As one of the ‘classic’ Lakes fell races I have wanted to run this for a few years, Langdale is also one of my favourite places (Mum used to take me up to Stickle Tarn as a kid) and I was really excited about the opportunity to run this year.
The Ambleside AC website pulls no punches about the run, and you need to be competent on the fells to take part.
The race did not disappoint – in fact I loved every minute. I felt pretty good all the way round, possibly helped by the fact I had to concentrate so hard. Also, I’m not very quick on wet rock even if I had wanted to push harder, and I knew I needed something in my legs for XC the next day (the race of the weekend, of course!).
I was really nervous beforehand, I am fairly confident navigating in poor conditions, but I know it slows me down, and I can start to struggle if I get cold too. I marked up my map with distances and bearings to help speed things up.
The clag was pretty thick, especially after Esk Hause, and a light rain for much of it soaked us through. I was warm enough because I was moving, but I felt for the checkpoint marshals – it was not a great day to be race support on the tops.
The race starts and finishes at the Old Dungeon Ghyll near the head of the valley. It was really well organised, car parking in the big field and marquees for registration. Entry was into the 300s, it is always fairly popular, though 268 actually ran.
My thoughts on the route:
- Martcrag Moor is indeed boggy. Deviate by millimetres from the firm ground the runner in front stood on and whup … up to knees in clarts and the risk of losing a shoe.
- Contouring beneath Esk Pike, described as ‘dreadful, but right’ on the race map – it was pretty dreadful if you want to move fast. My running was minimal, but I had worried about crags and drops, and they didn’t materialise (though I could only see about 10 yards!). There were lots of wet and greasy rocks, but on the day my main worry was keeping the trod, and the runner in front, in sight.
- Crinkle Crags – I wish I had recce’d this. There is a racing line, but I ended up clambering up and down most of the ‘crinkles’ – I can definitely save time on this section if I run this again! I managed to avoid the ‘bad step’ by going around, a wise tactical decision given my aversion to heights and wet rock.
- The descent from Blisco – I was with a small group, and we all agreed ‘it’s the Three Shires trod’. The joy of dropping out the clouds and seeing the valley (and final CP and finish) before us was, as always, stunning and inspiring.
I had my map and compass out pretty much the whole way, but especially after Esk Hause. A couple of other runners around me did the same, and there were also some that were clearly confident of route choice without the map. There were also some ‘followers’ (I think basically leaving the nav up to me and some others). I am usually terribly competitive, but I was glad to confer a couple of times with those with their compasses out, and very grateful I had the company of two others on the climb up Bow Fell (we followed the cairns up, I think others found the runners trod… I wasn’t confident of finding and following it). Let’s just say, it never crossed my mind to try and ‘lose’ anyone in the mist!
I pushed harder on the final descent, feeling strong, passing a few, my competitive edge fired up again with the view! And sure of my footing now we were (finally) on muddy, less stony, ground. My reward was my daughter Leigh waiting in the field, cheering me in.
I absolutely loved this race and returned home with a real buzz. The route is fantastic, a real mix of climbs, descents, rocks and bogs. Some of the best fells to run around, and (in better weather) stunning views. I would really like to go back and do this one again. If you don’t fancy the run, this would make a great summer walk too.
|1||Matthew Atkinson||Keswick AC||2:15:16||MSEN||1|
|55||Tessa Strain||Hunters Bog Trotters||2:54:57||WSEN||1|
|169||Nina Mason||Elvet Striders||3:37:03||W40||15|
256 finishers, 12 retirements.