Everything started getting a little strange from Tilberthwaite… I only had 5.5km left but with a long climb and tricky descent it was looking to be an hour and a half at least. I knew something was wrong when everything went black and white. Then shortly afterwards I kept seeing animals and faces in every rock or twisted piece of wood, vivid pigs, old men and frogs.
As I glanced into the distance, I saw a suspended cube that was lit-up and looked like it had people in it. It could be a house, a conservatory, I have no idea but it soon vanished… I began to question if I was really here or even if the race was really happening and I imagined walking into Coniston to an eerily deserted town. I knew I’d officially lost it when I saw a blow-up snowman with long snaking wobbly arms. It turned out to be a runner in the final death march into Coniston….
As I finally completed the rocky descent I started moving along a flat track but suddenly fog descended and I was walking into nothing. I laughed as nothing made sense any more, I don’t even know if the fog was really there.
This was during the last section of the Lakeland 100 and I was moving into my second night of no sleep. I managed to finish the race in 34 hours 14 minutes 35 seconds coming in at 140th out of 265 with a starting field of around 500.
Ready to get started
I’m a very positive runner and generally love every moment out there in the hills. I’ve done several 50-milers (including the Lakeland 50) and have always been really positive throughout and met some amazing people along the way. But, somewhat depressingly, after completing the Lakeland 100 I don’t feel as good as I thought I would.
What affected me most of all is that it came to a point when I couldn’t run. As I descended from Fusedale towards Hawswater, what had started as a minor knee problem became incredibly painful and every step became agony. I almost couldn’t believe it. I was soaking, getting cold and my back was also ripped to shreds from rubbing. I didn’t even want to think about what was going on inside my trainers.
At this point, circa 70 miles in, I had no idea how I could ever make it to the finish so made an impulse call to my friend Immy to pick me up at the next checkpoint – I was devastated but didn’t see how I could carry on. Thankfully it was a long trek to the checkpoint so I had time to think things through. I began to think about all the training hours, the effect on family, the mental preparation, and the disappointment of coming back having “only” done 75 miles. I wanted that medal and I had to do this.
I kept thinking of a Wainwright quote “You were made to soar, to crash to earth, then to rise and soar again.” I had well and truly crashed to earth and although I knew I was never going to “soar” I could probably shuffle. I had no intention of coming back – it was now or never so I decided to press on.
The next 13 hours are almost a blur of eating sandwiches, pushing reasonably well uphill, walking the flats, but using my walking poles as crutches as pain shot through my knee on every descent. One fellow competitor told me there was only one more descent after Mardale Head. I can reliably say that this isn’t true but, even having done this section of the route, for some reason I believed him and it probably factored in my decision to carry on. Just one more descent.
Five or six big descents later I arrived at Tilberthwaite and had a cheese toastie thrust upon me. Taking a few minutes to prepare I pulled on my pack for the final time and headed up Jacob’s ladder where the mind bending became most apparent.
I finally made it to the end – I had always told myself that I would run over the line no matter what so pushed into a jog before the pubs in Coniston, the pain stopped mattering, it probably even went away – I had done it – I’d completed the Lakeland 100!
A well-deserved 5am pint
The whole race was a fantastic experience and took me to places mentally, physically and emotionally I’ve never been before. I’m still disappointed with the effect my knee had on the second half of the race, especially as it wasn’t a pre-existing issue so took me a little my surprise and meant many more hours out on the hills.
I’m incredibly proud to have battled through and ultimately make it to the end. I have utmost respect and admiration for those that come back time and time again to do this race – it is a classic on the UK calendar and the only one that inspired me enough to actually attempt 100 miles!
It feels strange now that it’s done after the best part of a year building up to it. I’m now looking at quite a different year next year – I’m going to identify the local classics in and around the Peak District and get those in my Calendar!