Anniversary Waltz

Newlands Valley, Lake District, Saturday, April 19, 2014

AM / 11.5M / 3,600'

Danny Lim

I was feeling distinctly out of place descending this ridiculously steep, grassy slope. No sane person would expect this to be run-able, but everyone around was overtaking me, descending like nimble mountain goats. In comparison, I was like an elephant, clumsily trundling down. What held me back was the fear of slipping and tumbling all the way down a few hundred feet. As if to emphasise the point, a few rocks I had accidentally dislodged continued rolling downhill. Vertigo was not my strong point and this wasn’t helping! It was a delicate balance between daring and stupidity and at the moment, my survival instinct trumped my competitive streak. “How did I get myself into this mess?”, I asked myself.

Two years ago, by chance, I was staying in the same hotel as Dougie Nisbet. He had just finished the Anniversary Waltz and was regaling his adventure. I knew I had to give the race a go. Several fell races in the North York Moors later, I was ready, or at least I thought I was! It was a horseshoe-shaped 11 mile race with a climb of 5 summits. It would start in the Newlands valley near Keswick, climbing Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells. From the comfort of my living room, the contour lines on the map appeared fairly benign. However, in real life, the peaks looked far more menacing. After over an hour of what seemed like “ridiculously steep” climbing, followed by equally steep descents, I was less certain. I had so far managed to climb three of the five summits. “Over halfway there”, I told myself in a vain attempt to shore up my confidence.

A familiar climb to anyone who has ever waltzed round the Newlands Horseshoe. In reality, I was struggling. Foolishly, I hadn’t taken any water, food or energy gels with me. I knew we were going to cross a stream soon, but the last time I drank untreated water was in South Africa where, I developed cholera. I reassured myself that this was unlikely in England and in my desperation, drank greedily from the stream. The water was cold and gloriously sweet. I tried not to dwell on the millions of potential pathogens from the sheep droppings littered everywhere.

Though I was no longer thirsty, I was ravenous. I passed a mother and her young daughter picnicking nearby and resisted the urge to snatch the candy bar she was eating. You know it’s bad when you even think about stealing candy from a child! In desperation, I asked the marshal at the next checkpoint and they obliged with a chocolate bar. Never had anything tasted so good! I Almost immediately, I was much better.

But there was still 3-4 miles to go and I was exhausted. Leg muscles that I didn’t know existed were cramping up everywhere and I was forced to slow down to a gentle jog. All thoughts about finishing in a target time were out the window. Dozens of runners overtook me, but I didn’t care. I was worried I was going to seize up and stop completely because of the cramps. My only thought was to make it home in one piece. As I reached Catbells, the final summit, I could see the village hall and our starting point below. It was the psychological boost I needed to get me through the final hobble-dash to the finish.

Some people prefer to run on roads, apparently! Would I do this race again? Definitely! Throughout the entire run, the scenery was breath-taking. Much of the race was on a ridge and you would have great views on either side. I didn’t know anybody but I was made to feel very welcome by everyone I encountered.

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