Montane Lakeland 100 & 50: #LakelandLegend Harry Johnson

There were many memorable moment from the Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 ultra races on 24-26 July 2015: Alexander Wall singing the race anthem ‘Nessun Dorma’, Paul Tierney charging over the finish line to claim a well deserved victory in the men’s ML100, Debbie Martin Consani stepping up a gear to claim 2nd lady in the ‘sprinter’s ML50 race after winning the ladies ML100 in 2014…

But the unexpected highlight came towards the end of the ML50 on Sunday 26 July.  Most racers had crossed the line and were resting up at Coniston, so a large crowd amassed quickly when it emerged that the oldest ever competitor on the ML50 was about to finish his epic race.

So when 80 year old Harry Johnson (race no. 689) turned into the entrance drive of the John Ruskin School in Coniston, he received a rapturous reception.  Determined to push through to the end, Harry soldiered on despite sustaining a 3 inch gash on the palm of his right hand after slipping.

A little later on, Harry received a standing ovation from around 600 competitors who had gathered in the school hall for the race prize presentation.

He finished in a time of 23 hours, 43 mins at 11:15am.  A true #LakelandLegend and an inspiration to ultra runners everywhere.

Read the ML100 & 50 2015 race report here.

Harry was later interviewed by Mike Zeller of BBC Radio Cumbria as a fantastic example of how he refuses to let old age hold him back.

A transcript of his interview is below.

MIKE ZELLER [MZ]: We are talking adventurous over 60s this morning.  Why?  Well a new survey appears to have gone some way to scrap those stereotypes of ‘once you’re old you don’t do much, you just put your feet up and watch the telly’.  No way!  This new survey is championing the mantra of 50s being the new 30. Its research says that almost half of the over 60s in Britain say they feel 10 years younger than they are. And a third of us say we’re more likely to try something new than 20 years ago, including the likes of extreme sports. We’ve heard about riding from Land’s End to John O Groats this morning, we’ve heard about the over 60s, the over 70s doing off road motorbiking and what have you.

Well for one man who’s 80 years old, 80 is the new 20. Harry Johnson from West Lancashire is one of 900 people who took part in two very long distance runs in the Lake District at the weekend. I’m talking about the Montane 100 and Montane 50, which as the names suggest are 100 and 50 miles respectively. The first one lasts up to 40 hours, the second, 24, so they are true tests, true extreme tests of fitness, stamina and endurance.

And the runner who got the biggest welcome home was Harry Johnson, who ran on to complete the 50 mile race, even after injuring his hand badly enough to warrant medical treatment. Harry, hello, morning.

HARRY JOHNSON [HJ]: Good morning

MZ: How are you feeling? How’s your hand?

HJ: I’m ok!  It’s been treated here at Salford Hospital – they’ve done a good job on it.

MZ: What actually happened with you?

HJ: I slipped and fell on leg 3 just before Mardale and cut my palm – about a 3 inch gash.

MZ: Ouch!

HJ: They dressed it so it was lucky in one way that I was near the station, near the feed station and the guy there, the medic…He wasn’t a fully fledged doctor or anything, but he was a really good medic and he dressed it and asked me if I wanted to go on. So I said ‘yeah of course’ and off I trotted and they dressed it again at Ambleside and made sure it was ok. And when I got back to Coniston at the end of the race they did a really job on it. I survived!

MZ: Excellent! Well, I’ve got to ask you Harry, these are amazing achievements – what makes you want to do these sort of endurance races in the first place?

HJ: Well I don’t do a lot of them. I mean I’ve done things like the Joss Naylor round and I belong to a small club and these guys…this is Newborough Nomads, my club, a small village club…they all do them and they persuaded me that I might be ok to have a go at this 50. About five or six of them had already done it and one or two of them, I don’t know, about four of them, have done the 100.

MZ: Fantastic!

HJ: This club of mine, it’s got about 20/22 members and 15 of them have done the Bob Graham. You know the Bob Graham don’t you?

MZ: Yeah

HJ: Yeah, 15 have done that. So they’re into it in a big way.

MZ: Harry, when you hear somebody of your age or maybe younger say ‘I don’t know, oh I’m 70 now, I’m going to take things easy’, what’s your reaction when you hear somebody say that?

HJ: Big mistake!

MZ: Really?

HJ: Yeah! I like to cycle a bit and I go to the gym once a week so I keep in pretty good fitness.

MZ: I have to ask is there anything, finally Harry, that you’re still wanting to achieve in terms of maybe pushing yourself a little bit more?  Is there one thing you’d like to do still?

HJ: No, I don’t think so. I used to do marathons way back, but there’s no great ambition that way. But this was a superb day out. It was so well organised, the Montane, and the feeding stations and the marshaling is superb. They do try and make it easy for you.

MZ: Will you be back next year doing it?

HJ: I don’t think so, no!

MZ: Well, you’ve done it anyway, that’s the main thing

HJ: Indeed

MZ: Thank you Harry!

HJ: Ok

MZ: Really really appreciate your time. Harry Johnson, very well done to Harry for taking part and being a part of the Montane 100 and the Montane 50. Harry completed the 50 mile race even though…that sounds a really nasty injury doesn’t it with what Harry was describing. Well done Harry, brilliant.

Image of Harry Johnson courtesy of SportSunday Event Photography

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