50 MILES (DON'T CALL IT A RACE – IT’S A CHAL­LENGE!)

Trail Running (UK) - - Training -

Af­ter an en­ter­tain­ing brief­ing with safety tips like “If you see light­ning, don’t point car­bon poles at it!”, we shuf­fled off to the coaches and were bussed to the start at Dale­main. This con­trib­uted to a late (11:30am) start, which meant most run­ners would fin­ish in the dark. Vary­ing light con­di­tions, along with some change­able weather, meant we'd have a lot to con­tend with dur­ing our day in the moun­tains.

Af­ter a 6km loop around the Dale­main Es­tate we headed south through Poo­ley Bridge, climbed past Barton Park and con­toured south­west with Ull­swa­ter to our right. We dropped to our first check point at How­town with 18km done in 1hr 48min. Af­ter some snacks and a wa­ter re­fill I got back on the course feel­ing fresh, and “quar­ter done” was my first men­tal pick-me-up.

The tough­est climb (over 500m) of the day – up Fusedale to High Kop – was pretty epic. The driz­zle turned into hor­i­zon­tal rain, with wind in our faces. I ran hard over the top to gen­er­ate warmth be­cause my hands were numb, and I’d for­got­ten to dou­ble-knot my laces so had to stop on the fast de­scent to Haweswa­ter to sort them with frigid fin­gers. And this, on a warm (16 deg C) day in the hills! Sure enough, the lower path along the wa­ter warmed me up and I was soon back to T-shirt only run­ning – 33km done in 4hr 3min.

Al­though none of the LL50 ter­rain is su­per tech­ni­cal, the sec­tions through Kent­mere, Trout­beck and Am­ble­side had var­ied con­di­tions from muddy paths and greasy grass to rocky tracks and roads. All-rounder shoes were a must.

The sup­port through­out the course was fan­tas­tic with cheer­ing crowds and high-fiv­ing kids in Am­ble­side, which is a gen­uine boost at a time you’re try­ing to con­vince your­self you’ve done three-quar­ters. At 55km, you haven’t – it’s all mind games at this point. The slightly up­hill trudge through the Lang­dale val­ley to Chapel Stile was my low­est point, and I was los­ing places for the first time. My legs were scream­ing but I was aching for the hills, where I could walk up at the same speed as ev­ery­one around me and run down faster... my mind now only think­ing about con­sol­i­dat­ing my po­si­tion.

The fi­nal steep climb was only 250m, but my strength was low and each kilo­me­tre took 10 or 11 min­utes. It was dark but the air was stiller and as the sum­mit came, so re­turned my strength. I de­scended care­fully on the rocky wind­ing path that de­liv­ered me to the min­ers’ track – where I picked up speed and ran into Con­is­ton, elated, past more en­cour­ag­ing strangers to the fin­ish.

I’d fin­ished 133rd out of 756 fin­ish­ers in 11hr 29min, hav­ing clocked up 3068m of as­cent and 3145m of de­scent. Oliver Thoro­good (7hr 36min) and Katie Kaars Si­jpesteijn (8hr 12min) were the win­ners in ab­so­lutely crazy times. Con­grats to all the fin­ish­ers – from Oliver in first place all the way to Mark in 23hr 45min!

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