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The Lakeland 50: it's a family affair

by kirsty
Monday 1st August 2016
Tags  Lakeland 100   |   Lakeland 50   |   Lakelandfamily
The Lakeland 50 is a race with big potential for getting under your skin. Everybody who’s done it raves about it, people go back to do it time and time again and once you’ve done it you’re part of their #lakelandfamily. This race had definitely established itself on my must-do race list some time ago and this was finally the year I got to experience it.
One of very many beautiful things about the Lakeland 100/50 is that there’s camping at the race HQ in Coniston, where both races finish, which a) creates a fantastic atmosphere and b) is a very appealing thought when you’re running. You can run over the line and be in your sleeping bag in minutes. 
The 100 sets off from Coniston on the Friday evening. You can wave those brave souls off into the night (the first of 2 nights of running for many), register for the 50, then get a nice early night. The 50 sets off from Dalemain, the halfway point on the 100, and the two races then follow the same route. Before being bussed up to the start there is a rousing race briefing which is worth the entry fee alone. You will laugh, you might cry and you will definitely feel slightly afraid of what’s to come.

Lakeland collage 3

The first 4 miles of the 50 are a lap of the Dalemain estate, which isn’t that interesting but it does help settle the nerves and spread out the field a bit. The first 10 or so miles actually lull you into a false sense of security as they’re lovely and flat and you arrive at the first aid station at Howtown before you know it. But then the fun begins. All the way up to High Kop, the biggest climb on the 50 route. But at this point you’re feeling pretty good and it’s a good boost to get the biggest climb done. 

Lakeland collage 1

After High Kop there are some lovely stretches along the banks of Haweswater. It’s lovely and flat, everybody’s in great spirits, the views are incredible, then you hit the next checkpoint at Mardale and there are sandwiches and soup and coke and everything is wonderful in the world. Then you hit the next climb up the Gatescarth Pass and at some point up there it all starts to fall apart. You go from ‘this is all going to be fine’ to needing a hug in the space of time it takes you to eat your cheese sandwich. 
But one of the great things about doing the 50 is that whenever you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself you see one of the 100 runners that you’ve caught up with and it puts it all into perspective. No matter how hard you’re finding that climb or how much your feet hurt, they are feeling it twice as badly. It’s inspirational to see them, 20 or 30 hours in, and I can only hope that they didn’t find it really annoying to have the 50 runners streaming past them all the time in the second half. They had enough to deal with.

Lakeland collage 4

Coming out of Mardale I was very lucky to be running with a friend, Rob. Whenever one of us had a rough patch (or both of us at times) it was a huge boost to have somebody to chat to to take your mind off it. We ended up running the rest of the race together from this point on and it made the race for me. We could remind each other to admire the views from time-to-time, fear of slowing each other down meant that we ran as much as we could (apart from the uphills) and didn’t resort to walking when it got tough (much) and we could nag each other to eat and drink when we felt terrible. However, Rob had some fresh socks in his pack and I would probably have killed him for them once my feet were all boggy and sore, if they’d been my size. 
We got to Kentmere in good spirits and I swallowed my simmering resentment as Rob put his lovely fresh socks on. We made great progress on the stretch from here to Ambleside, which was mostly runnable apart from a fairly mean climb. We knew that Ambleside meant lots of supporters, including our partners, and it signalled the last push. When Lake Windermere came into view and we started to descend down towards Ambleside it was one of the best times in the race for me. You knew that nothing was going to stop you finishing by that point. Ambleside was that lovely hug you’d needed since Gatescarth. 

Lakeland collage 5

The stretch between Ambleside and Chapel Stile was another beautiful one. Lansdale is spectacular, particularly in the evening light, and again a lot of this section was runnable, though our pace was probably more accurately described as a plod by that point. The checkpoint at Chapel Stile was pure evil. They had sofas and a warm fire. Were they trying to make us stop and curl up for a nice nap, rather than finish this race? If it wasn’t for their lovely soup I would have hated those guys and their comfy soft furnishings. 
And so on to the final 2 sections. There was a tough boggy section to negotiate and an unmanned checkpoint to locate, which then brought the welcome relief of a stretch of road. I’m not normally a fan of road but it was almost like having a little sit down and a cup of tea after a long stretch of rocky terrain, where your now-tired and sore feet kicked a big rock every hundred metres of so. Once we’d reached the last checkpoint at Tilberthwaite - head torches on as it was now dark - all that stood between us and the finish was a great big, steep ascent. Big rock steps and little wobbly legs weren’t a great match but oh, the relief when we finally reached the top of that last climb. But this was followed by almost wishing for an ascent again once we began the quad-bashing steep descent. 
We’d been trying not to think about times as it just isn’t that kind of race but Rob took a glance at his watch as we neared the end of the descent and realised that we could make it in before midnight if we went for a sprint finish. So we dropped the hammer. Relatively. In our heads it was like Chariots of Fire but in reality it probably looked like a couple of newborn lambs careering unsteadily towards the finish line. And what a finish line! They take you into the hall and all the runners who’ve finished their races give you a big round of applause. It just summed up the race for me. It’s about camaraderie, supporting each other, being in it together. It’s a tough day out for everybody, whether you’re out there for 8 hours or 40.
This race was pure joy to me. I loved everything about it. It has a unique style and its fantastic reputation is so well deserved. It’s definitely under my skin and I’m even having bad thoughts about the 100. But I’d take some spare socks with me. 
Warning: if you don't want the Lakeland 50 to get under your skin then definitely don't watch this video:

Photos by Pip Haylett and Rob Neal

About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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Post A Comment


Sock Fetish?

by RobN
20:39, Tuesday 2nd August 2016
I'm worried that I'm getting a reputation for being a bit too enthusiastic about my running socks! Personally I would say that you can't beat the feeling of cleaning your feet and changing into a clean (ideally brand new) pair of socks in any race over about 6 hours!

Sock Fetish?

by RobN
20:35, Tuesday 2nd August 2016
I'm worried that I'm getting a reputation for being a bit too enthusiastic about my running socks! Personally I would say that you can't beat the feeling of cleaning your feet and putting on a clean (ideally brand new) pair of socks in any race over about 6 hours!

Sockman Rob

by yafizicist
14:03, Tuesday 2nd August 2016
I whiled many a good hour running with Rob discussing socks, and thanks to him I always now carry a spare pair! Complete luxury foot treatment.
TereréJordan Blood