Claire Norman in the Lakes in Leodais’s shoes
I thought I would combine my first trail race experience with my first race report… getting the excuses in early as always!
This time last week the prospect of running in the foothills of the Hellvellyn would have been up there with my worst nightmares. However when a friend pulled out, I was lured in by the prospect of a gender-specific technical t-shirt and began my quest for a pair of someone else’s trail shoes (“I don’t see myself doing this again so I don’t want to spend any money” were the fateful words that crossed my lips.)
Having acquired a pair of Walsh’s from Leodais MacPherson on Tuesday, I tired myself out at hills on Thursday and tried not to think about the weekend, or more specifically, the weather forecast. On Saturday morning my friend Ali (a Northumberland Fell Runner – booooo) and I set off to the Lakes, debating how many layers we could feasibly run in as the rain and wind set in.
We arrived early and watched the 10k runners set off in horizontal rain. The weather proved not to be the only downer on the day – the eagerly awaited t-shirts were BEIGE. We tried not to let this get us too downhearted and headed back to the car to warm up again. Just as we were setting off for the start of our race (the 15km “Challenge” as opposed to the race) we were told by some retreating runners that the start-time had been pushed back to 1 o’clock and that Racers and Challengers would be running together, and we would all be doing a modified 10km course because of the weather.
Initially I was delighted by this news but as the sky cleared I became a bit disappointed. It felt like we had come a long way “just” for a 10k. However, this disappointment disappeared fast as we set off on the course and its first 4km climb. Although Matfen and Ponteland had prepared me for hilly 10ks, this was far less relenting and I ended up walking towards the end (as did everyone around me mind!!).
The track was basically road and gravel to begin with, which was quite a nice introduction to trails. Realising that my Garmin was set to miles not kilometres also provided a well-needed boost. After 4k we left this track behind and got on to the real business. Runners formed a single file as the people who hadn’t invested in trail shoes slipped and slided over the wet rocks. As this part of the course was quite flat, Ali and I and our spiky shoes were able to nip ahead of many of the people who had passed us on the hill I found myself actually enjoying the added challenge – it was a lot more interesting than tarmac!
There was a tricky downhill on wet steps and then another, shorter climb and then we were pretty much headed home. Unfortunately, the weather turned for the worse once again and we were running in hailstones and (what felt like) a hurricane. Around the 8km mark there was a steep muddy downhill and the trail shoes were really put to the test – again it was actually really fun! Despite the rain, everyone around us was having a great time and the spectators and marshalls were brilliant at spurring us on. Only one tit in normal trainers decided to go down the last big slope on his arse, nearly knocking over half a dozen other runners en route – Ali and I took great delight of overtaking him once we were back on the road.
We passed the car park in no time at all and picked up the pace on the home straight, which as usual proved to be ever so slightly further than I had thought. We were headed for the funnel at race HQ which meant there was a lovely finish along by Ullswater and I think Ali and I pulled in at just over 1 hour, which I was pretty pleased with for my first trail run!
Cees Van Der Land was sporting the only black and white vest that I spotted and he did an awesome job, coming in 5th overall.
A great day out and an excellent introduction to trail running. The atmosphere was a lot different from road races – people are more relaxed about times and placing and everyone is keen to help each other out. I would definitely recommend the Lakeland Trails series to other newbies and you might even be lucky and get a decent colour t-shirt.