The priority for the Lakes Mountain 42, as with everything before July this year, was to practice and prepare for Euforia in Andorra; poles, heavy pack, conservative pacing and as much eating as possible. Anyone hoping for drama can close this window now; everything went pretty well.
LM42 is a low key affair. If you want a PA system and mile after mile of sponsors’ banners you’ll be disappointed; if you want to sleep on the floor of a community centre and get a bowl of carrot and coriander soup at the finish, you’ll have a fine time.
An eery start, shepherded from the community centre in silence. A gentle shuffling of feet in the Askham pre-dawn and then off up the hill, seemingly unprompted, like a herd of wildebeest that has caught the scent of a lion upwind.
Two or three took off like they had deadlines, the rest of us were content to mosey along, enjoying the sunrise and exchanging the usual pleasantries.
Have you done this before? No, first time. You? Yeah, same. Right.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky and the frost disappeared from the grass, there was a gradual shedding of hats, gloves and jackets, replaced by sunglasses, caps and looks of mild concern over the long-term risks of skin cancer and cataracts.
A couple of wild campers by Angle Tarn crawled from the confines of their cramped nylon coffins to stretch in the sun’s warming rays. Greeting them on the far side of the water, a gallery of scantily clad runners relieving themselves, like an identity parade for some urinary crime.
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but the heady fug of ammonia.
Into Patterdale, out of Patterdale, taking on nothing but Jim Imber’s cheerful encouragement. James and Nathan, my companions to that point, had a lengthier stopover at the Starkey Hut Services, but we were soon reunited for the climb to Grisedale Tarn, the cycling cap-clad spectre of Mike Clayton looming ever-present in the rear view mirror.
In defiance of my self imposed moratorium on the use of aid station facilities I allowed myself a water top up at Wythburn Church before testing the legs a little on the climb up Helvellyn.
The rising heat and exertion of the day were taking take their toll on some. One casualty wove left and right up the hill, half-eaten bagel in hand, staring in disgust as if it were a cat that he’d caught pooping in his cutlery drawer. I offered water, then food, then encouragement, then solitude. Seeing him that evening in Askham I was relieved that, if he had not revived, he had at least survived.
A new personal best in the second half as I caught the same runner on three different occasions. After being wrenched apart first by my creative line choice and second by a pause at the indoor facilities of the Starkey Hut Services, we waded together through the afternoon heat, over Place Fell and through Martindale.
Iain, a dive boat operator from Eyemouth, once climbed 11 winter routes in one day and maintains that he isn’t a runner. The dive boat part might be true, the not a runner part is total bullshit.
Rudely and unintentionally leaving Iain behind, I ran an erratic pace from Martindale to the finish; fast in the hopes of running a negative split for the return from Wythburn, slow as this became safe, then really fast and really slow as the notion of running under 8:30 suddently took hold and was just as suddenly discarded as having come too late.
A low key finish to match the low key start; past the pub, in the back door of the community centre, past a mop and through another door to what can only be described as an antechamber. Accept the WellDones, hand in your punch card, then through door number three for a choice of two soups and a selection of teas.
I wasn’t starving or dehydrated, I didn’t have sun stroke, and although I was by no means fresh, I reckon I had a good few hours left in me.
No drama, a confidence builder.
Given that one LM42 counts for about a fifth of one Euforia, I may need a few more of those yet.