Report from Sarah Fuller:
I’ve spent weeks thinking about what I was going to write when I finished this race (all important mental preparation!) but sadly all I have for you is a tale that ends in pain, a DNF at 68 miles and a trip back on the (very overcrowded) bus of shame….
The Lakeland 100, which is actually 105 miles and 22,000′ of ascent, has been my focus for the best part of a year – my reasons for slogging around the hills in the middle of winter in the dark, for so many trips up to the the Lakes and for getting out and logging a lot of miles on the fells.
As I stood on the start line in Coniston with 274 others at 6pm on Friday I was ready for it and we began the long journey through huge cheering crowds in the evening sunshine. It was an emotional beginning to an emotional rollercoaster of a day (and night).
The race gets going straight away, no easy stage to warm you up, rather it throws the course in your face with a big long climb up the Walner Car ‘road’ and straight down again to CP 1 in the Duddon Valley at 7 miles. In and out of the aid station and on for a hot climb up round Wallabarrow and Harter Fell to drop into Eskdale.
The next section was one of my favourites of the course, a lovely steady climb up to Burnmoor tarn in the now setting sun, completely clear skies and the dramatic Wasdale Fells reflected in the still water was absolutely magical. Headtorches out for the steep drop into Wasdale to the CP out the back of the pub. Being served soup and bread by a CP team dressed in 70’s gear with disco music blaring out was bizzarre but strangely uplifting and got us ready for the slog up Black Sail Pass and Scarth Gap – this never gets any easier even without 20 miles in your legs – but steady away and before long I was jogging along the lake at Buttermere to the CP for 27 miles. 8.5 hours gone and an hour and half inside the cut-offs – I’ll take that, I was on track and on my strategy of slow consistent pace.
The next climb up Sail Pass, another 600 meter beast was hard and felt long – “Yeah, do you still think you are hard enough?” the course was saying. “Hell, yeah” I replied as we jogged down the lovely fast descent into Braithwaite. 34 miles done, 11 hours and the hardest third of the course behind us.
It was light again now as we jogged towards Skiddaw and the climb up and around Latrigg and Glendarraterra Beck to the next CP at Blencathra centre. Getting warm now and the first signs of sore feet as I made my way down again and along to Threkeld for the climb up to the Old Coach Road following the Bob Graham leg 2 start.
The Old Coach Road is undulating but it felt all uphill to me and it was hot now and my feet were burning. We passed a few people who had decided to take a nap at the side of the trail! Into and out of Dockray CP for about 50 miles and the the long 10 mile leg into Dalemain where we would be re-united with our drop bags. I hated this leg it was long, hot and hard even though there were no huge climbs in it but the views from Gowbarrow Fell down Ullswater were to die for.
More broken bodies now, a few folk slumped on the trail in the heat. The course was taking victims more quickly now. Dalemain at 60 miles, now 2.5 hours ahead of cut-off – “Oh yeah, come on!” my husband and kids were there to cheer us in. I cried and lay down in the tent and asked my husband to sort my feet out which had been giving me some serious concerns for a while now. He removed my shoes and the look on his face said it all. “You ain’t going no further on those feet.” He didn’t say it but he didn’t have to. I said “Just tape ’em up and put my shoes back on.” I was more worried at this point about my calf which had started to niggle a lot in the last leg, an old tear from last year rearing its head.
So continue I did, slowly. I’d been running since the start with Sharon Meadows from Ilkley Harriers who I met on the start line and Elaine, a lady I’d met last year on the Lakeland 50. We were still together 20 hours later and their company was welcome and a relief we were all going at a similar pace.
We took too long at Dalemain CP and too long to get going again but the climb out of Pooley Bridge went ok. It went really wrong on the long descent onto Howtown. My calf was really painful now and my feet, well it wasn’t good. I made the girls go on and more people came past as I hobbled on and on. It took an age to get to Howtown but I caught Elaine and Sharon again just before and although I was still well inside cut-off, I knew then my race was over (they were to retire nine hours later after some foul weather going into the second night).
Perhaps it was a mental breakdown but right then I knew I couldn’t do another 35 miles so I stopped. I wasn’t alone. 274 started at Coniston, 124 finished. So I failed. I failed what I set out to do but there were successes too – I enjoyed every minute of the training and success at the Fellsman and the 10 Peaks was brilliant. The Friday night was one the the most beautiful and enjoyable nights on the fell I’ve ever had, I did 68 miles – further than I’ve ever been before, I spent 23 hours in the Lakeland Fells, I didn’t get timed out, I got my nutrition right and still felt relatively good in myself and I met some of the most supportive and friendly people I’ve ever met and shared an amazing journey with them (and I missed the rain and storms on the Saturday night – bonus!). That can’t be bad, can it?
Will I be back for another go next year? Watch this space…
There’s even a previous Youtube video about the event here.