At 37 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing the Old County Tops race is essentially a week of “Bob Graham” training in a day. Run in pairs and visiting Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old it provides, on a good weather day, a fine tour of a big chunk of the Lake District. The finisher’s tee-shirts are highly sought after and my 2005 edition is one of the few race tee-shirts I wear.
In 2005 Kev Lathem and I took over 11 hours of our allowed 12 hours to complete the race on another day when the weather was less than kind.
Finishing with Kev Lathem
Flush with our success we went back in 2006 when Kev had only just completed a course of antibiotics and was still suffering their effects and we retired at Angle Tarn. In 2007 we returned only for Kev to tear a calf muscle on the first climb out of Great Langdale. We retired more or less immediately and that seemed to mark the end of my involvement with the race. Last year I set off with Albert, who also only had one finishers’ tee-shirt, but Albert’s migraine defeated us at Angle Tarn on an exceptionally hot day. Almost immediately we agreed to come back in 2011 when the weather couldn’t possibly produce another scorching day.
After Angle Tarn we climbed above the cloud base and back into the strong, cold wind that had already blasted us on Helvellyn. Scafell Pike was a busy, windswept summit and Upper Eskdale provided a welcome respite from both the wind and the crowds.
By the time we reached the hause between Grey Friar and Great Carrs the rain had arrived. Beyond the hause the wind drove rain and hail almost directly into our faces – the only consolation being that heading away from Coniston Old Man the wind and rain would be on our backs.
Somewhere on the climb out of Cockley Beck Albert damaged a knee and then found running down hill painful – which was particularly unlucky because by that time downhill was about the only place I could still run. By that stage we would have walked or crawled to the finish line – our unofficial time of 10:05:37, some 3 hours behind the winners, may make you think we did but it isn’t true. We completed our “unfinished business” and left Great Langdale with our 2011 tee-shirts.
Now we both have two each, am I really beginning to wonder about a third?