My marathon training never really got off the ground this year. I managed to miss out on the usual half marathon races, and was beginning to face the fact that a few 10k plods along the Kelvin with the baby jogger wasn’t exactly cutting the mustard. So when I happened across an advert for the Coniston 14 while staying in Lancaster this week, I jumped at the chance to test out my race pace to get a clearer idea of how April 13th would pan out.

Although the race was officially full, I managed to wangle an entry on the day. I’ve no idea how many runners there were, but I was 1276, and the place was mobbed. The race is organised by the local community and raises money for the Ulverston hospice. It’s marketed as an undulating course which follows the perimeter road of Coniston water. ‘Scenic’ is an understatement with the fells below Coniston Old Man on the outward, north side of the lake grazed by sheep and their new lambs, and the return leg on the south side winding between the old forests of Grizedale and the water. Racing conditions were perfect; the mist lay low on the water making for a cool morning with a very faint breeze.

There were so many runners jammed into the narrow road that I couldn’t work out which end of the road the race started. Fortunately, I chose the right end. Although relatively near the front, weaving my way through the elbows and tangled ear phone wires without coming to blows with anyone provided the first useful piece of marathon training. By the fourth mile, the field had stretched out and I’d found a comfortable pace. The course was quite hilly, but not nearly as extreme as I had feared, akin to the steepest hills of the Pollok park run. I was surprised to find myself gliding through the first half of the race without a sense of strain or fatigue and gradually pulling forward through the field.

At the 8 mile water station I’d passed the only female I could see and took on some water and reluctantly ate a little.  The next few miles passed quickly; I was running in a pack and this helped me to keep focus and a steady rhythm. Coniston village, at the head of the lake came back into view at mile 11 and it felt like the home straight – a manageable 5 km. A female appeared at my shoulder and pushed the pace. I stuck with her, dropping the pack and soon another female came into view ahead of us. We descended fast into the village, passing the female and a few others. I thought I’d let her go on as my legs were beginning to tire, but somehow stuck just behind her and as we turned into the final road, I overtook her. I couldn’t quite reach the female just in front as we braked to make an awkward sharp right turn into the finish funnel.

I finished in 100 minutes (ish), I was 3rd V35 and 10th female which meant I was presented with a prize by Billy Bland, who acknowledged the club with slightly raised eyebrows.

Results will appear here: http://www.coniston14.co.uk

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