'Pull up a sandbag' it's Tour De Helvellyn

The Lake District is a beautiful place and I've had the pleasure of getting to know it more and more intimately over the last 6 months. The Tour De Helvellyn (TDH) a race on the 22nd December 2012, ensured that I saw parts of the North-eastern area that I'd never seen before. 

Physically, I was (still am) carrying an ankle injury and was hoping that it would see the race through. Remarkably the swelling had gone and the bruising disappeared. My ankle has aesthetically/superficially healed incredibly fast. I'm convinced that my speedy recovery owes a lot to my kindness to myself, for eating a super healthy diet. I've now got three months of rehabilitation however I'm well on the mend. Anyhoo, I digress, so, TDH and I was super excited for this race

I'm not going to give a point to point account of my race, there are plenty of blogs that give a far more objective and clear overview of the course that what I can do. The truth about my race is, well, I had a stomer, I was going well, fuelling well, consistently paced and having a wonderful day out. Until the 'Time of Doom' that is. 

I was one of the last folk to leave the start, being a staged start, anywhere between 7 and 9am, I liked the idea of starting later when there was light, and with a potential time (or there about) in mind, I had no plans of finishing in the darkness and so was hopeful to both start and finish in daylight. 

This is where the problem originated: between the start and the first checkpoint at Martindale Church. You see, I'd not had sight of any other runners over the top of Askham and Barton fell(s). I managed to convince myself that in spite of my recce runs, that there must be a much quicker (and less complex) route that most other folk were using. The seed of doubt in my navigation (as usual) was there however I put it to the back of my thoughts and carried on with a great run. 

I was starting to tire after 5 hours of pushing hard, and whilst my foot felt swollen I was not in pain with it, and I continued on with a slightly slower pace. The only time I struggled with the elements was climbing sticks pass. Brrrrrr, it was cold, icy, snowy and icy-boggy over the flatter cross paths at the top of the pass before the descent. I managed to time my need for fluid well with being at the coldest point of my race. So taking my empty bottle, clumsily shoved it into a small waterfall drenching my gloves in the process! There was no need to get the fingers amputated after the race, however I did take several hours to thaw out.

It was nice to slowly move through the field of runners as the race progressed, there is something that I find comforting when I'm passing others rather than the other way around, as usual in the fell and trail running world, everyone is so friendly and encouraging and it was a pleasure to chat with others as we spent moments of time together.

And so I was excited for the final run back to the finish once I'd checked in the last checkpoint at Martindale Church and with a renewed spring in my step coupled with the butterflies in my stomach, I started to climb  for the last couple of miles to the finish taking in Askham fell. Having spotted a chap I'd spent some time with earlier I hooked up with him and took the climb together. Now, given my doubt about my route choice over Askham at the start of the race, I was secretly pleased and happy to let my running buddy take me a different way. I was big smiles as I was being shown a quicker route. 'Oh how I laughed'..... until I started to get the impression that we were going way too far right however I was not confident enough to continue with the challenge when I asked my  buddy. All of the time, my alarm bells screaming, 'swing a left fairy, swing a left'. I kept wandering left and my buddy pulled me back to the right again. 'It's left it's left, no no It's right it's right'. Half an hour later I twigged we were 'lost'. The next 45 minutes or so were spend wandering around on Askham fell, in the now dark, clueless. I leaked a tear, I knew the race was gone and I surrendered to my position, deeply disappointed in myself, I could think of nothing short of finding my car and going home. We attempted several routes trying to find Askham and it was only when seeing three other chaps that were also 'lost' that we found a path that eventually led us back towards civilisation. It was like a scene from a Zombie film, five figures battered and beaten, wandering around on that fell side. I'm pretty sure my head fell off a few times.

I learnt a lesson on the 22nd December 2012. You take a risk when you choose to follow another runner. I knew the TDH route and my desire to do well (i.e find the best line/route choice) over ruled both my keen sensibility and common sense. I thank my buddy for helping me to cement this lesson and hope that we can run again (the less scenic short cut/long cut route) in the future. Thanks to Joe at Nav4 for setting and Organising this beautiful race. 

George Starkey Hut00:41:5101:38:23
Swart Beck Footbridge00:39:0102:17:24
Stannah Footbridge00:35:5502:53:19
Swirls Car Park00:21:1203:14:31
Birkside Gill Footbridge00:34:3503:49:06
George Starkey Hut01:26:5905:16:05


  1. Regardless of the outcome I think your split times speak for themselves. Good running Tracy.

  2. Gutted for you- 6-15 at martindale was a bloody fast time.
    I'm sure you will want to put it right next year.
    You looked in great spirits when you were going up Boardale doing the mobot!!

    Im afraid the photo didn't do it justice!!


Post a Comment