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Coniston Trail Races

01/07/2012

Three hardy souls from Dumfries Running Club headed down to Coniston on Sunday to take part in the Lakeland Trail Races. Andrew Crooks took a break from cycling and decided to run the trail marathon to compare it to the Kielder, while Jo Zakrzewski and Doug Brown took part in the trail marathon and half marathon respectively as training for their future trip to the Swissalpine in Davos at the end of the month...

All 3 found the courses very challenging, with >2200 feet of ascent and descent on the marathon The weather was also not kind to them with strong winds, driving rain, and poor visibility on the upper parts of the route, which must have impacted on times as some of the leading men were 10mins slower than the year before.

Andrew and Jo started off at 9am with a lap and a half of the muddy field and then headed straight up through the village towards the copper mines, before heading off on a variety of trails and roads. Doug’s race started at 10:30 with a 3/4lap of the field before heading out on the same route. They ran on both steep tarred roads and rocky trails along the route of Yewdale Beck (quite literally so in places) and over Oxen Fell, before crossing over to lap Tarn Hows. At this point the half marathon route split off in a steep descent down to the head of Coniston, where some noticeable marshalling absences caused some slight route confusion, though Doug had a strong run in to finish in 1:39:51 as 2nd V50.

Andrew and Jo were instead directed up onto the fells as they then ran along the length of the lake, with Jo sad to miss the views due to thick clag, whereas Andrew found it very uplifting to be running up the fells watching the cloud cover break over Coniston. They breathed a sigh of relief to be down the horrendously wet, slippy, muddy, shaly descent at the far end of the lake, only to be directed away from the shoreline for a couple of miles through deep bog which was completely unrunnable. Many people ended up wearing more of the mud than they waded through. The few miles really took their toll on tired legs (Andrew’s “1000 yard stare and dead man shuffle” was noted by fellow runners here) as they were on narrow paths by the lake, and if not concentrating 100% competitors would trip and stumble on the roots and stones. The challenge event started 2 hours prior to the marathon race and followed the same course so there was great support and encouragement as faster runners passed the earlier starters (though this was not always easy on the narrow paths).

The race was won (with a convincing margin) by International Mountain Runner Ben Abdelnoor in an amazing 2:53:50, with Jo 5th overall and 1st lady in 3:21:34 and Andrew in 4:19:34 (having realized how much tougher the course and terrain were compared to his trail marathon last year).

Audrey Brown was there at the finish to cheer the runners in, while Alison Crooks spared a thought for them from her much more sensible choice of a Penrith spa.

Although tough, the course was really beautiful and can be recommended to all (whatever the weather) while Andrew discovered that Coniston Bluebird Bitter is the best thing for removing muscular aches and the taste of sports gels taken en route!

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