On Wednesday, 14th May (Tristan’s birthday!), we headed down to Keswick for the classic Latrigg fell race organised by Keswick AC. This is one of the longest running fell races in the calendar and has what is thought to be an unbeatable record of 16 minutes 47 seconds set by Kenny Stuart in 1984.
After registering, we waited near the start in Fitz Park. It was a pleasant evening with a cooling breeze. I run up and round Latrigg fairly regularly and so I knew it was going to be a tough run. It’s only 2.5 miles long, though, so I thought it’d be an ideal introduction for my first proper fell race…
As the start time approached, 92 runners gathered on the grassy hill behind the cricket pavilion and waited for the signal to start. It wasn’t long before we started and everyone around me just disappeared! I couldn’t believe how quickly everyone tore down the path! I was surrounded by hardcore fellrunners and I was left choking on their dust!
As we headed up Spooney Green Lane, I put my head down and dug in, trying not to get left too far behind. I was worried about getting lost so I wanted to keep people in my sights! As the gradient became ever more severe, I consoled myself with the thought that this part of the route, the way I usually go, is the hardest part and it would soon get easier.. However, we were diverted off the main route and straight up the side of Latrigg. I honestly thought my calf muscles were going to pop as I was reduced to a frustratingly slow walk. I was probably just over halfway up when the speedier runners came flying down the hillside. These guys were incredible and it was amazing to witness their skill and fearlessness as they threw themselves down. The winner, Ricky Lightfoot, in his time of 17:54, would have finished before I’d even reached the top! Incredible!
As the slope became more severe, I was grabbing fistfuls of grass in order to pull myself up. Eventually, we had passed the worst and the route went round the side. This was more runnable but the camber made it difficult to maintain a decent pace and since my legs were already trashed, they were protesting loudly.
Finally, the relief palpable, I reached the turnaround point. It was then a case of heading down the steep side and on to the finish. The downhill was just as difficult! I don’t have the boldness to hurtle down so I went rather hesitantly, my quads screaming now rather than my calves!
Once we were off the grass and once more on to the track, I upped the pace as I felt more confident on this section, a route that I know well. The little incline over the road bridge nearly killed me my legs were so abused! Heading into Fitz Park, it was slightly uphill to the finish. It felt like a massive hill to my poor legs although I did attempt a sprint finish…
This race may be just 2.5 miles long but it was brutal! On the way up I was questioning my sanity. Why on Earth was I putting myself through this torture? And then you reach the top, the breathtaking views stretching out before you and you know the reason. The freedom from cares, worries and stresses of life as you let yourself run downhill; the elation you feel as you cross the line and get a real sense of achievement from what you have just accomplished. From questioning why I was doing it, I’m now raring to do it again next year and get sub-30 on it!