The Brathay Windermere Marathon

The Brathay Windermere Marathon was held on Sunday 20th May, 2012. Here’s a film and review of the event.

I was expecting to run this race in bad weather. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, it’s just that the Lake District has a reputation of being wet, really wet (all those lakes are there for a reason…). And indeed, chatting to other runners at the start line who’d done it before (there was a lot of them, this run seems to attract people to it again and again), they told of having run the previous events in all manner of rain, sleet and hail. Lucky for me then, a southern softie taking part in his first race up north, the sky couldn’t have been clearer that morning, or the conditions better, as the photo below, showing the view of the event carpark from the finish line shows.

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There was also another event going on as well as the marathon. It’s known as the Brathay 10 in 10, and the image above shows the 18 brave fundraisers who were taking part in it. They’d run the marathon course every day for the previous 9 days, and this was going to be there 10th and final lap. Big respect to them, I found the course a tough ask just doing it the once (it’s listed in Runners World as ‘Undulating’, although perhaps ‘hardly any flat bits at all’ would be a better description for it…), couldn’t imagine doing it 10 times in a row!

The pre race organisation was good, and parking was a doddle, as there were plenty of marshalls around to offer advice. And for families left behind there was a lot to do once we had started off; a hot air balloon ride, local crafts on show and also fair ground-style stalls.

We were led down to the start line by a drumming band. The sun was hot as we walked and spirits were high, there was a good and friendly vibe among competitors. Actually I noticed that on the way round this was to continue, among us and also among the many spectators who lined the route. I find the north of England to be extra friendly compared to where I come from in the south anyway, and the atmosphere effects everybody, local and holidaymaker alike. As a result, I think, there were more smiles, good will and laughter coming from spectators than I’m used to whilst running, and I liked it a lot!

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The photo above shows the view of Lake Windermere from the Brathay Estate, where the marathon starts. What a sight it was. However, views of the lake were few for the first half of the race. Mainly we were running through shady woods, villages or along open road between rolling fields. The race was all on tarmac, nothing off-road about it at all, and for the most part of the first half the roads were closed, so traffic free. Where they weren’t there were bollards out taking the road down to 1 lane, so we could run in safety in the other. The second half of the race, which took us up the eastern side of the lake, heading north, was on roads that had traffic flowing as usual, but there were lots of signs around warning motorists to slow down, and also many paths that enabled us to get off the road.

As I’ve said, the route was very hilly. Other runners had told me to keep something back for the hills at miles 7 and 21, and they were right, these were tough hills. The sort that you think you have done and then you round a bend to find it carrying on ever upwards. But I’d add to this that whilst there were plenty of ups, and therefore downs, there were very few flat sections. This was fine for me at first, for the first 15 miles or so I reckon, but after that I found it tough. I’m pleased to say that this probably wasn’t because I’m soft; the day after the race I met an old chap up on a fell top who told me that his mate, who’d run more fell races than he could remember and had competed alongside the legendary Joss Naylor, had also commented that the Windermere Marathon was indeed a hard run. Hill upon hill upon hill…

But it was also very beautiful. My Go Pro head cam ran out of battery half was round – it usually lasts me til the end on regular marathons – simply because I wanted to film pretty much everything I saw. It all looked so nice, and just as it ran out of juice we got to the bit which afforded great views over the lake…just my luck.

Refreshment stops were every 3 miles, and offered electrolyte drinks, water and Mint Cake. Usually I eat dates to get me round a course but I thought I’d go local this time and survive on the mint cake, and it seemed to do me ok, in fact, I quite liked it!

There was no chance of getting lost; there were loads of marshalls along the way and also the route was dotted with luminous Asics signs.

There was lots of support strung out, most noticably at the half way point and at Bowness on Windermere. A little tip, if you run this race don’t get carried away by the cheers of Bowness. I did. I always seem to speed up when people are cheering, which in this race is a mistake at this point, because Bowness comes at around mile 20. What did those guys tell me about conserving my energy for the hill at mile 21?

Well, that came and went, as did the others, and the last 3 miles where either directly next to the lakeshore offering great views or passing through the nice village of Ambleside. After this there was just one last cruel hill back into the Brathay estate to contend with, and then came the finish line. at the end of a 100 metre corridor, either side of which were rows of really enthusiastic crowds. It was a great feeling to have the announcer call out my name as I approached the finish line, and have everybody cheer. And then I got my great slate medal, and a drink, a banana, and a much needed lie down on the grass.

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I was happy with my time. Anything under 4 hours on a course this hilly is fine by me, and I finished in 3.48 and had great fun whilst doing so (ok, the last couple of miles were a bit of a trial…but that’s because of my lack of fitness, not the course).

The 10 in 10 runners had set off an hour before the main field, and 15 of them had made it back by the time I’d finished. The remaining 3 came in just after, which considering it was their 10th marathon in as many days, was an admirable feat.

I did my stretching out and considered going for an ice bath (the facility was on offer, as were massages). But it seemed more fitting to go jump in the very cold Lake Windermere. So I did. And it did the job!

I can understand why the Brathay Windermere Marathon was voted the UK’s 2nd best marathon by readers of Runner’s World. The organisation is spot on, the course is extremely scenic, and tough, everybody involved as competitor, organiser or spectator is very friendly and it’s also run in aid of a very good cause, that of the Brathay Trust, which aids underprivelidged kids from across the UK.

I’d do it again, that’s for sure. Might even be tempted to try the 10 in 10 next time…

To find out more about the Brathay Windermere Marathon, please visit www.brathaywindermeremarathon.org.uk

Trek and Run were supported during this race by

Cumbria Tourism - www.golakes.co.uk

The Windermere Marina Village - www.wmv.co.uk

Go-Pro HD Cameras - www.gopro.com

BLOC eyewear - www.bloceyewear.com

&

Mizuno Clothing - www.mizuno.eu

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