Toby and me parked our vans in the carpark at Coniston. It was Toby’s last stop as road support, and he decided to get some sleep. I waited outside for Jo Stevens to arrive who was the next to help me on road support. It was a perfect spring morning, cool and crisp with the night skies rolling back revealing icy blue underneath. The place where I’m parked is small with a hill behind me that I assumed the runners will be coming down. Away in the distance are more fells slowly revealing their features as the sun begun its slow ascent into the sky.
A van pulled up and a lass with bright pink hair jumped out. I guessed it was Jo and Jo guessed it was me although seeing as we were the only two people in the carpark it wasn’t too difficult to guess who was who! Jo drives an old, Japanese people carrier but it’s in good condition and as she says it runs well and gets through the MOT every time so why change it? It looked good enough to me and I’d happily have it. We exchange the usual pleasantries and decide it’s easier to take my van for road support and leave Jo’s here. It helps me too as I have no idea where I am or where I’m going so having Jo with me means I can concentrate on driving and not worry about getting where I should be.
Two lads turned up looking like they could be brothers, young bearded, tall and both called Sam. One works for service support at a missile factory, so I have to ask him if he has a direct line to Putin and the other works for his family at their car dealership. We have a laugh and a chat as we wait for Dougie and the others to arrive. There’s not a lot else to do on road support and a lot of the time is spent waiting and driving.
I feel a rumbling in my stomach and find a quiet spot to answer a question that nobody asked or wanted to know the answer to. Feeling a stone lighter I return and continue waiting with the others. Jo is on the ball even if I’m not and Dougie and his support arrive about 10 minutes down on their predicted time which is nothing to worry about. Running over the fells is difficult at the best of times but at night it’s an entirely different beast so to lose 10 minutes is nothing out of the ordinary.
Dougie comes in has something to eat and Jo looks at his feet while he refuels and before I know it he’s off again with the two Sam’s. Jo is worried that they’ve set off too quickly, but Dougie is a machine and it’s no problem for him.
Jo and me set off for our next stop, the Sticklebarn Inn at the base of Stickle Tarn opposite Lingmoor Fell. Jo directs me, left, right and straight ahead and we arrive in plenty of time. On the way over to Sticklebarn I am followed by two BMW’s, a 1 series and a 5 series. The driver of the 1 series seems to want to play games and tries to get closer to me, but they forget that there’s nothing as fast on the road as a white, Transit van and soon both BMWs are mere specks in the distance as I give them both a lesson in driving.
The Sticklebarn Inn is a National Trust property and is situated in a perfect location with Stickle Tarn directly behind it and Lingmoor Fell about a mile away in the distance. This is how I imagined the Lakes being surrounded by the natural beauty of fields and fells. We go inside the inn and Jo treats me to a large slice of cake and after we have setup ready for the runners to come in, I have a nap in the van while Jo has a walk.
I wake to the sound of voices, open the door, and see a lass on a bike who looks like my ex! I wonder if she has come to do me over when I’m at my most vulnerable, tired in the back of a Transit van. I get out and move closer and can see it’s not my ex but someone who looks very similar to her! I go over and Jo introduces me to Tori who has designed the schedule for Dougie. Tori doesn’t sound local, and I assume she’s Australian from her accent but apparently, she’s from South Africa. Still, I knew she wasn’t local!
We chatted and soon the other members of the team began to arrive including Bob and Martin. Martin revealed it was him in the 1 series trying to keep up with me with Bob further behind in the 5 series. I joked with Martin that he was no match for me as a driver and that he never used his indicators being a BMW driver and then Bob and Martin took their dog for a walk while we turned our gaze to Lingmoor Fell and Dougie and the Sam’s.
The next support runners had arrived by now and we played ‘spot the runners’ while we waited. All I could see was fields and fells so I was never going to win at this game but soon enough someone, I think the young lass, said they had spotted someone on the fell coming down and then kept pointing in the general direction thinking I would be able to follow her finger and see them. I couldn’t but I played along as I couldn’t be bothered to keep saying ‘I can’t see them’ but when they had got to the bottom of the fell, I did see them at last!
Dougie and the Sam’s arrived and after a quick check of Dougie’s feet by Jo and some food Dougie was on his way again. Jo and me packed up, jumped in the van, and set off to our next stop at the Glen Rothay Hotel and Badger Bar at Ambleside. The drive over was relaxing, Jo and me got on and we chatted away. The roads were what I’m used to, wide with white lines in the middle and traffic lights. I was learning quickly that the tourist parts of the Lakes were up to date whereas the parts that were more out of the way had been left to end up in various states of disrepair with potholes and broken verges amongst the obstacles needed to be navigated.
By now I was losing track of days. It felt like I had been driving for a week and had known Jo forever. In fact, it was still Monday, and I had only met Jo that morning. Time was beginning to blur into one endless day that was interrupted by light and dark, sleep was taken as and when and the only important concern was to get to the next stop and set up in time for Dougie arriving.
We arrived at the hotel, parked up, setup and waited for Dougie and his support runners to arrive. We popped in the pub and saw Carolyn and Lee Shinwell complete with kids having something to eat. We chatted and went back to the carpark to wait where the next lot of support runners had arrived ready for the next leg. Soon enough Dougie arrived, had something to eat, had his feet sorted by Jo and was on his way again on his second night run over to Kirkstone Pass.
With the van packed up and everybody gone Jo and me popped into Ambleside for something to eat. We had both forgotten how expensive Ambleside was, it is a tourist destination and at this time of year is full of tourists and the food places can charge pretty much what they want, so after an hour of walking about looking for somewhere to eat, we settled on a kebab at a local pizza place that cost £15! It ripped my heart out to pay £15 for a kebab being a proper tight Yorkshireman but I was hungry, and it was the cheapest meal we could find.
Food eaten and me still winching at paying £15 for a kebab we got back in the van and set off for our next stop at Kirkstone Pass Inn. Jo told me to avoid the road known as ‘the struggle’ and go the longer but more relaxing way round which I did. We got to the inn in the early hours of the morning and had a nap, so we were ready for the runners to come in later.