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RatRace “Man vs Lakes” challenge – Paul Reynolds – 15th July 2017




It was an early morning start 5pm alarm call to get up and out of my tent at Great Langdale campsite to the event finish for a 0715 coach. A minibus followed by a packed large coach took us to the start over on the far side of Morcambe Bay to the start.


Having been enticed by the snazzy video (loving the dramatic music!), it was a different reality stood on the side of Morcambe bay in the wind and rain for an hour waiting for the briefing and start. We started half an hour late, waiting for a tractor to appear somewhere which would be our guide across the 10km Morcambe Bay crossing. Driving the tractor was apparently Cedric, “Queens Guide to the Sands”, the official guide to the bay. Having joined the Bowland Penine Mountain Rescue Team after the fateful Chinese cocklers incident, I was fully aware of the reputation of the bay.


It was pretty clear we were going to be wet for most of the day when what little bits of us were dry were soaked within 20m of the start as we charged en masse through the first of a number of channels, 2 of which were around waist height. This wasn’t going to be like my weekly early morning beach run along the sands of the Witterings!


It was a pretty impressive sight looking around and seeing a chain of 640 runners snaking along the flat sands of the bay in the mist.


After an extended crossing (making the total distance 28 miles rather than the predicted 26), we came to our first checkpoint and pitstop when we hit land. Given the long queue here and having a rucksack of mandatory equipment including food and drink, I chose to try and make up a few places I’d lost and skip the pitstop.


This was followed by the vertical kilometre, a timed “race within a race” climb.


We were rained on for most of the day. Having already had a few hundred runners through, the footpaths were very torn up in a number of places and were simply mud pools. All part of the Man vs Lakes challenge! (Not very good for the environment though!)


I have no idea what route we followed (the map was a different 2016 route), but we went via Newby Bridge and headed up to Grizedale Forest in the direction of the finish at Graythwaite estate. After checkpoint 2 it was getting a little monotonous, and thankfully just about then the obstacle element came in to liven things up; just as the weather started to dry, every few kilometres there was a lake crossing, river swim, or obstacle course to complete. (Think “Total Wipeout”! They were similar, but not identical, to the obstacles in the video above.) All basically designed to get you soaked. Lovely on a hot July day I’m sure, but just turned your Gortex jacket and rucksack into an inflated lifejacket when already soaked J.


Getting towards the end, there was an enjoyable trail run alongside the edge of lake Windermere, but I had remembered something in the briefing about “a sting in the tail” before the end. This turned out to be a big hill in between us and the finish, and somehow I managed to overtake a good few people in these last few kilometres where they were walking uphill tired.  I was determined not to be overtaken on the descent, and just in the last kilometre someone had a good go at trying to catch me. I impressed myself (running not being my strong point!) and just held them off with a sprint finish, thinking it was a clear run to the finish. But this turned out to involve a final stream crossing, and just meters before the finish line, a rope pull up a slope/jump down a deceptively big drop. Thankfully there was just the one rope, so once I got my hands on it I had beaten the chaser, and could focus on just not slipping up on the wet slope after almost 8 hours of trail running!


I enjoyed the event despite the weather (all part of the Lakeland experience!), but wouldn’t really say the route reflected the best the Lake District had to offer.


I then spent 2 days with my Scottish friend Stuart hiking around far more scenic and mountainous parts of the Lakes in clear blue skies and glorious sunny warm temperatures. On the Sunday we had a low level hike near Elterwater as I recovered after the previous days event. On the Monday we went from the campsite over “the Crinkles” and Bowfell on a 14km hike with amazing weather.


Overall time:   7 hrs 42 mins

Distance:         28 miles

Overall position:         438th of 640

Male Veteran:             122nd of 158