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©Pip Haylett

Montane Lakeland 50: the people's race

by editor
Friday 4th August 2017
Lying in my tent at Montane Lakeland 100/50 HQ on the Friday night, listening to the rain hammering down, I had two thoughts in my head: ‘those poor ML100 runners out in this weather’ and ‘can this tent withstand rain this hard?’. 
Fortunately both the 100 runners and the Vango Blade 200 are made of pretty stern stuff. I emerged dry and reasonably rested to start my ML50 campaign with a bacon roll and a cup of tea (there were on-site caterers who did a great job at keeping food on tap throughout the weekend - obviously an essential for ultra runners). As I ate my breakfast while gazing outside at the by now pretty heavy rain I did have a brief moment of wondering what awaited us out there. 
The rain continued on and off throughout the coach journey to the start at Dalemain. Then, miraculously, only a few minutes after the start of the race, it stopped! Surely this was a sign that it was going to be a good day! The rain had left the ground pretty boggy in places and lots of the rock quite slippy but nothing too unexpected for the Lake District. 
One of the most inspiring things you see when you do the ML50 is the ML100 runners. The route for the 50 is the second half of the 100 so right from Dalemain you see them in varying states of cheeriness, depending where they are on the pain scale. As well as being quite inspiring this also has the added benefit that you really don’t feel like you can feel sorry for yourself when these guys are doing double what you’re doing!
And just like buying a house is all about location, location, location, the ML50 is all about people, people, people. From the reassuring folk who check your kit at registration, to the volunteers who stand for many hours in all weathers at the checkpoints to help you on your way laden with calories, to your lovely fellow runners, they absolutely make your race experience. I can easily chart my ML50 story through the people I met. 
The start: fellow Run247 contributor Pip Haylett was running too, so we sheltered from the rain under trees, joined the toilet queue, hung out under trees a bit more, tried to force a bit of food down, joined the toilet queue again. It’s good to stay busy at times like this. 

L50 - 1
Pip and I at the start and a rare flat bit

Dalemain, Howtown, Mardale Head: I was running alongside a runner in an Ambleside vest and she turned to me and said ‘this is a bit of a strange question but you’re not Britta’s friend are you?’ and I replied ‘yes, I am!’. And so began the sort of lovely chit-chat that makes miles pass really quickly. It was great running with Sarah for a while - though she would disappear off ahead at any incline as she was very good on the hills - and brilliant to hear that she finished in a great time.
Howtown to Mardale Head: I met and got chatting to none other than Jenn Gaskell, Montane athlete, who we recently interviewed for this very website! Jenn had planned on doing the 100 but had unfortunately arrived too late for the start and so did the 50 instead. She was lovely and cheerful and we worked out that we had mutual friends in common. 
Kentmere: the lovely Cat Simpson was part of the Mountain Fuel team manning this aid station and I think she might have been dressed as a sheep. I’m pretty sure that happened. This was a great aid station as you knew you were halfway there, everybody seemed in great spirits and it was a bit like a party. In fact, apart from the fact there was Mountain Fuel instead of beer the spread was exactly like a party. A children’s party. Because that’s essentially what ultra food is - if it’s good enough to fuel hyperactive bouncy castle sessions it’s good enough for us.  

L50 - 3
The long climb up to Gatesgarth Pass

Ambleside: my lovely friends Britta and Ben turned out to say hello and brought fizzy orange. It was really lovely to see them (and fizzy orange) and it gave me a big boost. I left with a spring in my step.
Ambleside to the end: this last 15 mile stretch is where it really starts to bite. I happened to be running at a similar pace to another runner, Jayne, during lots of this section and we started chatting. Again, we realised we had friends in common and what can be quite a grim section - up and over from Tilberthwaite to the finish - was actually lots of fun and we ended up finishing together. 
ML50 is all about the people and it really does feel like one big family. When you come over the finish line they bring you into the marquee and announce you and it’s like you’ve just completed a particularly gruelling initiation ceremony. Coveted finishers’ t-shirt in hand, it’s time for a big bowl of chilli, a hot shower then back to your tent, which is going to be a maximum of 100 yards away. Race finishes do not come any better than that. 
I’m back in my tent, I’m just drifting off to sleep and the rain starts to hammer down again. Two more thoughts go through my head: ‘well, that was a very good day’ and ‘is that dripping noise coming from inside my tent?’. I’m too tired to care. 

All images by Pip Haylett

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