Sarah Briggs tells us how she got a sun kissed Coniston at the Lakeland Trails Half Marathon on Sunday.
The Lakeland Trails series are now in their tenth year and their attractive settings ensure they appeal to a wide range of running abilities: I was especially impressed to see there were two 'Vet 70s' in my race, and from speaking to the organisers I understand the oldest runner was 80! I never saw any of them so I wonder if they were all in front of me.
These are not races for a personal best: at least, not like a flat road race might be. And it's no good that thinking just because you can run a marathon or a half marathon that this will be a rather pleasant version of the same thing, set in beautiful countryside.
Personally I would far rather run on trails than on road, but the Lakeland races are, not surprisingly considering the nature of the Lake District, hilly. Then there's the terrain: I know several runners who lament that they're not braver on the often-stony descents (slippery if wet) and find it frustrating that they might overtake people going uphill only to be overtaken by those same runners going down.That is not to want to sound negative about the races, they are stunning, (photos don't do justice to the views), friendly and well-organised.
For the marathon and half marathon we registered in the ruins of Coniston Hall, at the side of the lake and with plenty of parking. The run starts off by the lake but quickly makes its way through Coniston village and off on to tracks and some minor roads. To Tarn Hows is distinctly undulating and there's quite a long road ascent from about 9km to the 11km feed and water station. It was a hot day and well worth, for lower calibre runners like me, saving some energy by walking the longer ascents.
The lap and a half of Tarn Hows was beautiful and followed by a fun fast stony descent (I was glad it wasn't wet underfoot): only to have a flattish slog for the last few miles out in the beating midday sun back to Coniston. Perhaps the least favourite part of the race is the run around the field at the end: the finish line is in sight but you have to loop round the entire field before you can get there!
On a hot day like today it was no surprise that the queue for the water station at the end was almost as long as the queue for the toilets had been at the beginning, but at least water was being provided. The goody bag was also well worth having: not only a technical t-shirt in a choice of sizes, a water bottle and a lip salve but also the genuine article Cartmel sticky toffee pudding.