Lakeland Trails: Helvellyn 15K Challenge

It was a rather cold, damp, murky start to the morning of the Lakeland Trails Helvellyn event. A waterlogged field meant that alternative arrangements needed to be made for the event and so I drove to Penrith for the arranged Park and Ride to Glenridding. This went like clockwork and we set off just before 10am along the narrow, winding roads that skirted Ullswater to the picturesque village of Glenridding.

On the way, the snow started and it looked decidedly dull. By the time we arrived, the sun had broken out and the snow had subsided leaving breathtaking views along the fell tops.


I made my way to the registration tent just in time to watch the start of the 10K race. The atmosphere was already building alongside the energetic Segretta Stompers New Orleans Jazz Band. At registration we were informed that, due to the adverse weather, we would have to carry our essential kit with us – hat gloves, waterproof jacket and over trousers. Luckily, I’d brought my Camelbak just in case that this situation arose and just felt slightly saddened at the thought of having to run with something on my back – running without any extra weight added is hard enough!


I met up with Ali who had managed to park without any problems in Glenridding’s main car park! She kindly offered her car up as my baggage dump and we had a wander round the shops before returning to the registration and starting area in time to watch the 10k runners finish. There was some people coming in who’d obviously had a good roll in the mud and it gave us an insight into just how bad the conditions underfoot were going to be.


Finally, 12pm arrived and we were under starter’s orders and off through the boggy field of the starting area and into Glenridding. This part of the course was solid underfoot and, apart from the congestion from other runners, I was able to maintain a decent pace. And then the climb began! And what a climb! If you could blank out the first 2 miles of this route, it’d be delightful. This really is a tough start and I passed a few people who’d already started walking. My recent hill training must have started paying off – I have to get some benefits from torturing myself with hill sprints!

After crossing the footbridge over Glenridding beck, the path then followed the old miner’s trail. This part was tough and I was able to negotiate past a few people here despite the narrow track. The grip on my Salomon SpeedCross 3’s was made for situations like this and I was able to keep to a good pace (for me!). I noticed a couple of people wearing road shoes and they could barely stay upright! There was a lot of water underfoot and this added to the challenge of the trail. You’re having to make split second decisions about where to place your feet and then trust in your footwear to keep you on your feet. I love these runs! I also like to appreciate my surroundings – you really need to reward yourself after a torturous climb by admiring the scenery. It seems a travesty not to! However, I had to make do with snatched glimpses as the terrain was so testing and a brief lapse in concentration could have meant a very painful fall.

The gradual descent then led to a bridge across Mirebeck and another gradual climb towards Lanty’s Tarn. This proved to be another particularly muddy area but I again managed to stay on my feet. I also had one of my High 5 gels, just to give me the boost my legs desperately needed after all the climbs. At this point I also noticed some discarded gel packets. Why people can’t just keep hold of them until they get to the finish is beyond me. It’s disgusting that people come here to run in such an amazing area and then leave their litter behind. It spoils it for everyone and gives runner’s a bad name; it could also jeopardise future events like this.

The route then descended into Grisedale Valley where we were greeted with superb views of St Sunday’s Crag, Fairfield and Dollywagon Pike all covered in snow. Amazing!

The track then widened for the rest of the run home but there were still puddles galore. There was a short road section before we arrived on Jenkin’s field. I kept running but the finish still seemed so far away! Eventually, I crossed the line and all the pain and effort was worth it. Nothing beats the feeling once you’ve finished! My time was 1 hour 31 and 27 seconds; this was a couple of minutes slower than last year’s time but I really feel that the challenging conditions led to this… Honest!


Once I’d got my breath back, I thoroughly enjoyed the Kendal mint cake that we were rewarded with. Lovely stuff and just what’s needed after a challenge like that. After a couple of minutes, Ali appeared and we made our way back to the car, just as the Heaven’s opened and it once again started to snow.

After a quick change, we jumped in the car and Ali took me back to my car in Penrith – it saved waiting around for one of the buses to take me back and I was thoroughly grateful for that.

The amount of water on the course meant that my shoes didn’t get too dirty!!


As I reflect back on yesterday’s race, I feel so lucky to be able to take part in an event like this and be able to get out and enjoy such a beautiful environment. I am so lucky to live so close to the Lake District and then utilise the fitness gained on the track and at home in order to push myself harder and further. I will never be the fastest runner, but I blooming love this sport!

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10 Responses to Lakeland Trails: Helvellyn 15K Challenge

  1. Looks great ! I’m always mildly jealous of snowy places, it rarely snows here cause we are so warm but I have to say it looks chilly!

  2. plumpetals says:

    That’s awesome! Well done 🙂

  3. Just listening to a programme on Radio 4 about the preparations for this race and wishing we’d known about it! Next year… Here’s the link if you’re interested –

  4. Mike says:

    Hi Kath
    Really enjoyed reading your Helvellyn article. Lakeland Trail events are fantastic and such great days out. Graham and his team seem to get the balance just right with something for everyone. After running every event for the last four years I had to miss Coniston in October having sprained my ankle a few weeks earlier and was not a happy bunny that day! we are lucky enough to live near Penrith so ‘The Dirty Double’ weekend is local to us and if you get the chance next year the Sunday Ullswater event is something else. As a footnote, before we came to Cumbria I had not done any running for over twenty years and well into ‘middle age’ but so glad I started up again as it opens up a whole new life.

    Happy Running

    • kathsb says:

      Thank you 🙂
      That’s such a shame that you missed Coniston – that’s the frustrating part of being a runner!

      Running has definitely enriched my life and given me lots of new friends.

      I will do Ullswater next year for a change – I’m not sure I’d be able to do the Dirty Double – I feel wrecked after Helvellyn!

      I’m very tempted to try the Lakeland Trails marathon next year. I’ve never done the distance but I think it’d be much more enjoyable than a road marathon (although undoubtably tougher!)


  5. Nick Warry says:

    Hello Kath,
    I was there at Helvellyn and like you enjoyed it immensely. I got a decent time/position at 1:16 which is not too bad for a recreational runner. It was not as tough as the Karrimoor Great Trail Challenge back in June which was a half marathon distance but the hill (Latrigg) made Helvellyn seem like a stroll in the park! If you want a challenge I would recommend that one which will be a 22km course next year again in June. That would be a good build up to marathon distance which I am definitely wary of running in this region. Hope to meet you at a future event.
    Nick x

    • kathsb says:

      Excellent time! Well done. I did the Karrimor half as well 🙂 Loved it (except that massive hill on the long loop – views at the top were good though!!) did that in 2:25 – struggled over the last short loop! Will be back next year 🙂

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