If I refused to run every time I did not feel like it, I would never run. Never is an exaggeration, of course, but finding the motivation to run is a constant challenge. Rarely more so than yesterday. I had been running 20 minutes since leaving Kirkstone Pass, the high level route linking Ambleside and Patterdale. I say ‘running’. I had only been actually running for about two minutes, such is the steepness of the ascent to Red Screes. I was cold. I had not eaten enough. I was tired. I had got myself in bother on some snow after losing the path. My conclusion? Knock this on the head. Head back to Kirkstone Pass. Turn around. My thoughts were flooded with conflict. You live in London, you’re not here very often, make the best of it, get on with it.
The good thing about the Lake District is that the hills come quickly, however. As soon as I had extricated myself from potential difficulties on snow, I could see the summit of Red Screes. Thereafter, this would not to be the most glamorous of runs, albeit prettily adorned by snow. First I went out and back to Middle Dodd, then, after dipping into Scandale Pass, gained a third Wainwright of Little Hart Crag, before another out and back to High Hartsop Dodd. It takes discipline to do these out and backs. Nor is there much logic to this practice, although I can see why High Hartsop Dodd – a bump on a grassy ridge with a lovely view – is a Wainwright.
I still felt cold, hungry and – frankly – rather unwell, but I persevered. I had now gone too far to turn back; the end was nearer than the start. Dove Crag was an innocuous lump; I had to check with a walker that this was indeed Dove Crag. Hart Crag was more impressive, Fairfield, the highest point of the day, even more so. Fairfield will always represent a personal psychological barrier; it was here that my Bob Graham round came close to capitulating. The mountain gods did not want me here today. The wind was ferocious, picking up crystals of snow and flinging them in my face. I wandered over the lip of Fairfield, glanced at Seat Sandal, before the wind called time and hurled me in the direction of Great Rigg.
The ridge over Great Rigg, Heron Pike and Nab Scar had looked runnable and kind from Dove Crag, and so it proved: with Windermere ahead and the Coniston fells dominant slightly to the right, this is some of the finest mountain running terrain in Lakeland. A mile of road running took me to Ambleside, the culmination of three hours, 12 miles and 10 Wainwrights. I still felt all the things I had on the climb of Red Screes – and worse. Was it worth it? Should I have turned back? I glanced north to Fairfield and traced the undulating ridge south to Nab Scar. I smiled at the thought that less than an hour ago I had been up there and now I was down here. It was definitely worth it. It is always worth it.