Monday, 4 July 2011

the what and the why

I’m sat here currently dosed up on anti-inflammatory pills, every now and again forgetting that I’ve sprained my ankle, only to stand up and be sharply reminded of said fact.

This weekend Matt and I headed up to the Lakes, as any regular readers will be well aware, to compete in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon. Well, I say ‘compete’, but really our main aim was to have a good time, find out what Mountain Marathons are all about and of course, to finish. I guess two out of three ain’t bad!

To cut a long story short, I must offer my humble apologies to all those generous enough to donate as unfortunately we didn’t actually finish. I managed to roll my ankle very early on on Saturday (in fact, before we’d even reached the first of out seven checkpoints). Of course, anyone with any real sense would probably have turned around and bailed there and then. Predictably though, I chose the stubborn and mildly farcical option of using a short length of duct tape to strap up the afflicted ankle and after taking a large dose of painkillers decided to carry on. Some six hours later we made it into the remote camp after having successfully hit all of our checkpoints. Mind you I could barely walk by that point, and I was cursing my old shoes that were slightly too big, the many bogs we’d trogged through, the wet patch on my arse where I’d slipped over in the mud, the horrifically steep bracken covered slope that constituted the final main descent (the race organizers were clearly sadists), the old sunburn I’d had that was blistering badly, and the new sunburn I’d acquired on my legs, as well as the pains in my ankle and knee.

All in all I hated most of it. The pain, the navigational cock-ups meaning we managed to add a few additional km onto our route, the heat and the sheer torture of it all. Every now and again though, I’d managed to catch glimpses of magic through my pained haze.


Matt was loving the midges at basecamp

I’ve never been a big fan of the Lake District. Too many people, too many tourists and people with no real appreciation of our mountain environment. This event granted me a slightly different view though – a view of areas well off the beaten track, still with lots of people, but people all out there for the same mad reasons as we were – we’re all at home in the hills. The weather was incredible, visibility beyond comprehension, with clear cloudless skies. Running along the tops was at once hell in knee deep bog, and heaven in the brief glances at what surrounded us. Even through the pain I'd look up and shout at Matt to look behind us, to just stop and see why we were there. More than once the vista took our breath away (which in fairness wasn’t too helpful seeing as the whole running thing is quite breathing intensive).

On Sunday morning we awoke to another incredible day, but it was with a deal of sadness and despondency that I made the decision not to run. My ankle had swollen up badly overnight, and my previously injured knee that had spent all of Saturday compensating for my ankle, had kept me awake by stiffening up and shooting pains up and down my leg every time I’d moved. We managed to grab a lift back to the start/finish, laid in the sun for a while and then set about finishing up and heading home.

As I sit here, occasionally swearing as I manage to bang my ankle against the table leg, the fact that I didn’t finish the race niggles at me. There was no way I could have continued, but it still grates. That’ll be my competitive side showing through I guess. The Rab Mountain Marathon is going to be in North Wales in September this year, so it looks like I may well have to have another go…


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