By Darren Roberts
I ran the Lakeland 50 last weekend. Its a 24 hour race through some of the Lake Districts favourite spots, and as the name suggests, its a 50-miler. I desperately needed this race to compete in the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc later this month, so there was a lot of pressure to complete it.
We started at 12pm on Saturday and fortunately the weather had cleared following a very wet night. This was the type of race that fields experienced ultra runners and I could feel it was going to be a tough one. Looking across the start line, I was slightly nervous and that in my book, is a good thing as it keeps you on your toes.
The first leg was fast. I kept up with the front group and felt great. The winner last year finished in 12:06 and at Checkpoint 1, I was 20 minutes ahead of this time. 3 miles into the next leg however It all started going wrong. Easing up the first big climb, I suddenly felt very strange. I realised I had hit a wall, and stopped to shove some sugar and electrolyte down my throat. Satisfied I had fixed the issue, I cracked on. That's when it happened. For the first time in my running career, I got the most severe cramps in my legs.
15 minutes later I was on my way again and for the next 10 miles suffered more crippling moments. The next checkpoint offered an easy way out but I couldn't give up. I had to finish this race. At this stage I didn't care if it took me the full 24 hours as long as I finished.
Scoffing salty food to try and calm my leg spasms, I shuffled and ran through the rest of the race, careful not to over-extend too much and risk pulling already tight muscles. I clawed back the time bit by bit, and as it started raining and turned dark, I was glad to see on the map that I only had 6 miles to go.
Wet and bruised, I stumbled down the last mile to Coniston with a big smile on my face and crossed the finish line in 12:38 and 32nd place. Who knows what it would have been without the cramps. Oh well, I was just glad to finish.
It was a hell of a race but an excellent course. The organisation and support were very good and I highly recommend the challenge. Once again, I met some really great people during the race, who are nothing short of inspiring. [Thank you to those who kept me going up the hills, it was a pleasure meeting you - Richard, Bob and Sandra.]
Since then, I've successfully managed to do absolutely nothing. I needed it but with 3 weeks to go to the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, the trails are beckoning. No rest for a wannabe ultra runner I guess.
Scanned map of the route to follow shortly...