As you know, I have been looking forward to Keswick Mountain Festival for ages! So Friday night I headed straight to the Lake District from work. Admittedly the forecast did not look great, but that didn’t damp my spirits (excuse the pun!). Making good time, I arrived at the official campsite around 8 pm. I am always a little apprehensive when I’m going to these events on my own but the festival staff were very friendly and helpful, and soon I had everything sorted for the night. All that was left was a quick trip to grab some last minute snacks for the race and some dinner before hitting the sack.
Soon it was morning – this started well as first of all my tent hadn’t leaked (there have been a few minor issues with this lately, so I was apprehensive), and secondly, there was a lovely farm cafe about 200m up from the campsite that served decent coffee! The start time for my race, the Salomon 25km, was 11.30 am. Although it was nice not having to rush in the morning, this did give me plenty of time to faff about what to wear, especially given I had no one to deliberate it with. Inov-8 X-talons or La Sportiva Helios, shorts or leggings, baselayer or no baselayer – there was a bit of an internal monologue going on! Given the pouring rain and the wind, I opted for the X-talons, leggings and baselayer to be on the safe side and made my way to the main festival grounds.
Here I was happy to see everything was well organised. I had no problem registering and dropping my bag off – again everyone was lovely and very helpful. Given the weather, the race briefing had moved inside the main registration tent, but everything seemed under control. Then before I knew it, after a few wise words from Race Director Charles Sproson from Mountain Run, we were off.
As we were warned, the start of the race was quite narrow with a major road crossing. However, I didn’t have any major hold ups here (that being said I was not gunning for a sprint off the start line!) and I was impressed with how the marshals handled around 400 energetic runners exiting the festival! Before starting I hadn’t really thought of much of a strategy for this race, I was quite comfortable with the route having reccied it a month or so ago but hadn’t got a time or position in mind. This is unusual for me, but I think the main aim of the day was just to take my time and have fun – after all, it’s the longest race I have done this season given the issues with my ankle.
That being said I couldn’t believe how quickly it was going, and I reached the first checkpoint in good time. By now it was about lunchtime, so I took the opportunity to have a snack and store my jacket away as it had finally stopped raining.
The next section of the route, from Watendlath to Rosthwaite is brilliant – the views are just stunning, and the descent is fast and fun. This section had to be the highlight of my day, the sun had come out, my ankle felt good, and just as I reached Rosthwaite I was delighted to see my friend Laura cheering me on – such a nice surprise! The support around the whole route was great, but it really adds that extra boost when you see someone you know.
The second half was equally enjoyable; I had to keep reminding myself to up the pace a little and stop faffing around enjoying the view! I was also really pleased to see that I actually felt fit enough. As you may know, it’s not been the easiest few months, but I felt like I was running well. I was aware I could have been pushing harder, but sometimes it is nice to keep things in the Type 1 fun zone!
Over the course of the race I had somehow come to the conclusion I would like to finish at around the three-hour mark (I think I had heard someone else suggested it!) – so I was delighted when I found myself coming into Keswick at around that point. Heading towards the finish, I could see two runners just in front; thinking the line was only a few meters away I made a dash for the overtake, only to find this was not the end… The end was actually about 200m away, uphill and lined with supports – oops!
At this point my legs were shot, I only have about one sprint in me, and I had used it up. Digging deep I tried my best to look fresh and breezy coming into the finish – photos prove I looked anything but! Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the two runners approaching fast, this meant one thing – a sprint finish part 2! Pulling out all the stops, I hurtled past the crowds, only to spot – a fraction too late – that there was a hairpin bend before the actual finish. This resulted in a grab for the railings to stop a full on wipe out before a final mad dash for the line!
I beat the other two by the skin of my teeth, another meter and I think they would have had it, crossing the finish line in 3 hours 7 minutes – a time I am genuinely pleased with.
From start to end, this was such a great race for so many reasons; for one the route was stunning, it was also really well organised and marshalled, all the course marking were clear, but more than anything the atmosphere was buzzing. I will definitely be back next year although I think I will be signing up for the 50km route – I have heard from a reliable source it is just as good… See you there?!
Photo credit to Paul Wildman Mitchell, Laura Evans and Allan Golder.