I started my Lakeland 50 journey in 2011 in secret. Didn't tell anyone in case I failed miserably, then no-one would know. It is no exaggeration to say that what I experienced that day in July changed me. It gave me a confidence in myself that I always felt I lacked, the confidence to try new things, other years were to teach me new lessons too none more so than this year. I've made fantastic new friends, a couple of whom I've gone on the share new adventures and experiences with. In 2011 I joined the Lakeland family, it's a brilliant family full of diverse characters and people of all abilities but it's good job I don't have to buy them Christmas presents. It's rather a big family lol.
So with over 5 years of my life wrapped up in one way or another in this event I felt it was time to perhaps step back and let other people have the joy. So because I had a place due to checkpoint duties in the previous year and didn't have to battle to get in on the mad morning entry dash, I decided this was to be my last year, so I was determined to make it count and enjoy every minute of it.
Got down in plenty of time to see the 100 runners off. My friend Vicky was taking part and I think I caught a glimpse of her as they all sped past in Coniston. I then went to watch the children do their own little Lakeland run. Lovely to see Vicky's children taking part, in fact I rather think her little girl was giving the friend, who was "keeping her company" a bit of a run for her money. A future star maybe?
The registration process went well as usual and it's nice to be recognized by the some of the marshals. A lot of the marshals are past participants giving something back to the event So Friday night was spent chilling, chatting and eating. All nice and relaxed.
Saturday morning and all went according to plan, tried to catch up with Vicky's progress, bad news, it wasn't going so well. Gutted for her. Met up with club mates who were supporting both Vic and Dawn. Said goodbye to Dawn at the start line, knowing I wouldn't see her again as it would be wheee and gone for her. Into start pen and off round that blasted estate, which I suppose at least gives you a chance to warm up properly. Met a couple of chaps, one was an Ozzie who chatted for a while and then was gone, but the other was Mark who will feature large later on.
|Mark and I coming into Dalemain after the loop.|
Mark and I stayed together until Howtown, but because I know I'm extremely slow up Fusedale we went our separate ways. The slog up Fusedale never gets any easier but once past the beck where I always have a wash and soak my hair it gets more do-able and I know I'm going to get to the top in the end. Over the top and down to the next slog, ran all the way down, when I say ran I mean tottered I suppose. I don't think I've ever seen it so beautiful as it was that afternoon and evening it was just spectacular. Round Haweswater which seemed almost easy this year for some reason. Into Mardale Head (ultra legends - The Spartans assisted by another legend, Louise of Troll bridge fame)bang on my estimated time, had soup, sorted foot, chatted to Mark and his new companions, they left and I followed suit about 10 mins later. Up and over Gatescarth, down to Sadgill where I looked up to check the bridge and down I went, bugger, hurt thumb but apart from that OK. It was getting dark heading up to the col so head torch on. Made a slight navigational error at the stiles before Kentmere, have no idea why or how. Popped into Kentmere (Hogwarts) to be greeted by Marcus Scotney (ultra legend). This where I met up with Mark and Co. One of the chaps was pulling out and the other Darren insisted I go with them, he'd been listening to Mark Laithwaite about buddying up and decided I needed buddied.
|Last of the evening sun, Topping out over Gatescarth.|
Up and over Garburn, stopping every now and again for a wee rest we were treated to the most amazing night sky with shooting stars and everything. Through Troutbeck and down through the scary woods. Met some 100 people along the way, they are just out of this world in my mind, what a feat.
Into Ambleside checkpoint, Susan and Marian were waiting for Vicky who was still going, in fact she wasn't far behind (WOW). Now this event has something rather unique I think, if you've not guessed already, that is checkpoints staffed by your actual heroes of the Ultra World who dress up in all sorts of amazing garb running around seeing to YOUR every need and being happy to do so. So in Ambleside we were met by Gaynor, Gerry and Barefoot Alek's (who was wearing a dress and fetching wig set off nicely by his bushy beard. It's odd how good he looked, really. Reminded by Gaynor about cut off times,the troops were gathered and off we trotted into the night. I was dubious we (mainly about me) that we would make it but Mark and I made it to Chapel Stile with enough time to have a good rest and take on some food and drink. Darren pulled out here which was a shame, but I think he had just had enough.
|Gaynor Prior (another Ultra legend and hero)as the Tattooed Lady .|
It was here I met up with Vicky (now a legend) as she prepared to tackle the last 10 miles. Utterly amazing. She was soon ready for the off and I watched her toddle off into the morning feeling very proud.
Over the massive stiles, over the moss of trepidation, up to the dibber and down to what will be the last few miles. It was at this point I KNEW (mmm) that I was going to make it, and was already imagining walking into the hall to the cry of 50 finisher, I saw me get my medal and t. shirt, yaay. However the Gods have a habit of sticking an oar in the plans of we mere mortals and it wasn't to be. At about half a mile off the steps of doom, I met Mrs Cow who decided, not "none shall sleep" but "thou shall not pass" and it was all over for me. My own personal jury will probably be forever out on whether I should of kept on going and finished. (Mark did, he sensibly did not try and influence my decision either way).Without Mark, who sprang into action I would of come off a lot worse indeed and I thank my Guardian Angel for sending him to me. It happened, I walked away, no big post mortems, I did nothing wrong and the cow was only doing what instinct told her to. However I don't think I want to be that close to a cow again and will do everything in my power not to be. I have my own thoughts about livestock on public footpaths and they haven't changed in any way. I have been in contact with the organizers and all has been discussed and is well. I want to stress that it was just one of those things, my blip no-one else's.
I was taken back to HQ by a lovely lady and seen by the medics, felt rather foolish and that people were making a fuss of me but at the same time grateful that they were if you know what I mean. All protocols were followed and I was well looked after. Have since seen my own Doctor too just in case.
There is something I really need to say though and for people like me and it is super important -
THANK YOU. Mark Laithwaite and Terry Gilpin for making this event accessible to us. Thank you Lakeland people because in all these years I've never been made to feel inferior to the super fitties. It's always been a journey we all undertake together. Long may it continue to be so.
On a slightly sombre note but I think relevant - on the Friday morning before we left for Coniston I attended the cremation service of a club mate who went missing whilst out fishing, after an extensive search by inshore rescue etc. his body was found in the water. We weren't best buddies or anything but I had known for years and had been on club outings with him etc, he used to rib me about my "running" but at the same time gave useful encouragement and advice. I thought of him as I topped out Fusedale and was sad that his running and walking days were over. We must make the most of the time we have, it isn't long in the great scheme of things.
So here was my "last" 50 I hit every checkpoint exactly when I planned in order to ensure a comfortable finish, I enjoyed every bit of it (one bit I could of done without). I saw one friend do something amazing and another almost skip through what I find hard, and yet this event has once more humbled me. I will be back next year to help on a checkpoint and be part of this wonderful and life affirming event. Plus I'm not really sure what else I would want to be doing on the last weekend of July.
PS I've recovered, I think, the quite frankly outrageous bruises have faded and in a way even although I didn't get that medal I did get an experience to add to the list. I rather think I attract "experiences" somewhat.
I have plans in the making for more adventures. Can't wait.