As soon as I realised Katrina would still be away in Indonesia and I’d be on my own this weekend I signed up to help at the Lakeland 50/100 races. I ran the 100 last year and loved the event and wanted to give something back by volunteering.
Here is a summary of my weekend!
Thursday 25th July
I left Glasgow after work and drive to Keswick where I was staying with good friends Dave and Tracey in their new home. Dave took me on a great run up Latrigg Fell. We chatted most of the way up and all the way down. It was great to catch up.
|Route up Latrigg|
At one point I did say to Dave I hope he never tires of being able to run in such an amazing area. It was a beautiful early evening and the views from the top were superb.
|With Dave looking over Keswick|
Tracey cooked a lovely meal and we chatted some more until it was time for bed. Before I could sleep though we did have to make (literally) the bed ….
|Dave making my bed!|
Friday 26th July
I was up early and away by 7am. Lovely drive to Coniston. It is a year since I was in the Lakes and I did think back to how I was feeling a year ago. I was looking forward to being able to encourage those running this year.
I arrived to the John Ruskin School just beofre 8am and the field was empty except for about 5 tents. I pitched my tent at the top end of the field next to a pratice concrete cricket strip. It took me 18mins to pitch my tent!
I headed over to HQ to get my red marshal t-shirt and ID badge. I was on duty from 9am – 12.30pm. Just before the registration opened Marc Laithwaite briefed all the helpers to make sure we all knew the process and what we were doing. The main aspect was about kit and make sure that every runner had all the compulsory kit.
|Marc briefing the volunteers before we opened at 9am|
Throughout the weekend I was really impressed with the whole organsiation of the weekend. Everything was thought about and covered. There would be almost 1000 runners in both races which is a lot of people to look after and process.
I was on ID check. Basically we had to check they were who they said they were. Everyone brought along a driving licence or passport. It is to make sure they haven’t haven’t passed their entry to someone else. We also had to check their mobile number they were running with and their emergency number. Plus car registration if they were camping.
There was enough time to have a little chat as well. I enjoyed the various states of the runners from very relaxed and calm to blind panic about what they have signed up to! The 100 race was starting at 6pm on Friday and the 50 race at 11.30am on Saturday but runners could register anytime.
It got busy after an hour or so and a queue was forming on the kit check which obviously takes longer than the ID check. So I asked to help with the kit check. I really enjoyed that as it gave me a chance to be really nosey and see what runners had in their bags!
Some runners had the bare minimum. The smallest possible waterproofs and spare base layers etc so their bags weighed very little. Others had a lot more and were going to be carrying a heavier bag. The main problem we had was runners not having the right kit. It had to be a full length bottom base layer and many only had three quarters.
The other problem area was the waterproofs had to be seamed. So the stall set up across the hall was doing a roaring trade with runners having to buy the necessary kit. The information is all on the race web site so there is no excuse really to not having the right equipment.
The majority were fine but we did have a few ‘complainers’ but we handed them over to Marc who sorted them out! Lots of runners recognised me from the videos that Dave and I did for the race last year. One guy said his wife is fed up of my voice as he’s been playing them so often!
The time flew by and soon it was 12.30pm and the end of my first shift. Over the next hour or so lots of friends arrived including Debs and Sharon, Stuart, Jon, Richie and others so I was able to have a quick chat with each as they lined up and went through the process.
At 1pm I had some lunch. There was a group doing the catering who worked so hard and were amazing. They did it all for charity and raised a lot of money. As a marshall we had our food provided which was a nice touch from the organisers.
After lunch I wondered over to chat with Debs and Sharon. They were taping their feet and getting themselves ready for the challenge of running 105 miles. They both looked very focused and keen to get going. Sharon was concerned about her feet as they haven’t really recovered from the world 24hr race in May.
|Debs, Richie and Sharon|
At 4.30pm there was the race briefing for the 100 race. I sat near the front and looked back at the crowd of runners. Again I thought back to how I felt last year and hoped they all would have a great race. The drop out rate for this race is over 50% which shows just how tough it is.
|100 runners about 90mins before the start|
Once the briefing was over I was on duty at the start. With about 15mins to go we cleared the start area and each runner filed in past the dibbers so the organisers knew exactly how many were starting. I was given the role to patrolling the gap on the barriers to keep people out.
One guy tried to come in and I said, ‘Sorry, this area is for runners only now.’ I was then told he was from Montane, the race sponsors, and was here to start the race! Ah well … at least I didn’t insist on ID!!
I gave Debs and Sharon a hug and wished them a great race. At 6pm the 274 runners were away. It was going to be a long, long 105 miles for all of them. The weather forecast was good for the night and through out Saturday and not so good for Saturday night.
|274 runners ready to run 105miles around the Lake District|
I was back on duty from 6.30-8.30pm doing ID checks and kit inspection for the 50 runners. This was our busiest period with a lot of runners wanting to register. Once again I was mainly on kit inspection. My highlight was opening the bag of one runner to discover more food than I would eat in the full race. I explained that the checkpoints are really well stocked with food so hopefully he was going to have a rethink about how much food to take.
By 8pm things quietened down a bit and there was just a trickle of runners coming through to register. My shift finished by 8.30pm and I had some food chatting with Ray who is doing the Hardmoors grand slam this year.
I met up with Dave and Tracey who had come down to watch the start. We wandered into Coniston and as the fish and chip shop was closed they made do with a pizza.
When I got back I checked on the live splits coming through but there was some delay with the Seathwiate ones so I decided to head to my tent and get some sleep as Saturday was going to be a busy day.
Saturday 27th July
I woke about 4am and immediately wondered what was going on with the race how everyone as doing. I looked at y phonoe but I didn’t have a 3G signal to access the results on the web. I do though have a text from Marco asking did I know why Sharon had dropped out.
I at 4.30am I decided to get up and check on the results. Sharon had dropped out at Boot and I saw her a couple of hours later. She said that she had been violently sick from the start and rightly decided that she wasn’t going to be able to finish in that condition so wisely pulled out to fight another day. Never an easy decision but she came to the race to compete at the sharp end not just to finish.
All the other West Highland Way family members I was following were doing well. Stuart was leading with Richie starting in his normal steady way. The big news was that course record holder and 2012 winner Terry Conway had dropped out at Buttermere with sickness issues.
I ate some cereal and had a cup of tea then got ready for my next shift on registration at 6.30am. We had about another 120 runners to get through and they started arriving at 6.45am and we were done by am. I was very intrigued to see one runner arrive with a false leg and a spare one with a blade.
His name was Andy Grant and a fellow Liverpudlian. I asked him what it was like running with his blade over the rough terrain and he said I’ll tell you in a few hours! He hadn’t run off road before but was challenged by the idea of being the first amputee to complete the 50.
I asked how he lost his leg and he explained he was in the marines in Afganistan when his colleague ahed stepped on a mine and he took the brunt of it. He didn’t lose his leg at the time but decided to have it amputated later as it would give him a better quality of life.
He now does motivational talks and encourages others to make the most of what they have. His web site gives more information.
The hall was packed for the 50 briefing so I kept out of the way. I had a good chat with Ian and Donna Duggan who are good friends of Mike and Annette Raffan (who were also volunteering at the event).
One the 50 runners had left by 9.30am we set up the hall for the finish. As we were moving tables etc a runner came in and said I think I’ve missed the bus to the start! There were 12 coaches but it seems he was in the loo and missed them all! Clare organised a car to take him and 2 others who had missed it as well!
It didn’t take too long to set up the hall and sort all the finishers t-shirts out. I also put the medals out. I found a collectors item. A 100 medal with a 50 ribbon so I gave that one to Clare as a souvenir.
I was free from 11am until I was back on duty at 6pm so decided to go for a run and see some of the leaders. I drove to Ambleside, packed the car in a car park (£6 for 6hrs!) and went to the check point. Mike and Annette were there waiting for the first runner to arrive.
They would be manning that checkpoint until 4am the following morning …. 20hrs. An ultra it itself. There were a group of them so they could have breaks but a long shift. They had mountains of sandwiches, soup and coke all ready to be given to runners to help them complete the final 15 miles.
I ran back along the route towards Troutbeck. I figured having run it last year I’d be able to remember the way but I couldn’t remember which lane to go up and it took me a good 20mins to figure it out. I’m glad I put my map in and was able to work it out eventually!
I hoped I hadn’t missed the leaders going through but I hadn’t as I saw Stuart making his way down through Skelghyll woods. He didn’t look too comfortable but was very determined as he made his way down.
I wondered how long it would be before I saw Richie who I knew was in second place. After about 8mins of walking/running up I saw Richie. He too looked as though he was finding it hard going but I wondered whether he ight be able to catch Stuart.
They have very different tactics. Stuart likes to go off hard, lead the race and get s lots of positive vibes from pushing on. Then he aims to hang on to the end. Richie, on the other hand, like to go off steady and slow down less than others over the second half. It would be an interesting battle over the last 15miles.
I rang Richie’s wife Helen to give her an update on how he was doing. As I was on the phone Ed came past running very smoothly and I did wonder whether he might catch them both.
As I continued my run out I saw the next runners working hard as they made their way to Ambleside. Lizzie Wraith said everything was starting to hurt now! The 2 Greek guys running together thanked me for our videos!
I sat in the sun and amazingly I got a better phone signal so was able to follow the checkpoint times and work out how friends were getting on. I was also to facebook message Katrina who was in Singapore! It did feel a bit surreal sitting just above Troutbeck in the middle of the Lakes messaging Katrina 10,000 miles away.
After about 90 mins Debs ran past looking very strong. It was great to see her running so well so late on in the race. I had a think about the time and reckoned that Dave’s sub 26hr time was in trouble!
|Debs running down to Troutbeck|
I was very conscious that I wasn’t allowed to run with any of the runners so waited a while for Debs to head back, then ran back to Ambleside overtaking her in the process. That’s about the only way I can overtake her these days!
I waited at the Anbleside checkpoint for Debs to come and vidoed her arriving and having to negotiate the steps to the hall.
A runner had dropped out at Ambleside due to injury so I was able to give him a lift back to Coniston. He’d had a tough time and felt that stopping at Ambleside was the right decision. There would be many more all over the course having to make the same decision.
I arrived back in Coniston at 4.45pm and went in to see Stuart sitting on a chair looking very, very tired. In fact he was so tired he could hardly speak! When he did recover a bit he explained that he’d pushed as hard as he could over the last 15miles as he thought Richie was catching him. His reputation was at stake as he wanted to show his tactic of going off hard was the right one! His time of 22hrs 17mins 50secs was a pb and over 90mins faster than last year.
|Stuart at the finish. He sat there for well over 2hrs!|
Just before 6pm I took my position at the finish, taking over from the team who had been doing a great job until then. There were only 3 runners in under 24hrs so I was looking forward to seeing Richie and Debs finish over the next few hours.
Richie came in 6th in a time of 24hrs 11mins 31secs. He’d had a really tough time after Ambleside and stopped at Langdale for an hour to get some proper food and rest before tackling the final miles.
|Richie finishes smiling!|
The 50 race winner Ben Abdelnoor soon came in finishing in a new course record of 7hrs 39mins 26secs. Onme of my jobs was to do a kit check on the first three of each race. When I took Ben’s rucksack to check I was struggling to get his waterproof out until I realised that he when he pinned his number on he has also pinned his top.
All the top 3 had all their gear so that was good. Again it was interesting to see what the winners were carrying. The sligher the gear the most expensive it is!
Marco and Cairn had driven down from Glasgow and were waiting with Sharon for Debs to finish. Debs came in 13th overall and 2nd female in a time of 26hrs 02mins 00secs. A truly superb run.
|Marco, Debs, Sharon and Cairn|
Over the next 5 hours we had another 40 or so 100 finishers and 60 or so of the 50 finishers. Pete Wilkie and I took turns taking the runners into tha hall and announcing them as a 50 or 100 finisher. There were plenty of people in the hall either waiting for the runner to finish or as the evening wore on those who had finished and their support eating or relaxing.
It was a great atmosphere and a real priviledge to be there at the end congratulating them as they finish and taking them into the hall.
I was able to have a chat with many folk as I was coming and going and the time flew by. I saw Andy Cole who had dropped out at Howtown. He said he’d made some mistakes with nutrition and had run out of energy. Andy is doing the UTMB again this year so felt he needed to prepare for that one.
Our shift finished at 11pm and so we handed over to the next team. As we did so it was starting to rain and it looked as though it was going to be a wet night.
I had something to eat sitting with Richie and having a great chat about running, work and twins! Richie and Helen are expecting twins so it was fun to pass on our experience.
At 11.45pm I headed to my tent to get some sleep as I was back on at 5am for my final shift. By the time I got into my sleeping bag it was raining quite hard and continued to do so throughout the night. Those 50 and 100 runners still out on the course were in for a tough time.
Sunday 28th July
I woke just before my alarm at 4.30am, quickly dressed and headed over for a cup of tea before taking over with Pete and out team.
As we took over the 100 race had been going 35hrs and 80 runners were done and dusted. The 50 race had been going 17hrs 30mins and 376 runners had finished. There was still a lot of runners to come in.
It soon became obvious that they had been through a really tough night. The contrast from the heat of day to the cold and rain of the evening had taken it’s tole.
The marshals at Langdale and Tilberwaite had been making sure that runners were buddied up and had enough clothes on for the conditions. One runner said to me as she came in that she was so grateful for the organisers insisting on compulsory kit as she wouldn’t have bothered with hat and gloves as it was so warm at 11.30am at the start of the 50!
One of the things I loved seeing was the friendship and support that runners were experiencing. One couple stood out to me was a female 50 finisher with a male 100 finisher. They had buddied up and ran together for several hours. They had helped and encouraged each other and were now best of mates! That was repeated several times with various runners.
One of the other things I enjoyed was chatting to supporters who were waiting for their loved ones. I chatted for a while with Nicola Johnston who was waiting for her husband Mark. She was expecting him a lot earlier but it was clear he was having a tough time.
Nicola had seen Mark’s split at Tilberwaite and we knew it was taking runners around 2 hours from there so I sent her in to get some breakfast while she waited!
Mark finished 114th in 38hrs 55mins 23secs. It was lovely to see Nicola hugging Mark with pride and love at his achievement. Mark said that he had underestimated the 100 and went off too fast. But I’m sure he learnt a lot about himself from the race.
Other highlights were ….
# Seeing 2 teams of 4 in the 50 finishing together and wanting to introduced as a team of 8 in the hall.
# A guy from Liverpool finishing the 100 with shin splints looking for his mate as he needed a lift back to Liverpool as he had a chrisening to get to at 10am!
# Seeing Jon Steele finish 87th in 35hrs 26mins 37secs. I wanted to send a tweet saying he had finished and so I looked at his splits and thought his time was great …. 35.36.37. I think Jon would have preferred 27.28.29
# whw family member Jody Young battled to finish in 39hrs 03mins 27secs. Another great effort from Jody.
By 10.30am all the runners were in. The final 50 pair were pretty emotional as they crossed the line and as they were introduced into the hall many cried with them!
Ray and I went for some breakfast … beans on toast …. then chatted to a few folk and heard some great stories of courage and endeavour in finishing.
The prizegiving was at 12 and the hall was absolutely packed.
Marc leads it really well and thanks all the marshalls and helpers before presenting the winners for each of the races.
When Stuart went up to receive his winners prize he took the microphone and spoke for a bit. I did fear he was going to go through his whole race but he didn’t! I loved the fact that he pointed out that the 2nd place finisher was 25 and the 3rd 24 so there combined aged was still less than his 50!!
It was great to see Debs receive her 2nd place trophy. What a year, infact 3-4 years since Cairn’s birth, she has had. And she didn’t get lost!!!!
Once the prizegiving was over I helped clear away the chairs then wandered into Coniston where I went to a cafe for some soup and to use their excellent wifi.
In the evening I went with Andy Johns, Mike and Annette Raffan to the Black Bull for some food. There were loads of runners and marshals also there so a good atmosphere.
We headed to our tents at 9.30pm and I fell asleep pretty quickly!
Monday 29th July
We were up and out by 7.30am as we were meeting Gaynor Prior at 8.30am at Brockhole for a recce run on the Ultimate Trails route. I will write a separate report of the run but suffice to say we had a superb day on the fells running 34miles in 9hrs 45mins.
|Andy Johns, Mike Raffan, Gaynor Prior and me|
We finished the run about 8pm. Gaynor invited me for a meal (thanks Dave!) and a shower before driving home. It was great to see Dave and Gaynor’s ‘castle’. There is a lot to do but an amazing place to live.
I left at 10.15pm and arrived home at midnight 15. A lot but really enjoyable day and weekend.
I really enjoyed my long weekend and it was a priviledge to be involved with the Lakeland 50/100 race. My plan is to go back in 2015 to have another go.