LAST weekend I was a marshal at the Montane Lakeland 100-mile and 50-mile ultra-marathons.
Those who made it as far as the Ambleside checkpoint will have seen me dressed as a gorilla.
Why a gorilla? Well each checkpoint had a theme and Ambleside was a circus. What I didn’t realise when I volunteered my services was that I qualified for free entry to next year’s event.
I’m not an ultra-runner and tried to pass my “reward” on to someone with far more experience – and who has unfinished business with the 100 – but I wasn’t allowed, so after a bit of umming and ahhing and a little persuasion I’ve agreed to do the 50.
I’ve never run more than about 18 miles in one go, although I’ve done plenty of training in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales where ascent often makes up for lack of miles.
I’ve also never walked more than about 25 miles in a day; I’ve done the Yorkshire Three Peaks several times and one time a very memorable (memorable as in exhausting) 25ish stretch between Milngavie and Cashel campsite on the West Highland Way – which I’ve completed on numerous occasions (including Ben Nevis as an added extra) and on the last one attempt I stretched the route out to 122 miles by going off-piste and climbing Ben Lomond and Ben Lui.
Years ago I used to regularly cycle more than 100 miles in a day, sometimes up to 120, up hill and down dale without a second thought.
But enough of what I’ve done; it’s what I’m about to do or at least try to do that’s important.
The race will start at Dalemain, a stately home a couple of miles south-west of Penrith at 11:30am. From there it’ll head to Pooley Bridge, up High Street and then to Howtown; before climbing to Gowk Hill (471 metres) and then down to the banks of Haweswater.
After that it’s through the valley below Sleddale Fell to Kentmere; up past Sallows and down to Troutbeck and then to Ambleside.
It should be plain sailing after that; about 16 miles to the finish via Skelwith Bridge and Elterwater, looping north around Lingmoor Fell, in between Great Intake and Holme Fell before a final ascent to Coniston Fells and then to the finish.
Now that I’ve studied it on the OS map, and realise that I’ve walked and run quite a lot of the route before, it doesn’t seem so bad. Although it is 50 miles.
I just need to make sure I stick to a training plan and don’t try to get ahead of myself. I do know that at some point my right iliotibial (IT) band will flare up, and the centre of my left knee cap will become painful and that’s when I’ll need to ease off; but at least I know my body’s weaknesses and how to manage things.
I won’t need to buy any new equipment, although I doubt my current Salomon Speedcross shoes will survive until then; and I’ll have to do more long runs in the winter, whatever the weather, including solo jaunts with a head torch.
As for this year’s race, the eighth to be held, 305 started the 100 route and 209 finished, giving a 69 per cent success rate, the highest to date.
There were 615 starters in the 50 of which 585 finished, giving a 95 per cent success rate.
And the winning times? Paul Tierney was victorious in the 100 with a time of 20:42:07, and for the 50 it was Jayson Cavill in 8:04:24. Importantly for me, the slowest 50 time was 24:04:24, and that was a 67-year-old man.
However, a special mention has to go to 80-year-old Harry Johnson who completed the 50 in 23:43:30; and it’s rumoured that he’s planning to do the 100 next year.
Now that’s something to aim for!