Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon Race Report

Position, 11th. 03:29:19
Total Distance: 26.2 miles (approx. 42.2km)
Total Ascent: approx. 3600 feet (approx. 1097m)

Northern Aspect - looking approx. southwest

Southern Aspect - looking north.

Coniston Marathon Profile

Arriving at 8am the sun was already high and the temperature nearing the mid teens. The forecast for the day was for clear cloudless skys and a high of 18 degrees C, but by 1030 the temperature indicator on the car (so I was told) was reading over 20 degrees!

Having arrived already changed I began my warm-up. For me this consists of a few joint mobility exercises – no stretching, dynamic or otherwise, and no jogging up and down the out-field. Then, following the necessary taping of a knee, slapping on sun block and kitting myself out with water (500ml) and gels (5), I made my way to the start.

Ask my girlfriend and she’ll tell you I am a trainer geek, so one of the first things I do is look at peoples feet (it also calms my nerves). The 20-30 people surrounding me were supporting the usual suspects, Inov8, Walsh, Nike and a few Pumas, but one gentlemen was kitted out in a pair of grey Vibram Five Fingers and another, 3-4 people to my right, was supporting the bottle green version of my own trainer of choice – the US version of the New Balance MT101s. I thought I’d be the only one, although I wear the rarer black ones!

At 9am (plus a few seconds!) we were off. The road out of Coniston was closed and we all followed a Coniston Mountain Rescue Landrover out and up to the first section of trail.

From here on it was a race of two parts for me.

Part One
The first 4km, through Great Intake Wood and around Shepherds Bridge into the shadow of Raven Crag, was spent working my way up the pack. At a few points I ran behind runners to get an idea of their pace looking for a suitable candidate. In this way I was able to move up the rankings. I was myself passed once or twice but around Hodge Close (approx 6km) caught up and fell into chatting with one of the gentlemen who had passed me – A. (Note: it is to my discredit that I did not get the names or running numbers of ANY of the people I ran with during the day so I am sorry to you all that I shall just be calling you by single letters!)

So for the next 5km A and I (me) chatted about landscapes, driving theory tests and a bit about running! Feed Station 1 passed in a kind of blur (I downed a cup of water and one of my own gels) and just before Tarn Hows A pulled away from me and I enjoyed the first half round the the tarn running solo with a few “hellos” and “thank yous” to the various greetings and encouragements I was given. (I try to smile at everyone and respond to all who greet me.)

At this point I was happily maintaining a 4m40s per km pace having reached the 1st Feed Station at just over 40mins.

Just prior to the short crossing of Hill Fell (approx. 16km) I was caught up by B – one of the gentlemen I had passed in the first 4km. Again chatting commenced concerning landscapes and the joy of running down hills. B pulled ahead but never more than 200m or so. So it was that at the 2nd Feed Station and road crossing – 17.32km, at the northern end of the Grizdale Forest Park – I caught up with him (B) and at about 100m beyond we both caught up with A.

It was at this point a few yells of encouragement caught my ear and I saw my informal crew – my ever supporting girlfriend Amy and brother no.4 Rob. Amys smiles and yells were great mana and did more for me than any energy drink. Rob also yelling EIGHT gave me my first indicator of my position.

So up through Grizdale Forest A, B and I ran in pace (swapping 7th, 8th and 9th place) again chatting but by this point I was more listening and admiring the views – those from the forest road ARE the BEST on the whole route I believe.

Above Grizdale

At the 20km mark (1h30m) I downed another gel and continued to sip at my water – I generally take a mouthful every 15mins. By 25 km A and B had pulled ahead and I was down to 9th.

On the descent to High Nibthwaite I was passed by C – from my point of view he was smiling and obviously enjoying the downhill sections – so I was down to 10th, a marshal on this descent kindly confirmed as much.

On the road section just past High Nibthwaite (and around the 28km mark with a time of approx 2h10mins) I pulled out another gel and inadvertently pulled out all my previous used wrappers! Stopping to pick them ALL up I was passed by D and hence down to 11th.

Setting off again I saw D 50m ahead and A 50m ahead again! The unfortunate loss of the route, less than 100m from the ford, by A, D and myself meant that for 30 secs I was back in 9th as I re-established the route first! That was until D passed me again 50m from the ford and I was back in 10th. After the ford I was expecting A to pass me a few seconds later but was surprised when he did not – I never saw him again!

I have no idea what time I hit the 3rd Feed Station (29.36km) but by this time my own water was gone and I stopped for 30secs to down a cup of water and of energy drink and dispose of my rubbish.

Part Two
The race from the 3rd Feed Station to the end makes up the second part for me.

The partial body dip at the ford and the dowsing of my top and cap in the water provided a welcome cooling from my own exertions and the warming day. The mud and stones in my shoes were not of any concern (and indeed gave me no trouble during the rest of the race). The trail past Greenholme Farm and up to Beacon Tarn though nearly stopped me dead. On all the ascents I was merely shuffling! Therefore, just before Beacon Tarn, I was overtaken by E and was back in to 11th. At this point a glimmer of energy returned and I committed myself to keeping up with him…

From Beacon Tarn through the Blawith Fells, following the Cumbria Way I stayed on the heels of E.

After passing a few ladies and gentlemen on the descent to Stable Harvey Moss (who commented “how do you make it look so easy?” to which I replied “I fake it!”) both E and I were over taken by F who was proceeding at a rate of knots – confirming my earlier response – so putting me further back in 12th place!

There was no way I was every going to catch F but I was determined to stay with E and NOT be passed by anyone else. So it was kinda with a bit of disappointment that at Feed Station 4 (35.90km) E was complaining about a knee injury and when he stumbled and slowed to a walk at about 40km I asked if he was okay then asked if I might pass, thus moving back in to 11th.

The penultimate 1500m was at a gentle running pace along the shores of Lake Coniston, at one point running in to the water to duck my head under!

In the final 500m, on the meander of the trail to the finish line, I glanced behind me and spied one last runner accelerating for his final dash to the line. At this point I managed to up the tempo again to my earlier pace (as maintained over the first 30km or so) and managed to maintain the gap between us. With the finish 50m ahead, the cheers of my girlfriend and brother in my ears and the commentator not knowing my name, I actually broke in to a full sprint..!

Sprint to the finish...

In the end my two part race broke down in to an approx. 4m40s / km pace for the first 30km and then approx. 5m50s for the final 12.2km. So, must try harder…

In the end I had a great day and a good run… I think BIG thanks need to go to the organisers and Coniston Mountain Rescue for marshalling…

And thank you to ALL the people I chatted too on my way round… Weather wasn’t bad either..

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