Lakeland 50 Report

By David Reay

I ran the Lakeland 50 this weekend. It was an amazing weekend which now seems a bit of a blur, but here are some things which stick in my mind.

Registration on Friday. There is a really thorough kit check (people do get rejected) – sac weighed 3kg including water bottles. Then you are weighed to help with diagnosis if you are Ill during the race.

Sleeping. Not enough! The race starts at 11.30 Saturday so you have to camp the night before. It’s not quiet – especially those damned bells. Why did the people next to me get up at 5.30??

The heat. A terribly hot day. One thing I suffer baldly from is running in the heat. Unfortunate really.

Bus to the start at Dalemain near Pooley Bridge. Very scenic though air conditioning would have been nice.

Lap around Dalmain estate. After the start there is a boring 4 miles to make the course up to 50 miles. At the end of the lap we were nearly last. People go off too fast and I was passing people in large numbers later during stage one.

Checkpoints. If Carlsberg made checkpoints they would be like these. A huge array of food, even beef stew near the end. Marshalls treat you like royalty and at no point did I even have to fill my own water bottles. The ‘famous’ smoothies at the half-way point did not taste great to me but by then not much did.

Low spot. About half way through the heat and hills were getting to me. At the Kentmere checkpoint I was wandering round in a dream and feeling unable to eat or drink. I was desperately trying to forget that I still had a marathon left to run. The hill out of Kentmere felt like Mont Blanc (not that I’ve ever climbed it but I’m sure you get the general idea).

Ambleside. Really the first populated area at about 34 miles. I was amazed – people in pubs stood up to clap and cheer. Everyone seemed to know what the race was. It was about 10.00 in the evening, warm and raining. First sign of a bad blister which I had to tape up. But there was a much more important problem – I had no idea of the remainder of the route and felt I had little chance of finding it in the dark even with the route guidebook. It was time to make friends. Luckily I’d met some guys earlier and we teamed up for the final 16 miles.

Running in the dark. Exhilarating. At one time there were 7 of us in a group and the pace kept picking up. In Langdale we could see a long line of lights from head torches behind us. Wonderful.

Second last checkpoint. Surreal, like the bridge scene from the film Apocolypse Now (think rows of lights, fire pits, music).They even had sofas. I was feeling wet and cold now but everyone very confident – only about 10 miles to go. There were 2 guys laying wrapped up in survival bags who looked in a very bad way.No doubt waiting for transport. It was strange how everyone avoided them – like they were a bad omen.

Last checkpoint. Only 3.6 miles left but with a really steep climb after the checkpoint.Again, surreal – the tent was decorated as heaven with the marshals dressed as angels. I was so tired I did not notice this for 2/3 minutes. Outside they had signposted the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and decorated the climb with tea lights and lanterns.Beautiful, though it did make you realise how steep it was. The guy who had done all of the route finding, Steve, was going through a bad patch and the others rewarded his hard work by leaving him.Like a good Claremont person I stayed with him for the final section.

The end, nearly. At the top of the climb there is supposedly a steep drop into an old quarry but I could not see it in the total darkness.Probably just as well. Steve had recovered so we pushed on the pace, sprinting through a dark and deserted Coniston when we realised we could get under 15hrs.

The end. What a reception.Finishers are sitting around drinking beer and everyone cheers in each finisher. It’s all very emotional. We finished about 2.30 in the morning and I did 14.58 which I think puts me in the top 50%. Not wonderful but I was happy with it. Just to finish in one piece felt like a victory.People were still finishing the next morning when I was at breakfast. I suspect that with the heat a fair number did not finish at all.

What do you get for your money? Something of an improvement over the North Run – tech T shirt, Buff, 2 nights camping, map, guide book, food, drinks, meal at the end, medal.

Basically, the best event I’ve ever taken part in. And that’s after many years of cycling and running. I would encourage everyone to give it a go.