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