The Karrimor Great Trail Challenge, Keswick

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The Karrimor Great Trail Challenge was held on Sunday 17th June, 2012. Here’s a film and review of the event.

This was the first ever Karrimor Great Trail Challenge, and I felt pretty chuffed to be part of it. I knew before I got there that it was going to be well organised. With the companies involved – Karrimor, Powerade and Aqua Pura – it wasn’t going to be anything else. And so it proved to be.

Race packs were sent out in time, together with detailed how to get there/route details/general race day instructions. There were loads of loos on site, marshalls to direct you to wherever you wanted to go and the races were arranged with staggered start times to minimise potential problems.

It’d rained for 2 days solid before the race, so I was expecting a bit of mud. Well I got that good enough, but I was pretty happy that the rain didn’t come down during the event as without it we had perfect trail running conditions. A little chilly and cloudy, a few puddles to jump, a river to cross that probably wouldn’t have been half as full had it not been for the rain (only 1 or 2 steps needed to cross it, but enough to get your feet wet), just right.

Before the marathon started, it was time for the 4 Nations 10km race. I enjoyed watching the pro’s limber up and streak away, it’s not often you witness that at a regular running event.

 Then I enjoyed the event village for 15 minutes – there was the usual array of food on offer, maps and info about the course, and a climbing wall – before joining the other marathoners at the start line.

The first few kms of the run followed an old railway embankment that had now been turned into a lovely forested walkway alongside the River Greta.

It seemed flat at first, although on the last lap I did notice there was quite an incline there. There were to be 4 laps - 2 long laps and 2 short. The longer ones were run first, which I was thankful for, as it got the killer hill out the way before I was too tired! This hill went up to about 335 metres altitude, so I guess the climb to the top must have been about 200 metres in total, as Keswick lies at about 130 metres. Approaching it everybody started to walk, as did I. It was a bare fell side, just grass, no trees to block out what was at this point a howling wind. It was in our faces at first, but then we turned and it was at our back, a welcome hand to help us to the top.

That hill certainly spread the field out, and then at the top there was a great flat/slightly downhill section for a few kms, giving superb views over mountain and lake, it was really beautiful. Then there was that little river to cross, it could be done in 1 or 2 steps, I jumped it in 1 step, didn’t want to get my feet too wet and engage chaffing so early in the day…

There was a Powerade stop before the long descent back to the race HQ began. There had been 2 water stops up until then, which would have been plenty even on a sunny day. My only complaint of the day was that the bins to throw your empty bottles in came far too soon after the stops, the Powerade stop in particular. I only had time for 2 gulps before they came upon me, and by the looks of the pile of bottles in the grass about a km further down the track, it was the same for other runners too.

The downhill was fast, very, but wide enough to pass somebody if you needed to so you didn’t have to adjust your pace at all. A bit rocky too so you had to watch your step. One girl came tearing past me looking really strong but then I saw her pull up, I think she’d done her ankle. I passed her and then never saw her again after that, it made me be even more careful than ever. It’s a bit dispiriting when you have people who are great on the downhills flying past you, but I’d rather that than limping for the rest of the race.

So then we passed the start line again, and the support was great, really nice to see all those smiley spectators faces, and we did that same lap once more, past the river and its many bridges, and then up that hill, and it was so good to top out knowing it wasn’t going to happen again. The going was pretty good, the track wasn’t cut up too much or too muddy, you could get good grip and a good move on when terrain allowed. I think the first 2 laps were about 13km long each, not sure though, there were no distance markers at all. I could understand that, it would’ve got pretty confusing having them on a multi lap course.

Then the third lap began, the first of the shorter ones. It was the same for a while, taking the railway embankment alongside the river, and then we turned off and had another hill, albeit shorter (about 120 metres altitude gain), to take on. Again, the going was mostly firm, so it wasn’t an issue to get grip. Most people walked this hill once again, never saw anybody running it, but then, I was a little down the field (I finished in 8th position in the end, but the top 3 finishers were over 45 minutes in front of me) so I wasn’t among the really fit people who probably never walked at all. There were 4 of us at the start of this third lap who were all bunched together, but one girl looked very strong - she had a great, compact running style that showed she knew what she was doing – so when she started to pull away I decided to try to stay with her. My muscles were hurting bad, but something I’d read recently spurred me on. It had said that when you feel tired, the truth is that your muscles are only 30% spent, and it’s just your brain trying to fool you into stopping so you conserve energy. I hung onto that thought all the way to the end, and it helped, a little…

It was as we started the last lap that the previously flat railway embankment developed an incline. I really puffed my way up it, trying to remember, had it been this way before? Of course it had, it just hadn’t felt like it, I’d had some energy left back then! The larger hill that came soon after actually gave me a chance to slow down and walk, stretching out my muscles and using different ones for 10 minutes. I enjoyed the magnificent views as I walked, knowing that I’d see hardly anything when I reached the top, as the extra fast descent to the finish line would begin there and I’d be concentrating too hard on the rocks and tree roots underfoot to look up and enjoy the scenery.

The girl led me all the way that last lap, and as we approached the finish line the announcer called out over the loudspeaker system that she was the first female finisher. I was so happy to finish just a few seconds behind her, and inside the top 10, I’ve never done that before on a marathon distance race. A marshall handed me a goody bag which also contained my medal (I’d already been given a great t-shirt with my race entry pack) and then I filtered out back into the event village, where I collected my bag from the holding area and leaned on the railings, stretching out as the other finishers came in.

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It had been a very well marked and marshalled event, challenging too, with some typically lovely Lake District scenery to enjoy, when I wasn’t struggling up the hills! People had come from all corners of the country to take part in this event. ‘An excellent excuse to visit a beautiful part of England’ was how one guy explained it. I’d have to agree.

To find out more about the Karrimor Great Trail Challenge, please visit www.greattrailchallenge.org

Trek and Run were supported during this race by

Cumbria Tourism - www.golakes.co.uk

The Ravenglass Campsite - www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk

Go-Pro HD Cameras - www.gopro.com

Salomon Shoes - www.salomon.com

Mountain Hardwear - www.mountainhardwear.com

&

Mizuno Clothing - www.mizuno.eu

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