So to the crux of the matter I suppose. Everything was in place and good to go. Had a last minute drop-out from a pacer on Leg 2 but I wasn’t mega phased as Ben is pretty handy at this fell running stuff.
Let’s just blindly jump right in then shall we? It’s worked for me in the past at any rate…..got your Speedos on?! Then let’s go…..
I picked my mate Chris up on the way through Ambleside from Kendal with plenty of time to get ourselves to Moot Hall for the planned 1am start. We’re well organised like that. Was a bit of a shock then to still be looking for a parking space in Keswick at three minutes to one. Can’t be late for your own BG! Found one on the flat part of the top of a hill. This was fortuitous for two reasons….reason one – it’s easier to find and after 20 hours of running up hills I’d be nicely warmed up for getting my car back; reason two – my handbrake is knackered and a flat section of road is the safest place for it. The omens were good.
First thing I noticed from stepping out of the German whip was how warm it was. Ditched the 3/4 tights (they’re a bit bent anyway) and fleece top in favour of a lovely purple t-shirt and ‘short’ shorts. Hello ladies. Jogged down to Moot Hall to warm-up and met an increasingly more flustered Cal checking his watch in the company of Dave Gill (yeah he’s cycled around the USA, which kinda puts my little traipse into perspective!) who’d made the monster drive up from London town. Got some snaps, touched the door of the hall in some sort of nod to a tradition that none of us was sure existed, and set off. Oh yeah we were also joined by Chris’ mate Stuart, the other extreme tri-beast.
Started running in completely the wrong direction for a split second before Cal gently reminded us of the correct route for leaving Keswick. Whoops. After this mishap we settled into a nice rhythm of relaxed running and steady walking on the steeper bits up Skiddaw. Banter was excellent as expected….none of it my own obviously. Interestingly we passed a pair of walkers halfway up Skiddaw who thought we were a D of E group. Thought they were having the crack so kidded on that we were and asked them if this was the way to Skiddaw. They then promptly gave us detailed directions for getting off and we very quickly realised they were serious. What D of E group leader sends 4 of their charges up a flippin’ fell at 1am in shorts and t-shirts?!?
Arriving at Skiddaw in a little over an hour we rued the fact that Kenny Stuarts race record was safe for another year and that we could also not see feck all. Chris and Cal were on it though as Stuart and I bumbled along at the back waiting for them do all the nav work. Sure enough we were tagging the first of the ’42’ and picking up the stile and trod out of the clag and on towards Great Calva. The boggy ground found on the reccie was pretty much a thing of the past and the going was ‘good to firm’ as they say in jockeying. Got to Great Calva before picking up a great descent via Not-So-Great Calva straight down to river crossing below Mungrisdale. The only downer being that it must have been on this close packed descent that I picked up the niggle that’d turn me into a whinging wreck a few hours later.
Mungrisdale is a bastard. The less said the better.
Got to the foot of Blencathra as the sky was lightening to see a beautiful red hue on the horizon and the headlights of another BG group descending off Skiddaw. The clag set in again as we ‘crested’ onto the summit plateau. Lost Cal and Stuart for a little bit here but luckily managed to provide a 4am alarm clock for the two wild-campers by Sharp Edge….they didn’t thank us but I’m sure they mean to. A quick blast own Hall’s Fell ridge (she’s a rare beauty that one) deposited us at Threlkeld where I got a bollocking off my mum for giving her the wrong postcode for the cricket club where the changeover was happening. She got there in the end so it can’t have been that far off. Tried not to faint or swoon when I saw Ben then got a Formula One turnaround from his and Chris’ combined efforts showing their triathlon transition and BG experience.
Started this Leg in much the same way as the first one, passing Cal with one of us going the wrong direction. This time it was him, but then he was going home to get some kip before a full day at work. Mad bastard.
Thought I was a right ‘Barry-Big-Bollocks’ beasting Ben up Clough Head before he casually reminded me that I had at least another 15hrs of running left to go and that I should probably wind my neck in…..except in more polite terms than that. Anyway once that was done it was plain sailing all the way through Leg 2. The issue being that I had been a touch blase in my recce of this section and Ben’s memory of his round and subsequent supporting of other rounds were a tad shady (no pun intended….read on a couple more words for it to make proper sense) having been completed in the dark. So, like Coco and Bongo the clowns, we bumbled about the Dodds looking for piles of rock to touch. Looking at the Strava trace (no KOMs dammit!) it would appear we touched the relevant ones and inadvertently had a go at the fabled ‘Lakeland 24-hour‘ record.
The small flags marking out the race route for Charlie Sproson’s excellently conceived Lakes Sky Ultra saved our blushes and ensured smooth progress from Helvellyn to Dollywaggon and on down to Grisedale Tarn and the bitch that is Fairfield. We dumped our race vests here and slogged up into the clag before boarding once more the roller-coaster down the hill and up onto Seat Sandal, the smell of a Grumpy Mule and some bircher muesli drifting into our flared nostrils (I speak only for myself of course…..Ben looked fresh as a fresh thing).
Waiting for us at Dunmail was the whirlwind that is Bob Proud and a new face to me, Gary Thorpe. Both cut from the same mold. Bob used to be a pig farmer and Gary touches old people’s feet for a living. We’d get on just fine.
We weren’t yet that far into the run but already I was sick of my cheese and jam sandwiches (‘What fresh hell!!’ I hear you cry) and so switched to something more contemporary……Bob’s cheese, chicken, hummus and peanut butter creations. Quite the delicacy. The banter from these two half-centurions followed me up the slog onto Steel Fell and we were soon cruising along towards Calf Crag and beyond. Passed an old boy doing his ‘Joss Naylor’ challenge (he bossed it). We nodded and made the right sounds as if we knew just what the funk one of those was and vowed to avoid the subject if we ever saw them again. It was here that the niggle I picked up somewhere on the first leg started to rear it’s shitty little head. Running became uncomfortable and descending ‘tricky’. Climbing was okay though and we soon passed another BG group on the excellent trod up to Bowfell, noting what has become known to me as ‘Makins Shelf’ on the way up (one of them private jokes again I’m afraid).
Oh yeah forgot to mention, I had a poo somewhere between Calf Crag and Sergeant Man. My only one of the day since you ask. Didn’t bury it as I was too shocked at what my body had produced to bring myself to touch the ground even 10ft from it. Sue me.
Bowfell down to Scafell was my favourite section. Firstly it feels like home, because it was for a while, and secondly because it’s the type of terrain I like, rocky and techy. We still didn’t manage to settle the argument over which is the right summit on Great End so tagged the one closest to the edge and were done with it. Big elbows got us through the crowds on Scafell Pike, fast legs got us down to the rendezvous with Ben and Jake at Broad Stand. They had a stout rope set up and some welcome hands on my ass as we scrambled up towards the summit of Scafell. Gary raced us to the top via Lord’s Rake trouncing us royally.
Had a visit from ‘The Man with the Hammer’ and then followed the misery.
I arrived at Wasdale a broken man. The second-longest descent in England had properly pulled my pants down and my shin was screaming bloody murder. Any thoughts of making a job of it and running down any hills from here on in were brushed under the carpet as it became all too obvious that weight bearing with my foot dorsi-flexed (I made that up, is that right?) was a big ‘nicht nicht’ from the German judges. Gary and Bob were mega in keeping up the banter and getting me down but if ever there was a time to throw in the towel that could have been it. I buried my head in my hands when I got to mum’s yellow deck chair and thought I was gonna start crying from the frustration of seeing a potentially fast round running away from me. Lame or what?!
Luckily being a bloody bloke I didn’t give in to such emotions and after a massage from some random woman in a car park (been there before), and the popping of various pills that Todd and a guy I’d only met 5 hours previously (Gary) told me were good, I was set to go. Yewbarrow next. It passed surprisingly quickly given it was the one I was dreading. I’d not reccied much of the Wasdale leg. I did the Wasdale race a couple of weeks before but the Biblical wind and rain conspired to ensure that I could have been literally anywhere and so no information aside from ‘the fells are steep’ was gleaned. Todd and I agreed that Chris Froome is a boring automaton with a penchant for bike riding whilst Karl professed that it was indeed a ‘grey area’. The run to Red Pike looked lovely but I was in full-on rambler mode by that point. The right knee now having decided to jump ship with my Judas shin and torment me as only knees can. Managed to trick the buggers into climbing well though and so damage was limited by ascending at a better pace. Scoat Fell led to the out-and-back of Steeple where I got up to a slight canter before receding to the shuffling drag of the Clapham Common hobo-cum-rentboy. Pillar and Kirk Fell passed slowly. We noted Joss’ favourite gate somewhere near Black Sail Pass, or was it Wind Gap? Anyway sorry to break it to you Joss but it needs a lick of paint to get my thumbs up. Half expected to see Mr Tumnus there munching on some nettles.
It’s ‘all over’ once you get to Great Gable allegedly. Not for my poor pacers it wasn’t. They endured the monotony of my lumbering gait hauling the slowly dying right lower limb towards Honister and inevitability.
The sight of a crazy lady in a bright red jacket shouting into a Walky-Talky (mum) was enough to tell me that I was near the end of Leg 4 and a welcome cuppa-chatta-watta’.
I was concerned that Billy from Dundee wouldn’t be there to pace the final leg as, rather inconveniently, the message to pick him up from Keswick to get him to Honister was lost in translation…..ironic that it should be us English who don’t understand what the other is saying when deliberating the transport arrangements of a man from the east coast of Scotland. Such is life.
Billy though had made it. Hooray! Up to full strength plus one after Todd decided to stick around and get back to Keswick with us. By now sub-20 was out the window and Todd let slip his time……a good enough target for me and my shite leg.
We blasted up onto Dale Head aided by the awesome spread made by the even more awesome wife and mother. Forced my body to run the best trod in the Lakes (in my opinion) round the south side of Dale Head (the one used on the Anni Waltz) and pretty soon there were two. Two became one. Standing, then briefly lying, on top of Robinson brought an end to the ascending for the day. Unfortunately my shin and knee decided that was also the time to ‘call stumps’ and the capitulation, delayed by Todd’s bodge job with tape and crossed fingers, was complete.
I descended Robinson tail between my legs and, if I did actually have one, poking me in the eye as I went down backwards, like a twat. It was pathetically slow but not as slow as the run in along the road towards Moot Hall and a crap pint in The Royal Oak. Great company though (the people, not the guys who run the pub).
- Electrolytes work. I didn’t get cramp, or even a sniff of it, once.
- Savoury is better than sweet….though Eccles cakes rock (sorry Yorkshire).
- Never, ever take for granted the kindness or generosity of people. The pacers and supporters that gave up their time for my selfish pursuit are simply incredible people.
- Hindsight is a wonderful thing….don’t keep running when you get a niggle just 3 hours into a 20+ hour run. My shin started as an uncomfortable inconvenience and ended as a grade 2/3 muscle tear of the anterior tibialis. I’m now rocking a cool pair of crutches. Nice one knobhead.
- Cheese, chicken, hummus and peanut butter combined works. Get amongst it.
- Never take your eyes off the prize i.e. enjoying the day. Not once did I have a crap time because of ‘the day’, my annoyance was born from my frustration but remember to look past your selfishness.