Running along the dam at Seathwaite Tarn

Turner Landscape Fell Race 2019

There was a moment of joy, in amongst it all. One of those moments where your lungs seem to find an unlimited capacity and your legs float along, leaping over rocks like a mountain goat. There was a moment of joy, but there’s far more to my experiences at the weekend than that.

The Turner Landscape is a fiesty little race on paper. It’s a shade over ten miles and a thousand metres of ascent – not to mention giving the opportunity to bag a few Wainwrights en route.

The drive down through Wrynose Pass to Turner Hall Farm in the Duddon Valley, where it all starts, is enough to leave you breathless at the beauty. I’m not sure if J M W Turner influenced the naming of the farm, but he certainly spent a fair amount of time in Coniston and the surrounding area. He painted and sketched The Old Man on several occasions and it’s not hard to see why the beauty of the area captivated him.

The race sets off from the farm and follows a loose gravel double-track up towards Seathwaite Tarn. It’s runnable up to the tarn itself, where it was nice to pick up some pace again running across the dam. From there it’s a power hike up to the first checkpoint at Grey Friar.

I forget how unforgiving long climbs are. While the total elevation isn’t huge that first climb is about 630m and you really feel it. After Grey Friar you skirt around the side of the felltop and then hang a left down hill before the climb up to Swirl How.

I forget how unforgiving long climbs are. While the total elevation isn’t huge that first climb is about 630m and you really feel it.

As we approached the summit of Swirl How I felt like I had a kick in my legs so ran the last stretch to the summit, passing a few and gaining on a couple of others. From Swirl How I decided to push and, taking advantage of the trail along the ridge, got a decent head of steam up skirting around Brim Fell.

Ahead of me was an impressive peak, one of those prominent looking, imposing, fell tops. I immediately assumed it was The Old Man of Coniston and started leaping over stones and rocks towards it. I ignored two runners branching off to the left and was at the foot of the path to the summit when several runners started running towards me.

In a scene reminiscent of The Ascent of Rum Doodle, we were climbing the wrong mountain. We’d over shot. More than half a dozen of us had managed to miss The Old Man altogether. Luckily there’s a good path to take back up to the summit, but having to double back put paid to my runner’s high and my head dropped.

In a scene reminiscent of the Ascent of Rum Doodle, we were climbing the wrong mountain.

From the top of The Old Man there’s a rapid descent of about 150m before climbing again to the summit of Dow Crag. From there we fanned out and took different lines towards White Pike. There’s about 3km of mainly downhill running, and it included a couple of hairy moments on the rocky patches on the side of Buck Pike.

The temperature was 26 at the start and finish and didn’t feel much lower up top. It was hot and I have the sunburnt shoulders to prove it. The temperature and the rough terrain took it’s toll and as I approached White Pike my legs had all but given up.

Rounding the checkpoint the marshal encouraged me it was all down hill to the finish, but I couldn’t pick up as much pace as I’d hoped. I was still running though, and drained the last of my water.

With about a mile to go, battling for pace on a rough downhill, I went head over heels into the dirt. It took a moment or two to clamber back up and I felt a burst of pain as I put weight on my ankle. For me, the race was as good as over.

A Todmorden Harrier who’d seen me fall caught me and checked I was okay. I reassured him it was just twisted and started the limp back down. When I finally reached the flat ground I sped up a little to the finish line, wincing but unwilling to drop another place.

Descending from White Pike, grinning through the pain of a twisted ankle!Descending from White Pike, grinning through the pain of a twisted ankle!

Overall it was a bit of a mixed day. It was a joy to explore a part of the Lakes I’d not been to before and the bulk of the race was enjoyable. It feels like I acquitted myself better than I did at Coledale in the spring, though the results aren’t up yet to see if that’s the case.

The ankle is a worry – we’re coming into August and I’ve a busy two months of races scheduled. Now is not the time to be injured. The swelling is only minor, though it does hurt to put weight on it, so we’ll see how I go.

The Turner Landscape proved to be a great fell race. The route is mainly runnable and the scenery is fantastic. On top of that, the money raised from the event goes to the Alzheimer’s Society so you can know that the pain is helping others.

It’s definitely worth entering – and remember, if you do, to bring some cash for the fantastic array of cakes and treats at the finish line, you’ll have earned them.

Many thanks to Carlos Reina for the race pictures. Great job, as ever!