That was harder than I expected. In hindsight I should not have been surprised by how tough the ascent and descent of Scafell were.
Once again, my training has not been ideal. Without the group dynamic of my old triathlon club I am definitely finding it hard to get the consistency and mileage I need. Since the Weald Trail Challenge at the end of June I’ve averaged all of about 90 minutes of running per week.
Long drive up to the Lake District, but worth every minute in the car once you turn off the motorway and enter the national park. Registration was the evening before, in a damp field in Keswick and with the mountains looming large in the background. High Terrain events are a small and friendly company, putting on some wonderful races over tough terrain.
It’s a 20 minute walk from Keswick to the race start at a marina on Derwent Water. Usual anxieties bubble to the surface seeing whippet-thin seasoned ultra marathoners and fell runners toe the line. Quick pre-race briefing and a reminder of the importance of the mandatory kit, as the weather on Scafell was not looking great - expect high winds and poor visibility.
The first half
The start of this race is deceptively easy. For the first 15km it’s gently rolling single track along the side of Derwent Water. Even trying to hold back, you can happily tick along at your normal long run pace.
That soon changes as you hit the approach to Scafell. It’s a continuous 6km climb to the summit, with the terrain getting harder to run across as you climb. Before too long you’re in the clouds, navigating from a compass bearing and having to use your hands to climb safely. The trig point could not come soon enough.
The second half
After a bit of faffing about trying to navigate off the top, it was a pretty terrifying first few KM’s over the boulder fields before hitting another runable trail. As the Garmin clicked past 28km’s and already 4.5 hours in, I realised this was going to be a long afternoon. I had checked the trail map carefully and knew there was another signficant climb to come.
Just as I started to get into my running, I lost my footing. I managed to prevent a face-slam, but my trailing leg kicked a boulder so hard I thought I had broken all of my toes. After a bit of a swear and putting my foot in a stream I figured it was “only” my big toe that might be broken… so I carried on.
I was delighted to pass the checkpoint at the stretcher box. I was out of water and not too keen on filling from streams, so the friendly marshal gave me a refil.
The final stretch
The course was longer and harder than expected. As you head into the final 5km you start to get stunning views across Derwent Water. It’s a long drag back, through challenging singletrack with tired legs and mind. It’s a real sense of achievement when you finish, having spent large parts of the day completely alone and on some of the wildest trails in the UK. I will be back next year.