At 10:33 the war drums started pounding. The deafening noise was absorbed by thousands of legs as they started their involuntary motion. Soon the first wave of 500 runners started moving in time to the voodoo rhythm towards the huge inflatable Start gate.
Thus began the 2012 Lakeland Trails series; 8 events spread through the National Park over the course of the year. They are supremely well organised and great fun.
This particular event has as its venue the excellent facilities at Cartmel Racecourse – a great location.
Ok, the routes are not long – 10k or 18k – but they are hilly, muddy in places and very scenic. Definitely worth the effort of travel despite their short duration. The distances also attract a great many entrants – 1300 in this case!
There are plenty of ancillary attractions :- Pete Blands mobile shop, healthy good stalls as well as burger bars. At this point the little mobile expresso van hasn’t arrived, but I wait in hope …
It should also pointed out that all finishers on all events get a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as well as technical tee.
Kate and Dave are here …
… and the latter and the Whelk are off at 11am on the 10k route.
The terrific drummers, all motion and synchronised movement, led the first wave out on the track and soon they were off – a long stream of striving stress hurtling along the race track itself.
Kate and I returned to our vehicles and relaxed until Dave was expected back.
It started raining during this first race, but it was only light and soon stopped. Whilst Dave and the Whelk were out on the course I found Bob’s mobile expresso van and had an excellent latte.
All too quickly they were back – Dave coming in slightly ahead of last years’ time and the Whelk coming in slightly behind last years time. Both had red glowing faces which bore beaming smiles. I think they enjoyed it.
Then the Lancaster Samba Batala band led Kate and I – and almost 400 others – out onto the course to be lined up behind the Start gate. The drums were intense and pounding – the ground shaking – and then we were off, charging down the racecourse, through a gate and out into the estate.
Soon the first climbs kicked-in and the pace, frustratingly, slowed and the heartrate climbed. A few level sections followed, but always interspersed with stiff pulls upwards of 100 ft or so. The view north to the Coniston fells, and behind us to Morecambe Bay, opened out and the running across the fell tops was airy and wonderful.
The km markers seem to arrive slowly and I was already feeling the effect of constant pushing when the first water station arrived at 9km – half way. Kendal Mint Cake, Nuun, Water and even Guinness!
The muddy sections follow but they’re not as bad as previous years; a camera-man tried to get us to run through the centre of particularly juicy stretch but I spotted some dry footprints and used them instead.
Some lovely farms, with flowers and lambs in abundance, mark the start of the end and the route soon enters the woods with a short steep climb. Then I heard them … the drums. Echoing through the hills, almost drowning the hysterical voices of the announcers as they called out the names of each finisher. Down through a small gate and onto the racetrack we ran – the drummers line the track as you finish and it makes for a thrilling finale. Kate had been hoping to pip 2hrs but frustratingly came in at 2:00:11 – just 11 seconds out! I was two minutes slower than last year, but I’m happy with that.
I collected my teeshirt and pudding and we set off to get a coffee in Grange-over-Sands, and then back to Cartmel for dinner at the Cavendish Arms in the evening.
We stayed locally (Grange Fell B&B – excellent!) and the next morning visited Cartmel again and toured the excellent shops and cafes – the cheese shop, the sticky toffee pudding shop, a great toy shop and the Cartmel Coffee Shop set us up for an afternoon visit to the Buddhist Priory at Ulverston, and some lovely homemade food – sitting in the wonderful afternoon sun.
What a great weekend.