I hurt. Everywhere. But it’s worth it, in return for an exhilarating weekend in the Lake District with a group of wonderful friends!

Here’s the breakdown: two nights in a cute B&B in Ambleside; a crazy 17km trail race on Saturday afternoon in fantastic weather; a delicious, indulgent post-race dinner at the aptly named Drunken Duck; a tough but stunning 9M hike/scramble/run from Glenridding to Helvelyn via Striding Edge on Sunday; and a never-ending, four-part train/tube journey and walk in the pouring rain home (okay, that last part – not fun).

We arrived relatively late on Friday night (the journey is about 3.5 hours from London to Windermere on the train) and had a relaxing night at our B&B, Easedale Lodge. After a good night’s sleep and a big breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove to Staveley for the 17km and 10km trail races in the early afternoon. It was a glorious day out – sunny but not too hot, with a chilly breeze – perfect running weather! Here’s part of our group just after we picked up our race numbers.

The scenery was fantastic although the course itself was perhaps not my favorite – I hate rocks, especially loose rocks, and most of all on steep downhills – although this run had a bit of everything in terms of terrain. My body took a beating, but it was a good challenge and a fun day out, particularly because I ran most of the race with a couple friends, which I never do. It was like a guided training run, so chilled out! Well, at least in the beginning…Here’s one of the official race photos (excuse the circles), just under an hour into the race.

At a certain point, actually before the above photo was taken, the terrain became a lot more treacherous, even at my slower than usual pace, and my sole focus became simply not falling over or twisting an ankle. I did slip and fall on my knee once, but thankfully on soft grass so no harm done! I separated from my friends and tried to pick up the pace in the last few miles or so (I couldn’t help it – it was a race after all), which went well until I hit a series of turnstiles and various things we had to climb/jump over (walls, rivers, animals…), followed by a never-ending killer uphill and an equally endless rocky downhill to the finish. This was particularly nerve-racking because the front runners of the 17km Trail Race, which had started an hour after the Challenge, were yelling at me to move (there was nowhere to go) while barrelling down the narrow path and practically knocking me over. But I survived and eventually was back on the tarmac, pushing the pace once again.

I managed to squeeze in a nice long sprint finish on the grass after crossing the bridge above, coming in 47th out of 280 runners in the Challenge with a time of 1:47:47 (I would’ve placed 169th with that time in the Trail Race – although obviously I would’ve been going faster had I done the Race). Here are my Garmin details – unfortunately my watch died at 1:39ish, so it’s missing a chunk towards the end, but you get the idea. My friends came in a couple minutes behind me, in 53rd and 55th place, and E came in 133rd, just over the two-hour mark. I tried running with him but it didn’t quite work out – gave up after doubling back to find him several times and literally not being able to go his pace – thankfully he didn’t mind. He prefers to run alone, as I often do.

After finishing, we collapsed on the grass with well-earned pints of cold pear cider and some food, while waiting for our other friends to finish the 10k and soaking up the race atmosphere. Good times!

And what’s better than passing out on the grass after a race in the sunshine? A hot shower and nap back at the B&B, followed by a massive, delicious dinner with our friends! We booked the Drunken Duck months in advance, and it was definitely worth the wait.

We were hurting on Sunday morning – not sure if more from the copious amounts of food and red wine or from the trail running – but that didn’t stop us from attempting a massive hike a few towns away with another couple as insane as us! Our friend had been raving about a popular 9M hike from Glenridding to Helvellyn via Striding Edge – it was probably the most hard-core hike I’ve done in a very long time, not even taking into account that we practically had to run the entire second half down the mountain to get back in time for our cab and train!

I took hundreds of photos – just couldn’t get enough of the scenery! I’ve included some of my favorites below, and uploaded a few more here. You can also check out E’s Garmin details – he had his watch running for parts of the hike – the elevation profile is mental!

We started in the town of Glenridding – here are the boys referring to the trail map to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.

Nice and easy to start, well, for everyone except for E, who apparently didn’t get enough trail running in the day before!

Gorgeous scenery – so green, so many adorable lambs!

We were all quite stiff from the previous day’s trail race, but after warming up a bit, it felt great to do a proper hike. The sun wasn’t shining, but at least the weather held for most of the afternoon.

Action shot! [cue theme music]

It was so exhilarating being up in the mountains – a great escape from London!

Although I still really didn’t like the rocks, especially given I wasn’t wearing proper hiking boots. My trail shoes did the job, though!

The hike was reasonably challenging but not too bad up until this point – where it became a somewhat scary climb to the summit. It’s hard to get a real sense of scale in the photo below, but it was like walking (/climbing/crawling) along a jagged knife edge. Incredible views on all sides – although I was trying my best not to focus on anything other than my feet in front of me!

Here we go!

E was totally in his element and kept running along the ridge and along the trails beneath. It was kind of giving me a heart attack.

And there he goes again, thankfully on a safer trail!

This next rock climbing part was the only section where I was actually a bit freaked out – but E guided me through it and I quite enjoyed it in the end. I was, for the most part, too busy trying not to die, but managed to snap this photo before going down.

Having finally completed the ridge portion of the hike, we took in the views. Was hard to believe we had just done that (look at how small the people are in the distance)!

But it wasn’t over yet – next up was a tough scramble up to the summit. I was pretty much on my hands and knees, trying not to slip on all the loose rocks, so no photos of this section, although here are our friends on the other side of the mountain, nearly at the summit (there were many different paths to the top).

Finally, we made it – stunning 360 degree views of the lakes and mountains!

And then we took a nice lunch break, checking out the views on the other side. I can’t tell you how good our sandwiches tasted!

Unfortunately, we had a cab to catch at 3:30pm – we knew when we hit the trail a few hours before that the timing would be tight, but having just over an hour to get back was insane! And so we ate quickly and pretty much ran a good chunk of the way back down the mountain. Except, as you can see, a lot of sections weren’t exactly conducive to running…

Thankfully, the path evened out for a bit, but then went back to rocky steep downhill sections. We ran/walked and as the deadline drew closer, practically flew down the mountain. It’s a miracle we didn’t get injured – it’s always when you’re very fatigued towards the end of a run or hike that you often get hurt. Although we were certainly hurting!

We were making great time and thought we would hit 3:30 on the dot when we discovered we had taken a wrong turn, putting us one town over from our pickup location. And so E and I pretty much sprinted the last couple of miles to Glenridding and just barely caught our cab. Another one of those marathon-like moments where you get a surge of energy you just didn’t think you had in you! Slightly stressful, but what an exciting afternoon.

Back at the train station, after discovering we had gotten off at the wrong stop and missed our connecting train, we sat in the waiting room, still sweaty from our sprint finish, while the pain of the day(s) really started to sink in…

But as Murakami’s saying goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” So true – so much pain, and yet so much happiness.

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