A trinity of top efforts – The Lap, Holt 10k & Cambridgeshire Track and Field

The Lap

It was early June 2022 when (possibly after one too many ciders) I made the decision to attempt to run my first ultra marathon. I’d obviously been doing some browsing online which had alerted the Facebook algorithm to keep spamming me with posts for The Lap. This was advertised as an entry level 47 mile low route (oh,the irony) around Windermere, which takes place in May and September. The May race follows the route clockwise, which is supposed to be the easier option due to where the climbs are located, and the September route follows the route anticlockwise. Having remembered reading that it’s a good idea to find a race that inspires you I thought, what’s not more inspiring than running around England’s biggest lake? and signed myself up for the May 2023 race.

Towards the end of February 2023 I was struggling with hip pain and was concerned with how the training was going so made the decision to defer until 2024. When I realised the 2024 race would fall on the day of my 47th birthday I thought 47 miles for 47 years must be fate, or as I later discovered bloody foolish!  Honestly the pub is a much more reasonable birthday option.

As it turns out this wasn’t going to be my first Ultra as I ended up doing the Weavers Way 50km in October 2023.

Fast forward to this year and I’d managed my highest ever four months of mileage in training so felt – somewhat naively – prepared and ready to go. I was equal parts excited and absolutely bricking it. I’d booked a caravan for the weekend at a nearby holiday park so had convinced Em and Summer to come along for the ride.

Registration was open 19:00 to 23:00 on the Friday night where I had to collect my race number, map, tracker and have a kit check to make sure I’d got the required kit in my bag. This was an incredibly smooth process which helped settle the nerves and the stunning scenery backed up the assumption that this was going to be a beautiful route. By the time we arrived back at the caravan it was getting on for 22:00, so I decided to try and get some sleep as I need to be up at 03:30 to eat and get to the start for the 05:50 race briefing. Sleep wasn’t great (it never is for me before a race) and it didn’t help having to chase the biggest ever beetle which was flying around the caravan at midnight sounding like a helicopter. Waking up just before the alarm went off I got up and set about sorting out some Heinz spaghetti on toast with cheese. Ever since this was recommended to me by Lucy for long run fuel it’s never let me down.

Breakfast eaten, dressed and gone to the toilet for the third time – apologies if a bit too much info – I was in the car with the sunrise and heading to the start.

We’d been promised a lake inversion the night before, with a nice mist expected to be rising from the lake, but on arrival there was no mist and you could already start to feel the warmth from the sun.  It was going to be hot. At the race briefing we were reminded that ultra running, for the majority, is walking dressed as runners. We were also told that they were expecting the course record to be beaten which it was by both the Male, Joel Jameson (07:27:22) and female, Lucy Gossage (07:57:41) winners.

Everyone self seeded themselves into position – firmly at the back for me –  and the air horn was blown to start the race with a lone bagpiper playing. I found the start quite emotional as I knew, after nearly two years, whatever was to now happen I’d finally made it to the start.

The first mile was a nice plod with a long line of people walking/shuffling alongside the banks of the lake as there was a stile about a mile up which was causing a bottle neck. I started chatting to a gentleman next to me who informed me that he’d run half of it in September before pulling out and was determined to complete the other half today. I thought this was supposed to be entry level not the kind of run where we set ourselves the target of halfway.

Once over the stile it was down a nice country lane before shortly hitting what was to be one of many climbs for the day. This was a series of various steps up through some woodland at what seemed like a near vertical angle. It was also at this point that I fell over for the first time of the day, it wasn’t to be the last.

At the top and there was a nice bit of gentle downhill over varying terrain before arriving at the first aid station in Far Sawry. The spread laid out before me was nothing short of incredible and, after having some cheese, a couple of cookies and a jam baguette washed down with coke, I filled up my near empty water bottles and cracked on. The next few miles were lovely with some gentle accents and descents over rolling hills and past a few smaller lakes before hitting the steep climb up to the top of Latterbarrow. It was at this point that I realised no matter how many times I’d run up the Drift this was going to be on a whole different level. It was also at this point that I cracked out the hiking poles and they stayed out for the rest of the day.

Stopping at the top to catch my breath I admired the view whilst trying not to think about the two big climbs to come. The descent from Latterbarrow was almost as tough as the climb up trying to negotiate the rocky path down without falling. After the initially steep section this then turned into some nice lanes as we ran down into the second aid station at Skelwith Bridge. It was here that I discovered the joy of orange segments and demolished a handful of these with another cookie, some peanut butter and jam sandwiches and a bit of malt loaf. Again this was all washed down with a good few cups of coke and the water bottles refilled. I was starting to worry about hydration. Those that know me will know how much of a sweaty runner I am and at this point the “hat drip” had gone from one, to two, to three and then promptly stopped. My t-shirt had also gone from being soaking wet to completely dry. I fetched the extra water bottle I’d stashed in my bag and filled that which gave me 1.5 litres until the next aid station. Unfortunately there was the two biggest climbs before I’d arrive at this and by the time I arrived I was well and truly broken.

Leaving Skelwith Bridge there was an initially gentle climb up a county lane but looming in front of me was what I could only guess was Loughrigg Fell and I knew we had to go up and over this. The path up to the top was winding and steep and I had to take plenty of rests to catch my breath and stop my head from spinning. All the while I was trying to forget about the fact that this was the easiest of the two big climbs, the second of which was right after I ‘d come all the way down from Loughrigg. The views from the top were again stunning and I was a bit disappointed that any pictures I took didn’t seem to do justice to how steep the ascent was. After stopping at the top for far too long I started on the descent which consisted of a steep track down into Ambleside.

Coming through Ambleside I was desperate to find either a pub or a shop as my water was running low. As I walked past a climbing shop the owner let me know that there was a lovely cafe next door, the only problem being that it was up two flights of stairs. Dragging myself upstairs I bought 2 bottles of ice cold water and a can of coke to try and help me get up Wansfell Pike.

It was as I was leaving Ambleside to start the climb up to Wansfell Pike that I decided to quit, for the first time. I was feeling incredibly flaky and was having a mild panic that I’d require a full on rescue operation from halfway up. I thought that turning around and heading back to Ambleside seemed to be the sensible option as I’d be able to get a taxi back to the start, hand in my tracker and stick to the flats of Norfolk that I’m used to. After a sit down and a stern talking to myself I tried to push on until at least the halfway checkpoint at Troutbeck.

The next few hours weren’t pretty. The climb up to the top of Wansfell Pike was steeper and longer than Loughrigg. For me it consisted of walking for a couple of minutes then sitting/lying down trying to stop my head from spinning and resisting the urge to go to sleep. Upon finally making it to the top there was slightly kinder section across a ridge to the highest point of the race at Baystones. I’d well and truly made up my mind by now that I was done. I was going to make it down to the halfway point at Troutbeck and hopefully secure a lift back to the start. I was remembering the conversation at the start of the race and thought making it over the two biggest climbs was a fair achievement and there was no point completely breaking myself in the process. Yep I was definitely done as I headed into Troutbeck. Then an annoying nagging feeling told me you’ve got one shot at this. Initial goals may have long fallen out the window but I hadn’t just dragged myself over those past two climbs to go home with nothing to show for it. We’d been given a t-shirt at registration and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear it if I didn’t finish. On arrival at the halfway checkpoint, being about 32km into a 78km race actually falls well before halfway,  I’d managed to agree with myself I was going to have a cup of tea and see how I felt. With cup of tea in hand I also discovered that you can shove Twiglets into a mini Battenburg and then plug the ends with cheese, trust me it’s a thing! There was also the benefit of a pizza truck at this aid station so I managed to force two slices of pizza down me. Whilst eating the pizza another runner, who I’d been passing on and off climbing up Wansfell, sat down next to me and proclaimed he was out. He was shivering, despite the heat, and said he was freezing cold due to dehydration. Not wanting to suffer the same fate I told one of the marshal that I was pretty sure I was done too. His reply was that it was only 8km to the next aid station so why not try and at least get to there. He also told me that I’d done the worst of it but I didn’t like the fact that, when I asked him where it went from here, he pointed and said, ‘you see that hill over there…’  As it turned out the hill he’d pointed to wasn’t too bad a climb and, once at the top, there was a nice flat section down some quiet roads for a few km which gave me a real boost. On leaving these roads over a stile (purely the devil’s work) I noted a sheep’s skull sat on top of the wall. About two minutes after this one leg went into a deep rut sending the other leg and arms into a nice boggy section and I was brought, quite literally, back down to earth with a bump.

Although only 8km to the next aid station this stretch seemed to go on forever before finally coming across a gazebo in the middle of a field manned by what can only be described as angels. They filled my bottles, made sure I was fed and watered and when I decided again that I was going to quit managed to convince me that trying to get to the next aid station would be a better option. I stocked up on food as I knew that the next aid station was water only and got ready to head into the night.

It all becomes a bit of a blur from this point on. There was another climb up to Gummers How which was through a boggy wood in the dark. I remember having a stand off with what I was convinced was the biggest beetle I’d ever seen sat on the path in front of me. After a good minute I realised it was a frog. The top of Gummers How was a bit of a low point as I had to lie down to try and prevent myself from being sick. After managing to hold down my stomach contents I pushed on and caught up with a lady called Kat, who was having a bit of a panic about the descent having hurt her ankle. We stuck together for the next 10km or so before she dropped out with about 10km to go as her ankle was hurting too much. I’ve since found out she’d actually broken it en-route. We also caught up with a couple of guys who’d completed it before. When one of them dropped out just before the final aid station as he couldn’t face any more hills I knew it wasn’t going to be a nice easy finish.

Coming up to the final aid station at Finsthwaite there was another particularly nasty climb through a wood which was a real struggle. On arriving at the aid station I asked for a cup of tea with milk and sugar. They didn’t flinch when my reply to, ‘how many sugars?’ was, ‘make the spoon stand up’. I knew at this point I had about 9km to go but at my current pace this was going to take a good few hours still. The one thing I knew on leaving the final aid station was that I was going to finish this. Sure it may have taken me many more hours than I’d initially planned but a finish was a finish.

Those final 9km weren’t pretty and seemed to throw everything at me, more hills, brambles, trees to climb over, boggy bits and treacherous downhill sections which would have been a challenge even in daylight with fresh legs, and I hate to think how many swear words were uttered but I pressed on just wanting to finish this thing now. With one final tree to climb over and the sun starting to rise I finally saw the finish line. At 04:14 on Sunday the 12th of May after 22 hours 13 minutes and 17 seconds I crossed the finish line. Handed my finishers medal and beer I limped across to the car, sat down and sobbed. I couldn’t believe what I’d achieved and that after nearly two years since signing up I’d actually finished. I came so close to quitting that day on many occasions and had to get my head out of some dark places along the way but I’d done it, never – and I repeat, never – for me to try it again.

Although as I’m sat here reflecting on it writing this down there’s another of those nagging feelings that’s saying another shot in 2026 sounds like a plan. Just don’t tell the wife.

Andy P

The start line

Early morning views

The top of Latterbarrow

The impending climb of Loughrigg Fell

Holt 10k

I did Holt 10k last year and really enjoyed the route and being such a local race, it’s a really nice one to do.  So signed up again this year.

With a 10 o’clock start, Kerrie and I didn’t have to leave home too early, which is always a bonus.  We arrived at Holt and met up with the other RntS runners and supporters.

It had been a wet morning and we were expecting a wet race, however luckily the rain stayed away, although it was still a warm morning.

The route starts at Gresham school and heads off with a nice downhill start towards the  garden centre.  Just before the garden centre, you are sent left down a track to meet the small country roads. The roads are not closed, but the traffic is sparse and didn’t cause a problem.

It was good to see Paul and Libby along the route cheering us on. Mark and Vikki were out on the route too, supporting everyone.

At mile 4 the route turns very undulating, with a lovely downhill which can only mean one thing, there was a sharp uphill which I admit was a struggle.  The route then takes you back towards the school with the lovely downhill start being in reverse back to the finish.  It was great to see so many RntS supporting at the finish and cheering us to the finish line. The support from others makes such a difference on a race and is very much appreciated.  Thank you everyone.

David C

Official Results:
Ant – 00:40:20.2
David C – 00:41:27.3
Alex – 00:43:40.4
Ellis – 00:45:04.4
Rob J – 00:45:59.1
Will – 00:46:33.8
Kevin S – 00:47:52.6
Andrew T – 00:48:01.0
Matt – 00:49:54.8
Paula – 00:51:00.6
Gemma – 00:51:25.3
Evette – 00:54:04.5
Seb – 00:59:04.7
Nita – 01:03:33.4
Chris L – 01:03:42.3
Vicki – 01:13:36.3

Cambridgeshire Track and Field

I ran the 3000m in the Cambridgeshire track and field championships last Wednesday at St Ives.

Its 7.5 laps.of the track, there was a mild head wind down the home straight and first bend and luckily the rain held off.

I got a 17 second seasons best which was only set 10 days prior.

Sometimes when you don’t feel race ready mentally and physically, that’s when your best runs come, and today was one of those days for me.  As it’s a championship event, athletes have to run for their first claim club, so I was representing Ryston Runners.

I was 1st vet 35, mirroring the same achievement in the Norfolk County Championships earlier in May.

Cat F-W