4:30 wake up, 5 a.m. leaving, 5:30 a.m. breakfast, 6 a.m start…
It was the final communication before they set off…
With 47 miles of gruelling mountain trail ahead, our intrepid walking companions – John and Angela, launched themselves into the dawn of a beautiful May morning, along with hundreds of other walkers, each determined to pit themselves against an entire circuit of all the hills immediately surrounding Lake Windermere – England’s largest lake.
There is increasing interest in the undertaking of what have become know as ultra-marathons. These attract both runners and walkers, who battle against the demands of energy and endurance as they attempt the enormous undertaking.
It’s difficult to go from ordinary local walks to, say, a 24 hour race of this nature. The LAP 24 hour race (of Lake Windermere’s surrounding hills) was created to offer a ‘gateway’ event for runners and walkers to step up to the level of ‘ultra marathon’, but within an infrastructure of support in the form of online navigation, food and real-time tracking.
Safety and support are provided via five fully stocked food and drink way-stations along a route that circumnavigates Lake Windermere – Lakeland’s gem and Englands’ largest lake. There is no danger of running out of fluids … or calories.
The fully signposted route – with no less than 1,600 route marking arrows – is a challenging 47 miles long and follows some of the most stunning, runnable/walkable trails in the Lake District; many of them taking in the best views and vistas that the region has to offer.
At the half-way point there is even a bag-drop station, allowing a flannel-wash and refresh of clothing without the imposition of extra weight.
For those who finish there is a free meal and a medal made locally from fine wood.
The course has been cleverly created with the intent of attracting both those who know they can cope with this distance and also those who want to test themselves and see how far they can – safely – get.
Remarkably, those supporting the brave souls actually walking or running this vast distance are able to follow their progress via GPS tracking signals and mapping software. The result is an ‘eye in the sky’ experience that unites walker and supporters via a phone or computer screen. The signals are generated by an electronic tag attached to each competitor’s bag or clothes at the start of the race.
Those taking part have an eye-watering 24 hours to navigate the course around this most beautiful of England’s large lakes. This sounds generous but slow progress would entail walking through the day and night – a daunting prospect when you’re very tired and one that may not be safe.
For this reason, there is a focus during the second half of the walk – from Troutbeck onwards – on forecasting each competitor’s finishing time and counselling continuation or retirement.
Our friends had done really well, considering this was their first attempt at such a gruelling challenge. They had already traversed Claife Heights, Loughrigg Terrace and Wansfell Pike before descending to the way-station at Troutbeck.
They consulted the guides at the way-station, then each other, and laughing good-naturedly, decided to take the sensible option, and retire.
They plan to return next year, battle-tried and more experienced at the distance, to pit their determination against the beautiful peaks of the LAP event.
Angela later said, “Although we didn’t finish the race, we could think of no finer way to spend a day in the sunshine. It was truly beautiful up there…”
©Stephen Tanham 2023
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.
http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog
Thank you for this, Steve. I’d not heard of it before. That’s a punishing route, to say the least. Anyone who finishes even half of it deserves the title of superman/woman.
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It is indeed, Michael! Hundreds did finish.
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