Lakeland Trails Helvellyn brings amazing surprise
The Helvellyn race by Lakeland Trails threw up the most beautiful and unexpected surprise for me when on the return path to Glenridding.
Running for enjoyment rather than racing. A total chance meeting with an old friend. This was a special day indeed 🙂
This post has been some time coming. The past few months have been mad busy with PhD on top of a sustained three month period of intense work. Thankful for a few days off over the festive period, I’ve had a chance to sit back and reflect on some key memories.
Late October arrived and Louis and I headed up for day 1 of the Lakeland Trails ‘Dirty Double’ weekend he’d very kindly bought me for my 50th birthday present. (That’s the combo of Helvellyn and Ullswater races.) Due to p*ss poor planning on my part, we weren’t able to make it a family stay over as we usually do – months ago I’d booked for me and Anne Marie to see ‘Les Mis’ at the Liverpool Empire on the Saturday night!
We got up early, threw our post-race kit into the car and headed up on a gorgeous drive to the Lake District. For me, once you get to the Howgills near Sedbergh, the fells and general landscapes bring a real sense of calm and appreciation. Because Louis had been unable to do any running training for this weekend, plus the fact we were due to run Ullswater 15km the following day, we agreed we’d run Helvellyn 15km together at a slow, conversational pace. Having turned 18 in April, this was Louis’ first go at the 15km for either.
As is so often the case, it was lovely to catch up with friends pre-race. A really good chat with Race Director Phil Blaylock. A brief warm up and chat with Mark M-H (GB Sticks). Chatting to some fellow runners as we gathered at the start.
The Run Itself
We set of really steady, just coasting our way out of Glenridding and chatting about the route ahead of us. Conversation gradually quietened as we headed up towards the Youth Hostel. Between 1.5km and 4km, parts of this climb always surprise me in how hard it can be. It definitely gets the heart and lungs going as the quads are called into action as you climb West towards the Helvellyn massif. As you cross the little wooden bridge you double back, heading SE rather than continuing up to Helvellyn itself. This is a glorious single track undulating trail that is ideal for picking up speed and letting the legs stretch out. Flow is easy here compared to the climb you’ve just completed!
We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves here! Running together and simply appreciating trail running in this beautiful landscape. The interesting things is that even when not racing, trails such as this still give you a really good workout. Good for the mind too – concentration required as you negotiate the mix of soft trail, single track, tree roots, glorious tarns, technical rocky sections, bogs, undulations. Ideal!
Running along, we often found ourselves in a group of about 8 runners. They too appeared to be enjoying the social aspect of the day rather than battering themselves. Having only done the 10km previously, Louis couldn’t help but take a glance at the point that course veers off left and down the infamous grassy bank that sees so many runners slip and make their way down on their backs/arses – us included last year! Being on the 15km this time, it was the bogs at around 10km that were to catch us this year lol!
From around 11km you’re generally running downhill along a track that ultimately becomes a tiny road as you descend towards Patterdale and Glenridding. It was at the top of that last descent that a surprise completely blew me away…
What Life is all about
…chatting away to Louis, I became aware of a hiker looking at me as we headed NE and they towards us. We both made eye contact and suddenly he shouted and smiled a big “Hey!” I literally stopped in my tracks totally gobsmacked and in awe. I told Louis to carry on and I’d catch him up in a minute.
The hiker was Robin, a friend and ex-colleague who had very nearly died after being knocked off his bike earlier in the year. Severe spinal damage and many other fractures elsewhere had meant he had basically had to learn to walk again. It turned out he was part way through his longest attempted walk since his awful accident. We hugged each other and had a lovely catch up. I just couldn’t believe seeing him here at this time. Could not stop smiling as we spoke. Holding back the tears at seeing him doing so well. We’d been in touch via Facebook and via mutual friends but to be running in such an amazing spot, then bump into him here and see his obvious joy at being able to hike on such a gorgeous Autumn day, was a joy to behold. We hugged as we said our goodbyes and wished each other well for the rest of the day.
I headed off at (attempted) speed to catch up with Lou. Loving the descent and smiling as I reflected on a moment to treasure forever. I caught up with about 1km left and told Lou more about Robin. We crossed the line together with huge smiles – Louis having been too tempted to put in a sprint in the final 50 metres so we both crossed the line laughing and fulfilled at a fantastic social run together. Mark M-H thankfully got 2 lovely pics of us at that finish – more than I managed for him when I forgot to press ‘record’ as he crossed the line with his family in the Lakeland 100 earlier that year 😂😂😂.
We had time to get some much-needed warm food and drink at the finish and to get some warm layers on. Also taking the opportunity to catch up with some more familiar faces before we had to make our way back to the car to head back down to Liverpool so I could get to the theatre. A mix of Louis having a very sore achilles after day 1, plus me not wanting to risk the fatigue I could feel coming on, we decided to be sensible and rest on the Sunday rather than getting up very early again and drive up for the Ullswater 15km. It was sods law the Ullswater Steamers were on due to very calm waters, meaning all runners could get to enjoy the unique point-to-point route that is Ullswater 10km and 15km. Having done this once previously I can’t recommend it enough. The views of Ullswater are nothing short of spectacular. So much so that circa 5 years ago when I did it, I almost literally stopped in my tracks at one point when the whole lake opened up in front of me as we rounded the fell above the treeline. No better excuse for us to book on 2020 then! Lou should get to experience that himself after all 🙂
So a wonderful Saturday and a weekend to appreciate what’s important in life. Running an event socially with Louis rather than racing it, then bumping into Robin were yet more beautiful reminders to take the joy in the present. You never know what life will throw at you. Enjoy the moment you’re in. Take your time rather than always racing.
Take care 🙂