We were sat on the beach in Negril, Jamaica in December 2015, having completed the Reggae Marathon, when a couple of unlikely looking buskers sauntered along the beach looking for somebody to entertain. “I’m going to get them to play my favourite Marley tune…” I announced. “Baby don’t worry, ’bout a thing…”. A dollar well spent me thinks. Well, it’s been mine and Nicky’s song ever since, the beautiful innocent optimism of the lyrics a refreshing contrast to the tensions that life can create.
After completing the awesome Coniston Trail Marathon on Sunday, the lakeside venue was richly entertained by an engaging chap with an acoustic guitar and an ear for a tune. Whilst we were guzzling our post race Ribena and 7UP, chomping on venison burgers, the guy played “Don’t look back in anger”, an unannounced yet beautifully poignant tribute. He then donned a harmonica and rolled into, you guessed it….”Three Little Birds”. I was in the immediate post race glow of pride, of loving the atmosphere as runners and walkers from the 5 events across the day soaked up the rays and the views in the late afternoon sun. We were chuffed with our achievements. I don’t mind admitting to feeling a little emotional and falling a little bit deeper in love with the astonishing lady in my arms!
We’d arrived (as those prone to regular perusal of this ramshackle chronical will know) in the lakes pretty exhausted. We thought we could add to this less-than-perfect preparation by getting up at 5 in this utopia of quiet to prepare our marathon weaponry and drive the hour to Windermere to drop Charlie off at the dog sitter. We found Lakes Pet Services via the internet, and what a great service Petra provides. Charlie will be back, he was pooped by the time we picked him up!
Back to Coniston, and the special atmosphere at Old Coniston Hall was apparent from the moment we parked up by the lake, a buzz of excitement, so many cheery ‘hello’s, and some rather splendid coffee.
We somehow ended up talking to the lovely people at the Inov8 stand. Now, it’s easy to be cynical about corporate sponsorship (and I am!) but these guys were on hand in force to offer guidance and, something I’ve never seen before, a chance to try out some part-worn shoes.
To cut a long story short, we both ended up running the marathon in borrowed shoes. A resounding success for me and Nicky’s were incredibly comfortable, if a little less cushioned than she’s used to.
As we lined up for the start, some of the talk inevitably turned to the dreaded cut offs and time limit. As we can now confirm, this
is a genuinely tough trail race, with some proper climbs and sections of really rugged terrain and technical sections. Therefore, just like last week’s Pure Trail event, it is made plain that participants need to be fit and strong enough for several hours of tough running. BUT, you’re not expected to be Joss Naylor.
Talking of which, the spirit of such running greats is almost tangible on this route, especially in the second half as the route climbs a couple of fells
and circumnavigates some gorgeous tarns. What a privilege it was to be running here.
The first half of the race is a series of ups and downs, but on the whole climbing. Overall pace is reduced by the need to stop every 5 minutes to say ‘WOW’ at the views, but kept brisk by the runability of the terrain. Short road sections are all accompanied by more stunning views and so barely noticed. The route is one great big loop, a wide rounding of
the whole of the lake. Nicky was braving some quite considerable calf pain, her powerful calves are prone to tightness and we suspect wearing some more ‘racey’ profiled shoes may have contributed to this, combined with a less than ideal preparation, but we still made great progress and the cut offs soon became far from our minds. A long, and rocky, decent in miles 17, 18 and 19 had her exclaiming “I am running like a wooden top!” (younger readers may need to click the link!).
I think the phrase is ‘technical terrain’, this decent and, in fact, the climb up into the fells that followed and the fall back towards the lake AND most of the flat section along the shore edge towards the finish could all be classed as ‘technical’. What a fabulous course, what a treat the whole event is. Visually jaw dropping and it gets right inside you, you can FEEL the beauty here. There is no better way than to spend Sunday than running in such humbling
surroundings in the company of my perfect soul mate.
“Don’t you ever get bored running with me?” Nicky asked as we both tried and failed, despite our finest efforts, to fall flat on our faces as we tripped over the massed network of roots along the lake side. Bored!!?? This really is EVERYTHING I could ever want.
So, we reached the finish, both now 30something in terms of marathons completed and both struggling to imagine any we’ve done which top this one. I truly feel blessed.
We’re lucky enough to have another 5 days here in this beautiful place, and whatever the weather (it’s not looking good!) we’re going to indulge in not setting the alarm and plenty of the 2 ‘R’s and 2 ‘W’s (reading, running, writing, walking), oh and watch out, Nicky might just have a surprise lined up for later in the week…….
Anyway, briefly as I’ve taken enough of your time, having been relieved of several £10 notes yesterday, I thought I’d better take the new trail shoes out in the P!55ing rain today. Nicky, wisely, is resting her rather tight calves.
So I went out and did 7 or so miles, finishing going up to the tarn on the fell opposite where we’re staying and enjoying the grip these new shoes offer on the wet, rocky decent. You can check out this run here, and yesterdays marathon here.
I write this blog because I truly enjoy writing, it is relaxing, I enjoy sharing how running is so much part of mine and Nicky’s lives and how I am never quite able to fully believe that I get to live this life with Nicky. Our day to day world is great, with a particular set of challenges which is the same for everybody and I’m sure our adventures (and my writing about them) is very much part of how we contrast that whirly-gig of life with our down time.
That and 3 Little Birds.
So, thank you as ever for reading and engaging with the blog (over 5000 of you now!), I look forward to sharing the next instalment of this amazing adventure of life……