The Ennerdale trail race

The Ennerdale trail race

Sunday 19th October
15.8   Miles
1,355 feet

It was to be my second try at this race, last year I was disappointed to just miss out on a prize due to being a year too young. So this time being eligible for the Veteran 40 category I was determined to do better, I knew if I had a good run I could figure in the top 3 of the V40 category.

Bill had other commitments to relays this year, so I drove up on the day with Mark and Phyllis. On the start line the weather was similar to last year; that is cloudy and showery; but this

time there was a keen wind blowing up the valley. The course is a lap of Ennerdale water but extended up the valley to the river Liza bridge crossing. This year 2 miles of the course had changed from a very fast farm track to a twisty turning tricky single track. This was on the first part of the descent after about 3 miles on the way back down to Ennerdale water. I estimate this to be about 8 minutes slower.

Soon enough 121 fellow runners and I set off. After following a lady runner for 50 meters, I passed her and ended up leading the race for about 500 meters. Long enough for me to contemplate being at the sharp end for the whole race. I even thought I may be a target for the whole race, then Christopher Armit passed me and my thoughts snapped back to my original more realistic ones, like top 3 in the V40. As we ran around the North side of Ennerdale water and Chris A slowly but surely opened up a large gap, I kept expecting to be caught. After about 3 miles I noticed another runner slowly catching me. I expected him to go straight passed but he stayed just behind me. We never talked partly due to the effort of climbing the rolling trail up to the Liza crossing, and this silence continued the whole race until we crossed the finish line.

We both kept a strong pace going, I briefly contemplated being caught by others, but rationalised that I had to just keep the effort high, and if I got caught there would be nothing else I could do about it. However this meant that Chris L would get a free ride if he wanted it. We both ran together, overtaking the 50k runners (2 laps) that had set off 15 minutes earlier. We then arrived at the CP, I took a quick drink whilst Chris L had a slower stop to grab some food. I gained about 50 meters and as I crossed the river Liza to turn for home, I tried to make the gap stick. But on the style crossings I noticed he was closing the gap, so eased back and let him catch me.

He continued to shelter behind me as we now faced into a strong head wind, which was funnelling up the valley. The route was mainly downhill now, but even on the downhill parts the strong head wind made it tough at times. I tried to make it harder for him to shelter by running on the inside or outside of bends. But I think he benefited anyway. He certainly benefited on the new twisty section. It was difficult to spot the flags as we were in and out of streams and bushes. Chris L could save energy by staying back a bit and following me, missing out the stopping and Looking around, and going slightly further than necessary, which is what I did. He certainly ran a clever race. I was just glad to be running in 2nd place, figuring even if Chirs L overtakes me I will almost certainly finish 3rd overall. Way better than I thought possible before the start.  All the time there being a slim possibility of Chris A having problems and us both overtaking him.

After the seemingly never ending twisty section, we finally got running fast again on the easy running track. Passing some of the quicker 50 K runners we soon started on the slippery rocks around the side of Ennerdale water and Anglers pike. Here I had a difficult time with a stitch, so I eased off a bit on this slower section and just tried to efficiently rock hop. Whilst expecting Chris L to overtake me. He didn't. I assumed he was saving his energy for a final push nearer the end. We finished the awkward section and I now knew we were just over a mile from the finish. So I upped the effort (not sure I upped the pace much though) a bit to try and pull away. It now started to rain quite heavily. I opened up a small gap then Chris L shut it down quickly and sped passed. I tried to up my pace, but I was at my limit. He was simply too quick, I knew 3rd was now mine as I looked back and couldn't see anyone near enough and couldn't catch Chris L. It was now pouring it down as a I crossed the muddy field to run over the line very wet and very pleased to be 3rd, 13 seconds behind Chris Lightburn and 6 minutes 36, behind Chris Armit, in 1 hour 56: 59. My best ever result in a race.

Mark would have taken some photos had it not rained at the time we all finished. Phyllis enjoyed her first ever trail race on the 10K lap of Ennerdale. I received (eventually after a long wait) my first ever proper prize for winning the V40 category. That of some Salomon Fellraiser trail shoes. Pleased is an understatement.