The Lakeland 50, a race report

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0270Sweat is pouring from me. The air is thick and sticky… My shirt clings to my skin, soaked, unable to absorb any more moisture… I try to shut my mind to the heat, that is slowly cooking me as I struggle to maintain my pace climbing out of Fusedale Valley. It’s like running in to the center of the earth, the further I go, the hotter it seems to get… I long to be on the fell tops, where it must be cooler… It can’t be hotter than here..!

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4452 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4459Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4460It had all been going so well, a short four mile loop around Dalemain had seen us spread out nicely and the pace had seemed easy, even it the heat… I settled in to a steady rhythm, and before a moment had passed, I was through the first checkpoint at Howtown, a fist full of fig rolls in my hand as I headed towards hell…

Behind and as well as in front, hundreds of runners are strung out over the mountainside, all of us are heading towards Coniston, 40 miles away. We won’t all make it… We struggle on this climb, the first major one of the day, and it’s slowly picking us off…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0278Finally I stop climbing, the ground easies out, and I can breath again… I pick up speed and allow my legs to carry me forward… Haweswater eventually appears from behind High Kop, shimmering in the heat as I start to descend. The air thickens once again, sweat runs free from my brow… We run and then walk, before running again along the lake side… I flew this section when I reccied the course a few months back, today I struggle to maintain any pace, in the heat… I fill my bottle from streams, and drink hungrily, but the water isn’t satisfying, its warm, like that from a tap that just won’t run cold…  I try to eat a gel, forcing  it down, but it won’t go and I wash the stickiness from my fingers…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0260I’ve been running less than 4 hours and the wheels have fallen well and truly off… I’m melting slowly in the sun. I can’t seem to eat, and yet I know I must… I haul myself up from the ground where I’ve been sitting and drink TORQ Energy from my platy-pus, it’s sweet and warm in this heat, but it seems to do the trick, providing me with the kick I need…

Finally, the checkpoint at Mardale Head appears, I drink flat coke, hot soup and scoff cheese and pickle sarnies. It’s an oasis in the desert, I fill my face with “free” food, before shouting my thanks as I head towards Gatesgarth Pass. It’s steep and hot again, I know for many Gatesgarth is a demon waiting in hell, but for me, it’s been a target for most of the morning. I know when I’m at the top, the hard part is behind me. I’ve been looking forward to the climb.  I relish the steepness, knowing its the fastest way to the top. I bump into a friend and we chat about races and adventures past and planned as we fly up the hill, over taking as we go…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4462Reaching the top, I slow for a few moments to take in the view, looking down Longsleddale, before dropping like a stone down the rough concrete path which leads us to Sadgill and the next climb… It passes in a distant haze, as I fly above my body, like a helium ballon, looking down as the slow torture takes place…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4463I wake up collapsed on the road outside the Kentmere Checkpoint. A Strawberry and Blueberrie smoothy is in my hand and it tastes amazing… It’s finished at record speed and I instantly want another, but daren’t risk too much fruit… As it previous Checkpoints, my water bottle is filled without asking, five star service befitting the best restaurants… But I’m not hanging around to enjoy it too long… my watch beeps and It’s time to start running again… Only another 23 miles now, almost there…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4464 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4465The rain starts just as I approach Ambleside, I love running in the rain, and it increases the spring in my step, but I have to fight to keep it there. As I run through the streets, people stop and cheer, clapping and raising glasses in the beer gardens… I want to stop and absorb it all, but it pushes me forward, lifts my spirt as I search down the Checkpoint, a mug of hot soup awaits…

Time is flying now, the light is fading with the dark clouds as I run along Langdale. I stop only briefly at Chapel Stile, more soup to warm my gut and to stoke the fire. I resist the chimineas outside the gazebo and I run on, in to the evening glom. I find it very comforting and resist switching on my head torch straightaway. But as I climb up towards Blea Tarn, dusk finally turns to dark and the drizzle returns but I know the way…

The suffering of so long ago, is quickly forgotten as the rain washes away the pain. I eat a Rhubarb and Custard gel and remember the hard boiled sweets I used to love as child… they maybe explain the fillings in my mouth… The next checkpoint at Tilberthwaite is not far now, but it never seems to arrive… And then there in the distance I spy fairy lights… I arrive to find Christmas well underway. Presents under the tent consist of more flat coke, sweets and cookies… There’s a chair, but as the rain fills the roof with water it cascades down my back, forcing me back on my feet… We sing happy birthday for a runners who birthday it probably isn’t, then we sing it again for a runner, who’s birthday it is… I leave as We wish you a merry Christmas  fills the air…

Bazar… I’m in the Lake District, it’s July, it’s pouring with rain, it’s dark… We are sing Christmas Songs…

I set off up the steepest of steep steps, and the take the lower path, down to Crook Beck… but it’s dark, and you can’t see much, and its the wrong way… I turn back and find the right path. I see frogs in the beam of my torch, it’s good weather for frogs…

2 miles to go…

I fall in with a L100 runner for a few minutes as we pick our way over the fell top. The path is faint, and our lights are the only ones in the dark… As we round a corner, I see path dropping off all the way to Coniston, to the warmth, to the dry…

I hit the boost button on my SEO5 Head torch and focus the beam. The rest is muscle memory as I take my brain and put it in my pocket. Its wet, its dark, its downhill, its a roller coaster ride…

I’m grinning from ear to ear, as I fly, passing other runners in the dark, bouncing from rock to rock, feet only glancing. I’ve been dreaming about the for months… Ahead I see Rob and Amanda, who I’ve run with at various points of the day… We chat briefly, but now my legs are no longer mine… and they head towards Coniston…

The streets are quiet at this early hour, until I pass the Black Bull, and the clapping comes from nowhere, I stare into the dark and see two figures, I pass the garage, and there are people there, sheltering from the rain, cheering… I’m chocked…

The final left turn, the final downhill… There’s the gate, more people… The finish arch, the medal… the lights, the t-shirt, it’s all over… Really it’s only just begun…

50 miles: 12 Hours 53 Minutes…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0307Powered by TORQ, Carried by Mammut, Light by LEDLenser, Inspired by Life…

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4 responses to “The Lakeland 50, a race report

  1. Hannah Keartland

    I want to try this hot soap now – have never heard of it before but it sounds like it did the trick 🙂

    • The soup was amazing… I have no idea what any off it was, but it tasted great and replenished the power… (or maybe it was just replacing the salt…?)

    • Hannah… Seems I need a proof reader… since you are the first to apply, you have the job… well done… 😉

  2. Pingback: Lakeland 50 by Reuben Tabner | The Trail Team

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