The other day I had a message from the very awesome Gavin Grobbelaar (aka the star behind The Multisport Basement for all you Saffa’s out there). He asked what a good 100 miler in the UK was but having only ever done one race in Britain before, a flat multi-day from Oxford to London along the Thames, I waited until today to reply. Why? Because this past weekend, I ran in an event with one myself. A timely email Gavin!
The Lakeland 100 / Lakeland 50 take you on an ultra tour of England’s Lake District, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite areas in the UK. It’s a truly stunning little corner of the world. Think rolling hills, quaint villages, lush fields, fabulous fells, country pubs … this is quintessential British countryside, which I possibly never appreciated enough until moving to the arid desert.
I drove down from Scotland with my support team (aka my wonderful mum!) the day before the race. After registration and the mandatory kit check, we ended the day with an al fresco pub supper whilst I tried to quiet my concerns about being unable to read a map (do any girls read maps?!) on an un-marked race route. The following morning, that moment you wake up on race day and look out the window, is always combined with a little prayer for wonderful weather. And indeed, the air was crisp, the skies were clear and rays of sun were just starting to make their presence known. Bliss!
What followed was just a pretty great day on the trails. I had no major trials at all so I think my greatest takeaways were less about me and more the event itself … and what a perfect show the organisers put on. It’s always the little things that add up to show great professionalism and know-how.
Registration, weigh-in and kit list checks were speedy and smooth. The race briefing was spiced up thanks to the Mexican wave (!) and us 50 milers / 80k’ers were led on to buses for the race start at the grand and imposing Dalemain Estate. ‘How civilised,’ I thought, compared to the often comical equivalents in the likes of Nepal that invariably involve Maoist road blocks, landslides, collisions and sharing a seat with livestock. (I kid you not!)
Each checkpoint was handled a little differently in that various running clubs / organizations took ownership of them. Think homemade cakes & bakes, fresh smoothies, inviting sofas and chimineas to keep warm. I heard one of the checkpoints for the 100 mile competitors had set up a disco in the middle of a field along with flashing lights, cool tunes and costumes! Every single volunteer was so hugely helpful and supportive. Perhaps this stood out more when I do so many races in non-English speaking countries where verbal support and chin-wagging is kept to a forced minimum.
As for the self-navigation required, I only went the wrong way once but given I tend to lose myself in Tori-world and get lost even on marked routes, has to be deemed a great success. Most runners had done reccies of different sections and there seemed to be a very high return rate of runners (always a great sign!) who knew the course. Only once did a sweet guy ask me if I was only staying close by him for his directions!
During the final hour or two, I was side by side with a runner who’d had a rubbish day and dreadful cramping. I couldn’t help but be a support to him especially after my own knight in shining armour rescued me when I suffered the same in Mauritius just three weeks ago. An unwritten rule of trail running and something that makes our sport so appealing is the camaraderie and support between fellow runners.
Add to this, the camaraderie and support of others. Throughout the race I had regular messages from the complete rockstars in my life … my mum, my little sis, Ronnie, Saz, Gill, Claire and Deon. With such stellar support from start to finish, putting one foot in the other suddenly becomes so much easier. It wards of fatigue and warms your soul …
I finished 11 hours and 32 minutes later, legs tired but all smiles. My mum was there, elated and after a feed and a rest, we headed back to our hotel. Of course, I couldn’t sleep. What with the feeling of reward that comes from digging deep, I was far too exhilarated for shut-eye. And now, as I type this, back in bonnie Scotland, the sweat and toil of only two days ago, already seem a distant memory. And in their place, an unquenchable sense of personal achievement and a reminder of how it’s the people in our lives that really make us fly.
Over & out.