Ullswater Lakeland Trail 14k

The second part of the epic Dirty Double Lakeland Trail weekend was blessed with gloriously clear skies and bright winter sunshine. On arrival back at Jenkins field the runners were presented with a stunning panorama of snow dusted fell tops with even a little warmth in the air.

My other half was due to take part in the 10k race and so we were there early to see her safely aboard the 9am steamer crossing. The Ullswater trail races must be unique in boasting a scenic boat trip across a beautiful lake as the beginning to a running adventure; a wonderfully romantic way to begin a race. The breathless air left a glass like surface to the lake as the first boat of the day drifted away from Glenridding Pier. As she made her way towards Howtown on the other side, the strains of “Here Comes the Sun” floated back across the still waters as Pete Lashley struck up on his guitar to entertain the runners onboard.
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An hour later and it was my time to climb aboard the 10 am sailing and make my way over for the 14k Challenge event. As the boat made its way up the lake we began to spot the 10k runners on the fellside going the opposite way back to the finish in Glenridding. Those of us on the boat began whooping our encouragement to our fellow runners, reaching a hollering crescendo as the occasional tiny figure would wave back in acknowledgement. This became good sport for the next half hour as we settled our own nerves by encouraging those already running their race.

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To my delight I spotted the wife making her away along the shore and gave her a big shout by name. My shipmates joined in and we were rewarded with a cheery wave from her. “Come on Sandra”, I shouted, “you can still win it!” Thankfully she did find this amusing!

As the route back along the far side of the shore is quite remote in parts, we had all been advised to take a jacket, hat and gloves with us along with full length leg wear. Most of us were wearing the full kit to fend off the chill out on the lake, but were soon shedding layers once disembarking in the sunshine over at Howtown.

There was enough time for a brief warm up before Race Director Graham Patten had us assembled for the start. It was an odd contrast to the jazz band and big send off of yesterday to be lining up in a quiet country lane next to the “official start tree” ready to run. We counted down, Graham shouted “Go” and we were away!

It was an immediately uphill start as we charged along to the flanks of Hallin Fell pumping some warmth into our legs in the shady side of the hill. I had tagged along at the back of a group of 10 runners who made a pacey start and was feeling quite pleased with myself. I was then passed by what I later found out to be the first lady, and first finisher overall of our run as she shot past me like I had gone into reverse!

The route settled down into a wonderfully rocky and technical path that meandered up and down along the lake shore. There was barely a section of the route that wasnt a sort climb, or a plunging descent demanding full concentration. Personally I love this sort of rocky Lakeland path and was enjoying tagging along behind another runner who seemed to move at about the same pace as me.

As we entered a wooded section I remembered Grahams warning words about the Autumn leaf fall concealing the uneven track ,and his suggestion that we walk along here. Moments later the guy I was following hopped to the side of the path with a yell of pain as he seemed to turn his ankle. I checked he was ok before carrying on at a suitably reduced pace myself, (although still not actually walking!)

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As if the demands of the trail were not enough, the view across Ullswater towards the Helvellyn range was also breath taking. The wintry white mountain tops above the greens, golds and oranges of Autumn lower down the fells were perfectly mirrored in the still surface of the lake. I risked brief glimpses away from the trail surface to take in the glory of it. The silence was then broken by the hollering and cheering as the next Lakeland Trail sailing made its away across the lake, and the next boatful of runners cheered on those of us on the route.

I had settled into a bit of a solo run at this point, with the guy in front being too far ahead to reel in, and no-one in sight on the occasions I stole a look behind. I was beginning to feel the exertions of yesterdays race in my legs as a marshall directed me away from the 10k route and an appealingly flat path, to instead head directly uphill on the longer 14k route. The lactic caught up and I was reduced to a hands on knees plod on the almost vertical climb, and by the top I was suddenly caught by another runner.

It turned out to be my companion from earlier who had recovered from his ankle scare and made up enough ground to haul me in. Once again I tagged on his slipstream. Jenkins field came into view on the opposite side of the lake and sounds of the race commentator reached us all the way from the other side. We clearly heard him telling the tiny dots assembled around the finish that the first runners in the 14k event would with them in the next 10 minutes.

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With legs wearying rapidly it gave some encouragement to hear we weren’t too far from home, no matter how far it actually looked across the lake! As I charged to the finish line my support crew applauded politely but not realizing that it was me heading out of the sun in 8th place. They later told me they hadn’t been expecting me until much later which I suppose is a backhanded compliment of sorts! Clubmate Mike Harris obviously has a little more faith and encouraged me to a sprint finish from his rather comfy looking position sat on a park bench watching the runners go by!

I’ve had some fantastic experiences through running, met people and been to places I wouldn’t otherwise have enjoyed were it not for the sport. Its almost impossible to pick out favourites from all the events that fill the running calendar, but as I left Glenridding I was fairly sure that this was the most fun weekend of running I think I’ve ever had. The entire weekend became a celebration of the trails, the fells and the running made more pleasurable still by spending it with a group of positive, like minded stangers that somehow formed a proper little community. Roll on next year and some more Lakeland Trails.

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