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Lowther 13

16/08/2016

A last minute decision on Saturday saw Jo Zakrzewski entering the Lowther Half Marathon, but after watching the Rio Olympics for most of the night, she was feeling less than lively as she went to the start line on Sunday. 

The first clue that this was not your average half marathon was the signs directing people to the "Fell Race", and the next pointer was that a sportident dibber was attached to each competitor's wrist as they registered. This led to a mountain marathon feel rather than a trail race.


The initial downhill start was fast and uneven across the grass of the showground and Jo wondered what she had let herself in for (having only some vague memories of being the race medic on the event many years previously), but after crossing the river they start a long drag up onto the Askham Fells. Everyone had to "dip" into the control at the top of the first hill to ensure there was no cutting of corners or summits but they were rewarded with a nice runnable downhill stretch. After some more "undulations" with bracken and tussocks keeping runners alert, there was a brief road section before an arrow pointed out across open ground. It was then a case of picking the best route through bogs and between reeds, tussocks and thistles. A splash through a 1.5m wide creek made Jo wonder what the worry was about the advertised river crossing.


A mile later she found out, as there was a 15m wide river to wade through (with a rope strung across it for use as a handrail). The marshals beside the river tried to encourage Jo that she didn't have far to go, but she found it very hard to get back into her running stride with heavy,wet (though clean) feet and legs. The cooling river dunk set the runenrs up for the final tough "hands on knees and push" climb and then it was case of finding the right sheep trods across the plateau to the next checkpoint and dibber.


After another rough grassy mile, the route rejoined a minor road for some fast leg turnover downhill. Jo caught a few people up, but found it harder to negotiate the cattle grids than the larger footed men and on a couple of occasions actually ran round into the grass nearby to avoid her feet getting trapped. The final couple of miles on forest roads were being used for the Show's carriage racing, so it was important that tired runners remained alert as the carriages had right of way and were moving as some pace.
The final sting in the tail of the race was a steep climb back up from the river to the Showground before dibbing in at the finish. A benefit to the sportident timing and checkpoints was that after the runners downloaded, they could also see (and compare) their splittimes for each section.


The race was won in an outstanding 1:19 (taking 20s off an old CR) with the second man over 9 minutes behind. Jo finished hot on the heels of the 10th man in 1:35, totally surprising herself by taking 3 minutes off the ladies CR which was set back in 2009, but the best thing was that the prizes were beer glasses and bottles of beer (and the race included free entry to the Show so there was lots of food and entertainment to be checked out)!

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