Last updated: 30-Aug-18
By Ian Corless
The Lakes in a Day is a point-to-point race that starts in the northern town of Caldbeck and heads directly south way on down to Cartmel passing through three major points. The first feed station is Threlkeld, the 2nd is Ambleside, and the 3rd is Finisthwaite. The race then passes through Newby Bridge, which is at the bottom of Lake Windermere.
Departing Caldbeck at 0800 it was no surprise that with less than a mile covered, Kim Collison (pre race favourite) had taken the front of the race. The £500 ‘bonus’ prize for any male or female breaking the old course records surely providing a wonderful carrot.
The journey is a tough challenge even for the hardiest competitor. The 50-mile journey has 4000m of ascent including the stunning Helvellyn Ridge and the western shoreline of Lake Windermere.
In the ladies, the three main contenders for the podium, Helen Leigh, Sabrina Verjee and Lucy Spain all ran together in the early stages. Slowly but surely the elastic started to stretch and Helen took a stronghold of the front of the race.
Maps for the race are provided with a very clearly defined route which must be adhered to, the only exception being in the early stages when the runners leave Nether Row and head to the summit of Blencathara.
“This is a long run in wild terrain. If you are at the start line wearing a t-shirt and shorts carrying nothing but a bum bag, expect us to be asking a few questions. If the weather is bad, then pack extra kit. This event is not like many other ultras in the UK calendar – it goes up on to the high fells and STAYS up there so don’t take any chances.”
From the summit, the drop down the challenging rocky, scrambling terrain to Threlkeld found many reaching and needing 3-points of contact. Here, Kim Collison and Helen Leigh looked in their element moving fast over the terrain.
Unlike many ‘true’ navigation events, the use of a GPS is allowed and a GPX route is provided for runners in advance so that they can download it. Importantly, Thurlow warns, “GPS must not be your sole means of navigation for this event.”
Climbing out of Threlkeld, the tough climb to White Pike started the run along the high fells to Helvellyn before the route dropped down to Grizedale Tarn before then climbing back up to Fairfield and the long run into Ambleside.
Michael Barron, Jacob Snochowski, Stuart Dickson and Mārcis Gubāts were fighting for the podium places but it was 2nd or 3rd, Kim Collison was long gone. Sabrina and Lucy trailed Helen who looked stronger as the race progressed. Barring an accident, Sabrina would take 2nd and Lucy 3rd.
The tough and challenging terrain of the high fells transitioned into the lowland fells from Ambleside. Kim was now well inside course record pace as were the two lead ladies. It was looking like a costly day for James Thurlow, race director. If you have the legs in this section of the race, you can really run. For many though the first half of the race is so tough, the second half is all about survival.
Hugging the western shores of lake Windermere, the runners weaved in and out of forested terrain to the final checkpoint of Finsthwaite. From here on in the finish at Cartmel awaited very tired bodies.
Current course records were 10:37 and 13:31 for Tim Higginbottom and Cat Sutherland.
Kim Collison arrived obliterating the old course record in a time of 9:12:07. Post race he said, ‘It was one of those days. I felt really good and the conditions were perfect. I just made the most of it!’
Mārcis Gubāts came 2nd almost 75-minutes later in a time of 10:27:48 and Stuart Dickson completed the podium in 10:49:05.
Helen Leigh and Sabrina Verjee both broke the old ladies record and thankfully for James, he only had to provide the £500 bonus for the 1st lady. Helen’s time of 11:00:10 in comparison to 11:29:59 of Sabrina was a great time on such a tough course. Lucy Spain came 3rd in 11:58:48 also inside the previous record of Cat Sutherland.
Read about RunUltra’s Top Ten best ultras here.