Tag Archives: Dirty Double
Well, what an enjoyable experience that was. Battered by strong winds, drenched by heavy rain showers, freezing cold, fingers numb.
I’ve just come back from my first pain free run for four months. A nice, easy, ten minute jog on the limestone escarpment of Cunswick Scar, perched above my home town of Kendal. Every springy step a small miracle of hope. The last time I ran without discomfort was in the sprint final of the World Masters Orienteering Championships, in the heat and bright sunshine of Italy back in July.
World Masters Sprint Final 2021
Maybe pushing myself so hard on that day was too much of a risk with a dodgy achilles. Was a Gold medal really worth being sidelined with injury for four months?
Absolutely! Without question.
World Masters Sprint Podium 2022
It’s been quite a journey just getting back to this stage. Patience being tested after another freak acute injury in September knocking me down again. This time damaging nerves, my foot collapsing. The snakes and ladders of life.
Yet throughout, I’ve been in safe hands. My physio, Sarah Tunstall, easing out damaged tissues, getting back to basics, exercises strengthening withered elastic fibres. Playing the long game. Walk before you run.
Making me realise there’s a kind of pleasure in accepting being injured. When you’re immobile and have your feet wrapped in ice packs, unable to even walk properly. Thinking you’ll never, ever, run again. Then remembering all the other times. Broken bones. Sprained ankles.
Deep inside, you know it’s a matter of time. Just do what needs doing, one day at a time.
So easy when you can simply go out for a run. You take things for granted. Having your choice removed gives way more appreciation when the good times return, as they hopefully always do.
It’s the gift of adversity.
My mind homes in on this realisation, thinking back to COVID19 nearly three years ago. Our family hopes and dreams of a life in France shattered and broken by the pandemic. With combined deadlines of Brexit and our son Ash reaching secondary school age. It was a perfect time for us to make a move. Suddenly everything’s shut. French schools closed. The country in Lockdown.
Unable to travel and check out school options, we realise how unfair it would be for Ash to make a new start in a different country. The shock as reality hits home.
Lakeland Trails in Keswick
All the years of planning, handing over my life’s work with Lakeland Trails to make a new start in a new country possible. Gone.
With situations totally out of our control, we could only make the best decisions under the circumstances. Family comes first. Ash started secondary school here in Kendal just over a year ago. He’s happy and settled. It’s working out well.
Buttermere, Lake District
Accepting our changed circumstances was hard after having such high hopes. Coming to terms with life here in England, as opposed to the warmer climes of the Pyrenees. I guess it was always more of my dream than my partner Claire’s, being always ready for a new challenge.
Just like my achilles injury, it took some time, patience and perseverance to eventually sort things out. It comes good. By looking hard enough, there’s always another gift of adversity. We know we’re very lucky to live here in the Lake District.
Helvellyn, Lake District
Though having no involvement with Lakeland Trails anymore, there’s pride and pleasure seeing my living legacy, still going strong under the leadership of Phil Blaylock. Everything pretty much the same as always.
Helvellyn Trail 2021
Most folk nowadays don’t even know who I am when I’m at the events and anyway, I like keeping a low profile, after being at the helm for almost two decades.
I’m still looking for a new challenge though. Big ideas that push boundaries and inspire others excite me. Lakeland Trails was one of these. Maybe the time is right to start a whole new project here in the Lakes?
As the saying goes, ‘you may have a plan for life, but life may have a plan for you’.
14th November 2022
Founder – Lakeland Trails
World Masters Orienteering Champion 2022
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?
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.
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
Lakeland Trails – Getting to know Phil Blaylock
Here we get to find out more about our Lakeland Trails event manager, Phil Blaylock, the man organising all the work behind the scenes to ensure everyone has a great time whilst out on the trails. I caught up with Phil last week and asked him a few questions :
Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’ve just turned 44 and currently live by myself in the small village of St Bees, which is on the most western point of the Cumbrian coast. It’s a bit remote which means lots of travelling to get anywhere but having access to a stunning beach, the quieter side of the Lake District and having a fantastic group of friends to go exploring with make up for the time spent in the car. When I’m not running or cycling around the fells, or travelling further afield to bigger mountains, I love spending rainy days in the kitchen (setting up an informal crew Bake Off when I was Marshal Manager was great fun) and taking photos. I also regularly play the guitar but I’m not going to divulge my dodgy musical tastes!
How did your Lakeland Trails journey start?
Love brought me back to Cumbria six years ago to be with my girlfriend at the time. As so often in life, things didn’t quite go to plan. So I joined St Bees Triers to build up my social circle and used running as a way of finding my feet. That in turn motivated me to take part in my first Lakeland Trails in Keswick back in 2013. Even though I was reasonably fit, I still had the nerves on the start line – I suppose it was because I didn’t feel like a ‘proper’ runner and didn’t know what to expect. I needn’t have worried! I loved the event so much that I quickly signed up for the Helvellyn Trail, deciding to volunteer as a marshal as well as run. Even though I was the wettest I’ve ever been, the enjoyment from having hundreds of drenched but happy runners going past meant that I was addicted! Once you’ve been to a few Lakeland Trails, you soon recognise familiar faces and feel part of the community, so a couple of years later, I took on the Course and Marshal Manager role. That progressed to me getting involved with developing our in-house radio communications and here I am now managing and delivering the events.
When did you first start running?
My running journey started out of chance. I was part of the school fell-walking club and the teacher who organised that, a lovely chap called Mr Horsford, was also responsible for the cross-country team. Apart from anything else, I was flattered when he suggested I could be a good runner. So I joined the club, ending up representing my school. It’s strange that the memories I have of that are the green swimming pool at Stonyhurst College (apparently, it’s still there) and listening to a tape of Bon Jovi on the coach trips!
Do you run for a club?
I’m a member of St Bees Triers. The club shares a similar philosophy as Lakeland Trails – it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, so long as you enjoy yourself and try your best. It’s a great club – everyone’s warm and welcoming and we’ve a couple of fantastic coaches. I organise weekly trail runs and have a bit of a reputation for finding the hilliest, boggiest routes – they just make running even more fun!
Last year was your first year in charge of managing and delivering the Lakeland Trails events. How was it?
Well, last year was certainly a challenge! When you asked me if I’d be interested in taking on the event management, it really seemed like a no-brainer. Lakeland Trails has brought me so much happiness and it was a privilege to be able to put my skills to good use to allow people to keep experiencing the magic of the events. The fear of the unknown and the risk of ‘making mistakes’ have been tricky to deal with, so it’s been great to have your support and guidance along the way, as well as that of our wonderful team of crew and volunteers at the events. Putting on the events is like a huge jigsaw. I counted up my action list at the Lakeland Trails in Keswick and there were over 100 points to sort out just on the Saturday! Of course, the event crew did a fantastic job getting them ticked off and the event was a great success. I don’t remember ever getting more than 2-3 hours’ sleep on the night before each event which is definitely something I want to improve on this year.
Any high points from the year?
I think one of the high points (literally) was at Staveley when I left the event start/finish area to climb up to the top of Reston Scar (aka The Sting in the Tail) to do some cheering. I felt the confidence that everything was running smoothly and if anything cropped up, the crew were more than capable of resolving issues. I’ll often be watching the finishers come in too, and seeing their smiles and sense of achievement is so rewarding. Of course, another high point is when I have to pinch myself because my job involves running a lot in the Lake District – turning the corner of Silver Howe on the ultra-course or dropping into the Grisedale Valley on the Helvellyn course always makes me stop and smile.
When you want everything at every event to be a success for everyone, it can be hard to focus on all the positives as there are always things which could have gone better. The first two events last year had a number of issues which I found difficult to overcome. For example, at Cartmel, we could have found a better route through the woods at the finish when the original route was not possible at the last minute due to the waterlogged racecourse. (Incidentally, I had a meeting at the racecourse last week and we have a weatherproof solution so that so runners won’t face that demoralising run in again). Maybe my car parking plans were too complex at Cartmel too, so I got sucked into helping sort that out during the day. I hold my hand up for overlooking the props and signs for theming the Coffin Trail at Hawkshead – I promise that will come back with a vengeance this year! All the things which did or didn’t go to plan are thoroughly discussed in meetings afterwards and lessons learnt for the future. After a busy, challenging weekend, it can be hard, too, to remember that so many people have had an amazing day.
Now I’ve had a complete Lakeland Trails season under my belt, I am much more confident about the year ahead. Hopefully that experience will translate into relaxing and enjoying my role more. Lying awake in bed at 2am thinking things over on the Saturday morning is probably not the best way to prepare for the day! Sometimes the best laid plans don’t always come off, even though we always have a Plan B, or even Plan C to fall back on. Carefully reflecting over the whole event, to learn for improving in the future is really important too.
What did you do before managing the Lakeland Trails?
I suppose you could describe my previous jobs as varied! I’ve got an unused degree in Construction Management as I went straight into Retail Management after university (selling Peruvian alpaca jumpers with the added bonus of regular trips to South America). I got the 7-year itch and re-trained to be a teacher, working in a deprived area of Blackburn before moving back to Cumbria, where after a brief spell in a new school, ended up working in an HMRC call centre for a few months – something I never expected to have on my CV. I was given the option of returning to my old school in Blackburn, but I’d fallen in love with the Lake District great outdoors. I’d been used to working 70 hours a week as a teacher, which I don’t regret, but I certainly wouldn’t do it again. Luckily that was when your offer of managing the Lakeland Trails came up.
You’ve just completed climbing all 214 Wainwright summits – how did that feel?
It was great to finally finish them (although I’m not sure Mr Wainwright would approve of people ‘bagging’ his fells!) A bit like the Lakeland Trails, the challenge has taken me to parts of the Lakes I might not have seen otherwise. Just last week I was high above Ullswater on a glorious day, but I joke that I’m going to publish a book called ‘Mountain Tops in the Mist’ as so many have been covered in clag, and the weather for my final summit last Saturday didn’t disappoint. Fortunately the group of friends I was with remained in suitable humour and we celebrated on the top of Bonscale Fell in 50mph winds and rain.
Any challenges pencilled in for the future?
I tend to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to outdoor activities so have lots of ideas on the burner. Next up is the Fred Whitton Cycle Challenge the weekend after the Lakeland Trails in Staveley in May. For those who don’t know it, the route is, let’s say, demanding. It’s just over 110 miles long, taking in all the Lake District passes, as well as some lesser-known climbs, with Hardknott Pass, England’s steepest road to look forward to at around the 100-mile mark. I loved it when I took part a couple of years ago. There’s a great atmosphere along the course and several friends (including some who are also Lakeland Trails crew) were out to support me, providing much-appreciated supplies and encouragement. I managed to meet my goals of cycling up Hardknott Pass and finishing!
What would you say is the best thing about the Lakeland Trails?
This is an easy question because I’ve found it out from my own experience as a runner that it brings so much happiness and a sense of accomplishment and belief to so many people. I love being out on the trails myself and enabling others to experience that pleasure in a safe and controlled way is amazing. It’s a combination of the dedication and friendliness of the crew and volunteers as well as the runners, which generates such a lovely atmosphere at the event and out on the course. Oh, and how can I forget the stunning scenery!
Anything else you’d like to add for our competitors this year?
I can’t wait to be back on the trails in Cartmel on 16th March and am working hard to make things even better than my ‘debut’ last year. As we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary of the Cartmel Trail this year, all our finishers will earn a delicious Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as a special treat, as well as an event T shirt. I always enjoy chatting to our runners on event day so come and say hello and let me know how we’re doing.
Thanks very much Phil – it’s been a pleasure working with you over the last five or six years and I’m looking forward to many more in the future. Co-ordinating and taking responsibility for the Lakeland Trails events is a massive undertaking, and certainly not for the faint hearted. Experience is hard earned. You’re learning all the time and I have no doubt this all helped with the way you managed the horrendous conditions for our 2018 Dirty Double finale weekend.
We’re all lucky to have such a positive and enthusiastic person at the helm. Good luck with the events this year. Now me and my family are back from France, I’m looking forward to running in some of them myself!
Early bird entry for the 2019 Lakeland Trails is open until 31st January. Visit the Lakeland Trails website to check out the events and enter online.
Many months ago, I was at one of our Lakeland Trails events chatting with Terry Charles, from Wirral Vikings. Terry ran his first trail running event with us back in 2010 and has been to most of our events since then. His eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm as he told me his idea. Could he and Jacq’s get married on the Ullswater Trail?
I thought to myself that everyone else would say ‘no’. I didn’t hesitate and quickly said ‘yes, brilliant idea’
We met up in the Watermill pub in Ings, near Staveley and over a good pint of real ale, chatted through their wedding plans. Terry and Jacq’s idea was a simple one. Join the first sailing with all their guests, have a Viking wedding ceremony on board, then run the Ullswater Trail as husband and wife along with all their running friends.
Fortunately, earlier that day they’d had a meeting by the lake in Glenridding with Veronica, their celebrant. It had been an awful day, a strong wind blowing from the west and the Ullswater Steamers couldn’t sail. When I started talking about planning for worse case scenarios, a seed had already been sown. It was going to be their big day and we had to make it special regardless, using an old adage I use with events – plan for a hurricane, expect a heat wave.
Living here in the Lake District means living with changeable weather. Any time of year we can experience three or four seasons all in a short space of time, sometimes in just a few hours. This is what makes the place special, yet also so humbling and often challenging. It’s very easy to get caught out and in extreme cases it costs some with their lives. My friend Christian Hoyle once quoted these great words of wisdom and I have never forgotten them :
“You can’t change the weather. But what can you change? Your ATTITUDE to the weather”
It’s a mantra I’ve used over the years, a way to remind myself to keep every option open. It’s not about beating the weather, more about accepting and adapting to what it throws at us, having a back up plan or even change of plans if needed.
The Big Day
Last Sunday was Terry and Jacq’s wedding day and I’d been invited as their guest. It was still dark with a faint early morning light. I walked around the lakeside path with our photographer, James Kirby joining 50 or so other guests huddled together in the cold morning air. For some reason, I thought everyone would be in Viking costume, so I’d gone to some trouble myself with a splendid outfit. I was almost the odd one out, making a beeline to two others in horned Viking helmets. The guests all knew each other, most were members of Wirral Vikings, a trail running club set up by Terry. Indirectly, they all knew me too, as most are regulars at the Lakeland Trails events.
Someone lit a fire on the beach and we all wandered over to join Veronica who would be performing the ceremony. Terry arrived first, dressed in a kilt, and soon Jacq’s appeared in a beautiful white wedding dress. Gusts of wind came at us from the south, white caps racing across the lake. Moody dark clouds hung low over the mountain tops. The ceremony was Nordic, simple and deeply moving involving all of us. A happy, emotional joining of two like minded people.
The best was yet to come. We’d arranged an extra self contained bay for the marquee for their exclusive use. As news arrived that the Steamers couldn’t sail, the Wirral Vikings were in unstoppable, infectious high spirits. The bride and groom danced by the start line in the middle of a circle of their wedding guests, surrounded by the rest of the Lakeland Trails ‘family’ of runners.
On the Ullswater Trail
I joined my sister Sue with the masses at the back of the field, catching a fleeting glimpse of a white dress running into the distance. I walked with Sue in my Viking costume wearing sandals. My toes sore and swollen from last week’s epic challenge run, still unable to wear shoes. At one point, I stopped to have a chat with a marshal, then had to run to catch Sue up.
Remarkably, I found I could run quite comfortably in the sandals. When we got to the highest point on the course, above Silver Bay, I could see a snake of runners along the trail going into the distance. The temptation to run was too strong. ‘Go for it bro, see you at the finish’ shouted Sue.
By the marquee, Jacq’s and Terry were beaming, surrounded, having enjoyed their first run together as husband and wife. I was handed a horn to drink out of, taking a sip. ‘Blimey, what’s this?’ and was told it was mead. Later on, as Pete Lashley sang inside the packed marquee, everyone was dancing. I can still hear the cheers for the happy couple just before the prize giving. I’ve had many high points over the last fourteen years with the Lakeland Trails, although nothing compares with this.
An hour earlier, Terry had seen me scribbling my prize giving speech in one of the village cafes. His big smile and firm hand shake I’ll always remember. ’Thank you’, Terry said, not letting go of my hand. ‘This is the best day of my life’
It brought tears to my eyes.
© Graham Patten
Wednesday 18th October 2017
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