My travels around the UK were nearing their end, but the road still held a few more unexpected surprises.
After my wonderful Hebridean experience I had arranged to visit some friends, Fleur and Jethro from my University Fell Walking Club days for lunch in Glasgow before heading home.
I arrived on their doorstep, just as they returned from swimming practice with their young daughter. It was lovely to be immediately absorbed into family life and I threw myself into helping out with carrying the multiple bags that every parent needs to survive just stepping out of their house. We caught up on a years worth of life and adventures over food and got chatting about what they were planning for the rest of the day. It turned out that they were heading south to The Lake District for a fell running race the next day.
This rang a bell.
My friends in Lancashire, Feleena and Chris, who I had visited a week before had both mentioned they were training for an up and coming fell running relay race. Was it possible that they were all going to the same one? I guess there are not that many fell running races in the Lakes and it turns out all four of my friends would be there. This was too good an opportunity to miss. I delayed my drive home and decided to experience my first mountain running race with friends from different parts of my life.
Just before setting off to the Lakes Jethro happened to mention that 5 minutes walk from their house, the Turner Prize art exhibition had just opened. My jaw dropped. Everyone has heard of this due to some controversial works of art including an unmade bed by Tracey Emmin and cows in formaldyhyde. So, we popped in. Sadly, there was nothing as dramatic as previous years but they had a choir that was one of the living art pieces who sang throughout the day and night, a wonderful artists work shop and some random chairs covered in fur coats.
The drive south was magnificent through the heather clad hills and a golden setting sun. We arrived in a snug village in the Lakes near Derwentwater, five minutes from the start of the race. We headed straight to a cosy local pub for a hearty meal and ale. My friends daughter promptly made friends with the entire pub as she practiced walking and exploring around the room.
Our base for the night was a house five minutes from the race start. It was kindly offered to me by one member of Jethro’s fell running club, many of whom were participating. After settling in I enjoyed sharing the essential fell running food – Haribo, discussing crazy race logistics that were needed to get 8 people in 2 cars to 4 destinations and watched the dismal loss of England in the rugby World cup.
The race day arrived and began with proper Scottish porridge around the kitchen table before heading out to the start of the fell relay. My friends from Lancashire arrived. It was great to see them again and it encouraged friendly competition between the two running clubs from Lancashire and Scotland. There was buzz and banter as everyone warmed up for the first leg of the relay in amongst a herd of hardy sheep. A great sense of community and camaraderie was all around me. I had never seen anything like this in the Lake District before, it was really exciting, in a Northern kind of way.
We cheered and clapped as the first runners set off high into the fells. Everyone had a running buddy in case of emergencies, this also helped spur on slower runners. The elevation and distance the participants were running in 30 minutes or an hour would take me 6 hours to walk. They made it look easy. We then set up camp at the third leg of the race to welcome in a fresh faced Feleena, who, despite being kept awake by her children did her section in good time.
The race ended with 8 runners from each team congregating on a large village green and enjoying a warm drink, beer, barbeque and more banter together. A fantastic experience of something not many people ever get to see in Britain.