I'd travelled up from Cornwall with Wanda Summers and her friend Steve and we had a mammoth ten hour journey. We arrived to find our hosts Simon and Julie had saved us some food though which was kind of them and soon we were fed and watered, had introduced ourselves to a few of the others and made and arrangement to be up at 7 for a pre-breakfast run.
Now its not often I find myself crawling into bed with a Welshman but confusion over the allocation of beds and my arrival in the room after lights out brought this event close to a reality! Some hasty negotiations with the Youth Hostel staff soon led to me being found a bed of my own though and all was well with the world!
In the morning we were surprised to find the rain had stopped and a few of us headed out the door for a quick run. This was limited by the need to return for breakfast but got us out in the open and enjoying the scenic hills. The rain returned on the way back but did nothing to quell the thrill of a fast couple of miles down to the hostel.
After breakfast - full English of course - the rest of the group started to arrive and before long we were getting to know each other before heading upstairs for a quick photo and the start of the day proper.
Following a welcome from Simon we were introduced to the Berghaus trail running product line.
To support the needs of their sponsored athletes Philippe & Anna Gatta in their attempt to run the Great Himalaya Trail Berghaus created a range of super light high performance clothing. The highlight was the Hyper Smock, the worlds lightest fully water proof jacket, weighing in at only 84 grams. Also on show was the Vapour claw shoe; a fairly lightweight model with an aggressive sole clearly designed with UK trails in mind, plus a very nice looking mid layer - the Hypertherm Jacket, which, through clever use of different materials, could be reversed to give more or less insulation as required.
|Hyper Therm Jacket|
We got to taste the product range while at lunch. The fact they have managed to pull off palatable flavours such as Rhubarb & Custard, Apple Crumble and Blackcurrant Yoghurt is nothing short of miraculous.
After lunch came the guest speakers:
Steve Birkinshaw was first up. With a list of achievements as long as his arm, not least the 2012 victory at the Dragon's back were were treated to a mixture of advice on training, dealing with negative thoughts and an overview of his preparations for his next challenge - an attempt on the record for the fastest navigation of every one of 214 Wainwrights.
Next Came Helene Whitaker. Helene won the Dragon's back outright in 1992 and came 4th twenty years later in 2012. Her honest appraisal of her own strengths and weaknesses and determination to do what was necessary to overcome them left an impression; not a strong navigator (hilarious to hear her tell of once taking a bearing on a sheep!) she made sure she had run the entire Dragon's back course beforehand to ensure she knew where she was going.
In both talks what struck me was, as with many other people here this weekend, that these two ordinary people were achieving extraordinary feats through hard work and determination. Occasionally though the competitive killer instinct could be seen shining through as they spoke of the races they had been involved in.
Later on we were privileged to watch the film of the Dragon's back race with Steve in attendance. Its a brilliant film, made more so by the company in the room at the time and I'd advise anyone with an interest in trail running to seek it out.
Before that though we headed out for the second run of the day. Essentially following the same path as before but with a little more time on our hands we climbed up to Red Tarn below the final slopes of Helvellyn and I arrived just in time to see Steve and a number of others strip off and dive into the freezing waters! No thanks!
The next morning we had another chance to go running. There were three groups - Steve leading the way with a fast group, Helene's husband and another guide whose name, to my shame, I have forgotten (Joanne?) took a middle pace group while Helene herself led a fast hike.
We were together up to the Tarn and then split into our respective groups. To my surprise, rather than following the obvious path up to Swirral edge we were directed up a ridiculously steep grassy hill to reach the summit of Catsye Cam. This is probably bread and butter for the fell runners among our group but it was hard going for me. Worth it though as the views were incredible at the top and we had a great downhill onto Swirral edge, before a scramble up the edge itself. Every now and then I remember how much I miss climbing and how I must make the effort to get out more and this was one of those times. Topping out onto the summit of Helvellyn we proceeded then onto a series of rounded tops - some of the "Dodds", a group of grassy rolling fells - before finally dropping down via a stream crossing to return to the Hostel.
Having run almost exclusively on the coast paths this day was a massive eye opener for me; I could have just carried on all day exploring this runner's paradise!
So that was it, I'd done some cool runs, met some amazing people and learnt an awful lot. I still have a lot to learn but my confidence is up and I'm motivated as hell to get out and run long. Thank you everyone, its been an awesome weekend and one I won't ever forget!