Running the Skiddaw Fell Race

The Skiddaw Fell Race in Keswick, England was challenging. It was scary. It made me nervous. It was unlike any event I've ever done. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography

I've ran races that were tough physically. Races with stunning scenery. Those that have tested my mental toughness. Small races. Races with local history. The Skiddaw Fell Race was all the above. And once I was up in those mountains with the city down below and the Lake District views all around, I was loving every aching moment.


Leading up to the event, inov-8 had prepared us with everything we needed to know about this event. (For part one of my epic England running Adventure with inov-8, check out my other post). From the gear we would need to the skills for tackling the Skiddaw Fell. Inov-8 athletes Ben Mounsey, Mary Wilkinson, and Ben Abdelnoor were great in providing Team Get a Grip valuable insight into the tricks of the trails. And they didn't sugar coat it. The race was going to be tough.

Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography

With over a 3,000ft climb, Skiddaw is the sixth-highest mountain in England and located in the beautiful Lake District National Park. And it's the first summit of the popular fell running challenge knows as the Bob Graham Round (running 42 Lake District fells within a 24-hour period).

That's only a *portion* of the climb. And what runs up, must run down!

The Skiddaw Fell Race was like no other in many ways. One major difference was the kit requirement! In order to run, you had to have the following with you along the way:

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Whistle
  • Compass (yes, a compass!)
  • Map of the route (now you know why I was nervous. People can get LOST!)
  • Emergency food
Inov-8 was amazing and provided us with everything we needed. We were kitted out in some amazing inov-8 gear made for any conditions this race might throw at us. More on that gear later.

I ran the race in the brand new inov-8 TrailRocs!!

The race didn't start until noon, so we were able to go for a quick little hike to check out the course beforehand.


Me explaining to Ben that I may need someone to come find me if I don't make it down. LOL

The Skiddaw Fell Race takes you to the top of Skiddaw Mountain, where the only checkpoint is the summit carin. Once you've touched the carin (summit marker), you simply turn around and run back down. For a total of 9.6 miles. I definitely was nervous. Not just for the physical challenge, but I always get into my head before a race. All I wanted was to do was perform my best and hopefully finish under 2 hours. But despite all the pre-race butterflies, I was still extremely excited to tackle the challenge.

After we checked out the course, it was time to put our kits together, grab one more cup of coffee (or tea), and head out the door!

Obligatory pre-race selfe. Time to go!
Kitted out and ready to run! 
The "lucky 7" excited and smiling.


The Skiddaw Fell Race isn't a large event. It's not your typical advertised run. Runners aren't elbow to elbow. There's no big arches or crowds. No finisher's medals or shirts. And that's what makes it so amazing! A race stripped back down to it's core-simply challenging runners to push their limits. 

The race started with only ~150 participants eager to tackle the challenge.

The Skiddaw Fell Race is organized by the Keswick Athletic Club and the entry fee is only 7 pounds. You are required to bring some sort of treat for everyone at the end--potluck style. A real hometown feel with incredibly friendly people all around. 

The first mile or so wasn't very technical trails, but rather packed dirt and although a gradual uphill, it was run-able. I was feeling good and pushing the pace a little. The weather was perfect for running and the views were the most amazing I'd ever seen! 



Eventually, as we started getting higher and higher, the run-able terrain turned a little more rocky and the climb got steeper and steeper. I would run where I could, and then power hike using the techniques the inov-8 athletes had shown us. 

The top seen here is NOT the end of our climb, merely a "flat part" for running before returning to the endless climb.


The views continued to get better the higher we climbed. The city we had started at was tiny in the distance, and the mountains closer and closer. There were no crowds of volunteers. No aid stations. A few scattered clusters of people cheering and a few photographers. Beyond that it was just us and those mountains. Truly spectacular. 



Photo Credit: Stephen Wilson w/ Grand Day Out Photography


Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography


Eventually, we had climbed high enough to join the clouds in the sky! The fog got thicker and thicker. Eventually it was like something out of a Harry Potter movie, runners bursting quietly from the mist. A very cool sight to see. Although a little daunting because we couldn't see where the top was!



As we ran amongst the clouds and got closer and closer to the top, it got cold. And WINDY! Thankfully I was prepared. I wore my new inov-8 merino wool base layer, rolled down the sleeves, the built-in mitts, and pulled up the hood. A fell Team Get a Grip member who spotted me on the way down, told me later that I looked like ninja running up the mountain all bundled in black. I was thankful for the gear that kept me warm but defiantly didn't feel like a ninja! Haha.

In fact, I was very disoriented at the top of the mountain. The wind was roaring like a storm blowing through. I think if I yelled I wouldn't have been able to hear my own screams. We'd went from Harry Potter novel to Stephen King!


We finally reached the top and there was a marshall shouting to touch the carin and turn back to start the decent down the mountain. As I stumbled around the summit point and began clumsily navigating my way back the other direction, I spotted a family sitting calmly amongst a rock shelter eating sandwiches. This was just a normal Sunday hike for them! Definitely some new found respect for the locals. 

Once I'd cleared the fog, the wind stopped and I was able to get my bearings once again. Except this time, I was totally focused on staying safe on the steep decent. The pace on the way down was significantly faster. I had to slow down to keep myself from twisting an ankle or falling. Meanwhile some of the more experienced fell runners flew past me like a blur. It's all about those downhill skills! 

Photo Credit: Stephen Wilson w/ Grand Day Out Photography

Eventually I made it to the hard-packed part of the trail and was able to really pick up a more comfortable speed. I started to go the wrong way, but thankfully a friendly runner yelled at me from behind and steered me in the right direction. 

I ran into the finish wearing with the smile every runner has when you've finished a challenging race and pushed yourself hard. My Team Get a Grip friends and inov-8 crew were there waiting to high-five me on the way in. 

Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography

Chatting with the runner who helped guide me in the right direction to the finish. Friendly and fun runners everywhere!


After the race, finishers gathered around for overall winner announcements and random prize drawings. Yes, those pineapples were prizes! They even had prepared hand-written thank you notes for the Team Get a Grip participants. How awesome is that! Plus, tea/coffee and homemade cakes and sandwiches to stuff our faces with. 




I was incredibly proud of myself. I managed to finish in 1hr 50 minutes, so I had made the goal I'd set for myself! Not bad at all. And I felt extremely accomplished in tackling this challenge.

Looking at the race results 

I was also so proud of of my Team Get a Grip friends and the inov-8 crew. Everyone did amazing! Some of us may have been sore and limping (including me), but our energy was palpable and our smiles wide.

Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography

Courtesy: James Carnegie Photography

The Skiddaw Fell Race was really an amazing experience that I won't ever forget. And now that the race is over, I keep looking back at the photos and start itching to run more of the trails, tackle more of those beautiful Lake District Mountains. And most of all, I miss my inov-8 friends that suffered and laughed right alongside me. 

Thanks for reading and Happy Running! 

Photo Credit: Stephen Wilson w/ Grand Day Out Photography

Comments

  1. Wow. What an amazing experience! Congrats on achieving you goal & luckily not getting lost :-)

    ReplyDelete

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