Andy Falconer

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Windermere Marathon 19th May 2013

28 May 2013 | Leave a Comment |

My reason for signing up for the Brathay Winderemere Marathon   in the English Lake District was two-fold. Firstly, it routinely appears in lists of the most beautiful marathons (2nd most popular marathon in Runner’s World magazine 2011), and secondly I spent four years living in Ambleside in my student days & so it would be a trip down memory lane.

Lake Windermere is the largest lake in England & Wales and is surrounded by hills. It’s quite remarkable that it is virtually exactly 26.2 miles around it by public roads! The marathon is run as a fundraiser by the Brathay Trust, which exists to improve the life chances of children and young people, often working with some of the most vulnerable and ‘hard-to-reach’, helping them to develop the confidence, motivation and skills that they need to unlock their potential and make positive changes in their lives.

What makes the Windermere marathon unique is that approximately 1,000 of us join around 15 amazing people who have run the route, once a day, for the previous 9 days! They are competing in the ’Brathay 10 in 10’ challenge. All of a sudden you feel a bit of a fraud complaining to yourself that the hills are big, or your legs are feeling tired, when you’re only running the Windermere marathon once. We cheered this intrepid group off on their final circumnavigation of Lake Windermere, about an hour before the official start at 10.30am.

Registration is all done online and you can pick up your bib number (with built in timing chip) either the night before or on the day from 7.30am onwards. The ‘Expo’ consists of Pete Bland Sports selling running gear as well as last minute essentials, along with a massage service. Parking is in the field by Brathay Lodge and there are a really friendly team of stewards on hand. Plenty of Portaloos, along with coffee and bacon buttie stalls made it feel more like a village fair that the start of a marathon. In fact, there is a Family Fun Day put on for those longsuffering families who have come to support – a brilliant idea!

We get our briefing instructions at the finish line then march down to the start behind a drumming band. The whole route is run along public roads, but for the first 10 miles or so the road had been closed to traffic. After that it’s just a case of sticking in to the left hand side.

The scenery is stunning, running along roads surrounded by woodland, fields and hills. Hills. I forgot to mention them didn’t I! You wouldn’t expect anything less in the Lake District.

 

 

As you can see from the course profile, there are a couple of hills which provide a bit more challenge than others:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miles 14 and 21 were the ones which I found particularly tough. The others are early enough in the run to still have fresh legs, but for someone who lives and trains on the flat land of York it’s a shock to the system.

There are regular water stops and the most helpful, cheerful and encouraging volunteers I’ve come across at a marathon. You get bemused looks from tourists as you run through the tourist-traps of Hawkshead, Bowness and Ambleside but no more so than the looks I got from Parisians at the Paris marathon last year!  You finish with a short, steep hill up to the finish line which is a bit of a sting in the tail before running through the finish line with Lake Windermere lying in front of you.

The medal is made from Lakeland slate and is very heavy & distinctive. No free t-shirt for this event – you have to buy it from one of the stands if you want one but given that I never really wear any of the souvenir t-shirts, it’s maybe no bad thing.

So in summary, this is the most beautiful marathon I’ve run, it’s for a great cause, there are enough runners to give it a buzz but not so many that you feel over-whelmed. The organisation is superb, the hills give a bit of extra challenge and the feeling of satisfaction as you lie in the grass after the finish line looking out over Lake Windermere is hard to beat.

You can watch a video of the 2012 event here. (4 hours 36 mins this time).