It wasn’t intentional that I would find myself at Grizedale Forest, 07:30 on a cold wet February morning. I had originally booked myself on another of the Trail 26 events, but as life got in the way I was unable to partake, so the good people at Trail 26 transferred my entry to the Grizedale Marathon without hesitation.
Due to the unpredictability of the Great British weather in early February I didn’t fancy a stupid o clock journey down the A66. As such I booked myself into Brathay Hall the night before. A decision I would recommend, and will certainly go there again ahead of any other Lakeland adventures!
I woke refreshed and rested, and left out the side door to misty drizzle and followed the winding roads to Grizedale Forest Visitors Centre. Marshalls were already present and smiling, a 10 minute walk to registration allowed me to feel the cold, so I returned and sat in the car until nearer the start.
I hadn’t trained nearly enough to offer any form of threat to fellow runners. I’d hoped that I had enough to just get round and have an enjoyable day out on trails new to me. As such I huddled mid-pack, wrapped up in several layers and with enough food for a family picnic; a small bunch of serious looking, lithe runners made their way to the front wearing vest and pants, essential kit stuffed into little bum bags.
The route is made of two loops, the first half marathon is good running amongst the pine trees, undulating over forest trails and gravel paths, with glorious views over Coniston, with still enough hills to test the half marathon runners and option for some fast downhills. Runners soon spread out and I enjoyed the ups and downs, taking it all in, thankful I was able to do what I loved. I ran side by side with a lady from Lymm Runners for most of the first half which kept me at a steady pace, finishing the half marathon in spot on 2 hours.
The first half finishes back at the visitors centre, yet the marathon makes a sharp right turn to a flap jack stand. I heard my name call over the tannoy, and gave a little wave before I set off on the second loop.
The second half is polar opposite, upon exiting the visitors centre you immediately climb up a gnarly trail. This loop offers over 3700ft of ascent compared to 1600ft in the first. You’re presented with mixed terrain through technical mountain bike trails, with some mountainous climbs and descents. There’s also a section of road which I struggled with after bouncing on the soft underfoot for 13 miles.
It was a head down get on with it second half, at times finding myself isolated and struggling, but soaking up the views of lake Windermere. Happily around 21 miles I was caught by a group of 5 or so runners, so chatted with them as we scrambled up rocks and slip sided for a few miles. Fairly soon supporters began appearing over the course, letting me know the finish was in sight. I realised I was clambering down the gnarly rock we had climbed up some hours earlier, and heard murmurs from the finish.
A final run through the visitors centre, the second half an hour longer than the first, under the red arch with my name called to a rumpus applause from the soggy spectators. I was handed a medal and a bottle of water and caught up with the lassie from Lymm runners, who was back and changed by the time I finished!
For half marathon runners I would recommend racing the first loop, it starts 20 minutes after the full which makes for a great chase to catch the marathon runners. For those tackling the marathon it would be well worth a recce of the second loop. Overall a great day out, a brilliantly organised event with a mammoth sting in the tail.