Rat Race are renowned for their challenging events such as Coast to Coast, City to Summit and Man v Coast. I have taken part in Rat Race Man v Mountain and Dirty Weekend events in the last few years and this year it was time to take on Man v Lakes which is the UK's most adventurous 50km distance running event with 4 cut off timings.
Held in The Lake District the event starts with an audacious and surreal 10km crossing of the quicksands of Morecambe Bay to Grange Over Sands. The low tide ensures a crossing path safe enough which enables participants to go through quicksand which is soft, it had mostly wet areas with water to calf height and some sections were coming up to hip height. Not easy with headwinds, a current, whilst carrying a 3-5kg camel back pack throughout the event. In the lead up to the event I had only been out for a short run with a camel back pack twice which was unbearable after a good hour mainly due to the extra weight and the heat. Anyway, all good so far and made it across to the first pit stop at Grange Over Sands.
Heading north through the mountainous countryside on a rollercoaster rocky running route which leads to Rat Race trademark section called "Vertical Kilometre" which is a timed 1km section up a mountain. No matter what, each participant blows their engine even when just walking up, but if you make it you can enjoy the spectacular views over Lake Windermere. More hills, forests, small paths and even sections where participants had to make their event paths through scrubs up to 2m high alongside a wall for several kilometres followed. I made it to the second pit stop in Staveley in Cartmel near Newby Bridge at roughly the halfway point (24km), about an hour before the first cut off time.
I was re-energised as I got to see my 3 girls who helped with re-fuelling. More hills, more uneven paths, more stones, more descents and more ascents followed finally leading to Upper Tarn where we had to waterproof our camel back packs as we had to swim across part of the tarn. This was also the 2nd cut off point, about 30km in and 50 minutes ahead of cut off time so all good. The water helped to cool my body and I had no real issues other than the odd cramps in mainly my left inner thigh.
The route took a loop at got us to the top west side of Lake Windermere where the view was breathtaking indeed. A descent on loose wobbly rocky paths later brought us to the first of many water obstacles where we jumped from float to float, swam to a small island and swam back to shore. Another kilometre later there where more water obstacles in form of doing some monkey bars on a float, another float was a slide, another float was a climbing frame and so on. Great fun for me but unfortunately some participants didn't do half the obstacles and weren't penalised for it either.
Anyway, I was here to mainly get base miles in and have a great time so it didn't matter to me.
Pit stop number 3 was reached, 35km in and about 30 minutes ahead of cut off time so all good. Whilst at the pit stop I hear participants talking about buses which, if you don't make the cut off time, these buses will bring you 2km away from the finish and then those missing the cut off can complete and finish the event. Health and safety first, no one is left in the mountains.
About 12km to go and one more cut off point which shouldn't be too much of a problem as this section was generously cut off timed and half of the distance was a descent. Still, with 2km to go there was some kayaking on Lake Coniston so I wasn't sure how long that was going to take. As I approached the kayaking area I saw my two girls who trotted about 200m with me to the kayak. Great support crew, it surely softens the pain.
Kayaking was lovely but I saw fellow participants skipping this part altogether. Imagine having overtaken these participants with hard slog they then manage to finish the event before me without being penalised. Then, to top it up, a bus turned up with participants who hadn't made a cut-off point and I saw these participants do the same, I couldn't believe it. Some participants hadn't made cut off 1, 2 or 3 and were now ahead of me. Just so off-putting but never mind, at least I did all of the event and for me, it was about finishing a tough challenge. I finished the 30 miles (about 50km) and 4200ft of ascent event with about 50 min ahead of cut off time. It was a lovely adventurous and scenic event with unfortunately an unfair mid-table finish result but my main aims of getting base miles in and completing a challenge had been achieved.