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An almost perfect run – Gary Thorpe

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Spring in Lakeland is a challenge event organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). The route covers just over 23 miles and climbs over 4000 feet on various paths, trails and a bit of road.

I was looking for a decent long distance workout especially as Yorkshire’s Three Peaks comes up in three weeks.

The alarm was set for 6 am but I woke at 3:30, was still awake at 4:30 and finally rose at 5am.

The trusty porridge bubbled on the hob whilst I scraped the ice off the windscreen. It’s going to be a cracker! Blue skies and sun.

Despite the cold I’d elected to wear just a tee shirt with my new Ambleside AC vest and ultra shorts. As a compromise I would put mits on as an apology to my bare arms. Understandably the ‘battlewear’ was hidden by warm clothing for now. After a foam roll on the living room floor and six ‘happy’ £75 vitamin pills. I was ready.

There was a time when I’d play raucous music to get me stirred up for a race but not today. Today was a day of Chill, but I ignored the chill playlists in favour of the 1970’s icons The Carpenters, don’t ask me why, but I was into it today, weird!. ‘Top of the World’ came on just as the Coniston range came into view. They looked magnificent. It was a day for views.

Everything felt right, even Under Loughrigg offered me the closest parking to the bridge. I could’ve clicked my heels with joy.

In Ambleside’s Parish Centre, I got myself registered as number 199 and then retired to my quarters in the Lakeland Footcare Clinic in the Parish Centre basement. I had another foam roll around before stripping down to race wear. I decided to turn out ten minutes before kick off, no warm up for me!.

Alarmingly, everyone appeared to be wearing winter gear.

Most of the Ambleside club mates above.


Worryingly I wasn’t feeling that cold. Had I finally lost all sense and feeling (probably!).

I had a few words with my Ambleside AC team mates (I missed the ‘team photo’ of course) before the casual wave off that formed the start at 8:03 am.

A welcome site was James Byrne (AAC) a man of cheery spirit who had celebrated his 47th birthday that week. We established that I’d paced his iconic BG almost ten years ago.

Iconic in that he’d set off with a general “let’s see what happens” attitude, with “sub 24 will do “ which became a 19 hour BG with a smile all the way round.

Ben Abdelnoor and myself took James into the gloom that night lit up with chats about music and curious films. And somehow he was ahead of time at Threlkeld.


Through Rothay Park I ran with James, any vague idea of racing and running hard had gone. Halfway to Loughrigg’s fell gate he agreed that it’s tee shirt weather. The views were clear and stunning.

We were joined by Geordie Gary Pattison who’d set off from Newcastle at 5am. He bemoaned the lack of toilets on the A69 journey. I pointed out that the Cumbrians had had them removed to deter the Geordies. We had friendly banter.

As we approached Elterwater the Langdale Pikes looked more inviting than usual, the clarity of the light making the fells and rocks stand out.

After a wee stop we were joined by Anna Llewelyn and Aashish Lamichhan . As a group we ran through to L’al Langdale but the two lads had dropped back over Slater’s Bridge. Anna stayed with us for a few minutes before deciding to wait for the ‘youngsters’ whilst the grizzly old veterans (always deep in some conversation) meandered on.

“Wetherlam looks massive!”proclaimed James, almost as if it had grown in the sunshine. Up the High Tilberthwaite’s steps and then through to the Coppermines valley saw us move away whilst discussing books by Steve Chiltern, Richard Askwith and Stu Shuttleworth’s Honister mining book.

Coniston Institute provided us with food and drink, a cheery smile and a wave goodbye as we weaved through the streets until the Cumbria Way.

Nice running over the fields to Tarn Hows woods and even the climbs felt good as we approached Tarn Hows past the waterfall and the sadly fallen trees. A group of elderly ramblers gave us encouragement on the approach to Iron Keld but the docile Belted Galloways clustered by the gate in a dastardly attempt to slow us down. Not one of them moved, not one inch. We agreed that they were lovely animals.

“Is that Helvellyn?” asked James. “Yep, all snow topped on that ridge!” I answered.

A lot of subjects had been covered , past races, future races, race food nightmares, salt pills without water (James), family, work, injuries, ageing, libidos, the route and finally the run itself. Yes, we’d got to about 20 miles before we’d considered speed, energy or distance left. Even then I’m not sure that we cared that much.

On those pesky steep steps from Colwith another group of ramblers cheerily formed a tunnel and laid on some lippy banter. “Keep them legs going!” Good fun !.

Another cheery stop at Skelwith Community Centre saw me take a mini roll with a drink of squash. No other runner was met as we returned down the road back to the route, so we had some lead on our friends.

Any desire to walk the steep bits was overcome by the pride of doing one’s best as we got over Loughrigg’s shoulder.

It had been a wonderful stress free long workout and now we had an easy downhill freewheel. What could be better?

James described the horrendous weather at this years Wadsworth Trog, whilst I reflected on the dark windy wet nights plodding up Black Combe in January. By comparison, this was heaven!.


Richard Tait ushered us into the Parish Centre and we had finished in 3 hours and 45 minutes.

More importantly we were given a pie.

After some banter and a change, I headed back home, conscious that the real race of the day had really just started. Could I get to St Mary’s Church on Walney Island before 2:30pm?

I arrived home 14 minutes before the departure time at 1:30pm. Bath, shave and clothes just posh enough to accompany a Godmother to be.

We arrived in plenty of time, I didn’t fall asleep, didn’t drink any alcohol (tempting) and drove home. That race was won.

Spring in Lakeland is one to do!