Learning to run in the Lake District – my Couch to 5k journey

Latrigg Running

“All that I need is this moment, to send me away with a smile on my face….” whispered from my headphones. 

As I leaned against the fence post on the edge of Derwentwater, my body tired but full of endorphins, these words rang so true.

I’d just run continuously for twenty minutes for the first time in my life. 

I was on week 7 of my Couch to 5k journey, one that I never thought I’d be writing about on my blog, but one I’m so proud and excited to share with you today. 

Before we head back to the start line, let’s get some context. 

My relationship with sport & running prior to living in the Lake District

As a child, I was never the sporty type.

I actively disliked PE, knowing that I was always one of the slowest, the last girl to get picked for team sports and always just missing the catches in netball, my brain always one step behind.

Sport made me feel a bit useless and demoralised. 

I felt much more at ease indoors, making things, reading or studying – an outdoorsy kid I was not. It’s funny how we hold on tight to this visions of ourselves deep into adulthood, the story that we tell ourselves ‘I’m not a sporty’ person, with a closed, fixed tight mindset. 

It wasn’t until I did my first ski season and I began working in Scotland during my summers in between that my mindset began to shift slightly. I learned to snowboard and dabbled in a bit of hillwalking and year on year felt the pull of the mountains which bought me so much joy. 

When I moved back to Nottingham for 2 years in 2015 to combine work and running a tiny cake business, I would occasionally go out for a reluctant run. With no goals and minimal motivation, I would usually be back home within 15 minutes, having just pounded the grey streets of my suburban neighbourhood. It never occurred to me I could run in the fields and small hills surrounding my house. 

I spent the summer of 2018 living in North Devon and after noticing I’d put on a little weight after my most recent ski season, I decided to try the Couch to 5K for the first time. 

The app gently builds you up over 9 weeks, the first week begins with running for 1 minute then walking for 1 minute for half an hour with a 5 minute warm-up and cool down walk. Whilst I enjoyed it, the three times a week sessions often felt like a chore, even though I was running down to the beach. 

When the heatwave hit in June, I gave up on Week 4.  

Moving to the Lake District 

Derwentwater Keswick

On my very first day at work, last April, my new colleague drove us to Borrowdale, 20 minutes north of Keswick along Derwentwater lake for our two day training session.

Nathan had just flown in from Australia having spent several months working as a running & orienteering coach. After many visits as a kid and teenager, he knew the Lakes by heart. 

As we drove up the valley, he named the fells (from the Old Norse word fjall, meaning mountain and often used in the Lake District) one by one to me, sharing his adventures in fell running. 

“Wait, what?! You run, up those hills?!”, I exclaimed with dismay.

He smiled shyly at my ignorance. This being only my third time to the Lake District, I had never come across the crazy pursuit of fell running. 

Over the next few weeks, I learned about this new world of running – from the famous Bob Graham round (running 42 Lakeland peaks in 24 hours) to the quirkiness of fell races, trods, lines and learning about past and present fell running legends from Jos Naylor to Nicky Spinks and Jasmin Paris. 

The majority of my colleagues at the hostel were runners, the weekly Parkrun was held in the park opposite and hiking in the hills you would often come across fell runners charging across ridges and down narrow paths. Nathan, who turned out to be my housemate for the summer too, was competing that season to be Under 23 English Fell Running Champion, and Dan my other housemate was training for the Bob Graham Round in September. Instead of being intimated by all this, it somehow ignited a true sense of inspiration. 

Keswick lived and breathed running and I was ready to dip my toe into this crazy world.

The next section is a month by month break selection of my favourite and most memorable runs, drawn from a combination of my personal journal and my Strava app where I geekily log all my runs. 

I think Strava can be used in quite a comparison-y kind of way, but I’ve used it more like a journal scrapbook to not only track my own progress but also add photos, descriptions, and my thoughts.  I’m so pleased I did as it’s now wonderful to look back on the journey! 

After initially feeling quite shy about making my Strava profile public, I actually found it really inspiring to start following other peoples running journeys and seeing the routes and adventures they’ve been on.

And so, here began my adventure. 

June 2019

18th June 2019

Railway Track towards Threlkeld

3.4miles 

I hadn’t planned to go for a run today.

I had no set goal, but after weeks of seeing the boys train almost daily, I downloaded Couch to 5k again, and just decided to give it a go. 

There’s an old track which runs from the leisure centre along the River Greta towards Threlkeld and I made a playlist of Happy Memories (which I still frequently listen to when I run) and just began. I was wearing my old battered Asics trainers I’d bought from a charity shop in London 4 years ago and Primark leggings and a holey vest top. No flashy kit here. 

I went at a snail’s pace. 

But I loved it. 

Especially running along the river and seeing the views back towards the fells. To my amazement, I ran the next day and still loved it, using it to unwind from work and take the time to appreciate being outdoors.

26th June 2019

Railway track towards Threlkeld (including 5 min warm up walk and 5 min cool down walk)

3.7 miles

River Greta

One day you’ll leave this world, so live a life you will remember

Serious sunshine, shady trees, Avicii on the tunes and a post run dip in the river in my rubbish bra and all – living my best life right now

30th June 2019

Manchester Ship Canal

2.7 miles 

My Couch to 5k Journey in the Lake District

Urban exploring along the Manchester Ship Canal

My first urban run! So strange to be in the city after weeks in the Lakes – loved all the wildflowers in nooks and crannies and graffiti! Manchester playlist in the ears – the first day of my holiday and awesome way to round off week 2 of Couch to 5k!

July 2019 

1st July 

Lighthouse run on Rathlin Island  off the coast of Northern Ireland

2.2 miles 

Rathlin Island Lighthouse Northern Ireland
Rathlin Island Northern Ireland

I looked forward to pulling on my trainers when I arrived on the island – 45min ferry ride off the Northern Irish coast! The path was pretty hilly so slow times but worth it for the lighthouse view at the end!

5th July

Belfast

2.6 miles 

Exploring Belfast!

Super chill jog on week 3 of C25k past Queens uni and into the gorgeous Botanic Gardens – always take time to smell the roses.

6th July

Railway track towards Threlkeld

3.7 miles 

Back home in the Lakes!

Last day of week 3!

Sunny Saturday morning back on the railway track – feeling super good after a week in Ireland – best run I’ve done so far which surprised me!

9th July

Derwentwater, Keswick

3.7 miles 

Even on a misty drizzly summer mornings – you still make my heart beat a little faster

First day of Week 4 – Mixed it up a bit with a lakeside run – wildflowers and 90’s indie on the tunes – 🎶 I think we’re gonna make it, yeah!!🎶

13th July

Derwentwater, Keswick

3.7 miles

The early bird catches the Lakeside worm

Derwentwater Keswick

Me, the midges, sheep and DnB vibes on the stereo – lil pre-work run

Around this time, I started to run a little bit longer after the given time on Couch to 5k and decided to make the August Bank Holiday weekend the goal to run my very first Parkrun (a weekly run in the local area organised by volunteers)

15th July

Derwentwater, Keswick

4 miles ( the furthest yet!) 

Catching up on the incredible Cricket World Cup Final! 

First day of Week 5! Catching up on yesterday’s final after I missed the final due to a pub hike.  Such an inspiring story of the team being down & out 4 years ago to winners last night – the power of sport – teaching you to never give up ✌✌✌

On the stereo – We Could be Heroes – David Bowie

18th July

Fitz Park, Keswick

2.2 miles 

It’s always worth going for a run

Turfed myself out of my split shift nap for run 2 of week 5 C25k!

July 20th

Derwentwater, Keswick

3.6 miles

Derwentwater Keswick

All that I need is this moment

My first continuous 20 minute run! Last day of week 5 – thought I might struggle with this but it was flipping awesome – we are so much stronger than we think we are 🙌🙌

🎧 Special song on the stereo this morning – This Moment by Nic Chagall (remix) – sweet sweet memories of snowboarding in the Alps, island hopping in Scotland and now the unthinkable – running in the Lake District ✌✌

I’m not ashamed to say that at the end of those 20 minutes, I leaned up against a wooden fence overlooking Cat Bells and had a little cry, at how proud I was for running continuously – it felt like my first really big milestone on this mad running journey.

July 22nd

Derwentwater, Keswick 

3.1miles

Grateful

Grateful for my health, for my mental health, for progress.

Grateful to be living in one of the most incredible parts of England, to be able to run next to the lake, for the stunning changing light over the fells.

Grateful for my incredibly supportive and inspiring housemates for checking in and encouraging me.

Grateful 💚

26th July

Wasdale, Western Lake District 

3.6 miles

Wastwater Lake District

I’d been putting this run off all day as it was the end of Week 6 – 25mins continuous run 🙈 but when work was quiet and I finished early there was no excuse!

Got to admit, walking did occur due to the rolling hills but tried to make up for it!

It took a while to get into a rhythm but a lovely way to end 3 days in Wasdale!

28th July

Brighton Pier

2.2 miles

Brighton Pier Run

First ever night run!

Amongst the holidaymakers & evening dates next to the crashing wild waves and the neon lights of Brighton Pier! Loooved it!

I spent all afternoon on the train from the Lake District and weirdly felt like a run when I arrived!

🎧Gareth Emery – Take Everything – creating sweet memories ❤️

29th July

Brighton Beach 

2.6 miles

Brighton Pier
Brightin Beach

That was special – the first time I’ve run continuously for 25mins!

In memory & a farewell to my Grandpa, the place we came numerous times as a kid.

A paddle turned into a full-on dip in the sea (in underwear with no towel again haha) as I thought about his wild spirit where age or ability was no barrier – the guy that took me horse riding in the Arizona desert at 78, who I road tripped through California with. He changed my spirit of travel and adventure forever. 

He was the guy who “popped in to see me” when his cruise ship docked in New Zealand in his 80’s.

A calm, determined, adventurous spirit I will carry with me forever ❤️

(I was sadly down in Brighton to attend my Granddads funeral) 

August 2019 

1st August

Fitz Park, Keswick 

2.5 miles

Chill split shift sesh.

Second sesh of week 7 of Couch to 5k which are all 25+mins continuous runs. Gotta say I’m still not quite there with continuous running – a couple of minutes walk on this one but it’s all progress, right?!

4th August

Derwentwater, Keswick 

3.4 miles

Absolutely buzzing from this – first continuous 5k yasss!

After a busy old week felt a bit tired at the start – but back on the healthy food and early nights paid off as I fell into a good pace and ran on after the 25mins on C25k!

Love love love running by this lake, so grateful for an inspiring place to run 💚💚

6th August

Derwentwater, Keswick 

4 miles

Soaked to the bone

Another new one this week- running in the rain!

In two minds whether to go out as I didn’t really have the right gear but thought fuck it!

And so pleased I did – watching the rain swirl over the fells and down the lake was pretty magic! Had a little walk & shelter under a tree at one point so not a fully continuous run…

🎧”Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road, can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road”🎧 My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

8th August

Derwentwater, Keswick 

3.5 miles

Post work run – buzzing from running kids activities and getting out by the lake – life is pretty f ing magic right now!

11th August

Derwentwater & Cockshot Woods 

3.2 miles

Life in technicolor 

Heavy rain hit the Lakes the last few days – my usual lakeside route was submerged underwater! So divided off into the woods inside.

That’s the beauty of the landscape (and life) here – always changing, never staying the same….

5k just starting to feel comfortable now – proud!!

13th August

Derwentwater, Keswick 

3.1 miles

All these places feel like home 💚

My final week of Couch to 5k – 9 weeks of sweet memories!

15th August

Fitz Park & Keswick streets 

3.3 miles

Yasss first sub 30 minutes 5k! 

20th August

 Derwentwater, Keswick

3.8 miles

Derwentwater Keswick

And in the end, the race is only with yourself – my last C25k run 💚

What a journey – running in the heat, in the rain, in Brighton, on split shifts, when tired, when buzzing – and almost every single time it’s made me feel amazing.

Bit emotional finishing it! Had this on the tunes with a tear in my eye

🎧 Kygo – Higher Love (which now brings me so much joy when I hear it as it reminds me of completing my running goal). 

27th August

Derwentwater loop, Keswick 

3.1 miles

Late summer morning vibes ✌☀️

So good to get out in the sunshine today after weeks of rain and puddle runs!

That lush morning dewy smell and berries ripening on the bushes -autumn vibes are close!

Big smiles and being fully in the moment – needed that ✌

29th August

Fitz Park, Keswick 

3.2 miles

Post work Pre Parkrun session!

Warming up for my very first Parkrun on Saturday!

31st August

Fitz Park, Keswick 

3.2 miles

My first Parkrun in the Lakeland rain!

Waking up on the morning of my first Parkrun, I felt a mixture of emotions. I’d set my alarm early for a bowl of pre-run porridge. I was excited but also weirdly had a sense of nervousness. Perhaps it was the unknowns – of not quite knowing how Parkun worked, where I needed to be etc.  My colleague Alex was joining me, somewhat reluctantly when she’d seen the rain pouring down. 

I needn’t of worried – the Parkrun community is the most supportive, wholesome community imaginable. Before the start of the race, the director stands on the bench and welcomes any new people to Parkrun before explaining how the run works.

Parkrun is marshaled by volunteers, and the Keswick one has the familiar face of Bob, in his 80’s who pops into the hostel every week for coffee or breakfast.

I felt the butterflies of excitement as we took off for our 5 laps around the park – I had my headphones on to keep me motivated! The first 3 laps felt fine, but the rain really started to lash down on the last two laps, but I dug in deep and managed to get around without walking and happily finishing in 30.11 minutes.

I literally buzzed all day from that first Parkrun – high fives from housemates, work colleagues and me and Alex rewarded ourselves with a smoked salmon brunch at Meriendas in Keswick

Closing Thoughts

Looking back, it amazes me how quickly I become consistent.

I’m one of those people who will try to commit to something new, do it for 3 or 4 weeks then fall off the bandwagon. I think it was a combination of being able to run in a truly beautiful place (even a year on I still get butterflies when I run next to the lake) and living in an environment with other experienced runners helped me excel so much more. Everyone at work was so supportive, asking how my training was going for that first Parkrun – I felt a real sense of accountability which helped keep me on track. 

Honestly, it’s up there with one of my proudest life achievements, with earning a degree and starting and running my small business. 

Running makes you feel things – not only in a physical and emotional sense, but it makes you see how much you can achieve when you commit to something.

It’s proof that you can always rewrite the stories you tell yourself, that you don’t need to hold on to that fixed mindset of ‘not being sporty’.

With an open mind and attitude, the right people around you and a bit of grit and determination, you can achieve so much more than you think.

I really hope, that if you’ve considered trying or taking up running, that this might be a little push you need to get out there, to inspire you to start. You don’t need fancy kit or trainers – 8 months on I’m still running in crap Primark leggings.

Quietened those excuses. 

Just start.  

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