PLANNING: Lakeland 50

With my injured ankle I have time for plenty of preparation work and I have finally gotten around to thinking in earnest about the post-script I have arranged for myself this summer season: The Lakeland 50 Miler, my first ultra race.

I’m hoping to do it around 9 hours, although I need to do some precise predictions first, which is a time I have run in the hills before in training. The Lakeland 50 Mile is the last half of the main event of the day – the Lakeland 100 Mile route which circumnavigates most of the Lake District and starts and finishes in Coniston.

It seems innocuous enough on the surface, not traversing any peaks but rather making use of the many major trail systems that interconnect every area of England’s favoured outdoor playground.

First impressions led me to think the event would be similar in difficulty to the Wicklow Way but once you get stuck into the beautiful Harvey’s map and the “Road Book” which you get with registration, it is clear that the event is a sterner challenge:

The Lakeland 50 Mile consists of seven stages:

  1. Dalemain to Howtown: 10.8km, 285m ascent
  2. Howtown to Mardale Head: 13.4km, 738m ascent
  3. Mardale Head to Kentmere: 9.6km, 505m ascent
  4. Kentmere to Ambleside: 11.5km, 486m ascent
  5. Ambleside to Chapel Stile: 7.7km, 245m ascent
  6. Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite: 12.5km, 486m ascent
  7. Tilberthwaite to Coniston: 5.7km, 283m ascent

Those who know the Wicklow Way Relay stages well will be able to quickly run their eye over the list and see how it compares. This challenge is obviously easier than running the entirety of the Wicklow Way (because it’s 50km shorter) but overall the English trails seems slightly harder. This is particularly true as the 50 Miler features the easiest half of the overall challenge with the harder climbs being early in the Lakeland 100 Mile, especially the leg taking you out of Wasdale with 712m climb compacted over 11km (as Lake District aficionados know, there is no easy way out of Wasdale!).

The second leg looks harder than any section of the Wicklow Way being the same length as “Leg 6” but with more climb whereas 3 and 4 and 6 seem on par with the hardest legs. The remaining legs appear flat enough and should offer some respite as I try to deal with the full 2965m climb on the course. While the climb will prove hardest on my heart, the 3069m descent will be what really tests the legs.

As this is my first venture I plan to run as pedestrian as I can and my mind-set is to treat this first ultra as a “glorified hike”. Last we visited the Lake District we power-walked for 8-9 hours over very rough and steep terrain over four consecutive days with our legs hammered from Snowdon. In the time of our father’s fathers, eight to nine hours of hard labour was not even a day’s work finished, so with this in mind, bad planning and stupid pacing should be the greatest threat from finishing.

For those interested in the “full Monty”, the Lakeland 100 Mile features much more climb with a cumulative ascent of 6856m which means you have 56% of your uphills to enjoy on the first 50 miles. My only regret choosing the 50 mile option was missing out on the most spectacular parts of the route but that’s for another day.