Coniston Trail Marathon

I’m going to start with an apology. To anyone whose Friday night walk between Hathersage and Sheffield over the last two months has been interrupted by a bloke panting away pretending to be a fell runner. In case you hadn’t guessed that was me……Sorry!

To anyone who reads our blogs regularly, it may come as a surprise that I am yet again writing a blog about running. My Nine Edges blog back in November was an insight into my passion for avoiding running where possible.

Once again the story starts with heavy doses of peer pressure. The ongoing quest for man points and banter. During a momentary lack of concentration I left my bank card with Phil (our web guy) and came back to find myself registered for the Coniston Trail Marathon. I’m still waiting to find out what else I have funded.

That was before Christmas when I had plenty of time to train mentally and physically. Of course no one would waste that entire time running, would they? Training only really begins when you wake up in cold sweats having realised that there are only 8 weeks before the event.

I have no business being near the starting line of any race, yet that’s where I found myself. Surrounded by the kind of people who I assume wear short shorts and running Ts as their casual attire as well racing uniform. I was definitely feeling out of my depth as we set off. Straightaway I fell into the classic trap of trying to keep up with the guys in front at a totally unsustainable pace. Needless to say I soon dropped back to a more natural position.

For the first half I was feeling strong. Claire, a friend who ran with me informed me that we had been doing 10 minute miles. I still have no idea whether this was fast or slow but it sounded good given that the first half was all uphill, broken up nicely with a lap and half round Tarn Hows. This stage did seem to cause issues for some who ended up doing two and a half laps! Miles 12-18 were mentally quite taxing. I followed rolling forestry tracks before finally making a long descent down to the bottom end of Coniston Water.

John and Claire looking fresh © - Photography by James Kirby

There followed a brief respite of a flat mile or two and a feed station. We then regained all the height previously lost as we climbed up to Beacon Tarn. This is where I hit the wall. Claire appeared to come into her own at this point (she had done the sensible thing and trained). All I could do was try and tuck into her slipstream and hope she would pull me along.

We rounded the tarn to be told by a marshal there was only 10K left. This was a real boost for me as I had entered a few local fell races recently and knew I could make that distance in under an hour. I forgot to factor in that I had never run 20 miles before beginning a fell race. At least at this point I was too tired to calculate how long it would actually take.

Claire seemed to gain a second wind in the later stage of the race; she was still able to run uphill at least. I just had to rely on being stubborn rather than fit and not wanting to be left behind. Somehow I managed to just about keep up. In the back of my mind I could feel I was haemorrhaging man points but this just spurred me on as we were so close.

The last couple of miles were by far the hardest running I’ve ever done. I think real runners would call it technical terrain, but rooty, rocky broken ground meant that I needed to concentrate for every step. On more than one occasion, I thought I’d broken my toe as I tripped and stumbled over it all - it’s a good job I couldn’t really feel my legs by this point!

I staggered across the line after 4hrs 50mins. For anyone who is thinking about entering a trail marathon I can thoroughly recommend Coniston. It is an incredibly scenic route for those moments you are not concentrating on your feet.

A note on running kit

UD Body bottle 420ml – One of my favourite running accessories. When running with plastic sports bottles I start fearing for my sanity after a few miles listening to the sound of sloshing water. Body bottles shrink down as you drink, so no sloshing, less bulk and they promote drinking on the go as you don’t have to remove them from their pouches - just squeeze!

Scott Jurek Ultra pack – A great piece of kit with far less movement than you would experience when running with either a pack or bum bag. Having water on your front also acts as a good reminder that you need to drink. However, the large pockets at the back aren’t really accessible whilst moving so a bit of thought is needed before you set off otherwise you will need to stop. It also had the psychological advantage of making me feel like a real runner when surrounded by race vests (and real runners) at the starting line.

P.S. A further note for the chap who called into the shop the other week who referred to me as the mountain runner, whilst it made me feel like a champion, the rest of the staff have found this highly amusing ever since. Cheers!

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