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Coniston Race 2014

Phil Burgess reports on his adventure in Cumbria

My first Coniston 14 was in 2006, the 25th anniversary of the race, a beautiful undulating 14 mile course around Lake Coniston in Cumbria.  I’d been tempted there by an old friend and work colleague who persuaded me to join a well-established male-bonding group who meet up for an  “outdoor” weekend, to include the race, for a number of years.  Up on the Friday, race Saturday morning, omelette lunch at a greasy spoon on the home stretch then on the mountain bikes for an afternoon “jolly” up the unridable Cumbrian hills.  A skinful of ale on Saturday night, then on Sunday, by way of further relaxation we go hill scrambling or make a casual climb up Helvellyn! 

Back then I was the oldest and fastest (1:42).  Now, as I add my sixth slate memento to the other five, I have to report slipping to just over the 2 hour mark.  But I am still the oldest!

The race is brilliant.  Some 1800 runners (quite a lot of look-alike “cotton tops”) assemble in the school field by the famous Coniston Steam Gondola jetty for a well-organised, unfussy start.  Admin is impeccable and understated.   There is chip-timing with texted results.  Plenty of trade tents, food and drink and hot showers!   Interestingly, they can’t afford to pay for road closures, so they aren’t any  Everyone just co-operates and the police are on our side!  (Wimborne 10 could maybe save a penny or two?).

The course heads South along the 593 to Torver then heads to Water Yeat where it crosses the first bridging point.  This was washed away after the big floods in 2009 which led to the race being extended to 17 miles for a couple of years. Ouch!

The return leg along the side of the lake has got to be one of the most scenic of runs.  A big climb at 11 miles at John Ruskin’s famous Brantwood house and all the hard stuff is over.  Less than 3 miles takes you round the top of the lake and back into Coniston.  It’s a long way to go, but add a few days and/or take the bikes up too and it’s well worth the effort.

Phil Burgess


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