Having attempted Borrowdale on 2 previous occasions in 2010 and 2011 I decided not to bother last year and went along to support others. This year I told myself I wasn’t going to bother again. Well I don’t think I’m as fit as previous years and if I couldn’t make it then there was no point trying.
When the entires opened I told others I wasn’t entering but then Chris told me that this year, being the 40th running of the race, there were free T-Shirts for all and even better you got your T-Shirt when you registered. So basically I didn’t have to finish the race to get the T-Shirt. So I entered, you can’t beat a free t-shirt.
“Been There, Done (part of) the race, Got the T-shirt”
The Borrowdale race only has one cut-off which is at Honister Slate Mine, just before the final climb up Dale Head. This checkpoint closes at 15:30 (4.5 hours in to the race). In 2010 I hadn’t even planned to do the race but came along as a support but on the journey up was talked into running (somebody we knew had dropped out and there was a free entry). I only managed to make as far as Great Gable with about 25 mins to get Honister (no way). In 2011 I made it to Honister but was still over time by about 15 minutes.
This year, although I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t make the cut-off, I still needed to push myself despite telling all my running colleagues that I was only coming along for the t-shirt. It didn’t stop me bringing some change with me in case I needed to catch the bus back from Honister Mine (it’s a long walk).
The race sets off and is quickly slowed down when the pack of runners all have to filter into a narrow track and is a very flat run for about a mile or so before you start the climb up to BessyBoot.
There had been a funny discussion on facebook in the week before the race about BessyBoot as the race map mentioned “turn left for the climb up BessyBoot (110o)” and Josie, who’s was doing this as her 3rd proper lakes race was worried about it being a very steep climb. She’d got her protractor out and everything! We tried to explain that if the climb was 110o then it would be an overhang. Eventually she realised the the 110o was actually a bearing and nothing to do with the gradient.
On the climb up BessyBoot Tony Varley (a doddery old pensioner!) wasn’t too far in front of me and he became my “carrot”. I pushed on and managed to pass Tony about 1/2 way up the climb and was very happy with myself as Tony always beats me. Of course Tony had been suffering with injury in the 2 weeks before the race but we’ll ignore that.
Once on top of BessyBoot the run over to Allen Crags is more of an undulating run. A new fence that has been erected acts as a hand hold for part of the route and with the recent dry spell the ground underfoot wasn’t really that wet. Fran (Horwich) caught me back up as we went across here and we ran together around Allen crags and to Esk Hause Shelter. After Esk Hause I needed to top up with water and make sure I took on food and now Fran pulled away from me. The next stage takes us from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike and it isn’t as much a climb as I thought it was in my mind and so I felt like I made good progress here.
On getting to the top of Scafell Pike, with it’s head just in the cloud, it was a flurry with people doing the tourist thing. Coming off Scafell there is a quicker descent down the Scree run (loose stones) to join the corridor route but I wasn’t sure of the path so ended up going back the way I came before turning down at the col. On the way down I passed Tony coming up who didn’t seem too happy with his legs and the injury he’d had.
The run down to Sty Head along the corridor route was good, with no mistakes but by now Sty Head didn’t have many supporters left to cheer people on. Us backmarkers need support too you know!
In front of me now is the long climb up Great Gable and I needed to take on food. I brought along a couple of sandwiches and decided I needed to eat those but it was hard work chewing them and getting them down. Pushing on I couldn’t quite see the top as the mist was just covering the top but eventually the marshalls appeared and I started the run down towards Green Gable. Chris had told me to try the wider line coming out to the right instead of the tourist path but somehow I think I still ended up on the tourist path but did manage to miss out some of the scrambles that path presents.
I wasn’t feeling strong by this point but all I wanted to do was make the cut-off. Looking at my watch I felt that my time was improved on previous attempts and so I pushed on. A couple of guys that were running in front of me seemed a little hesitant on the route here and chose to wait for me and let me navigate them over Brandreth toward Base Brown and Honister but as we got closer they ran ahead and ended up taking the wrong line (i think it is) which brings them down right behind the slate mine but isn’t as runnable.
Eventually descending down to Honister I could see the final climb up to Dale head. With another look at my watch I was confident that I would make the cut-off this time. Running through the car-park I could see that I still had 8 minutes left until the checkpoint closed. As I no longer needed the bus fair, I made a quick detour into the cafe and bought used my bus fair to buy some Lucozade before starting the final climb.
Zapped of energy I climbed Dale Head. It’s not a bad climb on it’s own but at the end of Borrowdale it’s a slog. Slow progress was made and on looking back there were only 2-3 people behind me, but that didn’t matter. I just needed to get to the finish.
Eventually the marshalls appeared and the final climb was done. The tired legs now had to descend all the way to Rosthwaite and they didn’t really want to. Descending the 1st half to the quarry was slow And allowed one runner to leave mee behind