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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.


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

Love on the Lakeland Trails

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.

Wedding by lake Ullswater

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.

Viking on the Ullswater Trail

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.

Here comes the bride

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.

The bridegroom and best man

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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