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Runfestrun report by Sandra Jinks

RUNFESTRUN 22 – 24 May 2020  www.runfestrun.co.uk

Return of this event organised by Chris Evans and well known athletes, Colin Jackson, Steve Cram, Paula Radcliffe & Natasha Evans confirmed as Team leaders over this weekend also accompanied by live bands tbc.

I went to the first one held last May at Bowood Parkland, Wilts. deciding to go just for the Friday as  it being my first festival other than food or flowers & feeling I should prepare for an element of chaos, mud and loud music, I was pleasantly surprised at the fantastic organisation together with beautiful surroundings. (2020 will not disappoint as it is to be held in Windsor Great Park.)

My Titanium knee then all of 3 months old I knew would incur consideration when seeing the queues at the race registration tents, club runs, individual and family all with chosen distances during the day time and evening twilight also moon lit neon runs. Still undecided I wandered towards the sign that showed Steve Cram was about to start his talk so took a seat in the marque for inspiration, certainly it was entertaining. After that a walk over to the tents erected for massage treatments and sports health advice, this would certainlyget me in the right frame of mind, there was even Club La Santa with encouraging details of their active holidays on offer. Nearby I could get the aromas of food being freshly cooked some with nutritional benefits, some that certainly were not! difficult to choose, but not far away were the beer tents & Gin bars, here I did spend a little time, well there was an array of flavours.. tis more like what I'm used to.

Began to notice runners making their way to the start positions even joined in cheering them to the finish flags. Razorlite began setting up on stage and people of all ages some dressed in their night clothes, well the ones being pushed in prams, gathered to listen. So with a rhubarb gin in one hand an amazing filled bap with chips in the other I settled down to enjoy the evening that was ablaze with stage technical design lighting together with runners jogging with their Neon lights. After sometime when the night was getting late I left the event for a welcome sleep at a nearby establishment, never did get back to those registration tents..................

Many running clubs were taking part last year, also very much a family event. The Saturday is very much RACE DAY  so that may well suit a team from Eynsham Roadrunners to take part also as shown on the web the programme for Friday and Sunday has much to offer.

Benjamin Pollard had expressed his interest in encouraging a team so please do speak to him or myself to show your interest.

First release of Tickets: 25th Sept to 31st Oct. (2019 prices) second is 1st Nov to 31st Jan. Final 1st Feb to 21st May

sandra jinks@btinternet.com.

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Woodstock 12 Report by Jacky Pinnock

Woodstock 12 (The Golden Loo Heist)

A lovely sunny September morning as we set off from Eynsham to Woodstock.  Kate had suggested cycling over but although our legs would have been warmed up for the race, the thought of cycling back after 3 laps of the “Hill” might have been too much for the journey back, so we took the easy option by car.  Luckily for us as the original plan was to enter via Bladon Gate, but as we drove past it was taped off with Police Vehicles present, unbeknown to us it was the result of the  “Golden Loo Heist”.

When we arrived a few hardy Eynsham runners were already warming up and getting in those extra miles in preparation for their various Marathon challenges later in the year, Kate and I had a short jog deciding to use the first lap as a warm up rather than set off too fast and then struggle on the next two laps. 

Kate and I chatted our way round the first lap taking in the views and enjoying the lovely surroundings.

On the 2nd lap Kate had dropped back a little and I was feeling good so pushed on and overtook a few runners only to be caught by Simon Taylor (lead bike) and James Bolton finishing his race on the final stretch.  It was quite interesting to see James finishing for a change, he certainly didn’t seem to be feeling the effects of 3 undulating laps but then he probably trains there all the time.

The third lap started well but by the time I reached the Combe Gate Hill I could feel my legs tiring.  I guess it will be more Hill Training at Botley this winter for me.

There was good support from Eynsham spectators around the course and the Woodstock marshals which helped to keep me going.

We were rewarded with an Acorn (now planted in pot) and another fabulous Mythakulon T-Shirt for the collection (thanks Benedict).

It was another successful day for Eynsham Roadrunners with Kate Allred winning the ladies race, Robert Storey was 2nd Male 50 and Kate Williamson and I winning our respective age categories.

All round a very pleasant race.

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Hooky 6 Report by Alison Craggs

All I can remember about this race was the booze.

Ian’s plan had me down for 15 miles that day, but I had entered the Hooky 6, so went for a long warm up and stumbled across the Hook Norton Brewery, before finding my way back to the start line.  It was a two lap course and 6 miles later we ended up back where we started.

The race, which is in the Club Champs and is the reason why I had entered, sells out quickly and unfortunately quite a few people were not able to get a place.  There was a bar at the finish and although Adrian and other Eynsham Road Runners had missed out on getting a place they did not miss out on getting a pint ready for the presentations.

Kate finished second lady overall and won a box of 3 Hook Norton beers and a beer glass.   She didn’t like beer so promptly gave the beer away to Jackie and Adrian, but kept the beer glass – because having won the race last year she now has a matching set.  Top tip, if you like beer make sure you are near Kate at the presentations.

Jackie was then declared second in her age category and won more beer. 

Jackie and Adrian had kindly given me a lift and on the way home talk was about the Hooky Christmas Canter, which again sells out.  Adrian was telling us that he enjoys that race because as you run round you pop into the church and get mulled wine and mince pies.  Jackie didn’t know of this, as she’d always sprinted past the church to win the race!

I did not win any beer that day, but did complete the 15 miles and won the wine 3 weeks later.

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Race to the Stones Report by Tess Evans

Racing to the stones – Avebury that is, not to some gig somewhere.

Ok, its an ultra of sorts, an ultra with options. I had been looking at this event for some time, picking it up and putting it down like some kind of ornament I had no use for. I had my reasons for dithering, these were significant, so when Colin, whilst walking his dog said he didn’t know what sock to wear for this event he signed up to, I decided.

It wasn’t about the socks, or even Colin. It was about getting back on the event waggon.

After running my first and very enjoyable marathon in October; I hadn’t been my usual active self. Maybe I needed to recover longer than I did. Possibly, it is said you need to have more of a break than you think, but not stop completely. Well, I didn’t quite do that.

I had a few medical issues and health scare which slowed me down, likely at the point I should have picked up. I fully understand what it is like to wait for a diagnosis, mulling over uncertainty and possibilities. In the end I decided to keep busy, I called the problem ‘Jeff’, as anything would be an assumption which could embody misdirected fears; I went on holiday and did a few nice things I wanted to do. Jeff is still with me as a passenger and is not too disruptive, although a concern. I wont bore people with the detail, but learning you have a benign tumour in your lung doesn’t relieve you, or excite you. Just exhale (metaphorically, because actually it effects breathing) that ‘it could be worse’.

So. I’m doing this event and others to push against Jeff. Unwanted passenger who seems harmless who might get me in the future. I should currently be struggling to breathe going up stairs, but I’m not. Why – because I have been active most of my life, and I’m little. Fortunate still.

Enough about me and why.

The event – a well organised machine, very accessible to all abilities. Weather for some was good, a little on the warm side for me.  We had more snacks available than was sensible, drink possibilities that were endless, and; So. Many. Stops.

Colin valiantly declared he would follow me as he had not done something like this before (I don’t remember being a) an expert, b) er, likewise?). Never mind. I hope he understands how I operate…

An hour into the event walk/ jogging to get out the way of people and chatting – I realised that it would have been better to do the whole thing in one go, especially as I was talking to walkers who were saying my pace was good walking speed and they were going to go through the night. Haha.

Lesson no 6. This is a different race to other events, and it will be down to technique as well as endurance and speed.

Lesson no 7. No matter how bright your t-shirt is, some t*@* will step on you.

Lesson no 8. The food at the stations is free to help yourself, but don’t eat 4 times as much, or you’ll look like that person who is shamelessly building another camel hump.

Lesson no 9. This might be a trail path, but the sun has packed it hard like concrete, trail shoes not needed (ouch!)

Lesson no 10. Feet swell, they keep swelling and want to escape the shoe.

Lesson no 10b. running uphill is better for you and was easier (tiny hills)

Lesson no 11. Ibrobufen gel is a mistake. My hand was numb from applying it, but it didn’t help with issue I had, haha.

Lesson no 12. This is a tough event, but you need to suit yourself; being polite to someone will fail for the 5th time they want a nice cup of tea and a sit down, and you are in agony.

Lesson 13. You have to physically do this event, but unless you tell yourself you can, you won’t. Psychology against yourself is a mean battle.

Lesson 14. It was a great event, well organised, beautiful timing, beautiful route; I have another chapter in my physical achievements.

Lesson 15. How can anyone wear flipflops after an event like that?

Thanks to Colin for the company, the lift and the distraction. I hope you understand that you are a better athlete than you think, because you are competitive, although stamina is your enemy.

Lesson 16. Do it once, you can then decide to regret it, or realise what you really can do.

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Standish Woodlands Chase Report by Al Graham

Sat in my car waiting out the rain, and looking at all the other runners in their cars doing the same, I have to say that it looked like it might be an endurance rather than a fun race. But then, with 10 minutes to go before the start gun, the rain lessened to a drizzle, and by the time we’d reached the top of the first hill the sun was trying to make a break through. The race is organised by the Stroud and District Athletic Club and is part of a memorial series for one of their former runners, Roger Briers, and if you complete the series you can join the medals together to form a plaque (which is a nice touch). The Standish Woodlands Chase 10(ish) miler (https://www.stroudac.co.uk/StandishWoodlandChase) is a runner’s race! From the start line you go straight up! For quite a long time. Infact, ‘up’ (and steep ‘down’) is a common feature of the race. However, the woods are stunning to run through and by the time you are on the second loop then you know where you are going and can start to enjoy yourself. The views of the Severn valley across to Wales and into the Stroud valley really take your breath away as you come out of the woods ready for the fast descent to the finish line. The race was really well organised, and all the local runners I met were really friendly. It was a small field with 153 finishers (in which I came 40th) but I don’t think it should become much larger - sometimes a smaller challenging race is really satisfying. I think I’ll be looking to do this again some time! 

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Hornton 6 Report, by Graham Bridges

Hornton 6, by Graham Bridges

As I told just about anyone who would listen on the day, my preparation for this race was unusual to say the least. I did the Oxford Parkrun in the morning (starting slowly before building up speed towards the end), then went to London for a drinking session with some old friends (started reasonably quickly before slowing right down), before arriving back at Oxford Parkway some time after 5, ready to whisked up to the wilds of the North Oxfordshire border country.

With all this behind me, I wasn’t sure how the famously challenging hills around Hornton would feel. The answer was ‘not too bad’, or no worse than usual, at least. There were a decent number of ERRs there, but with Witney out in force we didn’t quite clean up trophy-wise as we had in recent years. Well done to Robert and Jacky for winning their categories, and to our men’s team of Robert, the Baker boys and, er, me for finishing a notional 2nd men’s team, which was still handy for Grand Prix points.  

The trophy presentations were quick and efficient which, whilst lacking the comic value of last year, did mean we were in the pub in good time for our post-race meal, organised by Tom. About 15 of us, runners and supporters alike, crowded into the Dun Cow for some excellent food, and yes, more drinks. So maybe this regime of race, beer, race, beer has something going for it.

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Lakeland 100 Report, by Nick Sheard

Lakeland 100

2019 race report by Nick Sheard

Lakeland 100 is a continuous 105 mile clockwise circular loop of the Lake District starting and finishing in Coniston. The route is unmarked and competitors have to navigate using a route description, map and compass and ‘register’ at checkpoints along the route. There is a 40-hour cut-off time for completion.

  • 2019 winning times = 21 hours 27 minutes 05 seconds (M) & 26 hours 19 minutes 27 seconds (F)
  • My time = 38 hours 23 minutes 01 second
  • Finished 205/ 265 finishers; 500 starters
  • Started 6pm Friday 26 July, finished 08:23am Sunday 28 July
  • Total time awake without sleep = 51 hours
  • Youngest finisher = 18 years old; oldest finisher = 70 years old

Playlist:

Enlightenment (Van Morrison), Not Dark Yet (Bob Dylan), When the Night Comes (The Boomtown Rats), One Way (The Levellers), And Dream of Sheep (Kate Bush), Night Running (Cage the Elephant), Morning (Beck), Let the Day Begin (The Call), Heaven is a Place on Earth (Belinda Carlisle), Fall On Me (R.E.M.), The Mountain (Maddison’s Thread), Keep Moving (Madness), Clocks (Coldplay), Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd), In The Still of the Night (The Five Satins) Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End (The Beatles)

“We are judged not by what we start, but by what we finish.”

Leg 1 Coniston to Seathwaite, 7 miles

Highlights = fresh legs and no blisters; the imposing eastern precipice of Dow Crag viewed from the Walnar Scar Road; sun starting to set over the west Cumbrian coast; the views of the Scafell Range and Harter Fell before the descent to Seathwaite; the company of fellow runners and the support of spectators.

Coniston village, 6.04pm Friday 27 July. 0.2 miles covered.

Mandatory kit includes hat, gloves, headtorch, survival bivi bag, first aid kit, waterproof jacket and trousers, emergency food, whistle, compass, map of the route, spare batteries, spare base layers, fully charged mobile phone.

500 competitors started the Lakeland 100 in 2019. The ‘race’ starts at 6pm on the Friday evening with a 40-hour time limit for completion. There are 15 checkpoints along the route, each one with a race elimination cut off time. Any competitors not leaving the checkpoint by that time are eliminated from the race and driven back to the start in a ‘broom wagon’. The first 5 checkpoint cut offs are not over-generous, with night navigation and difficult terrain underfoot adding to the challenge of the first 33 miles.

Mile 5.5. 7:30pm Friday 27 July.

Top of the Walna Scar Road with Harter Fell and the Scafell range in the background. At this point in the race I was in about 420th position. Although early evening it was very humid and as early as mile 5 I was putting salt replacement tablets in my water bottles. The photo was taken by a L100 finisher from 2018 out to support the 2019 runners. “It’s really tough, but you’ll love it” she said.

Descending towards the  Seathwaite checkpoint.

Leg 2 Seathwaite to Boot (7 miles), 14 miles covered

The steep descent into Eskdale, hugging the fence line in single file.

Mile 11. 8, 09:20pm Friday 27 July.

Eskdale is a special place that holds many wonderful memories for me with annual summer camping trips as a boy. I have returned many times to this magical valley over the years and I never tire of its soft and rugged beauty. It is the only valley in the Lake District that does not contain a lake. The winding River Esk and its mountain-born chill waters runs alongside the route for half a mile or so and I pass by St. Catherine’s Church and the stepping stones I played on during those summer camps many years ago. It’s a magical moment of childhood nostalgia. Arriving soon after in the tiny settlement of Boot (old English for ‘a curve in the valley’) at checkpoint 2 at 09:48pm, it was time for biscuits and cake and coke from the Christmas-themed checkpoint (I kid you not, Shakin Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone booming from the speakers and marshals dressed as Christmas elves)!

Leg 3 Boot to Wasdale Head (5.4 miles), 19.4 miles covered

From Boot we join the ‘old corpse road’ that runs between Wasdale and Eskdale, and which was, as its name would suggest, used to carry bodies for burial. Although early in the race there are already several competitors who have retired at the first two checkpoints.

Headtorch lights flicker along the valley as we pass the brooding Burnmoor Tarn in the gloaming and descend into Wasdale where a barn has been converted by Sunderland Strollers into a ‘Strollerfest’ that feels more like a Tyrolean beer festival than a checkpoint at an ultra. Four Geordie lasses are doing The Birdie Song dance (yes, that one where you flap your arms manically and wiggle your legs) as I wolf down three cheese and pickle sandwiches and, deciding that the long ascent of Black Sail Pass is mildly preferable to The Birdie Song on a loop, I peel myself away from the checkpoint.

Leg 4 Wasdale to Buttermere (6.9 miles), 26.3 miles covered

Much of the next hour is spent toiling up and up and up and up, on what seems like an endless stairway, if not to heaven, then somewhere close to it. At one point I look up and confuse the headtorch lights high above me for stars. Far below lights are twinkling white in a long line. Just

magical. It’s still incredibly humid and at each stream crossing I dip my head in the cooling water that runs off the fells. I’m also taking care to hydrate well and put Tailwind and Mountain Fuel sachets into my water bottles. Descending into the Ennerdale Valley and past the Black Sail Hut hostel at 01:30am, I see three ‘spectators’ out on the course. Now that’s one way to spend your Friday night! Finally, at 02:10am on Saturday morning I arrive at Buttermere Village Hall checkpoint.

The descent from Scarth Gap Pass to Buttermere, 01:50am and 25 miles covered.

The checkpoint theme at Buttermere is ‘The Day of the Dead’ and I’m greeted by a runner bent double and throwing up in the road and then by a human skeleton as I dib my timing chip, or, at least, a guy in a skeleton outfit. Inside the village hall itself the scene is one of subdued desolation. There are about 20 people crammed into the small room and quite a few runners who have retired here, they are sitting on chairs, head in hands, looking disconsolate or talking about the injuries they have picked up which mean that they can’t continue. It’s not a place to linger. I grab a couple of hot dog sausages lathered in rich brown sauce, a couple of slices of bread and a hot steaming mug of coffee and then I’m on my way again.

Leg 5 Buttermere to Braithwaite (6.5 miles), 32.8 miles covered

“In the still of the night as I gaze out of my window at the moon in its flight, my thoughts all stray to you” (The Five Satins)
What a beauty this leg was. In the still of the night. New trails for me contouring the north-western fells above Sail Beck. A real highlight of the race this section, lost in my own thoughts with an elongated stream of headtorch lights indicating the twisting snaking climb of the paths ahead. It’s very quiet and still, and in this isolated place there is no other light or noise pollution. Whiteless Pike, Wandope, Scar Crag and Sail loom darkly to our left as we cross Third Gill and then Addacombe Beck. I get my mug out of my pack and bend down to the fast-flowing stream to fill my mug and pour water over my head. I stop dead mid-stoop. Am I hallucinating, or is that a head in the stream staring back at me? Yes, on closer inspection it is a dark semi-submerged sheep’s head, its dead black eye fixed in its watery grave. Note to self – don’t drink directly from the streams! Five minutes later I’m scrambling up the loose scree of Sail Pass, and after a cut through heather on a narrow path I’m at Barrow Door, ready for the long grassy runnable descent to Braithwaite (pronounced ‘Brethet’ by the locals). I sit for 10 minutes or so in St. Herbert’s Church Hall and wolf down three (yes, three!) bowls of rice pudding and then a pasta dish with the tangiest spicy tomato sauce. I’m so pleased that so far I don’t have any stomach issues and I’m eating and hydrating well.

Leg 6 Braithwaite to Blencathra Centre (8.5 miles), 41.3 miles covered

Half an orange and then I’m out of the checkpoint, walking on the A66 out of Braithwaite slurping a hot cup of tea as I go. I’m joined by Gemma and we chat and run together. It’s 5am and no need for headtorches now. Being so early on a Staurday morning there is very little traffic on the A66 and soon we are off the road and wending our way towards Keswick. Gemma has made the journey from Devon with her husband and two young kids. I lose touch with Gemma on the ascent of Latrigg but soon join Kirsty on the countour around Lonscale Fell north of Keswick. “How far’s the next checkpoint? I’m desperate for a wee! It’s easy for you blokes!” Kirsty (late 20s and from somewhere up north) is great fun, and it strikes me that only in this kind of event would your first conversation with a complete stranger be about going to the loo! Chatting away, the rain starts to fall, intermittent at first and then more persistent but we soon arrive at Blencathra Centre, the next checkpoint with a hard rock theme and where Freddie Mercury (see pic below) offers me a swig of whiskey from a bottle placed on the table next to the sausage rolls and peanut butter sandwiches. I opt for a mug of vegetable soup instead, and soon I’m on my way again, walking out of the checkpoint with another strong coffee, mourning the loss of Kirsty to the not inconsiderable queue outside the ladies loo.

Checkpoint 7 Blencathra Centre, 41.3 miles

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.”

Leg 7 Blencathra Centre to Dockray (7.7 miles), 49 miles covered

I fall in step with Annette, 60, who has a fast walk that is quicker than my stumble jog. We spend all of 5 minutes together before she dry retches for a few moments by the side of the road and then shows me a very brisk and clean pair of heels. Crossing the A66 checkpoint is mercifully quick and before long I am on the climb towards Clough Head (memories of my Bob Graham Round attempt from last year) and then settling into a rhythm for the 6km traipse along the Old Coach Road in the pouring rain. Half way along a couple of dark brown wild horses join me and we walk together along the path for a good half a mile. They hold a position to my left on the path and I start talking to them and the lead horse half turns its head and gazes at me with a deep meaningful look, which could mean a) What are you doing here on this long and winding road in the pouring rain? b) Why don’t you just jump on my back and I’ll give you a ride along this track to Dockray? c) You are not even half way through this race and you’re already 5 hours behind the leader.

Leg 8 Dockray to Dalemain (10.1 miles), 59.1 miles covered

Dockray is a desolate makeshift mini-marquee checkpoint that is being absolutely battered by the strong wind and rain. I’m not overly reassured by the dibber marshal saying “Are you feeling ok?” as I arrive. I wonder if I’m starting to look like a White Walker from Game of Thrones with an otherworldly look in my eye. To restore some colour to my face I wolf down a mug of hot soup and grab a handful of cheese and pickle sandwiches. “Stock up, love, it’s ten miles to the next checkpoint” says one of the ever cheerful helpers, who obviously also feels I look less than sprightly. The next three hours feel like seven. I have to keep reminding myself to enjoy the experience and take in the scenery and the views, which admittedly are stunning as we contour Gowbarrow Fell and follow a gorgeous sinewy mountain path above the north-east shore of Ullswater. I use the excuse to pause and take a photo (below), and then hook up again with Gemma who is going strong on this section. Reaching the Dalemain estate after an interminable road section I am buoyed by the 50 mile runners who have started their race at 11.30am from this location and are on their 4 mile loop of the estate. I have a mile running alongside them as they pass me in waves, and I’m so encouraged I break into what can only be described as a slow-motion sprint as they shout their encouragement. “Go on Nick”, “Great job, Nick” “Respect Nick” “Keep it going Nick!” And then, at just after noon, I reach the large checkpoint marquee where delicious vegetable stew and sponge and custard await. Yes! Sponge and custard, and oh my goodness, it tastes like the best thing ever consumed by a human. My drop bag is also waiting for me here, which means I will now have poles for the second half of the course, very welcome for tired legs. I also put on fresh socks but I’m really concerned by the state of my feet, big angry blisters have formed and the skin is albino white and shrivelled. I towel them as dry as I can and sprinkle talc on them, but it all feels a bit late and futile as I leave the checkpoint in an absolute deluge of rain.

Leg 9 Dalemain to Howtown (7.1 miles), 66.2 miles covered

Very little stands out about this leg other than I was on my own and it was raining heavily throughout. Ullswater to my right, bracken to my left, and the path puddletastic. Every step was sharp pain in both feet. My shoes and socks were sodden. It was impossible to keep them dry.

The long and winding road…to Howtown. Mile 64, 20 hours in.

Leg 10 Howtown to Mardale Head (9.4 miles), 75.6 miles covered

This is a beast of a leg, with a long 4.5km leg-sapping climb up Fusedale to the highest point of the route at 650 metres just south of Wether Hill summit. The clag was down, the grassy pathless top a muddy morass. A licorice stick and a bar of Kendal Mint Cake saw me to the top and the descent towards Haweswater was a treacherous slalom along a thin snaking path through bracken with treacherous rocks hidden amid the mud. I passed a runner who had broken his leg on the descent. There but for the grace of God. An isolated and inaccessible single-file rocky cambered path runs along the side of Haweswater in the Mardale valley. Haweswater was the site of a controversial dam project in 1929 which saw the flooding of the villages of Measand and Mardale Green. The path that skirts the reservoir is 6km long and is narrow, strewn with rocks and boulders and undulates the whole way. It was also really treacherous in the wet. There were signs that more than a few runners had fallen into the chest-high bracken. I made tortuously slow progress and by the time I arrived at the checkpoint at Mardale Head almost 4 hours had passed since the last checkpoint and it was now late afternoon, with a strong wind and lashing rain beating down on the makeshift marquee, with runners and volunteers huddling for shelter from the elements. Shivering in the cold and wet, I wolfed down a cup of lukewarm vegetable soup and one of the volunteers helped me to put on my waterproof trousers, my legs struggling to respond. Kirsty arrived and was considering retiring, or getting some sleep before continuing. A lot were retiring here, and it was quickly time to move on.

Leg 11 Mardale Head to Kentmere (6.5 miles), 82.1 miles covered

The climb of Gatescarth Pass started as soon as I left the checkpoint and continued for close to an hour. The wind was raging and the rain relentless. I stumbled down the descent into Longsleddale shadowing two of the 50 mile runners and into the appropriately named Sadgill. Kentmere is a gorgeous valley and the route here wends its undulating way over several walls with steps built into them, through farmland and fields. Enjoying these last few miles of daylight it was dusk as I arrived at Kentmere Village Hall, where Disney was the theme and The Circle of Life got stuck in my head for the next few hours.

Leg 12 Kentmere to Ambleside (7.3 miles), 89.4 miles covered

Many of the checkpoints are immediately followed by a climb, and the Garburn Pass on fresh legs would not be overly taxing, but on tired legs it seemed to go on a while. I had done a recce of this leg in March, but with a tired head and legs and in the dark every turn seemed like a potential navigational trap for the unwary. Eventually, however, I was winding my way through the mystical Skelghyll Wood and hooking up with a couple of other middle-aged men in the woods(!) for the run into Ambleside at just before 1am as some late night revellers cheered us through the town. At the checkpoint I was adopted by an incredibly helpful marshal who sorted me out with food and drink, pepsi and more hot soup. After a brief stop I was determined that Saturday night would be alright for fighting my way to the finish, despite the now horrendous searing pain/agony that every step produced in my feet and lower legs, particularly my right shin which was clearly unhappy with the strain it was under.

Leg 13 Ambleside to Chapel Stile (5.6 miles), 95 miles covered

It took me two and a half hours to travel the relatively flat (only 234 m of ascent) and innocuous five and a half mile section to the Langdale checkpoint, which probably tells you everything you need to know about the physical state I was in at this point. Dark. Cold. Wet. Uncomfortably not so numb. My headtorch batteries faded and I fumbled a battery change. I started getting careless at loo stops too – enough said about what that meant! Finally the ‘runway lights’ of the ‘come fly with me’ themed Chapel Stile checkpoint came into view, the final checkpoint with a cut-off time, and I knew now that barring complete physical shutdown I was going to finish.

Leg 14 Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite (6.5 miles), 101.5 miles covered

This was the leg where Annette powered past me again (I hadn’t realised I’d gone past her again on the route) as I was having a ‘comfort break’ by the side of the path. This was the leg where a shadowy figure just in front of me fell headfirst into an almighty deep bog, saving me the same ignominy by seconds. This was the leg where the dawn emerged and started to paint the colours of the new day, beautiful greys and greens and blues and soft warm orange. This was the leg where I relaxed about any kind of finish time, the goal was just to finish. This was the leg where I powered into the checkpoint at Tilberthwaite and saw the ‘just over a parkrun to go’ sign. This was the leg where I missed out on the cheese toasties they were serving at the checkpoint, so keen was I to get up ‘Jacob’s ladder’ (the infamous Tilberthwaite steps) and on to the finish.

Leg 15 Tilberthwaite to Coniston (3.5 miles), 105 miles covered

"We're supposed to be athletes. This is more like the walking wounded in Napoleon's retreat from Russia!" said one fellow competitor as he hobbled past me at mile 104. I lost a good few places on this final section, but I enjoyed it, absorbing the experience and reflecting on the journey I’d been on during the event.

What did I learn?

Well, on a practical note, I learnt that if it is going to be wet for a long event make sure that feet are well lubricated throughout and change socks regularly. My legs and body felt generally fine. My biggest physical problem was my swollen and badly blistered feet. I learnt that age and gender and body shape are not necessarily indicators to stamina or performance in an ultra of this kind. It appears to be as much about your head and your heart and about one’s personal pain and ‘staying power’ threshold. I learnt that ‘running’ 105 miles in this way is a visceral and life-affirming experience. Not a unique experience, but a highly unusual one which supercharges your senses throughout. I learnt that ultra-runners are kind and generous souls with a strong sense of community and shared experience. I learnt (and I kind of knew this already), that I am well and truly in love with the Lake District. As Arthur Wainwright said: “Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland…no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance.”

Relief. Exhaustion. Pride.

The Lakeland 100 was a compelling and utterly memorable life experience, which like Lakeland slate and granite is now chiselled into every nerve and fibre. The inner glow is still burning brightly.

People have asked me why I would want to run 105 miles. To me it is about discovering who I am, and understanding a little more about the human condition; how we are made of fragile temporal flesh and blood, how vulnerable we are, how strong we are, and how our mind and body can work in beautiful harmony as well as fierce antipathy and antagonism.

And finally, (photo on the next page not for the squeamish) a foot note…

Drive for a couple of hours on ‘A’ roads and motorways and you’ll average about 52 mph, needing roughly 2 hours to travel 105 miles. It’s a long way in a motorised vehicle on straight flat tarmac roads, never mind undulating uneven Lakeland trails. I occasionally get asked ‘Why would you want to run 100 miles?’ and labelled (affectionately, I hope!) as ‘mad’ or ‘a nutter’. It's a question I always struggle to reply to, because to me it is the most natural and wonderfully life-enhancing thing to do. Running long distances in beautiful locations has provided me with so many memorable and wonderful life experiences. To me, my character and personality is sharpened in the forge of these experiences, and I see more clearly and deeply a mirror of who I really am. Without wanting to sound pretentious, in part it’s about enlightenment, and an almost spiritual communion with the natural world. This is said without any sense of judgement on others. It’s merely an attempt to shine a light on who I am and what enervates and excites me about life. And how lucky we are to live in this world with so many natural wonders and life experiences to enjoy! And if you’ve got this far, thank you for reading this.

Nick xxx

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Thame 10k Report by Toby Goss

On a warm, pleasant Sunday morning on the last day of June, a select group of 8 Roadrunners made our way to the Thame 10k. It was my first time at this race, and by far the biggest field I'd run with before, with well over 800 runners taking part. Apart from a rather over enthusiastic MC, I thought it was well organised, with the start having different sections marked out in five minute intervals (faster runners at the front). The course itself was, as promised by those who'd run it before, mainly flat, with the first few kilometres taking us through the town centre. The conditions were, I thought, very good, not too hot with a gentle breeze providing a bit of relief from all the exertion. Paul and Stan played their jokers, a good move considering the small numbers from Eynsham. I'd been told that Thame was a good course to improve a PB, and so it proved for myself, Stan and Caroline. Mine was an improvement of over a minute, which I was very pleased about. Kate A was the 3rd lady to finish, which was a great effort. Ian K popped up at two points along the course, including at a crucial section half a kilometre from the end, which definitely helped push me to the finish - thanks, Ian! There was a bit of crowding in the finish funnel, but there was a T shirt and refreshments at the end of it. I enjoyed my race, and would definitely run it again in future!

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Chiltern Chase 10k Report, by Kate Welsby

As Kate says, I thought it time we had a run report written in doggerel. Below is my best effort.

“The course is safe, albeit hilly”

Said the website. Had I been silly

To sign up for this race? How would hills affect pace?

As 22 Eynshamites gathered

And we’re off – uphill to start

The Chiltern Way featured in part

Through farmland and beech wood,

More hills, the odd puddle

It enchanted my (hard working) heart

My time? Respectably mid-table

(I ran as fast as was able)

Twas a fun, friendly day

And a Club Championship 10K

Verdict? “Do again” is the label.

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Chalgrove 10k Report, by Ian Hembrow

Chalgrove Festival 10k, Monday 6 May 2019

A cool May Day Bank Holiday saw 16 Eynsham Roadrunners turn out for the tenth anniversary of this popular and scenic, single-lap 10k race. Starting and finishing (literally) in the middle of a busy village festival, congratulations must go to the organisers for their superb arrangements. A few minutes after the last runner had finished, all the fencing and other stuff had been tidied away so it seemed like it had never happened and everyone was free to enjoy the funfair, stalls, food and entertainment.

ERR members scooped two category wins:

  • Robert Storey 1st MV50 (36.45)
  • Jacky Pinnock 1st LV55 (48.49)

Other notable runs were:

  • Kate Allred 2nd LV45 (40.19)
  • Laura Leach 2nd LV35 and PB (41.51)
  • Kate Williamson 2nd LV55 (49.11).

One of our runners took a worrying turn for the worse during the race and so spent some time in an ambulance and at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Happily, all seems to be OK and they live to compete another day…

Thanks to all who helped with lifts and more. This race is a nice, early-summer outing along quiet lanes, with drinks, jelly babies and super-soaker cooling at halfway, plus free tea and cake at the end – highly recommended! Next year’s race is on 4 May 2020 – see http://www.chalgrovefestival10k.com

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