Waking early on Sunday morning with a sore neck was not an ideal situation as I looked to take part in the 2013 Karrimor Great Trail Challenge 22k. Still, I thought it may sort itself out before we made it to the start line. Unfortunately, that was optimistic thinking and this would be, quite literally, a pain in the neck all day long!
After dropping the girls off with Grandma and Auntie Karen, we made our way to Keswick. It was 8:30 in the morning and the temperature was already 14C. This did not bode well for me – I struggle once that mercury starts to rise! So, all in all, it was with some trepidation that myself and the better half made our way to the event field. The atmosphere was already buzzing and it was nice to meet up with Facebook friend Pete before the start.
We watched the start of the Senior Women and Junior Men Home Countries International 10k before making our own way to our starting zones. I was in the second wave, but we weren’t held too long before the air horn went for us to begin the Great Trail Challenge.
The route begins with a lap of the event field. A good way to stretch out the field before heading out on to the narrow tracks. It also feels good to run past the crowd – you almost feel like a proper athlete! The field was uneven and so I took it steadily, settling down into a comfortable pace and resisting the urge to be pulled along by the speedier runners. After the lap of the field, it was time to leave the crowds behind and head off out into the country.
The first 4k followed the old Keswick railway line before turning off towards Wescoe where we encountered our first real climb. I took it slowly but kept running, in a fashion. The heat was unrelenting and every step jolted my neck. It was then that I decided that I wouldn’t worry about time. I’d get these miles under my belt but enjoy it and not put any pressure on myself. A blissful downhill followed this climb and some relief was offered as we passed through some shaded woodland.
And then the fun began. Climbing up out of the woods, we were directed to the right and were met with a wall of uplifting music. Despite the cruel climb, I found that the music reawakened me and I managed to run up until the gateway that led us into a field and towards the northern shoulder of Latrigg fell. A snake of runners were following the path up this truly brutal climb. In fact, there were very few people running this section such was the severity of both the climb and the unforgiving heat.
It was at this point where I started having my SiS Go gel. Once I got to the top of this climb, I started running again and the trail began to descend. Fantastic! We descended through Whinny Brow forest. I’d hoped to be able to pick up my pace here but I got a really awful stitch! How frustrating! I’d been looking forward to this section but I was unable to let myself go as the stitch was too painful. It was at this point that we started being overtaken by the Home Countries Senior Men. These guys were flying past us! Their fitness and skill was amazing to witness. Still, they were only doing one lap whereas I had to do two….
Aside from the stitch and the fact every step sent a spasm through my neck, this downhill section was great! There was a sneaky little climb at one point though and at the top I’m sure I saw Brendan Foster. I can’t be 100% sure though as I may have been hallucinating. The heat really did get to me!
Then it was downhill to the finish and back into the event field where we began our second lap. It didn’t feel too bad having to run past the finish and out on to the course again but there was a pang of jealousy watching the 11k runners being directed to the finish line.
Still, my legs were feeling strong and I was running with a guy who was keeping a similar pace. This made the long, flat section of the old railway line pass that bit quicker. Suffice to say, the hills felt more severe second time round. I think knowing what was coming made it worse! I took on more water on this second lap, mainly pouring it over my head to cool myself down.
Heading up into the field and on to the finish was an awesome feeling. I managed to up the pace and finish strongly. After removing my chip, I was presented with my goody bag and medal. Well deserved, I think. I met up with Ali and we waited for Tristan to finish. It wasn’t too long before he came into view and powered to the finish line.
I looked at my watch and saw that I’d finished in 2 hours 35 minutes. I’m pleased with this time but a little frustrated that I didn’t make it to the start line feeling 100%. Still, there are some positives that I can take from this run.
- I did it! Despite not feeling comfortable, I managed to keep going and finish the course.
- My legs felt great at the finish; a good sign that the training is going well.
This is what I will hold on to from this event. I think, even though things weren’t perfect, it has actually increased my confidence about completing the Lakeland Trails marathon in just under 4 weeks time. I just need to make sure I don’t sleep awkwardly the night before!!