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Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration at the Lakeland Trails “Dirty Double”

Isn’t it always the same when you’re side-lined with a running injury? As days turn to weeks, then into months, there’s almost an acceptance that races are a thing of the past. Having achilles trouble has meant I haven’t run with a spring in my step for three months.

High on the Kentmere fells

That’s not stopped me from enjoying the mountains, the autumn, the fresh air and even exercising. I’m still able to Nordic walk with poles, get on my bike and go for a ride. Then there are the boring exercises from my physio. Tentative easy walk/jogs along the river, hoping to see the flash of a kingfisher.

It’s just not the same as bounding along, day-dreaming about how fast you may be able to run one day.

Hard to believe that the last time was in the heat of the summer, in the World Masters Orienteering Championships in Hungary, finishing 4th, only twelve seconds behind the winner. That race was the beginning of the end.

Finishing the World Masters Championships in Hungary back in August

Running too fast, too soon without a cushion of decent training in the bank. Punching above my body weight. Coming as it did only ten weeks after a bad fall in the woods of Witherslack. Racing at full tilt, when my foot caught in rusty wire from a fence hidden in the bracken. In a split second I was shot down. Suffering broken ribs, a dislocated finger, a whack to my head and torn quad muscles when I was reaching the peak of fitness after months of hard training.

Dreams shattered and a literal tumbling back down to earth.

When Lakeland Trails Event Director, Phil Blaylock, reminded me about running at Helvellyn and Ullswater a few weeks ago, I told him that I was still injured and couldn’t make it. Somehow, this final straw made the wind go out of my sails. I could feel my motivation ebbing away.

However, my mantra with the runners I coach, is that when things don’t go to plan, they should always look for the gift in adversity.

Maybe I could take part in the Challenge events instead? Walk them, instead of running them? Take my poles along? Enjoy the atmosphere, the views, the moving mass of humanity threading their way along these beautiful Lakeland Trails.

Would this give me some much needed inspiration to persevere in my long battle with injury?

We’ll see.

At the start of this year’s Ullswater Trail 

After all, that’s why I set up the Lakeland Trails all those years ago. To make them as inclusive as possible. As much an occasion for the back markers as the front runners.

So, on Saturday 6th November, I made my way to Glenridding in lashing rain. Proper Lake District weather. Taking my place at the back of the main Challenge ‘wave’, setting off at a walk, a gentle ribbing by friends who would normally expect me to be running.

My plan was to Nordic walk everything uphill and anything on tarmac, jogging only the flat sections and descents. Hope not to get carried away. Look after my achilles.

At first, I was so far behind everyone, I wondered if it was such a smart idea. Gradually, I caught up some of the competitors suffering from setting off too fast. I could now enjoy the banter, smiles and camaraderie that make the Lakeland Trails so special.

After the Helvellyn YHA, the trail double backed and levelled out, and I could jog along, even overtaking a few folk.

Battling the elements on the Helvellyn Trail 

My ‘secret weapon’ is knowing pretty much every step of the route, every slippery rock. Having planned all the Lakeland Trails courses and run them many, many times over the last two decades, it was great being back on familiar terrain. Even better without the demands of racing. Or organising!

Simply admiring the views, enjoying the shock from some of the marshals who would suddenly recognise me with a double take. Then I’d stop, say a few words, thank them and move on. 

With marshal Geoff Lowe on the Ullswater Trail

By the time I’d finished the Helvellyn Trail, I was really looking forward to the new route on Sunday’s Ullswater Trail. I said a few words at the prize giving, thanked Phil and his amazing team and drove home, soaked through, yet buzzing.

Autumn colours by Ullswater

The next day, my spirits were soaring just walking to the start. Autumnal sunshine filtering through the trees by the side of Ullswater. Views to die for.

Ullswater

This was going to be epic.

At the start of the Ullswater Trail 

Keeping the same plan as yesterday, I set off at the back of the Challenge. With more tarmac at the start, I was miles behind everyone by the time we hit the trails.

High on the Ullswater Trail

It was difficult to get into a rhythm. The scenery meant I just had to keep stopping to take photos. I even took photos for others who were running together, memories that will hopefully last them through the dark days of winter. 

High on the Ullswater Trail

More encouragement between those being overtaken and those overtaking. Everyone buzzing, high on endorphins, euphoric.

Enjoying the Ullswater Trail

Simply a joy to be alive in this special part of the world.

Two Lakeland Trails legends, pirate Kev Kendal, and photographer James Kirby

Then I caught up with a pirate wearing gold hot pants. Kev Kendal has been a regular at the events for years and years. We chatted on the climb to Boredale Hause, remembering some good old times on the Steamer with the RockTarts in fancy dress.

The Ginger Bread Man from ten years ago on the Ullswater Trail 

I remembered my all time favourite, Lee dressed as a gingerbread man, and my pun at the time for the fancy dress winner “this one takes the biscuit”.

The finish in sight 

Too soon, the finish appeared on the shores of Ullswater and I stepped across the timing mat. A chat in the sunshine with Phil and star runner Jonny Cox, before returning back home to Kendal, smiling.

Knowing I’d found some much needed inspiration from this year’s Dirty Double, Lakeland Trails working it’s magic once again.

© Graham Patten

Founder, Lakeland Trails

Monday 15th November 2021


15 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog Graham. Thank you. I’m glad you liked plodding along at the back; that’s my normal way of completing a Lakeland Trail.

    Take care of the Achilles mate.

  2. Ric Jaques on said:

    Thanks for the great blog on your exploits, encouraging to all of us on the recovery path (clumsy fall at Cartmel LT, torn hamstring…..) and thanks too for the vision of Lakeland Trails….. I found you via a bag stuff at the Cumbrian Run in 2007 and did the steamer trail run at Ullswater and was hooked, once I’d found the trails I’ve never looked back (as my wife’s recent reflection on my LT T-shirt collection reminded me!). For being so inclusive and valuing every runner and walker just for being there and taking part is such an achievement, and Phil and the team have carried that on so wonderfully to keep inspiring us… I’m signed for the 2022 55k which will be my first ultra and I could think of finer folk to be doing it with. Thank you!!

    • Hi Ric, Great to hear from you and totally agree that Phil and the team are keeping the Lakeland Trails flag flying as high as it’s always been. Since I was at the helm for 16 years, we should put pressure on Phil to stick at it for at least 16 years too!!

  3. Ruth Toller on said:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Graham, but sorry to hear of the injury that brought them about. Being near the back has a lot going for it, no pressure to get round and not too many people trying to get past!
    Lakeland Trails got me into trail running – and challenging myself in such beautiful places – and although I’m getting slower with age I never feel I’m too slow to participate.

    • Hi Ruth, Great to hear from you and many thanks for your kind words. There’s no doubt that just taking part was rewarding enough. Here’s to the next one and maybe see you on the start line?

  4. Kev Kendal on said:

    A great read and great to see you on the trails. My second ever race , and the one that got me hooked was Hawkshead 2006 so I shall be eternally in your debt for your part in truly changing my life , it’s always been a up and down journey and hopefully still many beautiful miles ahead

  5. Guy Woods on said:

    Hi Graham sorry to hear about injuries. No matter how many years as a runner being sidelined is a complete bastard. I’ve had months of planteur problems so I’m completely with you hero to zero sick to death of seeing bottom of a swimming pool and the wall of my training shed trying to convince myself this is all good then out for a trial run and ending with the walk of shame back home. But hey it will happen its shit getting old. cheers Guy

    • Hi Guy, Great to hear from you, although sorry to read that you’ve got some PF problems, keeping you sidelined. It’ll come back in it’s own time. Stay motivated and see you at the start line for the World Mountain Running Champs in Clonmel, Ireland in September 22?

  6. Gavin Spickett on said:

    I hope that you will be back to full fitness – but the challenges enable you to absorb and enjoy the Lake District without fussing over times and placings – which has a powerful regenerative effect. Lovely pictures.

    • Hi Gavin, Thanks and totally agree. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom when you’re injured. Nice taking things one day at a time, going into the hills when the weather is good, taking in the stunning views. Great for motivation too!

  7. Richard Toller on said:

    Inspiring, thanks Graham. Hope you’re full steam ahead again soon.

  8. Excellent words that inspire motivation. I, too, have had to drop out recently when I caught COVID the Friday before LT100k. I was in the best shape I have ever been and it was soul-destroying. I really struggled to run once I had finished my isolation but had in the back of my mind, the small matter of the Robin Hood 100 mile in September. Having to DNF at 71 miles was painful but I hadn’t been able to train properly still having breathing problems right up to the week before the event. I punished myself for not finishing by not resting up and going out running as strong as I could only a few days afterwards. I kept this up for a week when my body decided enough was enough. Inflamed tendons in the back of my knees forced me to rest up and ultimately re-evaluate. Two weeks of total rest and steady build up now means I am starting to feel normal again, although still miles off where I was early July. Your words will really help me knowing that I’m not the only one feeling it. Keep up the great work.

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