiating wet and slippy exposed tree roots. At 29 miles, I started to feel faint and off balance. I started walking at this point hoping it would pass. I had been eating and drinking so I was puzzled at what it might be. After a while, I had to stop and sit down as I felt so faint. Luckily, another runner came along so I set off with her until the next checkpoint. I had to finish this now, the worst was over. A cup of tea and a sandwich and I set off again. The end was in sight.
“Round Loughrigg Tarn then Up and Over to FINISH” (36.6 miles)
It was a relief to be on the last section and the rain seemed to have completely stopped now. A bit more uphill (no surprise there eh!), then most was downhill so I managed to run more than walk now. My cousin, Mike and Geoff finished in 8hr 20mins and waited for me to finish with my auntie Pat who came up in the afternoon. What a welcome sight they were.
I had a tough time on this event and was quite emotional at times, possibly due to the pain of mortons neuroma for most of it, not feeling 100% at the start and also contending with the awful weather conditions. I got through it because I was thinking of other people’s achievement’s and determination.
I completed 36.6 miles, 6,235ft in 10hrs 15mins. I’m happy with that!