Great Trail Challenge, Keswick, Sunday, June 9, 2013


Bill Ford

As I was in Keswick anyway for the weekend taking part in the Wateraid 200 challenge this seemed an ideal little run to do on the Sunday morning, only 11k at time of entry but with an additional 0.5k added on at some time (take note Steve Cram).

Saturday had consisted of doing a made up 7am parkrun through Fitz Park to get rid of my hangover after a quiet night in Keswick had went slightly wrong, followed by a nice little walk to the top of Scafell Pike, a eat as much as you like Indian buffet accompanied by a small amount of cider and early to bed at 1.30. Awakening on Sunday morning to scorching temperatures there was only one thing for it – feed the runner – so a short walk to the Londis garage was followed by a athletes breakfast of sausage sandwich with a meat and potato pie.

John, Bill, Matthew and Jason.

The start itself was only a short walk through Fitz Park from the youth hostel we had been staying in. I arrived at about 9.30 to be met by a field full of fit looking runners and the odd larger shaped fun runner. There were a number of races starting at different times including a 5.5k, 10k, 11.5k and 22k all but the 22k including international races between the home countries.

I was joined at about 10 O’clock by John Wandless, Matthew Crow and John’s cousin Jason. The 22k race was off at 10.15 and those leaders looked quick, I expected to see a few of them fly past me later on their second lap.

We went to the start at about 10.35 and John and I were in starting Wave A, with the international athletes with Matthew and Jason in Wave B. As I had Blaydon in the afternoon and didn’t want to start off too quickly I moved back to Wave C with the slower runners. The announcer was advising people this was more than likely the type of race they had not done before so to enjoy it, take in the scenery and be very careful due to the scorching heat – wise words.

The hooter went and Wave A was off, the run included a 1.5 km lap of the field in order to thin the field out before hitting the trails, which each bay held back by 2 minutes to thin it out even more. John past the start line looking quite comfortable in about 20th place. Wave B was off with Matthew passing the start line in 2nd place for his wave and then it was my turn.

John at the finish, looking pretty in pink ...

A nice jog round the field was followed by about 3km along the C2C cycle track including a nice elevated wooden bridge section over the River Greta. Then boom a nice little left turn onto a country road section between 4.2k and 5.1k which I can only describe as being like Redhills in Durham with lots of people taking the opportunity to walk. Salvation came at the top in the form of a water station and a nice gentle downhill section to 6km at this point it was into the woods either over a bridge or through a ford – nice of them to give you a choice – and a uphill section along a narrow trail for about 1km. A right turn followed onto another country road and the ascent of Latrigg began in earnest by crossing a timing mat at the starting point of the ‘King of the Mountains’ competition. After a short while the road opened up onto open grassland and the climb up Latrigg continued but with fantastic views over Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding hills. Again a lot of people including me took the opportunity to walk this section which lasted abot a mile before the timing mat was crossed signalling the end of the ‘King of the Mountains’ and the beginning of the ‘Demon Descent’ timed section – big smiles suddenly appeared on many faces. Another water stop and off we went with mile times dropping rapidly. The descent lasted the final 3km only broken up by one slight incline, there was lots of passing people doing the 11k and lots of being passed as the leaders of the 22k came flying past me, another lap did not appeal to me in the slightest. And so it was into the finishing straight and across the line in about 1 hour 12 minutes – cheered on by the crowd including John (finished 23rd in about 52 mins) and Matthew.

Quick look for the fat blokes goody bag revealed the usual excellent quality Great Run T-Shirt (only useful for washing the windows and photos – when will they change to technical) and a medal with some sort of health food (no use to me). A quick chat to John and a lad I had not seen since school and off I was running again back to the car for a quick change and drive home to the Blaydon race.

All in all a very enjoyable, tough race, superbly organised and marshalled, reasonably priced (for a Great Run event) and in beautiful location with fantastic scenery. Would I do it again – Yes.

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