I have a confession to make. I’ve always looked down my nose slightly at people who run. Not because I think running isn’t a worthwhile pursuit, I’m all for folk going out to exercise. But more because it’s frankly a bit dull…..and whisper it quietly…a touch simple. I mean, what’s so hard about putting one foot in front of the other at a reasonable pace over a number of miles? Unless it was you who ate all the pies it’s really not that tough to tune out and let your legs carry you along. But what’s the point? Oh you’ve done a marathon….bravo…you proved you can run 26 odd miles in the time it would take me to drive to Manchester from London or fly to Cannes including check in. Who’s time was better spent?
I learnt tonight that I’ve been doing southern running. You know the sort. The odd charity 10k where middle managers turn up in 2 day old running shoes that they’ve just picked up in sports direct. Wife and family come along, and they all go home after an hour with Giles telling all his mates on Monday that he’d done “this charity challenge” at the weekend to pass off two laps round Finsbury Park as some type of triumph.
Seems the running is a little different up north. Tonight I ran the Latrigg Fell Race and finished dead last. I say that because it almost killed me.
Let’s quickly rewind. How, you are wondering, did a self confessed non runner ever decide entering a Fell Race was a good idea? One word. Pride.
The company I work for has been involved in KMF for a couple of years but I didn’t come to Keswick last year. Now it’s my responsibility I wanted to learn as much about the festival as I could. So asking around the office we got talking about this mad race that happens on the first evening that only a nutter would enter. How far is it I ask? About 2.5 miles they reply. Piece of cake says I, a walk in the proverbial park. What’s so hard about running a couple of miles? Even if it’s a bit uphill I could still crank that out in under half an hour comfortably. Set brain to Off, Engage legs,and away you go…..
So having been encouraged to put my money where my mouth was I ended up in Fitz Park with what felt like most of Keswick. Unfortunately it was around this point that I realised I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I’d enlisted the support of Neil, our ops director, and after we had signed in we both worked out that everyone else was in running singlets, trail shoes and looked like they hadn’t had a good meal in weeks. I’m six foot, weigh just about 11stone and felt chunky next to guys with a good two inches on me but not an ounce of fat on them.
But once you are in there is no backing out… So we lined up and far sooner than I would have liked we were off. The first couple of hundred yards were splendid. A little undulating field and then onto smooth Tarmac. Around now I was feeling pretty smug about it all. Road shoes on feet, churning out a nice cadence. Unfortunately, around the 500yard mark it all went downhill….or to be factually correct, it all actually went uphill. And didn’t relent for about a mile. By the time we turned left into a wood I felt like I was going to cough up a lung and was down to the type of pace that would have embarrassed a snail. Half way up the first steep section (there are three) I was down to a walk. Well if you can count desperately putting one foot in front of the other with the aid of hands on knees, bent double like Quasimodo, and frankly making noises you would expect from a drowning cat, a walk.
By now I was third from the back. But looking behind me I could see there was a gentleman of comfortable retirement age and a teenage girl further down the slope so I comforted myself in the knowledge that whilst it wasn’t going as swimmingly as I had hoped at least I wasn’t going to finish last…..they both passed me when I stopped to vomit going up the second steep section.
I made it to the top and can tell you that being at the back has its advantages. I had the summit of Latrigg to myself, which I am sure is a lovely sight but vision was a tad blurry at this stage. Around the time I made it to the summit Neil, who it turns out is a secret runner and member of a club, was just finishing, and the guy who won the race had probably already made out with the presentation models and was enjoying a fag and his second pint.
Coming back down was steeper than going up if that’s at all possible. And those road shoes that I had been so smug about half a lifetime ago were proving slightly problematic. Frankly I pretty much skied off Latrigg at one point due to a complete lack of grip. Just put feet together, pointed them down hill and hoped for the best. When I finally hit road at the bottom my legs felt like jelly and were not cooperating. In the distance I could see the young girl so set off to catch her. No Dice. She finished a few seconds before me and I was confirmed to my fate as last.
I’ve found a new found respect tonight for those who run. Not jog. It turns out that’s what I’ve done a bit of. But really run. Off the road and up over anything in the way. The sort or running that requires a singlet, trail shoes and to not be carrying around a three times a week French pastry habit.
Luckily Latrigg is once a year, and in 12 months I may have forgotten how evil it is and be talked into it again…...on the other hand Giles has said there is this charity challenge he’s thinking of entering…