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That’s cheating!

by Britta Sendlhofer
Wednesday 29th July 2015

Race report: Run247 editor Britta Sendlhofer returns to racing at the Montane Lakeland 50 - July 25, 2015

I now have a better appreciation of how Froome must have felt on his cycle through France, because during my recent return to racing “That’s cheating!”  was one of those “If only I had a pound for every time someone said this…” comments!

Luckily for me, it was easy to put my hands up and reply to the accusation with a cheery “Yes, it is!”

Running whilst being attached to an eager collie, who appears to have been born to race, certainly made the ‘one foot in front of the other’ task much easier, especially on the flat and uphill parts of the race!

The race in question was the Montane Lakeland 50, the little brother to the Montane Lakeland 100, that is held on the same weekend.

I had taken part in the inaugural race in 2008. Most of my memories of that day are a bit blurry now, but I remember my distinct lack of respect for what I was about to attempt and some rather damp weather, including paths that had turned to streams and lightening that lit up the Langdale valley.

I also remember well my companions that day. A runner, who I had buddied up with when the going got tough and the navigation got tricky, who I bumped into again along the trail this year, and my two collies, who had ran with me as far as Troutbeck.  

Dogs are a bit of a ‘Marmite’ thing with runners – you love them or hate them – and both points of view have their just reasons.

Generally runners don’t have to worry much about encountering man’s best friend during races, much to the relief of the haters and the disappointment of those who share their training miles with their four legged friends.

The Montane Lakeland Races however have seen the odd ultra-hound complete a tour of the Lake District. I suppose as long as there is just the occasional one, there is no need for rules and I was happy that I was once again allowed to bring along my trusted training partner.

Rook is a young collie with boundless energy. As he is also rather keen on working sheep but not yet patient enough to await the come-bye or away command, he can’t be trusted to run with me off lead through the Lake District fells. Instead he wears a harness attached to a waist belt and pulls me along.

Montane Lakeland 50 - July 25, 2015

Photos © SportSunday Event Photography

Without this ‘help’ I would not have dared to step up to the 50 mile distance after a rather lengthy injury lay-off, but I had figured that the extra pull, combined with some sensible pacing, might just get us through. There was a distinct flaw in this reasoning, but more of that later!

I had lined up a number of friends who would be able to pick up Rook along the route if I felt he was struggling, not enjoying himself or was being a nuisance - we had practised running together of course, but there was the small matter of the other six hundred or more competitors and a few extra miles than we had covered in training!

Race day turned out to be rather warm. I lined up at the very back when we gathered at the start, nervous, but also looking forward to a day out on the trails.

#liveinthemoment was the motto we had been told to bear in mind.

Living in the moment is easy to do when things go well. Admire the views, enjoy some banter with fellow runners and supporters, just put one foot in front of the other... Stay in the moment and you can’t worry about whether your legs will be able to keep going or whether you have done enough training…

I managed to stay in the moment for the first ten miles or so! I disregarded the consequences of setting off much faster than I had planned, let the dog pull me along the trail and admired his focus and enthusiasm. Dogs live in the moment. Rook didn’t know whether we were out for a three mile blast through the fields or attempting a 50 mile challenge and frankly he didn’t care.

As we got to the first river I stopped and unclipped the dog and sent him for a swim to cool off - #liveinthemoment – he paddled and drank and took some persuading to come back to land. On we went.

Somewhere after the first checkpoint, in the mid-day heat, an hour up on my very approximate schedule, my mind started to drift from the moment to: “I can’t keep this going!”

You don’t run faster and further than you did in training without paying the price!

We briefly returned to the moment when we came across Katie, sat at the side of the trail, puffing her asthma inhaler. Two other runners had already stopped. After a short while Katie recovered her breath and was determined to carry on. Rook turned ‘rescue dog’ and gave her a jump start up the slope. At the top we swapped back and before long Katie happily skipped by us, and despite many more attacks along the route, made it to the finish!

On the descent that followed from the highest point of the race to the shores of Haweswater my mind drifted back to “I can’t keep this going!”

Being pulled along the trail faster than you can or should, in the mid-day heat, is one thing (“It’s cheating!”). However, with a gait more akin to that of Phoebe of Friends than that of a Kenyan long distance runner, to be pulled down the trail faster than you can or should, fighting the slope, gravity and the pull of a collie in racing mode, quickly leads to some very tight quads!

The final miles to checkpoint two were spent in a full on battle with the “I can’t keep this going!” demons. Too hot, to stiff, too fast, too little training, too tired…

Having ran faster than I can or should, feeling hot and dehydrated, as well as doing battle with my demons meant that I arrived at checkpoint two in a rather sorry state.

As I sat on the back of a trailer, clumsily spilling the contents of my rations onto the floor, a medic jumped to my aid. “You’ve got Daim bars!” he exclaimed excitedly as he helped me stuff my food supplies back into my rucksack. “I will never eat them all, do you want one?” There was not much persuasion required! Well, that was 28grams I would not have to carry on a tour of the Lake District. I did not touch any of my supplies throughout my race!

After a thirty minute break, during which I refuelled on Coke, water, soup and crisps – and Rook made short work of his dried dog food and a ham sandwich that someone gave him – “I can’t keep this going!” had turned into “I won’t keep this going!”

The decision was made that I would stop at Ambleside.

Just sixteen miles to go then!

The climb out of checkpoint two to Gatesgarth Pass was the only time the dog lost its forward momentum. Having gotten the taste for bread, he was scavenging for bread crusts that had been discarded along the track in great numbers. By the top however he was back in race mode and ready for another brisk descent – great!

When we arrived at checkpoint three at Kentmere I was in a sorry state again and just plonked myself into a chair to gather myself. The checkpoint staff were fantastic and brought me a sweet cup of hot tea, some pasta, a fruit-smoothie and three bowls of water for the dog! I’ve never felt quite so pathetic and so grateful!

Before setting off to the next, my final, checkpoint I found out that my boyfriend Ben had also dropped out of the race – what a pair we are! Unlike me he had planned and prepared for the race properly though, so I am gutted for him.

From here to the end of my race I hook up with Emma and John. They were great company and a sensible pace and a good natter made the miles fly by!

I felt great as I ran into Ambleside. I saw ultra-running Run247 contributors Kirsty and Pip in a restaurant on the way to the checkpoint and surprised myself with how happy I sounded as I explained that I may be looking strong and have arrived ahead of my schedule, but “I’m done!”. There are no if’s or but’s, I’m not in any doubt whether it is the right decision. I had gone further and faster than I had in a very long time and that is the best I could do on this occasion!

There is a lovely race marshal who is more disappointed than I when I inform him about my decision to retire: “No! Think about it! You can do this! Just have a sit down and get some food before you decide! Come on!” “I have thought about it! I have thought about little else for the last 25 miles! It’s OK! I know it’s the right thing to do! I have been injured for years and I have done as much as I can without risking another injury.”

It’s over. I meet up with Ben and then quickly my legs seize up as we hobble to catch up with Kirsty and friends. Rook is still full of beans, he is happy, he is not stiff and, if asked, would do it all again.

It’s a humbling sight to sit and watch the runners come by. 95% of the 50 mile runners make it to the finish. I am sure many of them have endured more pain than I and won tougher battles with their demons. Amongst them 80 year old Harry Johnson! It’s never too late!

A big Thank You to the organisers Marc and Terry and their team, as well as to the many runners and supporters that I shared the race with!

Find out more about the Montane Lakeland 50 and the Montane Lakeland 100 at www.lakeland100.com

Men's Lakeland 100 results

1 Paul Tierney 20:42:07
2 Marco Consani 21:45:50
=3 Jason Lewis
Duncan Oakes


Women's Lakeland 100 results

1 Carol Morgan 25:47:32
2 Katie Boden 28:36:19
=3 Isobel Wykes
Nicky Taylor


Men's Lakeland 50 results

1 Jayson Cavill 8:04:24
2 Matty Brennan 8:28:24
3 Paul Grundy 8:28:54


Women's Lakeland 50 results

1 Sally Fawcett 8:43:43
2 Debbie Martin Consani 9:04:30
3 Mel Varvel 9:21:57


Click here for full results


About The Author

Britta Sendlhofer

Britta, originally from Austria, came to live in the Lake District in 1990.

Always in love with the mountains, the local hills and fells have since been her favourite ‘playground’. She spends much of her spare time exploring the hills – no matter what the season or the weather – always accompanied by her two Border Collies.

While the fells and trails are her first love, Britta has also completed 10 road marathons, before moving up to ultra events. Her biggest achievements are a Bob Graham Round, the Himalayan 100 mile stage race,the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc race and the Lakeland 100.


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