The author running through the rain at Helvellyn

Lakeland Trails Helvellyn 2018

Today was crazy amounts of fun. It was the Helvellyn Lakeland Trails and I entered the 15km Challenge. There is a race too, but I knew that with the challenge I can run close to the front of the pack and stretch myself, and I thought I would stretch myself less if I was further down the field but in the race.

The weather was crazy, it’s fairly warm, about fifteen degrees, but there’d been heavy rain yesterday and all day today. Parking was cancelled so we had to park and ride in from Penrith.

I don’t like racing in waterproofs as it is so easy to over heat but the rain was absolutely pouring so I decided on my Montane 777 waterproof over a normal technical tee and a trail pack - I put 750ml in the bladder as I’ve had a bit of uvulitis and if I started to get any throat trouble I wanted water. I also took a couple of buffs and some gloves in case.

I’d done this one a couple of years back so had an idea of the course, and hoped to improve on my time (1:15:38) from then, though the weather that day was dry and cool so made better running.

The lady who does the announcements chatted us through the safety stuff and then let a little girl in the crowd count us down from ten and we set off. I went at what felt an appropriate pace and ended up leading for the first half a kilometre or so off the field, along the main road in Glenridding and then up by the river. I knew it was unlikely I could win though so didn’t get carried away and ran my own race.

I counted people as they passed me and soon found that a group of about nine of us had separated out into a lead pack. We were fairly tightly knitted up the first set of hills until about 3km when we started to space a little coming past the Helvellyn YHA.

Not far after this we crossed the bridge over Glenridding Beck and that’s where the fun really began. I pulled down my hood but kept the waterproof on and the pounding rain and as we joined the path that skirts a terrace around Birkhouse Moor we were ankle deep in water - most of the trails from that point on for the next seven-ish kilometres were flowing with the water that was gushing down the side of the mountain.

At this point I was sat in seventh and tussled for a while to gain sixth briefly before coming down some slippy rocky steps only to slip, slide on my back down a wet grass slope, and then spring back onto my feet. We swapped position on and off for the next couple of kilometres and then came to a small bridge which I decided to launch myself across at speed to try and gain on the two guys behind.

My legs went one way, I went another, and I hit the deck pretty hard. My arm seemed to take the worst of it, with my arse a close second. The guys just behind me asked if I was okay but I bade them carry on, no drama, I didn’t want to slow the race down if I took a minute or two to get back to pace. I was a bit shaken by it and had to roll the sleeve of my waterproof to check I wasn’t bleeding or broken but did this on the go and - seeing it wasn’t - continued. The adrenaline soon kicked in and I started to push again.

More ankle deep water and a crazy amount of wind as we ran along towards the back of Helvellyn, made it up to seventh and then the guy in sixth held a gate open for both me and the guy behind, and insisted he let us go. Back in seventh I pushed hard until the turn, from which point you know you’re all downhill and can pick up the pace. There’s a rocky stretch that was really sleepy and then a bridge, once over the bridge we started to leg it across boggy ground to regain the path and I went in up to my knees and fell forward. I recovered almost instantly but two guys had passed me and I couldn’t keep the pace on.

Once I hit the harder surface I started to push as hard as I could. Two runners from the pack behind started to gain on me and for the last three kilometres I had to push and push and push, puddles and streams ran down the path which became a road. It was really slippy but when you hit Patterdale you know there’s only one k left. I pushed it and raced around the field managing to get some clear space between myself and the chasing pack to secure ninth place.

The adrenaline was intense. I know the challenge is theoretically less competitive but there’s no way any of us up front weren’t competing - you simply don’t run at that pace in those conditions if you’re just there for the view.

So pleased with the finish and going hard in those conditions. I was about 36 seconds slower than my course best - but given the previous was on a perfect day I’m thrilled with that. It was great just to soak it up and enjoy the thrill of the run. A kind lady bought me a hot chocolate as the place didn’t take card and she said I’d earned it.

The bus journey and the first half of the drive back kept me full of adrenaline but when that started to wear off I soon started to feel the pain from my arm and butt. Tough day, but very much worth it!