The trouble with these races farther afield is that it takes longer to get there than it does to run. Thankfully, Bryony was willing to drive so her other half kept her company in the front of the car whilst the Candlishes kipped in the back.
Once we got to Keswick we had to find the designated parking area whilst avoiding pensioners in hiking boots who seemed to have forgotten their Green Cross Code. A little hike across to the other end of town to Fitz Park and the inflatable start/finish arches, loos and catering vans and we were ready to run.
At the start the route took in a lap of the cricket pitch which I used to try and overtake a few shufflers and Nordic pole walkers (a little tip – start near the front and let faster runners overtake. It’s much easier than starting near the back as I did and trying to overtake slower folk!) and then it was onto the Keswick Parkrun route along the old railway line which has been turned into a bridleway. After 3k on this gladed trail it was up a steep country road reminiscent of this years Jelly Tea. Another kilometre of this and then we moved onto the fell trails.
It was about the 6.5k mark the route markers moved us off the footpaths and vertically up through reed marshes. At this point it all got very processional as everyone tried to stay on the trampled reeds and it soon slowed to a walk as inexperienced runners tried to avoid getting their shoes too wet. As any XC vet will tell you, the slower you go in this stuff, the faster you sink and I got rather frustrated after 5 minutes of this crocodile and pulled out to one side to plough my own furrow through the long wet vegetation.
That kilometre took about ten minutes so really wrecked my times and I decided to just enjoy the views from there on. Coming up to the 8k mark we hit the peak of the elevation and the paths became more just rocks than tail. I twisted my knee on wet rocks just before we turned the corner to face the photographer so if you see a picture of me looking like I’m just tappy-lappying around – that’s why!
It was also around this point that Jacqui decided not to run around the remains of a dead sheep like the rest of the competitors but put her foot straight in it as she tried to overtake someone on the inside (‘I think you’ve killed it!’ Said the runner behind her)
From then on it was generally downhill with a water station at the 12k mark (a bit late into a 15k run but as this was the first bit of road in a long time, I guess it was the practicalities of carting the water around that dictated the position of the station), grab a few jelly babies, and then back onto the Cumbrian Way for the steep descent back into Keswick.
I thought I’d move a few places forward on this bit as I’m generally good at downhills but my knee went again and the only way I could keep going at any pace was to do a comedy gallop like someone out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail!
Back into Keswick and into Fitz Park to finish where we started in glorious sunshine in a time of 92.28. I had aimed for under 90 minutes but hadn’t expected to walk bits. At least it gives me something to aim for next year. Smiler Candlish came in a few minutes behind me in 1hr 41 and Bryony just behind her.
This is my first season doing trail races – I’ve only done a few (Cartmel 18k, Hadrian Wall Half, Gateshead 10k and Keswick 15k) but thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone of them (regardless of the weather) and can’t wait to do more.