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Guest blog: Steve Birkinshaw's top tips for the Wainwright run

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The final run up to the Moot Hall to complete my Wainwrights round. Photo: Steve Birkinshaw collection.

How did fell runner Steve Birkinshaw break Joss Naylor’s Wainwright record? These are Steve’s essential pointers for anyone thinking of attempting the ultimate British ultramarathon. 

  1. Have a background of running over the fells for many years – decades preferably. You are less likely to get injured and will be able to move faster, especially when tired, over the rough Lake District terrain.
  2. Recce good routes between as many of the Wainwright fells as possible. Alternatively, find supporters to help on sections they know really well.
  3. Find a lead support person who is happy to drive round the Lake District for a week with very little sleep (!), who will sort out your every need, and also the needs of up to fifty people who will be running with you. They need to put up with continual stress and hassle for the whole week, and yet stay calm and be able to make good decisions. A pretty big ask.
  4. Find up to fifty people who are happy to be out with you at any time of the day on sections of up to ten hours. If there are at least two on every section it makes it much easier.
  5. Eat as much as you can while running the Wainwrights. On a run of this length with twenty-hour days, you will never be able to eat as many calories as you consume. The pace is slow, so the type of food is not really important. All that matters is finding something you can eat – that you fancy. At the support campervan I enjoyed pizza, onion bhaji and tepid soup. Whilst running, Torq gels went down well. But everyone is different in what they feel they can stomach at times like this.
  6. Make sure you stay hydrated. With a support team carrying water for you this should not be an issue.
  7. Avoid getting blisters or any over-use injury. I changed my socks and shoes regularly to keep my feet dry and I still got really bad blisters – even though I have never had bad blisters before. I also got tendonitis in the front of one of my legs above the ankle, despite decades of running long distances over similar terrain.
  8. Accept that things will go wrong, and don’t stress about it when they do. I was badly sick at one point, which I could have got quite stressed over, but I took it easy for the rest of the section and after a rest in the campervan my stomach was OK again. 
  9. Make sure all the shoes and clothing items have been tested beforehand and do not rub.
  10. Have a campervan (or even two like me) at every support point. This allows for hot food to be made easily, provides a nice place to change away from midges and also gives the possibility of sleeping if necessary.
  11. Remember that everyone out helping you has volunteered and given up their time to be there for you. So be nice to them and thank them.
  12. Pick a week with a really warm, dry weather forecast. It will make your support team much happier and everything easier to organise. If only it was that easy! By the time fifty people are sorted and ready to help it is very hard to change the date, you just need good luck.

Good luck to anyone that does try and run round the Wainwrights. The key things are to have run long distances for many years on the fells and to find a great support team so that all you need to do is think about putting one foot in front of the other.

Steve's bestselling book, There is no Map in Hell, is getting a fresh reprint in a couple of weeks. To find out more about the book and Steve's record-breaking run across the Lakeland fells, click HERE

 

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