Lakeland Trails Coniston 15k Trail Challenge

At last we were heading back over to the Lakes. I’ve been dealing with the whole Covid issue with trying not to think about it too much, trying not to think about what we are missing, what we would like to be doing if we could… but in the van, driving over, seeing the scenery change, I realised just how much I’d been looking forward to this. We live in East Yorkshire, not far away from the sea, which means we go from flat farm land, to the Yorkshire Wolds and into the rolling hills and stone walls of the North Yorkshire Dales before the view in front of us opens up to the majestic hills of the Lake District. I will never tire of seeing that view. We purposely drive the scenic route rather than the motorway so that we see all of this, it is part of the time away, spotting places that we want to visit at another time.

For once we had managed to get set off quite early (9.30am is a record for us!), which meant even with a quick stop to buy a loaf of bread and some scone to make and eat lunch and a stop in Hawkshead to visit the Hawkshead shop to buy a couple of fleece tops for walking, we still arrived at the campsite by about 3.30pm. Plenty of time to get booked in, van sorted and the awning up. It was the first time on this campsite and we were hoping that the Lakeland Trail race start would be within walking distance. Thought we’d better check so after setting up, it was walking boots on and off to explore. About a mile from van to race start at Coniston Hall – definitely walkable (much to the relief of my husband who didn’t want to park on a soft grass field with all the rain that was forecast for Saturday!). The campsite (Coniston Park Coppice) is just a short walk down to the lake side, even if we weren’t doing the race it would be a really nice place to stay.

The race

Due to current circumstances the race was started in waves and we were instructed not to go to the start area until just before our wave. I was really pleased with the organisation and didn’t feel anxious at all (I’ve barely been out for the last six months so this is quite a big thing for me). We’d walked down to the race wearing plastic ponchos (very kindly supplied by our friends who were also doing the race) which were a fab idea as they kept us dry whilst waiting for the start. It was raining, it had rained all morning. We set off at 12.54 – the last ten minutes we spent wondering whether or not to wear our running jackets… we both decided not to as despite the rain it wasn’t particularly cold and we knew we’d be working hard pretty soon!

before the race

There was only the two of us in our race start, making for a very relaxed feel to the beginning of the race and definitely no going off too fast. The beginning of the race is on paths across the fields into the village of Coniston, through the village and with a left turn, following a lane which eventually changes to a stony track, up, up, up to the old copper mines. This is hard work and I walked the vast majority of the steep inclines. We did start to get a bit chilly as the wind picked up, the rain seemed to come down harder and we weren’t moving very fast but I didn’t bother with the jacket as I knew we’d soon be warming up again. Crossing the little footbridge at the foot of a waterfall the paths here change to single tracks with lots of rocks ready to trip you up. Yes, I managed to fall again! not badly, just ended up sat on my arse and a bit cross with myself. Another waterfall with a stone staircase to navigate, little bridge across the top and the most scrambly section of the run and I knew the inclines were behind me. A very quick stop to look at the old quarry and waterfall that my husband had completely missed last year (how??) and we were on our way down the hill. I love this part of the race. It is technical in that you are running down what is essentially a rocky stream bed – this year it was running with water the majority of the way – so you have to watch every single footstep to make sure you don’t trip, but I love it. There is a short section of road through a village with a very steep downhill and I’m happy to say my quads felt really strong and allowed me to really push the speed on this sections.

Across a very muddy couple of paddocks and back onto narrow tracks through the woods heading towards the lake – again this is very technical due to the rocks and tree routes and quite muddy in places but great fun. I was grateful throughout this race for the fact that I was wearing my new Saucony Peregrine trail shoes – much more cushioning protecting my feet from the rocks and I felt secure at all times. A sharp left turn and we were on the lakeside path. This is probably my least favourite part of the race, despite it being the last mile or so. Lots of it is good paths until the last few fields and the loop round the finish field. The rain had also come a few days too late to make the water splash anything more than a bit of a trickle so no wading through water this year!

during the run – just a bit wet!
coming in to the finish
washing off in the lake after the run!

Finish time 01:46:28

This is about 6 minutes quicker than last year, but I’d clocked the course at nearly half a mile shorter (due to the move of the start to allow for the staggered start) so not quite as much an improvement as it looks like. I was still really, really pleased with how I ran though, particularly considering it was late May when I tore my right quad.

T-shirt!
I love the Lakeland Trail finishers t-shirts. They bother with male and female fits which makes a huge difference for me and the Coniston shirt this year was a fab deep pink.

On the walk back to the campsite I realised just how wet I was, completely soaked through, consequently I got cold very quickly. But the van heating on full, a lovely hot shower and some dry clothes and I soon warmed up.

I will definitely be back to this next year, I love the Lakeland Trail events. We were supposed to be running Staveley for the first time in a couple of weeks but sadly that has had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed for May and our first experience of the Staveley course.

As we were staying over in the Lakes till Monday, we decided on a little walk on Sunday… I’d found a route that took us around Tarn Hows and up to Black Cragg, planning on parking near Tarn Hows. But as it was a gorgeous day (couldn’t have been more different from Saturday!) we decided to walk from the campsite – guessing that would add on at least four miles. I should have mapped it! We ended up walking about 12 miles total, but it was worth it. Tarn Hows was beautiful and the view from the top of Black Cragg was definitely worth it – 360 degrees of awesome.

Do you have a favourite place in the Lakes? where is the walk you would say shouldn’t be missed? We really want to explore more.

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