George Fisher’s of Keswick hosted the Salomon International team for a one off 5 and 10km run, part of Salomon’s Advanced Week.
Meeting outside of the shop, the weather was on our side, after a week of overcast winter conditions the sun shone bright and clouds dispersed over the town. As the crowd grew, the atmosphere began to rise as a quiet Thursday spring evening massed a crowd of over 150 people around the entrance. Meandering through bodies, the excitement was tangible and friends were eager to hit the fells.
Bumping into Victoria from the shop, I was taken to the very top, above the famous sign, where I could use the vantage point to get a group photo. This view point proved bountiful, as I was able to observe as athletes made their way to the store, as a series of selfies, conversation and photos fired off in quick succession. An excited crowd were now buzzing.As they were corralled into one huddle, the shout to look up went out and I was able to fire off a few rapid shots, before I made my descent down the cast iron spiral staircase, through the shop and out to the street.3 groups were due to set off, 2 running the 10km route up Latrigg Fell, one fast, the other slower, along with a third group for the 5km route. However, when Greg Vollet leant out the top window of George Fisher’s and announced Kilian Jornet would be in the first group, the vast majority turned and bolted, not wanting to miss the opportunity to run with the face of mountain running. They were gone.I’d held back opting for the second 10km group, as I was going to carry my DLSR and zoom lens on the course. It’s about time I invested in something smaller for on the run shots – and not a GoPro! Setting off, I was with Andrew who I’d met in Keswick two weeks previously who was still talkng about the theatre session. Winding through the old streets, we made it to the park, able to see the devastation brought on by the December floods, before crossing over the 66 onto the side of the fells. Leaving tarmac, runners began to attack the mud and rocky trails, as I ran ahead to stop for photos, before putting in short intervals to try and keep up with Andrew.As I expected, I struggled with the constant start/stopping combined with quick bursts. Following the trail, I was struck by the beauty, as shards of light burst through the now forming clouds, adding drama like an old naval painting of a sail ship fighting a rocky outcrop in high waves. Making it up the final zig-zag onto the fell summit, I glimpsed the assembled crowd jump for a team photo before dispersing down two trails dependent on prescribed distance. As you can see from my photo below, I was a little late to the main event.Descending on the return leg, I met up with Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens, quizzing Ricky on the events of December, along with the impact on social media Advanced Week had already had on the Lake District and fell running. Running on twisting trails, we soon arrived back in Keswick and at the doorstep of the shop.Thanking all who were there, I made my way back to my car for the 270 mile drive south and plenty of time to think about the day.
The run had been more than just running up a fell with elite athletes. For many it was a chance to connect with runners of all levels on a level playing field. There was no prize for first to the top, no competition, just like-minded people running for a common goal. For running itself.
And I think that is the best way to summarise the public day of Advanced Week. It stripped away all the marketing and products, allowing for the team of athletes to speak to everyone and anyone as people. As much as the public were excited about meeting their heroes, the athletes were excited about getting out on the fells and speaking to local runners, learning more about the running culture.
To top things off, Rickey Gates and Dakota Jones witnessed Oli Blomfield complete his Bob Graham Round on Sunday in 22 hours 12 minutes. With Rickey having completed his own round and having shown Of Fells and Hills at The Theatre Session it signed off an incredible week of fell running on truly global stage.
Image © Rickey Gates
I was lucky enough to ask the following team members what their thoughts of the Lake District were;
Kilian = impressive outdoor culture, great terrain to run, you want to link fells running until legs die.
Max = Challenging, technical and so much fun
Ricky = An endless mountain playground, with constant changes in terrain and weather conditions!
Phillip = I love the fells! That is all…
Tom = The fells are always an inspirational place and of course endless fun
Ryan = Totally cool, with some superb and challenging terrain for all trail lovers
Emelie = just amazing in so many ways! Beautiful landscape, villages and a wonderful running community!
Their time in the fells has had an obvious effect and I dare say this won’t be the last we see of them, whether racing or on personal trips. Who knows, we may see some more Bob Graham Rounds before too long.
Advanced Week has been one to remember and savor. I can only hope they liked the mud and rain so much they come back for more!