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Lost in the Lakes! Keswick Mountain Festival Trail 10k race review


This 10k trail race is part of The Keswick Mountain Festival, a three-day long event on the banks of Derwentwater. By day you can you can race, sample outdoor activities like kayaking, browse stalls and listen to inspirational speakers. Then in the evening there's live music with Badly Drawn Boy and Dodgy featuring in this year's line-up.



The stage is set for live music in the evening with a beautiful backdrop


As well as running races up to 50k, there's also opportunities to compete in triathlons and cycling events. It’s the perfect festival for lovers of the outdoors and is child and dog friendly making it a fun weekend away for the whole family in the beautiful Lake District.


The Festival takes place on a weekend in May (this year over 14th-17th) with the majority of the running races, including the 10k, being staged on the Sunday. Due to its popularity and to avoid the course getting too congested, the 10k was set off in four waves of 100 runners between 10am and 1pm.

The course is described as ‘perfect for entry level runners who want to start trail running. It’s a mixture of wide open trails, some single track, a few easy hills with some road and fields to finish.’

That’s true enough if you stick to the correct course (except for the part about ‘easy’ hills, there are a couple of short, steep ascents and descents that your quads will remember the next day!). Unfortunately many runners (the entire field in the case of wave A) didn’t stick to the exact route as it wasn’t adequately signposted and there were no marshals until the last 1k.

keswick walk

This picture shows the track you run on around Catbells with the stunning view across Derwentwater

If you do follow the correct route, it begins beside Derwentwater and then weaves through woods before turning to begin a part ascent of Catbells. Unfortunately this is the turning our entire field missed and as a result ended up on a rocky, technical fell section that was difficult to run on and would eventually lead to the summit (thankfully we realised our mistake and turned back before going that far).

The section half way up Catbells is on an easy to run on track with spectacular views over the lake to Keswick. Once leaving the hill behind, it undulates through fields and woods until the last 2k is flat into Keswick, finishing on grass in Crow Park - the site of the Festival meaning there’s plenty of people to cheer you home and various food and drink stalls on hand for re-fuelling.

In a fun but unusual twist, as the race starts on one side of the lake and finishes on the other, runners are taken by boat to the start line half an hour before the ‘gun’ goes. This means once you leave the Festival facilities behind to catch the boat, there are no toilets when you get off and nowhere to leave your bags to collect them again afterwards - so you need to be in your racing kit when you board the boat. That’s fine if it’s a warm day as it was this year but might not be pleasant if it’s pouring with rain. Once we arrived we did find a car by the start line offering to take bags to the start but it seems we weren’t the only ones unaware of this facility as everyone arrived ready to race.boat

Team Striders awaiting the boat to the start line!

With the boat trip to the start line, an off-road course you had to self-navigate and spectacular scenery around the route, this race felt like a real adventure. If you do stick to the correct path it’s a challenging but not too difficult trail run, with a flat, easy finish for tired legs, so it does suit runners of all abilities.

As it’s part of the Festival, it provides a wonderful opportunity to tie a race in with a weekend away – particularly if you’re the only runner in your family. There’s plenty to keep children and other halves entertained at the Festival while you go off and enjoy a run.

My family and clubmates stayed at HF Holiday’s dog-friendly Derwent Bank Country House Hotel which was an ideal base for accessing the Festival as it was a 15 minute walk away (the 10k course also passes the hotel).

For our wave, this turned into a run rather than a race thanks to everyone going off course and as a result we ran more than seven miles rather than six. I also heard those on other waves had to abandon the run completely after going too far off course. It’s a shame as the situation could have been easily remedied with just a couple of marshals or clearer instructions before the race and a more adequately signposted route when the course changed direction. Unmarshalled road crossings also made parts of the course a little dangerous, particular one downhill off Catbells that went straight onto a road.

Afterwards, it took a few days for the results to be published and these had to be tracked down via their social media sites as there wasn't a link to this year's results on their website and they couldn't be found via an internet search engine.finishing

Finishing in Crow Park (eventually!)


The goody bag contained a medal, nakd bar, T-shirt, visor and randomly a can of red salmon!

For a £25 entry fee, some of the organisation wasn't up to scratch. Just a few marshals on the course and better signposts would have meant this was actually a race rather than what turned into an orienteering event for us. But now I know the route I would definitely do this race again as I loved the scenery and the twists and turns through forests and around Catbells that made it all an exhilarating and enjoyable run.

I’d recommend it to people interested in giving trail running a go and to anyone who wants an interesting change from road running. The Keswick Mountain Festival it is part of is also well-worth a visit. The combination of activities, races, food, drink and music - all surrounded by spectacular scenery - provide a perfect balance of my of kind of r n’ r… running and relaxation!

Race reviewed 17 May 2015 by on Lucy Waterlow, finishing time 1 hour and 32 seconds - including detour!

For more information visit keswickmountainfestival.co.uk

Thanks to Mike Jubb for the race photos