Friday 27th July – 6pm start
105 miles with 22,211ft elevation change
In 2017 I had a crack at the Lakeland 100 for my first 100 miler and sucessfully completed it. It wasn’t without a few issues, you can read the blog about that one here.
Coming into the 2018 race I wanted to improve on my time, improve on my navigation of the route and look after myself a little better.
Training really kicked off by supporting my friend Scott at the West Highland Way race, running 26 miles with him. I was feeling good and the ankle was feeling good too, despite rolling it in June after the Skye Half Marathon.
Since then I went a little crazy with training and doing runs in places I’d never been to before: Isle of Eigg, CMD Arete, Isle of Arran – It was great fun to train for Lakeland and explore new places.
Roll on Thursday – 1 day before the race.
I took the day off work and got all my kit packed, multiple different options in case it was wet, warm, windy, snowy etc.
The main support I had for this race was Gavin and my wife Victoria. Secondary support to see along the route was Fin & Han, and unofficially Lorna.
Gavin came to drive me down on Thursday and we checked into the beautiful Yewfield Vegetarian B&B near Hawkshead/Coniston.
Friday – pre race
Race registration went without a hitch, Gavin drove Marcis and myself down and we went through Registration which has a really good structured layout: Confirm identity, kit check, parcel collection, weigh in, 2 trackers attached.
Went back to the B&B, checked into the other room I’d booked (which would be Vickys room for the first night) and tried to sleep… Key word being tried! It always happens though, I think its the excitement/fear knowing that race is only a few hours away.
Got to Coniston just in time for race briefing which was an absolute sauna in the hall, crazy hot! After that I sat and relaxed on the grass chatting to Vicky on the phone and some friends.
5.45pm – I went into the starting corral and chatted to Davie & Richard while the singer was singing Nessum Dorma, and then bang on 6pm the race was started by little Luke!
1. Coniston to Seathwaite (7 miles)
The weather was roasting, so hot out there. Before long it was a long slog uphill, I’d set out at a decent walking pace with my poles, not bothered about folk passing me here, it was a long day and I was trying to conserve energy, especially in this heat.
Walna Scar Road goes on forever over the stones to the pass, during the descent into Seathwaite I just ran comfortably for a few miles, the descent is pretty easy going for the most part with a small rocky section near the bottom.
I got into the checkpoint which was themed for the World Cup, fancied having a go at scoring a goal but never did in the end.
Grabbed some chocolate bourbons, flapjacks, water and headed out.
2. Seathwaite to Boot (7 miles) – 14 miles total
I barely remembered this section from last years race, so I was excited to get out on it and experience it all over again. Its surprising how much you do remember of the route though when you do eventually get on it. I’d not recced this section since last years race but felt comfortable following the road book if needed, the field was still pretty bunched up so never needed to. A lovely short climb through a forestry area across a tiny bridge, then up onto some fell (I think). The main bit I remember about this section was the super steep descent down rocks next to a wire fence, last year it was raining here and very slippy, this year it was like 24c and crazy hot. I had pretty much finished both my waters and kept hydrating really well with water & SIS Hydro tablets every other bottle. Hit the road and you run past some houses where everyone is out cheering, cross a road and arrive at Boot checkpoint AKA The Vikings, and familiar faces Wooo.
3. Boot to Wasdale (5.4 miles) – 19.4 miles total
After refuelling at the checkpoint and getting a hug I was off out again to find Wasdale. Again this year, looking back I can’t really remember most of this section other than the big open fell after the climb up on to it. It was starting to get dusk and I was curious how far I would make it before putting my head torch on.
Last year it was around the tarn before the descent into Wasdale. This year I’d taken it just as conservatively, I never once checked my pace or time though, didn’t want to get into the race constantly checking my time and comparing splits to last year, that would be a terrible way to race this race for me. The crowd was pretty spaced out now so I had to keep on top of my navigation along the top. I spotted my friend Mike, it was great to see him and I gave him a big hug! We chatted for a while and put on our headtorches. During the descent into Wasdale I lost Mike but carried on running, its such a long slog along the road until you finally hit Wasdale. The lights of Wasdale in the distance is always a welcome sight, drawing you in.
In the checkpoint everyone was dressed as superheroes, I was spoilt for choice with all the sandwiches available at the checkpoint. Luke aka Spiderman helped me out in the checkpoint giving me tea, water and food!
4. Wasdale to Buttermere (6.9 miles) – 26.3 miles total
This is where I had my worst moment last year, stood at the side of the trail hating life, even got the tattoo to remember it! I was hoping this year would be different and thankfully it was. The rain started pretty heavy and I found shelter under a tree to get out my waterproof jacket and put it on, the temperature was pretty warm still so it was quite a strange feeling.
This section has 2 big climbs and 2 big descents with a youth hostel in the middle. The first climb was pretty good, I managed to power up it at quite a nice steady pace without stopping, chatting to a guy called Giles. By the top I was feeling good so started running the descent. So many people were falling on the slippy rocks and slippy grass. I ran with Georgina a little here and found the bridge by the youth hostel. Neil was with his friend here, I was surprised to see him here but it was nice to see a familiar face.
The second and final climb here was pretty good again, went up at quite a nice conservative pace again not stopping, when I got to the top I ran the descent a lot slower than last year, it was very slippy and I did fall over once on the slick rocks. The run into Buttermere was pretty good, I ran again with Georgina chatting until we hit Buttermere checkpoint – Merry Christmas everyone! What a great theme and sight to see in the middle of the night!
5. Buttermere to Braithwaite (6.5 miles) – 32.8 miles total
I love this checkpoint, both years! Susan was there again and got me some tea, I remember I wrote in my blog about her last year and she commented about me calling her the ‘older lady in the checkpoint’. Anyway, got some tea, a hot dog and that was me fuelled. How do I volunteer here next year?
I saw Richard in here who was having a really tough time and feeling pretty rotten, I didn’t want to hang around so got a pack of crisps to eat for the next section and I was off out into my favourite section of the whole course.
I love this section, was feeling pretty confident about navigating this in the dark, but still knew the importance of keeping on top of it and not following people. A group of guys were following me initially including a man from Denmark, during the climb I was going pretty slow and let people pass me. By the top of Sail Pass I felt really good so had a lovely run down. You’ve got to really be on the ball here for the path which forks off, I had a few people running behind me but hardly any headtorches I could see up ahead. I did take the right trail (woo hoo) and stormed off ready to hit the fun grassy descent taking into the little sleepy town.
I was feeling amazing here, quite excited and giddy actually because I’d nailed the navigation (I do get lost later so get my comeuppance, don’t worry about that).
6. Braithwaite to Blencathra (8.5 miles) – 41.3 miles total
I got into the checkpoint and my feet were pretty sore, I filled my water bottles up, got a plate of pasta and instantly started taking my shoes off. I’d taped my feet up prior to the race and it’d rolled and bunched up in the middle of my foot causing some discomfort a few hours earlier before Buttermere. I took the tape off, socks on, shoes on and off I went. Its quite surprising how little time I spent at some of the checkpoints this year compared to last.
I find this one of the tougher sections, there is 1 unmanned checkpoint dibber, quite a stretch along the road and that tasty out and back type bit.
I set off along the road out of Braithwaite with some guys just behind me, nice and easy pace letting the pasta settle. The bit along the road is always a bit dodgy, especially when lorries are flying past. Soon enough though I was back on trail running past the eerie graveyard. I ran most of this next section with a 2 people, Stuart and a guy I cant remember his name, whose going to Chamonix later in the year too. We chatted life, races the usual stuff in an ultra. Just before Loughrigg I spotted Lorna and we had a quick chat asking how I was getting on and where I’d next see people.
Found the unmanned dibber no problem at all, I had my head torch on for approximately a further 30 minutes over last year which was a good mental boost. On the descent down into Blencathra I saw my friends Fin & Han, I was looking forward to seeing them for a few hours and super glad they decided to do a wild camp along the route to see me pass. It was great seeing them just as I’d taken my headtorch off. I ran down into the Blencathra centre where a marshal dressed up in KISS makeup greeted me.
7. Blencathra to Dockray (7.7 miles) – 49 miles total
Didn’t spend too long in here, bottled refilled, cup of coke, some biscuits and I was off again. The weather was fine actually, it hadn’t rained in a few hours since before Braithwaite (If I remember correctly).
Out of the checkpoint and on the hunt for the second unmanned dibber under the main road, it was very easy to find and there was a first timer with us who was worried about missing it. I like this little bit along the country roads past tiny farms, the nice looking bridge before you hit the dibber. I had a quick chat with a guy I’d yo-yo’d with the full race but he was being too negative for me so I just had to put headphones in and ignore him after that. Spotted Stuart on the slog up to the Old Coach Road and we chatted the whole length of it, usually I hate this 6km stretch along this old road, lots of work had been done on it so it was like a whole new trail and the chat made the time pass pretty quickly.
Interestingly I only listened to 2 songs this full race, Blonde Maria and Bonnie Tyler Total Eclipse of the Heart – On the climb to the old coach road.
I got into the checkpoint where everyone was dressed in pink, had some lovely soup, coke, crisps and was back out. I did sit down in this checkpoint for about 5 minutes which is the longest yet, felt good though to rest the legs a little.
8. Dockray to Dalemain (10.1 miles) – 59.1 miles total
10 mile section, this is a big one. I had enough food with me and water to get this section done without hassle. I had loads of jelly sweets, was back on the SIS tablets and ready to rumble. Once you’re past the farm you run on some great trail past a fast flowing river before hitting a cross roads in a field, I was running with Stuart again here. Once we hit the climb which gives stunning views of Ullswater the heavens opened and it poured down, like someone just took a bucket of water and dumped it on us. There was nobody else around at all but we both knew this section pretty well and looked forward to getting off the top and down into the beautiful forest.
Down in the forest we ran together and another runner went past us, the rain was stopping as we left the forest and started to navigate through the 2 boggy fields (note they weren’t actually boggy this year though).We ran pretty strong for most of the road section, when we hit the little castle know you’re nearly at the checkpoint.
I was so excited to see Vicky & Gavin, I text them to let them know I was nearly at Dalemain and to expect me in about an hour as I was going to change my socks and shoes. Just before the checkpoint I saw Lorna again who had a quick chat with me before I headed off into the MASH Checkpoint. It was absolutely pouring down now, luckily It was under cover.
I asked for pudding and custard while I started to get changed. I’d packed loads in this drop bag (the only drop bag location in the race), I changed my socks, shoes, took off my t shirt and put on a long sleeve, windproof and waterproof over the top, took the hat off and replaced it with a buff. Took some more jelly sweets & Mars Bars out. Finally got around to eating my cold pudding and custard I’d left it so long, had a bit more food then I was off out on my own now through the confusing fields of Dalemain Estate.
9. Dalemain to Howtown (7.1 miles) – 66.2 miles total
A lady came and asked if I’d done the race before, I said yes and she was pleased because she was concerned about navigating these fields, but I wasn’t much better because I got lost here last year. This year though it was incredibly easy to get through and I’ll remember it for my next shot at the 100 in a few years time.
Coming into Pooley Bridge I was so giddy with excitement. I saw Gavin & Vicky, greeting them with big hugs, it was great to get them updated on what had gone on so far, the rain has momentarily stopped and they walked up the hill a little with me before wishing me well on my way. Stuart caught up to me and we ran together for a while before he went off into the distance. I was flagging a little here now, just wanted to get into Howtown, the trail is beautiful and very runnable, there was lots of walkers on the route now. I was happy to have made it past the 50 mile start in Dalemain with loads of time to spare. Seeing the 50 runners come past me is fantastic motivation to carry on.
I got into Howtown with a few folk sat around, I took a seat while the marshals ran around to fill my bottles, give me a tea and some food. The marshal here was so encouraging, he was a 50 mile runner usually and was so excited about how well we were doing for time.
10. Howtown to Mardale Head (9.4 miles) – 75.6 miles total
This is the second longest section of the race and a really tough one at the best of times, this year though it was different, the weather was horrendous. Bloody horrendous! I climbed up Fusedale with 3 others, I was feeling pretty rubbish at this moment in time, had to take a seat which almost ended up in my lying down, the others were well ahead now. I continued to climb and it started to rain again but this time the wind was really strong. I was worried what the top would feel like and soon enough I was up and it was gale force, super strong wind you could feel pushing you, driving rain into your face, it actually felt like hail coming down, I can’t be sure. The whole run along High Cop was a nightmare, it was so bloody cold, my hands had started to get really cold and I’d just recently lost my gloves so had none other than the little built in mittens on the UD Waterproof jacket. The mittens were working out quite well, but the peaked hood on the UD v2 jacket is awful, it was blowing down into my face like a flappy plastic bag.
I couldn’t see any runners in front of me and knew the descent down would be soon, I was keen to find it thinking it would be less windy down by Haweswater (how wrong was I haha). Saw a runner with a dog and I switched my mind off and just followed him for a while, I missed my turn off by about 200m, he stopped and shouted me as he wasn’t in the race, I could see the trail just below some ferns so I stupidly fought my way through these knee high ferns, falling all over the place. After a few minutes I was back on the trail, serves me right through for not looking for the right fork, I’ll remember that in future now! Down along Hawswater it was just as windy, freezing and windy! I ran along totally expecting 50 runners to be coming by me any second, they came by me at the top of Fusedale last year about 40 minutes back. Near the end of Haweswater they started coming past, almost an hour later than last year, I knew I was up on my schedule based on this.
Running by the trees I ran fast because I thought they were going to blow down!
Mardale Head checkpoint was hard going, the marshals had to keep holding the gazebo down in the wind. I put my waterproof trousers on, had a cup of soup and a cup of tea to get some heat back into my hands. Finally before heading out I asked a marshal if I could use the blue latex gloves as my running gloves because I’d lost mine, she let me and that was it. I had gloves, I was warming up but I still felt like crap.
11. Mardale Head to Kentmere (6.5 miles) – 82.1 miles total
I left the checkpoint straight into a climb, almost every 50 runner now who was going past was having a little chat and offering loads of encouragement to me, it was amazing! The descent down here is a great one, I ran pretty well and the 50 runners kept commenting how great I was looking (haha pull the other one). I needed the toilet here so stopped by the path and climbed over a wall, someone shouted “What you doing?”, my response was quite blunt because I thought it was obvious haha “Having a sh*t”, toilet roll was totally soaked through though, damn it.
Later on the trail I was running down but I missed my friend Luke pass me who was doing the 50. Right before Kentmere, Andy came blazing by doing the 50, we hugged and he went on his merry way. I like the descent down into Kentmere over those big ass walls. The rain had gone off for a while but the wind on the tops was still pretty hectic and there was some thunder! Mind was racing now about using the poles, I couldn’t work out if the poles could get struck by lightning or not in my state (still can’t to be honest).
12. Kentmere to Ambleside (7.3 miles) – 89.4 miles total
Kentmere was a great checkpoint, I went in and instantly asked for something other than water. I’d had water and SIS Hydro for most of the race and water was becoming less palatable now, burning my throat. They offered me unflavoured Mountain Fuel and I took 500ml of it. I had some pasta, took a bag of jelly sweets and was off out ready to tackle Garburn pass.
Garburn Pass wasn’t as long as I remembered it from a few months back, it was still very rocky though and tough under foot. I was still having a bad time ever since Howtown, my feet were just killing. I sent Vicky an angsty teenager text saying “Expect the worst”, I was having a crap time and didn’t want to do it anymore. The rain was on and off but mostly off now. I stopped again to use the toilet in a little forest area. Running along the trail into Ambleside there was hardly any 100 runners and it was here where the 50 runners were some of the best, so encouraging it was absolutely fantastic to hear their kind words. If you’re reading this and remember passing me thank you so much for keeping me going, even if you were lying about how well I was running.
Coming into Ambleside was insane! Loads of people lined the streets and cheered, screaming more so when they saw my bib “Woo 100 runner” – I was getting really emotional now running through the town hearing all this, it was hard to hold it all back. I spotted my friend Mark aka Mr Skiddaw who I met a few weeks ago on Skiddaw, I gave him a hug and carried on through the town.
I saw Vicky, Gavin, Fin & Han ready to cheer me in. I got into the checkpoint at Ambleside and saw some more friendly faces marshalling here. Taking stock here I was having a crap time but the only thing which was actually bad now was my feet, I had no injuries, just very tender feet. I knew a finish was in the bag. My goal time was out the window and potentially so was sub 30, but I really couldn’t care less now. My friends walked up the little road with me chatting and filming, ready to see me for the final time at Skelwith Bridge Hotel a few miles out of Ambleside.
13. Ambleside to Chapel Stile (5.6 miles) – 95 miles total
Up out of Ambleside I went, Neil and his friend passed me and we chatted for a while, I ran down the trail and down the road to Skelwith Bridge Hotel, nobody was around at all, I couldn’t see them anywhere, No problem I thought they’ll surprise me at the Wainrights Inn later on, I walked much of the path here to the road bridge feeling really sore.
Ran down the trail past the Langdale Timeshare and the Wainright Inn still nobody to be seen, at the time I was absolutely furious about it, so angry. I ran pretty good into Chapel Stile now and decided it wasn’t a good idea to sit on the comfy sofas.
I took 2 paracetamol here, the only 2 of the race because my feet were so tender with each footstep. They had done 95 miles though by this point. Got some food, brownie bites, drink and I was off again.
14. Chapel Stile to Timberthwaite (6.5 miles) – 101.5 miles total
Out the checkpoint four 50 miler runners past me and I decided to try and hang onto them for as long as possible, it was near here where I had to put my headtorch on last year, but it was still pretty light so I was in good spirits about this. I followed the runners up to the pass, crossed the road and started to run and catch them up. Calculating the time I knew I’d be lucky to get sub 30, and if I wanted it I’d have to work for it.
When I chatted to them they were all going for sub 12 hours, which puts me on sub 30 hours for the 100. I said I’d stick with them if I can to get that time, but before long I’d passed them and was running strong, followed by 1 of the 50 runners Mike who stayed with me for most of this next section, we took turns leading the setting the pace.
Had to put my head torch on just at the final unmanned dibber of the race, the pace was slightly reckless, I was feeling great through so why not ride it out, it didn’t matter what was going to happen, I just felt great knowing the finish is within reach. Before Timberthwaite I ran past Neil and his friend again down the lovely bit of technical trail.
Turns out I ran this section the 10th fastest of the race, I’m pretty surprised and happy with that.
At the checkpoint I didn’t stop at all, I literally just gave my £1 to climb Jacobs Ladder and carried on. Feeling like Freddie Mercury now, nothing was going to stop me!
15. Timberthwaite to Coniston (3.5 miles) – 105 miles total
I lost my 50 mile friend here, figured I had enough food and drink to make it to the end I wasn’t too fussed. I was still feeling in great spirits so power marched the stairs out of the checkpoint at a strong pace, all the 50 runners were stepping aside and letting me past, offering encouragement as I past them which was amazing to hear.
I could see the pass way off in the distance, knowing once I hit that it was all down hill to the finish! I ran as much as I could now, even the short uphills but it was very sore on the feet. I walked the final uphill past a conga line of runners, some 100 runners now exchanging well dones. My headtorch flashed low battery, nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! That’s all I need. I’d just past a load of people and didn’t want to hang around changing batteries, nor did I want to risk the technical rocky descent with a dim light. I used my phone torch in my mouth as I walked and tried to change the battery, what a faff that was! I didn’t fall over and luckily had changed it quite successfully. During the initial decent I was running most of it, the rocks were killing my feet but I had the motivation and drive to finish now, all the runners I passed were having a laugh now.
Once I hit the main big trail I hauled ass, when I hit the road descent it was a full on sprint, or it at least felt like a sprint, wow it was hard to keep the legs moving under me, I was using poles for stability so I didn’t fall.
I passed a few more runners and before I knew it, was in the centre of Coniston running along the road ready for the final left turn down towards the school. As I turned left Fin & Gavin where there and I caught them by surprise, they ran down with me at a fast pace until I got to the end and dibbed my dibber, that was it. I was finished. I was done, totally spent! Vicky came over and gave me a big hug! Wow!
I did this section the 4th fastest of the race, I’m very pleased to have done a strong finish, I always manage to finish really strong in races after having a terrible time in the middle of them, its crazy how things can turn upside down during these sorts of races.
Once I got into the finish tent the marshal announced I was a 100 finisher for the second time and everyone clapped, I didn’t even know them but it was like a family atmosphere, it was very emotional. I collected my medal, T shirt, timing printout and saw everyone there: Vicky, Gavin, Fin, Han and Sarah.
I did feel absolutely exhausted, I’d left everything out on the course and that’s the feeling I wanted to have after finishing, like I couldn’t have pushed any harder or done any more to achieve the time I got with the circumstances and cards I was dealt.
29 hours 19 minutes
48th place out of 419 starters (218 finishers)
49% drop out rate
The finish was a wonderful place, I got to sit down, eat some veggie chill & rice, chat with my friends and family about the whole day and attempt to drink a pint!
Post race thoughts
I do think Lakeland 100 is the premier UK event, the best event in the UK and the main 100 miler on UK shores to do. It’s a real test of fitness and insanely hard!
Looking back now, I’m 2 and 0 for doing the Lakeland 100. That’s 2 attempts and 2 successful completions, and I’m immensely proud of that.
I have a goal to complete this race 5 times so I can get the slate, so we will see how the next few years pan out. I’d like to take a break from it in 2019 and focus on other races, maybe still being around the event for the camaraderie and cheering on the legends doing it in some form or another.
I have learnt some more things from 2018 which I hadn’t thought about in the 2017 version. Building on last years knowledge of taking it easy until Dalemain, taking care of your feet, I learnt it is important to carry all the required kit with no excuses, the kit is there for a reason and it proved to be useful this weekend. Making good use of the drop bag is also key to a successful completion of this race. I know the route a bit better now, especially after taking the wrong turn.
The race is fantastically organised, there is a real family atmosphere here, I enjoyed hearing all the other runners coming in while I was sat eating, such good camaraderie throughout. The checkpoints were absolutely amazing and makes the entry fee incredibly good value for money, not to mention the Montane goodies you get too! The support along the way from 50 mile runners and the chat from fellow 100 mile runners make it an event that will stay with me for a long time.
I’m looking back now with fond memories, almost all the negative thoughts from my 7 hour strop have faded and I’m already looking forward to doing it again, my feet and legs feel amazing, mentally I will take some time to recover but it was all worth it.
Huge thank you to Jen at MJM Nutrition who helped me really dial in my pre-race and post-race nutrition plan.
Finally another thank you to Sarah at Missing Link Coaching for providing the training I needed to get the job done.
Here is the video my friend made of the event:
If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a message! I’ll be out on the recce runs again in 2019, for fun.