There’s a hum as ultra runners mill in Ambleside Parish Hall. There’s a lot of squeaky clean new kit. Salomon has done well.
I look a little out of place in my gaffer-taped waterproof jacket and a plain black Hagloffs bag I won in a race. I have an insatiable urge to splurge loads of money on a new bag, new waterproof trousers, perhaps I even need a new head torch? No, running is supposed to be free. You close the front door and just run, it’s the companies that have over commercialised it, right?
“Sorry to keep you waiting. We’re delaying because we thought it would be dark by now.”
It’s 4pm at the end of January and the white clouds are still visible in the skylights. We’ve spent the day at a ‘Night Nav for Runners’ workshop. It was good to go over the basics but I had hoped there’d be more than the basics. Looking around, there seems to be a fair few competitors from cities and a road running background. It’s lulling me into what I’m sure is a false sense of security.
The run begins at ultra pace but I want to run faster, this is, after all, only 15 miles of the Lakeland 100 route from Ambleside to Coniston. I discover my friend Christina, who’s running the 50, is a good pacer. Her friend Fi is a mountain biker who confesses to not doing much running but she’s making short work of it.
Between the three of us we have a decent knowledge of the route. Fi and I are local and though Christina lives in the hills of Wales, she knows the Lakes well. The Lakeland 100 is pretty much all on well-marked trails and skirts round a lot of the fell tops; it’s good, undulating, runable running.
“Have you done this before? You seem to know exactly where you’re going.” A lady asks as she and her companion pour over the map as we leapfrog them for the umpteenth time.
The truth is Christina and Fi have recee’ed this in the daylight but we know a lot of it too. We have disobeyed the advice to thumb the map and seem to be on a mission to see how far we can get without looking at the map.
“Do we just go on the road through Coniston?” I ask Christina. “Ooo I don’t know.”
I check the map for the first time, half a mile from the finish. Yes. We’re in the car by 7.30pm. Pub time!