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Keswick Mountain Festival

As some of you know too well, Nigel Tillott has focused his last six months on long distance off-road running. Here's his story why...

"As my legs have been getting older and I have been finding it harder to sustain the same times and get excited about doing the same race for the umpteenth time I have been looking for new challenges. I have found them on the trails.

After last year’s Coniston Trails Marathon the mind started wandering and ended with the KMF Ultra combining the Lakes which I love with trail running. The route looked stunning so in a moment of madness I entered and 6 months of focused training followed. Some lovely races in the Brecons Peak District and Yorkshire Dales followed - and indeed some good results - but this run was altogether harder and with some hardened mountain runners.

A gentle but stunning start at 6am on the shores of Derwentwater started the day well. A still sunny day with fabulous views. It was soon the first climb of the day, in 3 sections up Walla Crag and then a rapid descent. Already it was clear that the runners all had different strengths and weaknesses. My strength ups or so I thought and weakness the downs - definitely. Soon it was the beautiful trail to Watendlath but rocky and uneven wrecking the rhythm. It was here that the first doubts set in as I felt I was losing ground. Another up and descent and then the long drag to Honister - still Ok to this point. Then even higher but a walk and a desperate rocky descent behind Fleetwith Pike as my lack of spring was cruelly exposed. Lovely round the back of Buttermere and Crummock although always needing to look at the next step. Became desperate for the next feed station as energy levels started to wane but still only half way. Then it got really hard. I think in ultra-runners terms I bonked. The next uphill was long and generally not too steep but I felt as if I was going backwards. Physically and mentally I had nothing. The top eventually reached and a technical but easier downhill but I was relegated to the heather as the nimble women runners rushed past. So from 22 to 27 felt rubbish toyed with quitting and eventually reached the next checkpoint. Two glasses of coke and some food and encouragement and I ambled on, hardly even wanting to run down a gentle road. .After sauntering up another slope I was then on a lovely even trail with views to Skiddaw. Suddenly the coke fuelled world felt better and the last 6 miles were enjoyable in a strange way.

Great to reach the finish line in stunning Crowe Park in 6 31. For the record I was 48th of 190 finishers over 33.5 miles (not 50 k as it says on the tin) - but the key was completing it. Never have I been so tested mentally and physically. As for the Keswick Mountain Festival - this is a great event with runs of all distances, triathlons, swims and cycles together with live music and speakers from the outdoor sports world. I would highly recommend it although perhaps with the 25k run option!"

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