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Reach For The Sky | Lakes Sky Ultra

I was keen to get a report on the Lakes Sky Ultra into the magazine. Skyrunning is an interesting concept with a mix of skills required; and on the day of the race the weather turned biblically bad and the photographs showed a bunch of runners in bad conditions, low visibility, but still grinning at the camera. I read a few reports and it sounded great – but I knew there would be another story to tell, another angle to explore.

I contacted Charles Sproson, the race director, and he put me in contact with first female Sarah Ridgway and second male Gareth Hughes, and together we compiled a report from both their points of view. Their finishing times were over an hour apart and so their stories were subtly different, but I enjoyed mixing the two together and I think the result is one of the strongest articles yet to feature in the magazine. It’s filled with passion and drama, and tells the human story of two runners near the front of a hellish mountain race.  Here’s a snippet:

Sarah: The first slap in the face came just before Striding Edge, when I was knocked quickly out of my bubble by a gust of wind that blew me off the path. I guessed the wind gusts to be around 60mph, and prepared myself for a rather spicy Striding Edge. On the scramble itself the winds had eased, and I got on with the exercise of safely tackling the ridge line rather than worrying about racing. My arms were weakened by the cold, and I tightened the toggles on my jacket hood to shield my face from the lashing rain. Alone again, I kept running and scrambling into the grey…

…The next thing I knew, I was sitting in scree; which is how we started this tale. Ah! So I’m just in a low, and all I have to do is get back to one of those highs. Dusting myself off, I tottered down the technical slopes and washed my shorts clear of grit in the river.

Gareth: The mist was thick as we exited Striding Edge and made our way up Nethermost Pike. I was in a little discomfort and had to submit to the call of nature. As I saw Eirik disappear into the mist I knew I wouldn’t see him again on the course. When I got going again I was considerably slower without someone to pull me along, but I was happier running my own race and had a moment of reflection, looking back on my performances over the past few years since I started racing. I’ve fought in previous races, but it’s not possible to do that all the time.

I think I’ve started to dread the painful week of recovery when I’ve pushed that little bit further. I find I recover a lot quicker, and certainly feel like I’m adapting positively to the pressures of running and racing, but feel it’s the right thing to run within yourself sometimes, pushing the boundaries from the inside, exploring limitations from your comfort zone, withdrawing when it feels right to do so, being intuitive. I had that privilege at this race; I knew Eirik was too strong for me to beat, and I had a good lead on the other competitors. It was also an opportunity to fully absorb this amazing course, all of its complexities and unique character that came from the vision of the two very passionate race organisers, Andrew Burton and Charles Sproson.

To read the full article, please purchase Issue 3 of ULTRA, available via mail order from here priced £8.95 + p&p.

– Andy

[Photo: Sarah Ridgway traversing Striding Edge, by Steve Ashworth]