Coledale Horseshoe, Briathwaite Village, Lake District, Saturday, April 6, 2019

AM 8.5miles, 3002ft

Nina Mason

Coach checking on my performance and offering gentle, maternal encouragement heading up to Barrow

A traditional Lakeland ‘horseshoe’ round Coledale from Braithwaite Lodge, taking in Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill, and Barrow. As the race map describes it: ‘a superb race with a monster climb at the start, a bit of scrambling in the middle, and a lovely grassy descent to finish’.

This was my first race in the Lakes. Despite other fell races I’ve done, I was very nervous. Mum and I had recce’d the route in fairly wintry conditions a couple of months ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

Saturday’s forecast looked good, and when I arrived at Braithwaite (early, to see Mum and Tony at the campsite where they were staying) the day promised to be glorious – sun, clear blue skies, no wind.

The conditions were indeed, I felt, perfect for running. I collected my number (the race was pre-registration only) from the tent in the start/finish field, eyeing up groups of distinctly lean, fit-looking, ‘proper’ fell-runners, while my ‘imposter syndrome’ busily started kicking in. Pre-race nerves were settled a little by bumping into Jack, and then a solitary warm-up.

Then we were off – 300+ runners – through the village to the bottom of the hill and the path leading to Grisedale Pike (cp1). This is, indeed, a decent climb, alleviated briefly by a couple of short flatter sections, and a rocky section nearer the top.

The first climb to a Grisedale Pike, viewed from Barrow on full camera zoom. Spot the Strider vest (made easier as I’m passing a big arrow painted on the grass)

Once I got into my rhythm I felt strong, passing lots of runners (where I was in the field, all of us walking, of course, at this point). It was incredibly hot work – no breeze, and the sun felt very warm. Every time the ascent became less steep I made myself run. I was surprised to pass Jack near the top (he admitted afterwards he had set off a bit too fast) and then we were up at the cairn at Grisedale summit.

A spread of runners all the way across the top, as well as heading along the path in the foreground

From cp1 there is a glorious section of mainly downhill to the Hause, before the cold, wet, slippery Eel Crag – on all fours up here, scrabbling up the rocks Gollum-like, passing some of the bigger guys as I think my (lack of) size advantage told. The views I am told were wonderful…I was too busy looking where I was placing hands and feet.

There was a bit of snow on the tops, a mix of melting slush and some shallow patches. I was so thirsty up here I scooped a handful of snow to suck (yes, yes, only the white snow).

Once up the rocks, it is a very gradual incline to cp2 at the trig point on Crag Hill. I had a slight moment of panic as I tried to run and my legs disobeyed – they were feeling the last steep climb and though they didn’t ache I could barely lift my knees. I managed a fairly undignified shuffle to the trig (though to be fair, the runners around me appeared to be feeling the same).

Then as soon as the gradient changed I was away again, legs obeying, more wonderful downhill, clambering over rocks, another small pull up to Sail (the contour path is out of bounds due to erosion), then springy turf down to Sail Pass, really letting go down here.

Jack looking strong on the last section up to Barrow

From there, gradual descending and a bit of pace, pretty much all the way except for the last short climb up to Barrow (cp3). Mum and Tony were there, surprised at me being about 15 minutes ahead of my expected schedule and cheering me on. From there I pushed on, eye-watering hard (for me!) catching at least half a dozen runners on the final downhill, determined no one was going to pass me (no one did) and into the field to finish. Those at the ‘sharp end’ were already on their third mug of tea when I arrived back, looking as though they were ready to go round again (which no doubt they could). Good to see Jack at the end and compare notes.

This is a great little race – I realise we were very lucky with the weather on the day, but as a first venture into Lakeland running the route is relatively straight-forward (as the pre-race briefing advised us ‘if you feel the need to turn right you are going the wrong way’), it was well-organised, and there was a tent full of tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes afterwards. Not to mention the views. Which I didn’t fully appreciate until sat basking in the sun afterwards.

I really enjoyed my race; a great day out, very pleased with how I felt, and looking forward to my next venture to the Lakes.

Results

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