Training Weekend, Staveley 17km race

Lakeland Trails, Staveley 17km Trail Race. It may be along way from an ultra but it’s a great course, and provided the perfect opportunity to put our racing shoes on . . .

The day before our Lakes trip I sprained my ankle whilst scrambling over rocks. I’ve done it before and managed to run it off, but this time it just didn’t feel right at all. On the drive north I stopped to buy a compression support and spent the rest of the journey in 4th gear; using the clutch was proving difficult. I remembered reading about Scott Jurek winning the Hardrock 100 in record time with an ankle to rival the Elephant Man’s, so I told myself it would be fine and ignored the physio’s advice.

Now in its 13th year, the Staveley 17k race is well established with a strong following; as a part of the Lakeland trail series it attracts some serious competitors. During the race build-up the commentator joked that the shorter your shorts, the faster you are. I did a quick survey of the kit on view, and found that both Tim’s shorts and mine seemed significantly longer than average. It didn’t bode well.

The first section of the race takes you up through Staveley, over the river Kent and out onto the fells towards Kentmere village. It’s a slow ascent up tarmac roads and I must have been overtaken by at least 30 runners (including Tim) within the first 3km. It always takes me awhile to get going and I find 10 miles a tricky distance to race; too long to go ‘all out’, but too short to find a steady pace. Tim, on the other-hand, was seemingly on good form, chasing down the leading pack and showing no signs of flagging.

After leaving the tarmac behind I started to gain momentum, partly, I suppose, because my ankle stopped protesting at the constant pounding from the road. It wasn’t long before I was closing in on Tim, who I later learned had taken a tumble on one of the rockier descents and gone over on his ankle. I didn’t know this at the time, so instead of being compassionate I was spurred on by my apparent turn of pace.

Tim sat for 5 minutes and considered his first DNF (did not finish) before remembering the race t-shirt he’d receive if he made it around the remaining 7km. Never one to turn down free kit, he dragged himself to his feet and pushed on. It was at around this point that I remembered the bet we’d had: winner buys the beers (the course conveniently ends at Hawkshead Brewery). Still ignorant of Tim’s injury, I imagined he had taken the bet very seriously and was easing off to avoid a mammoth post-race spend.

After a long, beautiful section of undulating, well-worn grass trails came the summit of Reston Scar, notoriously known as the ’sting in the tail’. It’s a relatively short climb but on tired legs it felt punishing. Once over the top, though, you’re hit with the consolation of amazing panoramic views followed by a freewheeling descent all the way down to the river bank, which leads you back to the finish at the village recreation ground.

I came in 22nd, shortly followed by Tim in 35th. Considering the 190 contenders and a significant shortage of working ankles, I felt we’d earned the beers that followed. Tim saw a first aider at the finish line and she suggested that alcohol might help accelerate the effects of the prescribed medication. Doctor’s orders, then! We never argue with the experts.

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