One of the biggest races on the British ultra calendar took place at the weekend and it was so exciting that it broke the weather. This was the Montane Lakeland 100 and 50.
There are so many things that make this event a very special one on the running calendar. This was our third year there and we asked a few first-timers what their initial impressions were on the Friday night. The word that kept coming up was community – from the moment they arrived at Coniston they felt they were part of the ‘Lakeland family’ and they kept bumping into people they knew. When you arrive at the school that serves as a base for the race you see a field full of tents and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a music festival. But with more compression socks.
It was the 11th edition of the event (see our review of all the winning times) and conditions had been pretty perfect in the run-up to the race. The runners set off in the 100 mile race at 6pm on Friday evening, in sunny and very humid conditions. By the end of the race the weather would be very different. After weeks of unbroken sunshine, in the Lake District(!), the heavens opened in spectacular fashion and the temperature halved.
From the start there was a small group of runners, including Sabrina Verjee (last year’s women’s 100 winner and previous winner of the Lakeland 50), who led. Conditions were great for the first part of the race and the leading group made light work of the first few checkpoints. A light drizzle started just after darkness fell, which turned into a few heavier showers and things started to get a bit slippier out there. By morning the weather was pretty perfect – 16 degrees and dry. But it wouldn’t last.
The 50 started at Dalemain (checkpoint 8 on the 100 race) at 11am on the Saturday and those runners didn’t really have the benefit of nice conditions for much of the race! Wind, heavy rain and even, reportedly, a bit of hail made things tough going for them. I think that a lot of runners got caught out by the weather in both races. There’s a long list of mandatory kit for this race but it’s a minimum for safety and a dry long-sleeved layer would have gone down a treat for many of the slower runners at some points.
One fantastic highlight of the race this year was women kicking ass. For much of Saturday it looked like we might have a woman – Sabrina Verjee – winning the 100 outright. It was only in the final section, a climb from Tilberthwaite and a descent to the finish, that she was overtaken by Ken Sutor. It was an incredible run from Sabrina, who finished 10 minutes behind Ken (in 23.05). Kevin Hoult finished in third (second man) in 23.30 and Simon Bourne was fourth overall and third man in 24.11. Christine Waller was second woman in 27.20 and Helen Price was third in 28.21.
In the 50 Katie Kaars-Sijpesteijn, previous winner and record holder for the race, hovered in the top 5 overall all day and won the women’s race emphatically, finishing in fifth overall. Oliver Thorogood won the men’s race in 7.36 (the second fastest winning time in the race’s history), Cees van der Land was second in 8.02 and Adam Lloyd third in 8.03. Rachel Normand was second woman in 8.58 and Jess Gray third in 9.06.
The Montane Lakeland 100/50 is definitely worth putting on your running bucket list if you want a race that’s about testing your limits and spending a weekend in the heart of an amazing community. From the fairly unorthodox race briefing that will make you laugh and cry, to the themed aid stations with the most incredible volunteers (though people dressed as Gene Simmons from Kiss can be confusing when encountered at dawn after a night of running) to the cameraderie you’ll experience from your fellow runners, this is a running experience more than a race.
For more information about the Lakeland 100/50 go to: www.lakeland100.com