"} Get a life, Get active! By Fit Lesley: Challenge 1 - Keswick to Barrow Walk - May 2011

Challenge 1 - Keswick to Barrow Walk - May 2011

Training for the K2B Walk 2011

Towards the end of 2010 someone suggested the challenging 40 mile Keswick to Barrow walk to me.  I looked into it and before I could think about it too much I had a team of 10 rounded up and I somehow became team leader!!  In January 2011 we had our team entry approved and we became Team 211.  At this point I started to wonder what I had got myself into - after my initial panic I sat down and drew up my training programme (see below!).  With the help of runkeeper tracking my walks I managed to stay on track with my training programme, even managing additional miles each week. To view the mileage I actually achieved and the routes I walked, please visit my runkeeper page on  http://runkeeper.com/user/fitlesley/activity/34666974   My only low point came at around the 20 mile mark, when I became tired and began to doubt my ability and fitness.  However, I now believe this was due to a poor mental attitude, rather than my fitness levels. Once I got through this barrier I sailed through the following weeks. When I first contemplated undertaking this challenge I had not truly appreciated the time commitment the training would demand as the walks became longer.  I did the majority of my training walks on my own and found it helpful to listen to music, the radio and even audio books whilst walking.  During my training walks problems arose involving my feet and underwear that I had to find solutions for to ensure my comfort on the big day! After trying many variations I eventually managed to find sports underwear that were comfortable and didn't cause any chaffing. My feet did not suffer any blisters whilst training but I did suffer from severe prickly heat on the tops of my feet causing intense swelling and incredible itching. Someone on a running website recommended a product to me called bodyglide which you rub onto the affected area prior to walking and ... HEY PRESTO problem solved! http://www.bodyglide.com/ 

The Day before the Big Day

As the nominated team leader (this is when I realised why I had been nominated team leader!) I had to go to Barrow the day before the walk to collect my teams lanyard chips and information.  I was pleasantly surprised how well organised the whole procedure was and I was back on the road to Kendal within 10 minutes of arriving in Barrow! I then distributed these to the rest of my team so that we could all leave the following morning in our own time. 

The Big Day finally Arrived! 
The Keswick to Barrow Walk - 7th May 2011

The Keswick to Barrow walk is a 40 mile (although this is debatable as some sources say its 42.5 miles) sponsored team walk (although some idiots do actually run!) through some of the country's finest countryside.
Teams of between 6 and 12 walkers (although you have to register as a team you don't have to finish as a team!) test themselves on this challenging route. 

I had arranged a lift to Keswick with 2 other member's of my team, with my husband being the taxi!  We had to leave Kendal at 4.30am, which meant getting up at silly O'clock to be ready in time.  The car journey to the start line was filled with over-excited lively chatter, as we tried to take our minds off the daunting task ahead.  We arrived at the designated drop off point just as Keswick was deluged by heavy rain!  After initially getting shouted at by an overenthusiastic marshall for trying to disembark the car in the wrong place, we eventually found ourselves amongst crowds of other excited participants. We decided we  had better visit the toilets before commencing the challenge, however this proved to be a challenge in itself with the long, very slow moving queue.  Everyone obviously needed a nervous wee!  We eventually got to the start line at 5.45am, registered our ID tags at the checkpoint, went through the gate and we were on our way! The walk takes in some beautiful views from the peaceful banks of Thirlmere at the foot of Helvellyn, winding up and over Dunmail Raise and down though the beautiful villages og Grasmere and Elterwater.  I couldn't believe how quickly and easily we came across the first of 8 checkpoints at Grasmere. In the early stages of the walk all the walkers were bunched up making it difficult to get a pace going, with the occasional runner weaving in and out.  

From here the walk passes Yew Tree Tarn before reaching the head of Coniston Water, where the quiet east bank of the lake is followed. There are fine views of Coniston Old Man as the route passes Brantwood, where a very good selection of food was being served, ranging from sandwiches to hot dogs and Hamburgers , fruit, biscuits, hot and cold drinks. As the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to poke through we also stopped to enjoy this banquet and I struggled to get my two partners in crime walking again!  In hindsight it would have been better (and quicker!) to collect the food and eat it on the hoof. The walk then continues through the tranquil village of Nibthwaite before arriving in Lowick.  In Lowick my husband was waiting for us with energy rich flap-jacks, Mars Bars and Lucazade!  Refuelled we were on our way again, just as it decided to start raining. At the most challenging part of the walk, the progressive ascent up Kirkby Moor to the highest point of the walk I left my walking pals behind as they were getting gradually slower and slower and I was finding it hard work to walk at that pace and I was also keen to get to the finish ASAP! The views from here were breathtaking across Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea.  Although i was now 'on my own' other walkers were very friendly and I always had someone to chat to when I'd had enough of my own thoughts!  The walk then descends through the village of Marton, and it was here where I received a huge boost when I came across several 'Good Luck' banners placed by a friend.  I got an even bigger surprise when I walked around a corner and my friend was there cheering me on!  She had walked and even run the route several times and was well aware that we might need some extra encouragement so close to the end!  I was very grateful to her for being so thoughtful and motivating!  The last few miles took me to the historical town of Dalton before reaching the finish on the outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness.  Going though Dalton and towards Barrow I received continuous support from locals cheering, clapping and beeping car horns as I went past!  As I approached the finish line with the crowds clapping and cheering I was focused on reaching the checkpoint, I considered jogging the last stretch but was worried incase I tripped and embarrassed myself infront of the crowds. When I put my tag on the final checkpoint I felt elation on hearing the final Beep as the machine registered my time. I had completed the walk (whoop! Whoop!) in 10 hours 33 minutes, not bad considering I had originally set my target to just finish, then decided I wanted 'to finish within 12 hours!'.  I had finished well within this time. I collected my medal  and time card before heading to the bar for a very well earned pint!!!  Being extremely competitive my thoughts quickly turned to next year ... If I didn't stop for lunch, if I didn't slow for team mates, if I hadn't taken photo's  - just how much could I cut off my time!!!  

I can't wait to give it a go ...  this time at MY pace!


  1. Well done Lesley. I am impressed.

  2. Thank you! Hopefully I will do it faster next year! :-)

  3. I am one of those idiots who run the Keswick to Barrow. Gonna try beat last years time of 6hrs 14mins..........I can only try

  4. Wow - I'm impressed! I'm gonna try and do sub 9 hours - not quite as impressive as your time! Did you run all the way? I'll maybe run down the hills lol