The 10 Peaks Challenge was going to have the most elevation gain I have ever faced as well as be the furthest distance I have ever had to run. Set in the Lake District the challenge was to summit the 10 highest peaks in the region, finishing in Keswick some 73km later with over 5600m of elevation gained!
I have had an event every weekend for a while now; some would say this was reckless but all seem to have been building me towards this event. When compared to something like the Bob Graham Round this challenge doesn’t seem so bad, but for me it was quite a jump in distance and climb. As ever, it is the terrain that proved most difficult. The Welsh 1000 Peaks race did well to prepare me but running on such uneven ground for 10+ hours really takes it out of your feet and knees. By the end the downhills seemed to slow my pace as much as the up and prove just as painful.
As the race got underway it wasn’t until after the first top that I got talking to some other competitors. This included Sebastian Krogvig from Norway who was studying in Wales and Tom Hollins who had won the previous year. By the second peak, Sebastian and I were following the route together and out of nowhere another competitor (Ross Litherland) appeared. We soon found that Ross’s local knowledge was far better than a map. We ended up running and chatting as a three over the following 7 peaks, all the way to Honister over 2/3 of the way through. I owe my eventual course record to running with Ross; he guided us up the notorious path between Scafell Pike and Scafell as well as parting with the knowledge that dropping into Wasdale could be as much as 45 minutes quicker than taking the corridor route.
Ross didn’t seem too bothered by the fact he was essentially guiding two competitors through the most technical section, and appeared to be enjoying the company. In fact, most fell runners I have met seem to value the experience of the event over the racing aspect.
Once we got to Honister, Ross and Sebastian both stopped to re-supply from the bags the event organisers transported there for them. I hadn’t organised one to be sent and was keen to navigate on my own for a section so filled one of my water bladders and headed off alone.
The next section was relatively simple with a steep climb before some long fast trails all the way to Keswick where the final checkpoint was located. I particularly enjoyed the smoother trails; speeding up to stretch my legs I arrived in Keswick 20 minutes before Ross and Sebastian. Now all that stood in my way was to climb and descend Skiddaw, an experience that turned out to be very painful. I knew I was going to be in some sort of pain during the race, but everything had been relatively straightforward till now. I hit the bottom feeling pretty good but after a couple of steps uphill it was clear I hadn’t eaten or drunk enough over the previous hours, perhaps having enjoyed the fast running a little too much. The first couple of hundred meters were definitely the worst; with 10 pained steps followed by a brief stop to nearly be sick and look between my legs were I was expecting to see my competition. By half way the cooler temperatures helped revive me and I finished the climb feeling stronger (but still pretty week).
On checking in at the top I turned around ready for the descent back down to Keswick. This didn’t follow the same route as coming up; it was down a ‘less steep’ more ‘runnable’ path. Even with a more gradual descent the run was a painful one as my big toes pressed into the front of my x-talons. I was pretty glad to be down and off the mountain for the last km and into the finish. So…just under 11 hours after starting I was done and ready to crawl into a little ball and sleep!