Langdale Half Marathon 2014 Race Report
By Sarah Burthe
Hills, hills and more hills! The Langdale Half Marathon race has, according to the organiser’s website, the reputation of being amongst the toughest road events in the UK, with a very hilly course throughout, and with some parts of the course climbing 1:3. I’d heard good things about the race from Sadie, who ran it last year and so decided to give it a go. Surely it couldn’t be that bad? Could it?
The race takes place in the very beautiful Langdale valley in the Lake District, with the dramatic Langdale Pikes over-shadowing the start and finish. The route goes in an anti-clockwise direction starting in Great Langdale, conveniently close to the pubs for spectators (or mad runners- did see someone swigging a pint at the half way point for the marathon!), and heads through Skelwith Bridge, Chapel Style and Dungeon Ghyll before returning to Great Langdale. The weather on Saturday was pretty perfect, with cloud keeping the sun from making conditions too warm, but dry and with a light breeze. There was a good atmosphere at the start and quite a buzz as we lined up to get going, and quite a nice sedate pace at the start…which was good because I knew that there was a horrible steep hill close to the start! Indeed it wasn’t long before I was panting and wheezing my way up the steep road that head up south of Langdale, a long and evil climb that seemed to go on forever! I was pleased that I managed to run most of it, albeit at a slow pace, so all the hill training on Thursdays must be counting for something. Sadie of course powered off and the gap between us widened. I don’t think I saw her again past about mile 3. The descent on the other side was wonderful!
I seemed to be running either up or down hills for the entire course, there didn’t seem to be very much flat running at all. All the pounding up and down hills on the road certainly sapped my legs. There were three water stations on the course but water was being handed out in plastic cups- I think next time I would take my own bottle. The first time I just managed to throw the water all over my own face and realised that I couldn’t drink and run at the same time, so ended up having to stop completely to drink, which was annoying. There was another nasty steep climb that I wasn’t expecting (I hadn’t really studied the course) coming out of Skelwith Bridge- think it was a 22% hill. It was one of the few places that I stopped to walk for a short while and eat a power gel- just as a cyclist came past and shouted “go on Penicuik! Dig deep!” to which I laughed and said that “Penicuik has had enough of hills and would like a lie down!” but it did give me a boost to start running again J
I think my favourite part was heading on the nice soft track round the back of Loughrigg Tarn, the only bit that was not on the road. With all the beech trees starting to turn golden, the Lakes was looking particularly spectacular. Coming down the steep descent into Elterwater was definitely the highlight for me, with the amazing panorama of the Langdale Pikes and Crinkle Crags looming at the head of the valley. The cloud had lifted off the tops and the crag-studded hillsides were a vibrant patchwork of colours, with pale-green grass patches of grass looking like velvet and streaks of russet bracken. Luckily I didn’t have to look at my feet too much on the way down! The final stretch along the valley was pretty undulating and was feeling really quite tired by this point- although the last couple of rises were short and not very steep, they felt like they went on forever! The final water station had a very welcome box of haribo and a couple of those definitely gave me a kick for the final stretch! I spotted Mark and Smudge (boyfriend and dog!) about 300m from the finish which also gave me a final boost and I managed a sprint finish (well at least it felt like a sprint finish, it might have been a waddle!) down the last 50m through the field to the finish line. Phew! Met up with Sadie who had finished a few minutes ahead of me.
The race was really well supported throughout with very friendly and encouraging marshalls, and there was also free massage and ice-baths to soak tired legs in at the end- we both went to soak our feet- bliss! I did feel incredibly sorry for the marathon runners- the marathon course is two laps, which is psychologically a killer. The thought of having to carry on and run back up the steep hill at the start was just horrible! And the sun was starting to come out and heat things up a bit. Still, it would certainly be a good challenge to work towards…maybe next year?! Also, having now looked at the results for the marathon I noticed that there were not very many female runners- only 25 female runners so maybe we need to boost the numbers. Very handy having the pub so close (and a very lovely boyfriend to drive me home)- very much enjoyed a post-race pint.
Sadie ran it in a time of 1:59:37 (19th female out of 91) and I came in at 2:02:43 (28th female), which considering the hills I was really pleased with. This was a really great race with stunning scenery- I’d definitely recommend it and would come back and do it again!