It may have been the 10th anniversary of this race but it was only my second time running the event.
Well, what can I say? I absolutely love this race. I know I have not run many marathons but this race is my favourite by far. It has a fantastic atmosphere, the route is amazing, it is well organised, has supportive and friendly marshals, plenty of loos on route, a bottle of beer in the goody bag (for my hubby) and a great family fun day for my girls - plenty to keep everybody happy.
As it was the 10th anniversary race, they also had a celebration for all those who have previously completed the 10 in 10 challenge (yes, that's 10 marathons in 10 days around the tough Windermere course). Previous 10 in 10ers had turned up to complete a "lap of honour". I completely understand the appeal of running the route once but day after day, 10 days in a row - I have no idea how those guys endure such a challenge and I have so much respect for them.
What wasn't celebrated was the fact that it was my dad's 10th time of running the race. I believe he is the only soul who has participated in all 10 races and I felt that was worthy of a special bit of a bling or an extra bottle of beer!
My fuelling tactics changed for this race. I usually rely on gels and energy drinks, however, these have given me stitches during my last few races. I therefore stuck with porridge and water and a random piece of fudge (for the sugar)!
The race start is based in the grounds of the Brathay Trust, a fantastic hall in stunning surroundings. We arrived early so I could register - the views over the lake were amazing. The 10 in 10 guys set off early and the excitement before the main race slowly built before the crowds were walked down to the start line, led by a local drumming band - all very dramatic and then off we go.
This year was the first time they introduced a half marathon race so there was quite a crowd at the start. As I had run the race last year, I knew to keep a steady pace and not storm off with the half marathoners (which I have done in other races).
The majority of the route is rather peaceful, with stunning views of the lake. At 4 miles, the crowd in Hawkshead were amazing. Lots of cheering, shouting and clapping.
The first part of the route is surrounded by fields, lined with hedge ways, filled with wild garlic and then through bluebell filled wooded areas. All rather beautiful. Added to the spectacular views over the lake and you have yourself a rather special race.
The route is classed as being undulating, which is basically another word for hilly but the hills are worth the effort as the views from the top are amazing. The first of the toughest hills is at mile 7. I had a several plans to conquer the hills in the race. My first was to just go for it and run at the hill as hard as I could. This didn't work! I made it about a third of the way up the hill before coming to an abrupt halt. Halfway up the hill are a couple of bag pipers (not a euphemism, there were actually real live bag pipers stood along the hill). They were there offering support. I'm sorry but I do not like bag pipe music at all, so the support they offered me was to make me run again, up the hill and past the music as fast as I could go (so their support worked, but not in the way it had been intended!)
It was a beautiful day and the sun was beating down. We were sheltered from the sun along the first half of the race, however, during miles 13 to 14 (the stretch after Newby Bridge) we were open to the elements somewhat and I started to feel rather drained by the sun. I shouldn't really find this part of the race tough as it is possibly the flattest part of the course!
After mile 14, we were back into undulating territory and things improved again. I have worked out a great way to get around the course - I try and power up the hills and then I go all floppy on the down hills; I relax my arms by my sides and basically let gravity take me down the hills. I look completely ridiculous but I do not care one bit - it's my way of conserving energy and relaxing my limbs ready for the next hill.
I had a quick pit stop at mile 18 (nipping to the loo and pouring a bit of cool water on my head) and then ventured on. I love the route at this point - once again with gorgeous views of the lake.
Running through Bowness is a weird experience. The tourists are great and supportive but many of them stop in front of you to take your photo - there must be some shocking photos of me out there!
The next beast of a hill is "ice cream van hill" at about mile 21 ish of the race. I tried to storm this hill but by then, the sun had sapped a lot of my energy. I then tried my baby steps approach (my back up approach to fighting hills - running baby steps is better than walking) but this didn't work either. I managed only a few baby steps before admitting defeat to the hill and walking to the top. Some of the 10 in 10 runners do actually stop at the top for an ice cream. A couple of guys who were running their lap of honour actually did just that - how they managed an ice cream with about 5 miles of running to go, I have no idea. There were lots of people cheering at the top and this once again spurred me on my way.
At the last but one feed station I was handed a plastic cup, up until this point I had drunk only water. When I queried what was in the cup I was told "electrolytes". Now after my experience with electrolytes in Manchester, you would have thought I would have politely declined but no, my tired, sun fried brain decided that drinking an untested substance towards the end of the race was a rather good idea so I gulped down the lot. I managed to crack on and go slow and steady to the next feed station at about mile 23. By this time my brain and body was extremely sun beaten and again, rather than declining the electrolytes, I took on board yet another cup. This was a bit of a mistake as I spent the last few miles sloshing rather slowly towards the finish line. I found mile 24 a bit of a struggle. The route does flatten out at this point but it is rather open and there was little escape from the sun at times.
I finally saw the mile 25 sign. This would normally make you happy but I knew what was to come. For some reason, I don't like this last mile. The first bit is rather flat so I should really like it but I don't. The second half of this final mile is basically up hill. What makes it tougher is that all the fast folk who have already finished the race are making their way home, walking down hill, wearing their medals as they stroll past you, looking like they've simply nipped out and done a 5km rather than a tough marathon - I on the other hand am bright red, heavy breathing and even heavier stomping as I don't have the energy to properly lift my feet! They do all offer words of encouragement, even people in the cars and the passing cyclists shout out words of support and with all these eyes on you it does make you want to run rather than walk (and this is tougher than you can imagine at this point in the race).
The last few hundred metres is up the steep driveway before it finally flattens out to the finish. I struggled up the last hill but when I hit the crowds at the top I managed to run to the finish, completing the race in a respectable time of 4:32:40 (ranking 12th in my category).
I perhaps wasn't at my best after crossing the finish line and apologise if I didn't stop and chat to well wishers. I firstly thought I was going to throw up. After this initial thought past, I then thought I was going to pass out so I had a little lie down!
My girls had a rather splendid day, eating food, having a go on the zip wire and both running in the junior races. I am one very proud mum. I have to thank my husband for his support as he spent most of the day entertaining the dogs (a mixture of keeping Loki away from other dogs and encouraging Loki's new found love of swimming) and he managed to get rather sunburnt in the process.
Unfortunately, we didn't stick around after the race as I felt rather light headed so we missed all the presentations. I did feel much better though after consuming a whole bag of Haribos and about 3 bottles of water!
Am I going to run next year? Most definitely and I would also urge everyone else to put this race somewhere on their marathon bucket list. It is a tough one but I love it.