This race had been a long time coming, as I had entered Manchester Marathon in 2020 but we all know what happened there… fast forward a year and the appetite to want to run the marathon distance was still there. With all the large races cancelled or likely to be with Covid restrictions I looked to see if there were any smaller races. Windermere marathon seemed ideal, well except maybe for those hills, this is what the blurb says:
The Windermere Marathon has a reputation as one of the most challenging road marathons in the UK. Categorised by Runner’s World as ‘undulating’
I started out this training block hoping I’d get past the 12 week mark and thankfully about a month before the race they sent out the confirmation that the race would be happening, albeit under covid restrictions, numbers for the race were limited to 800 (~555 people ran on the day), there would be staggered starts and runners were encouraged to be more self sufficient with hydration and nutrition with fewer stations around the route. It also meant no spectators or events put on at Brathay Hall which normally happen for the waiting family and Friends
The race starts and finishes at Brathay Hall and follows an anti-clockwise route, passing through Hawkshead, Newby Bridge, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside.
I’d booked a start time of 8:45 and instructions were to not to turn up until ~15 minutes before the start time to get through registration. Getting in and parked, and through to the start line was very easy, and one bonus of these staggered starts is no queues for the toilets! It was all very relaxed at the start line, and although they said we’d go off in groups of 40, in reality once at the start line you could start when you were ready. Certainly a lot less stressful this way, but a little underwhelming way to start!
The course lived up to the billing as ‘undulating’ right from the start but more rolling ups and down to ease us in and get the legs warmed up. In the first half of the race I did have to contend with the rain – heavy downpours with some hail thrown in for good measure. The showers would be spread out enough just enough to dry off and then get soaked again.
The big climb of the course came at mile 7 –known as the devil’s gallop, 200ft over half a mile, and keeping my sensible head on, took the approach of walk the steep parts and save those legs – a long way to go yet!
Luckily the next 4 or so miles were gradually downhill so a slight rest for the legs. Simon and Chloe were waiting for me at Newby Bridge so time for a quick hug and words of encouragement and then time to head back up the lake.
There is usually a time during a race that I question why I do these things for ‘fun’ and the road back up towards Bowness-on-Windermere was certainly it, I can only describe it as a rollercoaster of hills – they just kept coming and even the downs weren’t that fun!
Once through Bowness-on-Windermere and the road levelled out. At this point I was also entering unchartered territory, having never run further than 21 miles before. Fortunately the wall was never hit! Coming up to around mile 24, I noticed a couple of spectators that looked familiar – Beth and Mark! Gave me a great boost to see you cheering – thanks guys!
There was another quick hug from Chloe in Ambleside and then time for the last push back up to Brathay Hall. By this time the legs were complaining quite loudly at any slight incline, bad news then that the finish was uphill – that’s just cruel! However, as the 26 mile marker ticked by I was so so happy that I was going to make it and crossing the finish line in just over 4 hours and 21 minutes was an amazing feeling!
By Fay Uphill.