Coniston Marathon – Sunday 07/06/2015

It’s fair to say that training had not gone particularly well when I lined up for what I always knew be a tough event.

It had started well enough, following my previous marathon, (30 miles?), which was a hard moors event mid-December. A short rest then into my favourite local races. The Chevin chase where I managed to knock 6 mins off my previous years’ time. Then the Jolly Holly Jog, a superb 10k route through the grounds of Studley Royal organised by Ripon Runners where I just failed to overhaul Chivs by seconds, much to her mischievous delight. This was followed by a hugely enjoyable 15 mile Hard moors run with Jan on NYD, where Pete Wilkie completed the 30 mile event.

It was then into the start of my Spring Marathon training plan. I’d chosen an intermediate plan by Hal Higden, which does rack up the miles even early on with 3 consecutive midweek as well as longer runs on Sat & Sun with 1 cross training day and I rest.

Early outings were going well, mostly in the company of Adrian Nock, training for an attempt on the Yorkshire 3 peaks which I’d agreed to accompany him on as part of my own marathon training.

Before that i had the Osmotherley half Marathon with Chris Cobb. I was hoping to go somewhere near my NYD time, but got well spanked by the 3 big hills that Jon Steel decided were a good joke on what was largely an out and back course.  My Garmin recorded a time of 3:01 for a distance of just over 16 mile and 2700 ft. of ascent, with Chis finishing just inside the 3 hour mark.

With Adrian & Andy South on top of Pen y Ghent March 2015 Photo anonymous


Adrian and I had scheduled a training run on Pen y Ghent, and were joined by Andy South on a cool March day with snow on top. We parked at Ribblehead and caught the train to Horton. Andy gave us a lesson in fell running while I struggled on the hill. Adrian kindly sacrificing his own run somewhat to encourage me up the hill. This was slightly worrying as 5 month previously I’d run nearly all the way up as part of a 17 mile circuit.

This then led into the Lakeland Trails season’s first event, the 18K Cartmel Trail. This year I had entered the races rather than the challenge versions, in the hope that this would encourage me to run up more of the hills and not get held up as much by queues at styles etc. The strategy seemed to work as I knocked 11 mins off my previous best time and ran every .step of the way for the first time ever.

Typical mud on the Cartmel Trail – Photo James Kirby


A week later was a 10 mile race around Buttermere where we were joined by Penny & Phil Hill. I had picked up a stinking cold after Cartmel, and really struggled. At one stage I had decided to drop out, before Phil & Penny convinced me to carry on. I did manage to complete but not in a very convincing performance.

With Phil & Penny Hill on the Buttermere Trail, March 2015

IR2Things had picked up before the Lakeland Trail at Hawkshead where we were joined by Darren Rogers & Des Johnson. Again I struggled on the big hills, narrowly beating my previous best time by seconds.

Normally we stay up for the Weekend for these events, however we travelled back after the run to attend a friends 40TH Birthday Party, where a few to drink led to leaving the car in Headingley.

The next day Adrian joined me for a run through Roundhay, Shadwell, Wyke, Harewood, Meanwoood Valley Trail and Woodhouse Ridge to reclaim my car. Unfortunately Adrian hadn’t understood about the car and was quite worried when we turned into Headingley having already done about 18 mile. He was quite relieved to see the car. This was easily my best and most enjoyable run of the whole training plan.

With Darren & Des. Jan & Mandy at Hawkshead in April. Photo Dot Benson


The next longish trip out was again with Adrian. Back to Ribblehead to attempt Whernside & Ingleborough. On an absolutely foul day we caught the train from Horton to Ribblehead and ran back. Again I struggled going up both hills. We spent what seemed an age on top of Ingleborough looking for the elusive summit, finally giving up, before we then spent a similar time trying to relocate the path down. Adrian led off the top until I passed him as he held open a gate, I ran round the corner and promptly disappeared into thigh deep mud.

Ingleborough on a much better day than when we did it – Photo: Ian Rayner


We had intended to extend this run to approx 20 mile. But we arrived back at the car, cold and soaked and somewhat tired, so had a quick hot drink and headed home.

Around this time I developed a chest problem that layed me low for a week, before coming back for the Staveley Lakeland trail. Again I beat my previous best, but it was an unremarkable run. I’ve never felt on good form for this event so beating my previous times wasn’t much of an achievement.

I was now really struggling on all my longer training runs, becoming breathless on any hills and stopping frequently to walk steeper sections, Routes I should have been flying up at this stage.

The last long run before Marathon day was an attempt on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. This should have been with Adrian, who unfortunately had picked up an injury. So on one of the hottest days of the year I set off from Ribblehead up Whernside. Phil hill and Hilary came along to run just to run Whernside while Jan did Ingleborough as well.

Progress on the first 2 hills was pretty good, and I should have stopped to refuel and top up water in Horton, An omission I was to pay dearly for as I died on Pen y Ghent and could hardly manage a trot on the long undulating section back to Ribblehead where I sat for at least 30 mins in the River to cool down,

Even though this had been a struggle I completed the circuit in 6:25, and am convinced I could go under 6 on a better day and by starting from Horton rather than Ribblehead.

Before the start – Photo Marie Benson


Marathon Day came around far too quickly, the night before I lay awake in the tent worrying as the wind howled around outside. Thankfully the wind dropped and race day was a cool day with a light breeze. Just about perfect. Jan &  Amanda left for their earlier start. Leaving me to devour a couple of bacon sandwiches, before heading to the race field. Jan’s other cousin and Uncle were both marshalling out on the course and had taken our replacement energy drinks with them.

Before the start I met Graham who organises these events and admitted I was worried. He was aware of some of the runs I’d done in training and was a lot more confident of my performance than I was.

I took up my customary position near the back and we were off. The first 4-5 miles are pretty gentle and ware completed at target pace of 6 min / k, before you start climbing. I knew I wouldn’t be running the hills but hadn’t really considered these early stages as hills.

Above Tarn Hows. about halfway – Photo: James Kirby.

IR7Marie was marshalling at around the 24K mark and her greeting, “Ian you look dreadful” did nothing for the confidence. This is a long stretch of very runnable Trail before dropping to the Lake level on the Eastern end of Coniston water and I really should have been able to make up time here. Unfortunately the legs were too tired to take advantage of the technical descent and I gingerly made my way down. Target time of 5 hours was now in serious doubt.

View back along Parkamoor – Photo Graham Patten

The rest of the race from here is a bit of a blur, I remember a discussion with a marshal who told me only 9 miles to go which really does not help, particularly as my own Garmin said about 6 left. Half a mile further on two marshals said 7 mile to go, and I resolved to ignore them from then on. You then hit The lake just below Torver and the early stretches are very rooty and undulating before giving way to a trail which I usually enjoy running. At this stage I was reduced to walking long sections, target time well and truly gone. I did manage to run from entering the race field, before collecting medal and T shirt then collapsing into a chair where I stayed for a good hour before I felt able to eat. The weather by now was quite warm and Pete Lashley was singing before the prize giving where we won nowt.

My final time was 5:25 for the 26.2 mile course, although I measured it slightly long. There was 2900 ft of ascent.

One notable success of the event for me personally was raising £1277.00 for my chosen charity, Once Upon a Smile.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed towards this. Your outstanding generosity was much appreciated by me and the Charity.

Amanda above Tarn Hows and Jan on Parkamoor – Photos James Kirby.
 IR9 IR10


Thanks for reading.