Monday, 6 August 2012

Montane Lakeland 100

It’s 4:30am on Sunday morning. I’m high on Yewdale Fell and I have been on the go now for 35 continuous hours. Visibility is poor as the headtorch beam struggles to fight its way through the heavy rain. I am still shivering uncontrollably but I no longer think that hypothermia is a serious threat. I have large blisters on the soles of both feet and under all my toes. My right ankle is swollen and each step brings a jolt of pain. I am 103 miles into the 105 mile Montane Lakeland 100 race. This is what I do for fun.

One Doubt and You’re Out

The Lakeland 100 is widely considered to be the toughest single stage race in the country. 105 miles through the most aggressive terrain in England, with high mountain passes, scrambly rocky trails and muddy bogs to negotiate and no route marking at all on the course. Add to that the fact that for most of the runners this will involve running through two nights and you've got yourself a beast of a race. Every year a field of experienced ultra runners line up to complete this event and every year 50-60% of them fail.

The route:

Due to an achillies injury I couldn't train as hard as I would have liked in the build up to the 100. In fact, my mileage was pretty terrible, although I didn't admit it to myself before hand. I had spent a long time preparing mentally for the race though and was going into this feeling completely confident that I would finish.

The Race

Photo @Montane

Start: Coniston, Fri 5:30 pm

Standing in the starting funnel it felt very surreal to be here. After obsessing about this race for a full year it didn’t feel like this was actually happening. The horn sounded and 263 runners headed past cheering crowds through Coniston and off up into the hills. I fell into step with a familiar face, Martin who I had bumped into several times on last year’s 50, and we got talking. On these events the conversation doesn’t usually really start until a few hours into the race so it was really nice to be chatting away so early. Before the top of the Walna Scar Road Andrew Evans and his friend Andy caught us so there was more conversation. Good company from the start – fantastic!

Once we crossed the col I took the descent at a very gentle jog, enjoying the stunning mountain vista. I had been struggling with some tendonitis of the right knee caused by tight quads so I wanted to go easy on the descents right from the start. A few people came flying past but most were going steadily. I was taking it easy but I still drifted away from the Andrews. I noticed that we seemed to be at the back of the main string of runners, the numbers really thinning out behind. I was surprised because although we weren't hoofing it we weren't slouching either. Was I going too slowly? My plan was to run at a good pace early on until knee pain forced me to slow/walk later so I was not expecting to be at the back of the field now.

CP1 Seathwaite (7 miles, Fri  7:07pm) 178th

Into CP1 and there’s John Kynaston. I know he’s going for sub-30 and he’s experienced enough to be comfortable in his pacing. If he’s here then I don’t need to worry that I’ve started too slowly. Into the village hall and I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s Peter Jamieson who I ran with on one of the reccies. It’s really crowded in the building and the dibbers are right at the back. I don’t want to get chatting and forget to dib so I give him a hand signal which is supposed to say “I’m going to right back” but of course, when I get back he’s long gone. I top up my water (it’s a hot evening and I’m drinking lots), add my electrolyte, have a bite of cake and I’m away.

I expected stage 2 to be grotty, with its infamous bogs, but it was actually very pretty. After a good climb onto the fell, where Team Andrew caught me up, we ran together  through some lovely open fell to Grassguards farm. Here we hit the bogs and conditions were pretty bad, with long stretches of deep gloopy mud to fill the shoes. Working as a team of three we passed a lot of runners on this stage and when we hit the long descent I pulled away from the Andrews again. I had a dilemma here. I had been really enjoying their company and found I wasn’t enjoying the run as much on my own but I also felt that I was running at the right pace and so I allowed myself to drift away.

As I pulled ahead I had a slight lapse of concentration going over some rocky ground and went over on my right ankle. I did the stagger, stopped and waited for the explosion of pain, but it never really came. I walked a few steps. Seems ok. Broke into a jog and a trot and it seemed to hold up. away with it! I honestly thought my race was over for a minute there! Eyes open Stevie! A lovely run by the River Esk brought us into the third checkpoint in the pretty little village of Boot.
Running into Boot

CP2 Boot (14 miles, Fri 8:43pm) 133rd

I topped up my water, grabbed a bag of nuts and got out my poles for the first time in the race. I am a complete convert to using walking poles in hilly races. They really help so much on the climbs and this stage is basically one long climb followed by a sharp descent.

As I walked up the hill I was pleased with how the race was going. I had some pain in my groin but my knees, which were my big worry, were completely fine. I didn’t have a schedule for the race but I had looked at last year’s times to get an impression of when it might get dark. I knew that some finishers go through Boot in the dark so it was great to get here in the light. If I could make it all the way to the next CP in the daylight that would be fantastic!

Burnmoor tarn was beautiful in the dusk and the water levels were much lower than when I’d reccied this stage last year (when the bridge was completely under water). I still got wet feet in the bogs but around the lake the footing was good. I took it easy on the descent and made it into Wasdale just as we lost the light.

CP3 Wasdale Head (19.4 miles, Fri 10:00pm) 120th

The checkpoint, in a brightly lit barn, was warm and full of friendly runners and marshals. Quite a change after being out on the fells basically alone for the last hour. I topped up the water and electrolytes again (still hot and still drinking lots), ate some soup with buttered bread and grabbed some snacks. On with the head torch, out with the poles and out into the black night. This is the most aggressive stage on the entire route, crossing two mountain passes which are difficult to navigate and you have to do it in the dark. If any stage is going to knock the stuffing out of you then this will be it. It is also the most beautiful and the highlight of the race for me.

The initial climb was wonderful. A group of about five of us bunched together and worked our way up the hill. One of the lads in front was singing some dodgy songs from American musicals which really lifted the spirits. I would have joined in but I didn’t know the words or have the spare breath to sing.

We could see a trail of lights working up the hill in front of us and as we got higher you could turn around and see the lights stringing all the way down the hill back to Wasdale a mile away. It was utterly beautiful. The climb went on. And on. And on. But I was enjoying it, the poles coming into their own. We crossed the col and began the descent. This is notoriously tricky to navigate but I had the route programmed into my Garmin Forerunner GPS so all I had to do was follow the breadcrumb trail. I was very glad I did as the path really was difficult to follow. Even if you had spent time recceing this you would not be able to easily find your way in the dark.

It was a boost to hit the bottom of the valley because I had reccied every step of the route from here on in. No more surprises! I can see the lights zig-zagging up the second climb of this stage and I join them as we work our way up to Scarth Gap Pass. It’s a bit showery and cool and I pause to put my waterproof top on.
This climb isn’t so bad and we are soon over the top and down the other side. The legs are tired though and where I blasted down here with Flip and Peter earlier in the year today it’s a slow, careful walk. I hit the beautiful lake shore, though it’s too dark to see the lake, and run around to Buttermere. That’s a marathon covered, in seven hours!

CP4 Buttermere (26.3 miles, Sat 12:31am) 97th

This checkpoint was a flying visit for me. I was planning my first sit down stop at the next CP, where they were serving hot food, so I just dibbed and continued into the night. From the recce days this had been one of my favourite stages of the entire race but here in the middle of the night it was pretty horrible. With no views to see it was just an ever rising path, a relentless slog up hill.

While crossing Addacombe Beck I noticed that there were lots of stars in the sky. I stopped for a moment and switched off my headtorch. The sky became a canopy of stars, framed by the shadows of the mountains. As I stood there a shooting star streaked across the sky. Breathtaking! I didn’t actually wish for “a finish” but it felt like a good omen.

The up hill graunch continued and I was fading. Right before the summit I was finally caught by team Andrew, who were looking great. I was feeling weak and was very glad to reach the summit. I enjoyed the nice gradual descent into Braithwaite and arrived ready to take on some fuel.

CP5 Braithwaite (32.8 miles, Sat 2:42am) 102nd

Braithwaite Checkpoint was more like a nice little cafe than something you’d expect to find on a run. I took off my shoes and socks and grabbed myself some pasta with spicy bean sauce. Delicious! Rice pudding for dessert, with crisps and biscuits on the side. Fantastic! I checked my feet...some trench foot but they didn’t seem too bad. Mick Wren came in and sat down next to me. After reading Mick’s blogs and chatting on Facebook it was nice to finally meet in person. After a 15 minute break I put on new socks and headed back into the night.

I had decided to walk for at least a quarter of a mile from the checkpoint in order to let the food settle. It was cold outside now though and I was starting to shiver so I stopped at a bus shelter to put on my waterproof trousers. Much better! I was passed by a few runners as I jogged along the road in the dark but I was determined to take it easy and digest this food. I was already feeling a huge boost from the combination of food, a sit down and a dry pair of socks.

After the climb up Spooney Green Lane, which was enjoyable, chatting away with a few people, we reached the Glenderaterra valley. This is a great, trail and as we jogged around the sky grew steadily lighter and by the time we got to the head of the valley we could switch off our lights. This was the first time I have ever run through an entire night and I was surprised that I hadn’t  got tired at all. I guess I’d been too busy concentrating on where I was going!

We’d had heavy showers through the night but the sky was looking clear in the morning light. After hunting around for the unmanned dibber point for a few minutes we were turning South and heading away from the northernmost part of the course.

CP6 Blencathra Centre (41.3 miles, Sat 5:25am) 110th

Another great checkpoint at Blencathra Centre, with lots of marshals fussing over us runners. I took off my waterproof trousers here but left my top on. Bottles were filled, tea was drunk and cake was eaten and I headed out ahead of the group of about five I had been running with on the last stage. I wanted to start easily and speed up when the others caught me.

Initially this stage is lovely: flat running along an old railway line next to a beautiful river as it winds its way through lush woodland. The climb up to the Old Coach Road was boggy as ever and the Old Coach Road went on for ever.  We were now in a group of about six, including Martin and North Lakes Andy, who I had been running with off and on through the night since the first checkpoint. Conversation was good if the running was starting to get hard. In the last quarter of a mile before the checkpoint I drifted off the back of the group; pain on the inside of my left knee, tiredness and sore feet slowing my pace.
Photo @Montane

CP7 Dockray (49 miles, Sat 7:3am) 101st

The small group of marshals at the little car park checkpoint in Dockray were doing a sterling job and our group all crashed out in deck chairs while we drank soup and tea. Again I was the first to leave, thinking I would get a nice warm up for half a mile before the others caught me up but Martin and a couple of others followed me out. I had to quickly decide whether to stay with them and work harder than I wanted to or to let them go and loose the company. I decided to let them go and dropped back into a comfortable jog down the pretty, winding tarmac lanes into the village of Dockray.

On my own I found the going was easier. I took it easy and enjoyed the stunning trail down through the woods by Aire Force waterfalls, the water churning away to my right. The first sight of Ullswater was stunning in the morning light, with the mountains of the northern Lake District spread out all around. I kept the poles away for this climb because it’s on a narrow path and the poles had been a real nuisance on a similar path on the climb up Sail Pass in the night, constantly getting tangled in the bracken.

I loved the trail around Gowbarrow Fell and even passed two or three tired looking runners. The forest at Swinburn’s Park was stunning, with shafts of sunlight finding their way through the tall pine trees down into the shadows below. The sun was starting to get warm and it was nice to find the shade. I stopped and applied sun cream to my head. Don’t want to be forced to retire due to sunstroke!

As I left the woods and started making my way across the (very) muddy fields I could see the group I had been running with earlier only a few hundred meters ahead. Having relaxed my pace for a while I had found my legs again and was now making up good ground on them. The two miles of road into Dacre village were horrible. I started to get a pain in the bottom of my right shin which was forcing me to walk. It was a nasty pain...the sort you wouldn’t dream of running through if you were on a training run, but I had 48 miles still to go! I found myself walking much of the gently descending road, trying to protect the shin.

It was nice to hit the stony path into Dalemain estate, but every stone made my sore feet shout out. Dalemain is the first real point where supporters are allowed to see you and I couldn’t wait to see Mich and the kids. I looked at my watch and was really shocked to see I would be arriving at 10:30am...a full 90mins earlier than I expected to be here. Mich has a history of missing me at events because I finish too quickly. There was a real chance that she would not be here and I had to mentally prepare for that.

CP8 Dalemain (59.1 miles, Sat 10:28am) 97th

And sure enough she wasn’t there! It made me chuckle and I took the positives from it: this means that I’m doing really well! Oh, but there’s Charlie Sharpe over there! What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be out at the front battling it out with the quick boys? Turns out he’s hurt his shin but despite the disappointment he’s nothing but supportive, telling me everything I need to hear and helping me swap things over from my drop bag to my pack.

I’ve only been there a couple of minutes when Mich arrives with the kids and we’re all laughing about me being too bloody fast! Honestly, if you saw me running right now there’s no way you would call me fast!  I have a really good chill out at this stop as I sit down and eat some meat stew. I’m scared to look at my feet but force myself to. The trench foot is worse and there are two large blisters several inches long on the sole of my right foot. It could be worse though.

I’m enjoying this stop and I think I’ve been there 15 mins but Charlie tells me it’s more like 30. Best get going. I get the poles out (they will be out for every step of the remaining 45 miles to the finish) and go limping across the field towards Pooley Bridge. The new, dry shoes and socks feel great but my right shin is very tight and there’s a sharp pain with every step.

I got into a rythm, running with the poles down the lovely single track trail next to the river to Pooley Bridge, where Mich and the kids had leapfrogged ahead to see me one last time. It was great for  them to see me running well and positive. As I climbed out of the village I was on such a high, being so far ahead of the 50 start. My goal now was to clear Howtown before the leading L50 runners caught me (their race started at noon from Dalemain). The views across Ullswater were stunning as ever and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful descent. I was passed by two L100 runners but felt I was going at a good pace, especially given the blisters.

CP9 Howtown (66.2 miles, Sat 1:04pm) 95th

The L50 runners still hadn’t caught me at Howtown and there was a surprise waiting for me there: Paul and Jason from the Spartans should have been marshalling at HQ but Marc Laithwaite had shipped them over to help out here. Marc was there too and I sat down and relaxed for a few minutes, enjoying having them all fuss over me, fetching tea and filling my bottles. My memories of this checkpoint are all super positive. I remember telling the lads that I was hurting but in a great frame of mind. This photo of me leaving definitely shows I was suffering.
Getting going again after the stop at Howtown. Painful stuff!

Onto the biggest single climb of the race. Last year Fuesdale knocked the stuffing out of me in the heat but the temperature now was perfect and the climb isn’t half as serious as some of the things we’d been up in the night. I kept tap-tapping away with the poles and was enjoying it. I managed to get half way along the valley before the 50 runners arrived and was stunned to see my mate Jeff “Lightning” McQueen leading the pack, with Dave “Wallman” Douglas close behind in 6th. It was brilliant to watch the front runners powering up the hill.

I enjoyed the climb until about ¾ of the way up, when I just got bored of it. I wasn’t struggling though and it made me laugh that I was able to run across the top of Low Kop far better than I had in last year’s 50. The descent to Haweswater was tough going, with every step causing a bolt of pain through my shin. L50 runners were flooding past and I really appreciated it when they took the time to pass on encouragement.
The technical single track is great fun on the recce, hard work on the L50 and just bloody awful on the L100. It was very hard to get into any sort of rythm and every time I did I found L50 runners catching me so I would have to stop and stand aside to let them through. This would cause the legs to stiffen and make running again painful. After 30seconds of running the pain would just start to ease when the next group of L50 runners would catch me and I’d have to stand aside again. I had been looking forward to feeding off the energy of the L50 runners along this section but in practice I found I was getting frustrated at having to stop all the time. The positive comments were great though and occasionally someone would say something that would move me almost to tears.

CP10 Mardale Head (75.6 miles, Sat 4:35pm) 95th

Welcome to Sparta!

Mardale was was being manned by my running club, the Delamere Spartans, so I was going to see all my mates. As I approach the checkpoint Tim started ringing a cow bell and hollering that a Spartan was coming and lots of faces popped up to cheer me in. It was wonderful! It was also great to see them doing such an amazing job at running this isolated checkpoint. Bottles were filled and a cup of soup was thrust into my hand as I walked around to say hello to everyone. They were obviously having a great time themselves, with a real party atmosphere there.
A little piece of home

I didn't hang around too long because I was planning a longer break at Kentmere so I said my goodbyes and headed out to the climb up Gatescarth Pass. The last stage had knocked the stuffing out of me but I quite enjoyed this climb. I was generally holding my own with the L50 runners, which was a good boost. The descent on the other side was a different story. My shin was really painful and my feet were killing me. I made very slow progress down here, trying to stay positive but finding it tough.

Martin Clayton, another Spartan, pulled up to me on the descent and we had a chat. Martin was looking really strong in his first 50 and after a short while I encouraged him to go on ahead rather than loose time with me. I didn’t enjoy the run down the valley, didn’t enjoy the climb at Sadgill Farm and didn’t enjoy the hobble into Kentmere. I arrived there in a bit of a funk. My feet were trashed, my shin was very painful and I still had one major mountain pass and 23 mles to go.

CP11 Kentmere (82.1 miles, Sat 7:20pm) 100th

As soon as I entered the building I got my shoes and socks off before getting a bowl of pasta and a fruit smoothie. The room was full of excited chatter but I felt isolated from it all. I sat eating my pasta alone, staring into the middle distance. A guy sitting next to me was telling a marshal that he might have to quit because he had an ache in his foot when he raised his toes. Dude, I’m struggling to bare weight on my right leg and my blisters would give you nightmares! I left here quicker than I planned because I didn’t like feeling so negative.

I staggered on towards Garburn, not worried about the climb but dreading the rocky descent on my blistered feet. I had a brief lift when I met Paul Nesbitt. Paul was also in the 100 and we've been chatting on various forums for years without ever actually meeting in real life. It didn't last long though as Paul and his running partner soon shot off up the pass, leaving me to hobble on behind.

The descent was excruciating and my pace was getting slower and slower until I was met by Ben Leigh-Brown, another 100 runner. Ben was able to go faster than me but he said I was the first 100 runner he’d seen for hours and he wanted some company so we hooked up together. I upped my pace to try and stay with him and it really helped me get all the way through to the climb out of Troutbeck where I just couldn’t keep with him any longer. I let him go and my pace plummeted again.

As I walked around Jenkins Crag looking at the sun setting over Lake Windermere I started thinking about what was to come. I was in a lot of pain and had about 18 miles to go. I was scared, not that I would quit but because I was in so much pain and I knew I was going to keep going to the end. I didn’t think I could run another step and my fuddled mind started to work out timings and convinced myself that I would get timed out if I walked all the way from here. As I entered the shadows of Skelgyll Wood I put on my headtorch for a second night, took a deep breath and broke into a jog. To my surprise it changed the pain in my feet, making it feel better than walking. As I ran through the woods I was surprised to see three 20ft high emerald statues of Chinese gods. I looked at them for a while before they changed into a grassy bank. OK, so the hallucinations have started then. This night is going to be interesting!

CP12 Ambleside (89.4 miles, Sat 10:42pm) 98th

I ran all the way into Ambleside, past the cheering crowds in the beer gardens of the pubs, to find Mich waiting for me! It was such a nice surprise. I told her my fears about getting timed out and she tried to convince me that I was well up on the cut offs and there was no way I could be timed out.  I stepped into LakesRunner to grab a cup of soup and there was Ben just getting ready to leave. He was stunned that I’d made up so much ground and asked if I wanted to hook up again. Absolutely! If you don’t mind waiting for me to change my socks.

Out into the night and I am still a little fuddled because I ask Mich to get on the iPhone and check that I have dibbed at the last CP. Quick kiss and smiles and I follow Ben out into the night. We have a great journey through to Skelwith Bridge. A group of jolly 50 runners hooked onto us and we just jog along listening to their chatter.

I was pleased with the way I was moving now. I couldn’t keep up with Ben’s walking pace but every now and then I would put in a little jog to catch him up. Until nature called for Ben. He disappeared into the bushes and I acted as watch man, shouting when headlights were coming down the trail. After a few minutes all was right and we got going again but the stop had trashed my legs. I just could not get started again. I struggled up the valley, onto the course of the Great Langdale Trail Race where I’d run so strongly a few weeks earlier and into the checkpoint at Chapel Stile, trailing Ben by a good 50m.

CP13 Chapel Stile (95 miles, Sun 12:56am) 98th

Running through the dark valley we turned a corner to find a marquee in lights with music thumping. Is this anther hallucination? As we get closer I see a chimenia and soft, comfy sofas. Definitely a hallucination. But no, it turns out to be real. We dib and grab some stew and bread, sitting down on hard chairs, avoiding the sofas. They look just too comfortable.

We keep this stop short, knowing the legs will stiffen but even so, it's hard to get going again. Ben is staying behind me, jimmying me along, and we chat away about everything and nothing as we make good progress to the head of the Langdale valley. There a group of about five L50 runners catch us. “Stick with them Steve” says Ben and I hook onto a competitor who’s number displays the name “Gary”. I find that focusing on Gary’s footsteps takes my focus away from my sore feet and I am able to keep pace. We climb out of the bottom of the valley and all the way down past Blea Tarn together. There we skirt Bleamoss and climb up hill to hit the unmanned dibber post that is new this year.

We dibbed and headed down hill on the tarmac of the Wrynose pass. Ben drifted ahead and I fell into step with Gary. I saw Ben look back a couple of times to see where I was and I was willing him onwards. I had slowed again and really felt he should crack on. I was relieved when I saw him pick up his pace and start to move away. Gary and I were chatting away making pretty good time. Once we hit the trail again I started to get into trouble. I was falling asleep as I walked. Gary would start up a conversation and I realised that I couldn't see and talk at the same time. Every time I answered a question it was like someone had switched off my eyes. As soon as I finished talking I could see again. I was negotiating rocky ground during the black outs so obviously on some level my brain was still in control but it was very unnerving. I was also periodically zoning out; going to sleep as I continued to walk over technical ground.

It was raining quite heavily and a cold wind was blowing. I was shivering and the periods of sleepwalking were getting more frequent. I worried about what lay ahead; I had now covered 100 miles and had only 5 to go, but these would involve a 928ft climb over bleak mountain fell, in the dark, in heavy rain followed by a steep rocky descent into Coniston. I had planned to zip straight through the last checkpoint but now I realized I needed to get more layers on, drink tea and generally sort myself out before I headed into the hills.

CP 14 Tilberberthwaite (101.5 miles, Sun 4:06am) 98th

Except there was no cover at the checkpoint, only a campervan with an awning covering a table containing the CP refreshments. The marshals were doing a great job warming a L100 competitor who was shaking with cold while about 20 L50 runners stood around in the rain trying to get their heads under the shelter of the awning. If I took my waterproof off in this rain in order to put on a base layer I would get even colder. I had to make a quick decision but in my current state of fatigue could I trust myself to make a safe choice?

I grabbed my poles and headed to the climb, deciding to put in a big effort in order to get warm. I was carrying a full bivi bag and was prepared to use it but I was concerned that I would not recognise the point where that became necessary. As I began to walk away I got a shout from Gary who came over to join me. I hadn’t even thought to find him but I really wasn’t thinking clearly.  It was such a relief to have him still with me. I was still shaking with cold but I had a big smile on my face as I headed up the steep steps. This was it...the final leg and I was going to do it!

I actually enjoyed the climb and passed several groups of L50 runners. I had no navigation issues on the top, despite the poor visibility due to heavy rain. The hallucinations were coming thick and fast now and tigers, cougars and other big cats were stalking me across the fell. As I hit the col that marked the start of the final descent the sky grew lighter as dawn broke. I had gone through my second consecutive night and the end was literally in sight.

The rocky descent was very painful, with every stone making my blisters scream, but I made reasonable progress onto the metalled road in the valley: one easy mile to go to the finish. And that’s when I fell asleep. I was still walking slowly but my brain finally gave up. My eyes were open but all I could see was a constant stream of dreams. I was looking around but as hard as I tried my brain just would not process what I was looking at. I was effectively blind. Is this it? Am I really going to collapse within a mile of the finish? If I collapse when I'm technically in Coniston will I still get a medal? As I am starting to think that there is no way I can get to the finish my saviour, Gary, appears on my shoulder again. He is carrying a knee injury and had told me to go ahead on the descent and I tell him he can go ahead now but am so relieved when he insists he’ll stay with me. I feel very vulnerable and really need help now.

Gary walks me into town as the sky grows light, sacrificing time in his own race to make sure I finish.  He wonders if we'll cry at the finish. I tell him I just feel so tired and empty I really don’t have any tears in me. How wrong could I be. We turn the corner and I can see Mich down the road. I feel the tears coming and it feels like when they start they are not going to stop. I warn Gary that he needs to go ahead if he doesn’t want to see me cry like a baby. “No mate, we’re seeing this through to the finish” comes the reply.

Mich comes running up the road to me and I see Dave, Steph, Jason, Claire, Paul and Sam there, all cheering me in. I manage to hold it together until Mich is close then I bury my head in her shoulder and start bawling my eyes out. She is trying to prise me off, telling me that I still haven’t finished yet but I don’t care, I’m here in Coniston and I’ve made it. I walk to the final dibber and hear that last, satisfying “beep”, 36hrs 25mins after I started.

Post Race

I was so moved that Paul and Jason, who were marshalling at HQ, requested extra shifts so they would be working when I finished. It really meant something that J announced me to the room and the cheers from the runners in the hall was a special moment. I was also deeply touched that Dave, supportive as ever, had run 50 miles then got out of bed in the early hours to see me finish. Dave has been a constant source of support and inspiration from my early days battling through knee pain to do three mile jogs around the forest and it meant a lot to me that he was here to see me finish.

For several days I could not weight bear on my right leg. My foot and knee ballooned and there was a lot of creaking and groaning down there. As I write this, a week later, my right shin is still very painful. It’s going to be a while before I run again but it was worth it.
The day after the race


I spent a weekend running around the Lake District with some amazing people but special thanks need to go to two people who I really do owe my finish to. If it wasn’t for Ben Leigh-Brown giving me a kick up the backside from Garburn onwards I think the need to sleep would have been overwhelming and I doubt I would have made it. Sheer tiredness would have defeated me.
In the end when I was struggling it was Gary Brooks who sacrificed time from his own race in order to see a complete stranger safely to the finish. My thanks at the time really didn’t indicate the depth of feeling and appreciation that I felt. I’ll never forget what you guys did for me and hope I get a chance to return the favour out on the trail in the future.


  1. Good grief Steve, where's your ankle gone? Massive congratulations for finishing. Let me assure you that the Western States 100 is nothing compared to the Lakeland 100. You only have to compare the finishing times.

  2. WOW, I'm so in awe of you. That's a marvellous blog charting a marvellous achievement.

  3. Well done Steve. Both on the run itself (frickin awesome) and this blog.

  4. Awe inspiring stuff - thanks so much for blogging - a really good read!

  5. Another fantastic read Steve & what an incredible, inspirational achievement. You have an awful lot to be proud of! Hope the injuries are subsiding and I'm looking forward to catching up in person.

  6. Wow what a great insight into the journey. I did the 50 and was debating the 100 next year. I now want to do it as much as I don't! A fantastic achievement well done.