Graham Millington: The Langdale Daffodil 10k is run over 2 separate days to ease the congestion along this remote but beautiful Lakeland valley. The Saturday event had been blessed with the first of day of fine Spring weather whilst the Sunday was hit with a sudden return to finest Cumbrian drizzle with a gentle gale thrown in. Showing my usual foresight I had opted to enter the Sunday event and so spent the first half hour huddled in the car watching the rain bounce off the windscreen.
Despite the conditions my youngest still wanted to take part in the kids fun run and so my warm up consisted of a 3k jog up and down the only flat part of the valley accompanying my daughter, and gently encouraging her to reel in and destroy the opposition in true Competitive Dad style.
Already drenched to the skin and half frozen I decided to chuck my base-layer on the basis that all it would do was gather more “wet” and weigh me down. So it was that I joined the other shivering souls seeking shelter in the lee of the dry stone walls clad manfully in Harriers vest and shorts awaiting the start.
The first few hundred yards are the only flat bit on the whole course and it took a conscious effort not to go off like a whippet with a the assistance of a ferocious tail wind. It was difficult to know how to pace the run. With 6 miles of repeated, short, but very sharp climbs and descents this was obviously not going to be a PB course, but neither was I there to have a pleasant jog in the countryside. The unpleasant conditions also added to the incentive to knuckle down and get it over with as quickly as possible! I opted to keep to a 10k PB pace on the flat, (7mm), and see what the climbs and descents would bring.
The first couple of “hillocks” were despatched without much discomfort thanks to fresh legs. After about 2 miles I was already feeling the lactic from the hills and checked my Garmin to discover it had somehow malfunctioned and was showing only 0.9 of a mile completed. Oddly enough this tallied almost perfectly with the 1 mile marker board I passed shortly afterwards whereupon I re-evaluated just how tough this race was!
The route runs down the valley from the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel towards the picturesque villages of Chapel Style and Elterwater. The narrow roads were open to traffic but thanks to expert marshalling it was never a problem despite most competitors taking the racing line around blind corners and ignoring the “keep left“ advice! After the first few miles I shook off a guy who had been on my shoulder by putting in a bit of an effort over a relatively flat section and continuing it up the next incline. In front of me was a lady runner who turned out to be first lady home, and a couple of blokes keeping just ahead of her. Try as I might I couldn’t make up much of the 50 or so yards between us as we seemed to be matching our pace perfectly.
At the turnaround point my watch showed 21.30 for 5k which put me on course for a 10k PB. Whilst encouraging, I knew that we would still have to make our way back up those hills on the return leg, and this time into a headwind! With no-one close enough to trouble me from behind I concentrated on the road ahead and noted one of the male runner starting to come back to me a little. This gave me a target to aim at.
Coming out of Chapel Style is a particularly mean hill climb with a kick at the end but I managed to keep my pace up as I finally caught and passed the other guy. From here onwards it was a battle against the wind and the contours.
At the 5 mile point my Garmin was still telling me I stood a chance of beating my 10k time. However I knew that there were two more hills to come, and the last incline had just sapped my legs as I really felt myself tiring for the first time. With 2 more of the same to come I knew would tie up and slow down too much before being able to take advantage of the final downhill run in. Lactic burn accompanied the drag up the penultimate hill until a fabulous sight greeted me: I’d miscalculated and that really had been the last ascent.
All that was between me and the finish was a beautiful downhill stretch of tarmac which I covered with legs pumping and arms wind-milling in a desperate effort not to miss out by a few remaining seconds. I think I startled a few of those gathered at the finish line with my wild celebrations of a modest 15th place finish – but a final glance at the Garmin had told me I’d just taken over a minute off my official road PB to come home in 43:52 on perhaps the toughest road course I’ve run yet!
I celebrated with a Guinness in the delightfully atmospheric New Dungeon Ghyll pub and basked in the glow of my first ever placing as 3rd V40. Now for a nice flat, fast course!