This is the first Durty event I’ve ran in but I’m sure it won’t be the last. From start to finish Durty give you everything you need to have an amazing experience and they do it for an incredibly reasonable fee.”

Chris Breslin 
Age: 34

I’ve been running ultras for almost two years. Before that, I’d always done a bit of running, often as part of my daily commute, but never trained seriously. Like for many people, lockdown changed things.

In a bid to stay sane I used those long hot months of the first lockdown to train towards an unspecified marathon. I found that the training injected a welcome sense of challenge and adventure into my every day and things quickly snowballed. With no marathons on the horizon, I set myself the challenge of running from my home in south London to the coast. After a bit of research, it turned out that my random flight of fancy was actually this thing called ‘ultrarunning’. I completed the first, and only, ‘Sydenham-to-the-Sea’ 100k FKT in December 2020 and I was hooked.

I spent the first half of 2022 training for a 24hr track race followed by the South Downs Way 100 in June. After SDW100 I was after a challenge that would take me outside of my comfort zone and get me away from the carefully manicured trails of the south-east. Lakes in a Day fitted that bill perfectly. I’ve always loved losing myself (often literally) up in the mountains so when I stumbled across LIAD and the chance to complete a point-to-point traverse of some of the country’s most dramatic peaks, I knew I’d found my next race.

After a good performance at SDW100 I knew I had the fitness to compete over the distance. I’d been working with an awesome coach, Ryan Miller of Maverick Running for almost a year and together we put together a training block that kept building my overall fitness whilst also sharpening my skills on the sort of technical terrain I could expect on LIAD. I averaged about 90 miles a week in training, mostly easy stuff along pre-dawn streets of London, but also weekly tempo and hill sessions with plenty of strides chucked in for good measure. I also managed some big weekends up in the hills: Brecon, Snowdon and, crucially, a full recce of the LIAD route over two days in September.

The Race Experience

LIAD is an excellent race for anyone looking to experience their first big mountain ultra. The course is tough but the cut-offs are forgiving and Durty gives you all the support you need to complete the race. As long as you’re comfortable being up in the hills for long hours, and you have a decent level of endurance racing fitness, then LIAD is for you.

For me there were so many highlights from race day. The mass start from Caldbeck was incredible and its really life affirming to know you’re not the only weirdo who’s into this ultrarunning malarkey. The incredible experience of overtaking Jasmin Paris for about forty seconds before she quickly dissolved into the mist ahead, never to be seen again, was definitely a high point. But for me cresting Dolly Wagon to see the vista of the Southern Lakes unfurl itself before me really stands out. Glimpsing the sea far out on the horizon and knowing you’re going to have to run all that way really gives you a sense of just how epic an achievement completing this race really is.

Personally speaking, I found the descents from Halls Fell and Fairfield (shudder) were really frustrating. Although I’d spent a few miles on similar terrain during the build-up I had nowhere near the experience to keep up with those waif-like fell runners who streamed past me so I had a lot of ground to make up on the climbs and flats.

Chris Breslin, Lakes in a Day 2022, Halls Fell Ridge

Everyone you come across on the day is raring you on. From the organisers to your fellow competitors, the aid station volunteers, to the random walkers up on the hills, everyone seems to have a word of encouragement and a cheery wave. Most strikingly, every village you pass through on the way seems to be lining the streets and greeting you like you’re the representative of some liberating army. Who knew so many people still owned cow bells! With all of the Lake District seemingly cheering you on how can you fail. This support, along with the epic route, is what really makes LIAD standout for me and its clearly testament to all the hard work from everyone involved that this support seems to endure year-in, year-out.

This is the first Durty event I’ve ran in but I’m sure it won’t be the last. From start to finish Durty give you everything you need to have an amazing experience and they do it for an incredibly reasonable fee.

My Advice

If anyone is thinking about entering I’d definitely recommend recceing the course in advance. It’s a stunning route and completing it over two or three days would be an absolute pleasure in itself and will let you know exactly what’s in store for you. And even a bit of familiarity with the route really helps reduce the apprehension we all have before a big race – and in my experience makes for a much more enjoyable day.

If you want to enjoy the race take it seriously and give it the respect it deserves. Put in the training, work with a coach if you can trust, and make sure you’re comfortable up on the hills. It’s one thing to complete the race and it’s another altogether to enjoy it. Don’t be the person who has a miserable time because they’re underprepared. The training really is the fun part so embrace it!

My Preparation for Lakes in a Day  

Races for me are just a vehicle to get me out there training. I probably ran around 1,000 miles training for the 50 miles of LIAD but without that big scary challenge on the horizon there’s no way I would have ran all those miles. Even though I know full well just how amazing running has been for both my physical and mental health I still find I need a challenge worthy of my respect to give me that extra push to get out of the door some mornings. Thanks to LIAD and the training it required, I got to enjoy countless sunrises, endless miles along the river, and some stunning big days out in the hills. My physical and mental health is all the better as a result.  

For events like LIAD, this is where I learned the difference between ‘fell’ and ‘trail’ running shoes. Although experience is undoubtedly the most important factor, having proper fell running shoes is essential if you want to compete in the first half of the race. Otherwise, keep it simple, stick to the mandatory kit list, and you’ll be fine.

Like my approach to kit, I try to keep my nutrition simple. I eat as usual the day before the race with a couple of extra sports drinks chucked in there to keep the carbs topped up. In the morning I always bring my own overnight oats so there’s no surprises, and then for the race I rely on drink mix (I like Tailwind) and gels (Gu). One 500ml bottle per hour and a gel gives me about 50g carbs and all the water and electrolytes I need. Repeat x11 and you’re sorted. I couldn’t talk about nutrition without bigging up the post-race dinner. As a vegan these can often be fairly uninspiring affairs but this stew was so good. I went back for two further helpings!

Final Thought

I ended up completing the race in 11:01 against a target of 11:00, and yes, that one minute really bothers me! But, despite the errant minute, I had an amazing experience on race day and countless similar experiences during all of my training as well. Running is good for us in every conceivable way so sign-up to LIAD 2023, get out there training, and I’ll see you on the start line.