The 10th edition of the UK’s largest ever ultra distance trail race took place last weekend. We were buckled up for some epic racing in the Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 set against the backdrop of the recently UNESCO World Heritage certified Lake District. We weren’t disappointed.

With 10 years since the first Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 races were run, this year’s races were set to be spectacular. After a record number of entries in a matter of minutes back in September last year, turn-out was equally high on the start rosters of both races at 1,310.

As the last weekend in July approached, competitors completed their training plans, final event organisations were in place and volunteers were on stand-by. All eyes were on the weather – the one remaining variable factor. In stark contrast to previous years which posed their own challenges with hot, dry conditions, this year’s races were a testament to the notoriously changeable Lakeland climate. Runners were subjected to rain showers, wind and general dampness underfoot – there was mud aplenty!

ML50 2nd lady Kim Cavill commented: “The rough terrain in the Lakes is always a challenge for me and because of the rain, it was wetter and muddier than I had seen it before, which I think made some of the more technical sections harder to get going on.”

 Friday’s well organised race kit checks led smoothly into the annual rendition of the event anthem, Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. Expertly performed by singer Chris Lafferty, this marked the final moments before the ML100 athletes were unleashed. Read the full story behind Nessun Dorma as the ML100 / 50 race anthem here.

Running non-stop through the night and the next day, the circular ML100 route leads out of Coniston, heading south to take in the Dunnerdale fells, Eskdale, Wasdale and Buttermere before arriving in Keswick. From here, runners turn towards Matterdale and then on over to Haweswater, heading back towards Coniston via Kentmere, Ambleside and Elterwater. Encompassing approximately 6,300m of ascent, the terrain is technical and rough, and bridleways and footpaths weave their way through picturesque valleys and contour along stunning UNESCO World Heritage certified Lake District scenery.

Despite the intensity of the course and the colossal effort needed, there are moments of sheer beauty and peace: “Every morning the sunlight came up as I was climbing too. As the first views of the valleys, lakes and mountains came into view, I felt an immediate energy boost”, remarked Team Montane runner Ari Veltman.

Runners were tightly packed at the beginning, reaching the first checkpoint at Seathwaite within minutes of each other. Bryn Jones began to take an early lead, with a group of five runners (including Team Montane’s Jayson Cavill) in hot pursuit. By CP 3 (Wasdale Head), Bryn had dropped back, with Michael Jones stepping forwards to seize the lead position. Runners were beginning to string out at this point. The miles rolled on and the gaps increased – 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes between individual runners. Michael remained in first place, ultimately taking the men’s title in a time of 20:22:19, beating his own 2016 winning time of 20:30:03 on the ML100.

Team Montane’s Jayson Cavill, who won the ML50 in 2016 and 2015, had chosen this year to tackle the ML100 distance. “Doing the ML100 was a big step up for me. I knew that starting in the evening and continuing straight through the night would be strange, so I did that in a few training runs and also a 24 hour mountain bike race”. Jayson continued: “The ML100 was much harder than I anticipated. I know I had too much fatigue going into the race and that hit home quite early on, but I think the wet conditions combined with the rough terrain made it very tough going”. Despite these challenges Jayson consistently ran in the top 5, finishing in 22:46:19.

In the women’s ML100, Sabrina Verjee went out hard and fast to take an early lead of approx. 5 minutes on her nearest rival. As Michael Jones in the men’s 100, Sabrina gradually extended this gap over the miles to win comfortably in 23:15:22 – approximately 4 hours ahead of the next female runner! But beyond that, Sabrina also worked her way up the general rankings, from 16th to 6th overall. After winning the women’s ML50 in 2016, this was an impressive piece of running.

The Saturday saw the start of the ML50 from Dalemain. Generally considered a shorter, sharper race, the ML50 is the second half of the ML100 route. But it’s no less easy than its bigger brother. Leading runners generally aim for sub 9 or 10 hour times, making it much faster paced and much more of a race than the endurance-busting ML100. “All day I was absolutely astounded at the heroic effort of the 100 milers. Throughout the night before the start of the 50 I watched the weather and just felt sorry for them. I was amazed when we got to Dalemain in the morning [Saturday] and saw a few of them coming through looking remarkably fresh. Throughout my own race I was utterly in awe that I was still passing 100 milers. I’m not sure how they kept on moving but I want some of that magic!” commented ML50 runner Andrew Broadbent.

The ML50 began in the rain. A large snake of runners sprang forth, coiling its way around the estate’s fields. First to the Howtown CP was Team Montane’s Andy Laycock: “Having never raced an ultra before, I was unsure of what kind of pace to aim for. I decided to go out quite hard and see how long I could stay on a sub-8 hour pace”. As an ultra newbie as well as a ML50 newcomer, Andy ruffled a few feathers with his explosive performance. Starting with a lead of 3 minutes over Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn, Andy maintained a 4/5 minute gap until Ambleside, when Casper caught him. Casper finished in a record breaking time of 07:34: 07, beating Jayson Cavill’s 2016 record of 07:38:48.

And while Casper was celebrating, wife Katie was on track for a win in the women’s category in a historic ML50 husband and wife double. In a stunning piece of racing (and using a familiar race strategy), Katie trounced rivals, establishing a firm lead at the start and maintaining it throughout, finishing in 08:02:32. As if this wasn’t enough, she absolutely smashed the women’s ML50 course record, previously set in 2012 at 08:38:08 by Tracy Dean.

Amy Sarkies set out in 2nd and looked set to firm up her position over the miles. However runner Kim Cavill was determined to shake things up…“I wanted to go easy over the first loop as I don’t like it and I knew people would go off too fast. I did this and gradually made my way through the field […]. I knew I could do sub 9 hours if I maintained a comfortably hard pace and tried not to worry about the other ladies. […] The battle for 2nd lady was quite funny as we [Amy Sarkies and I] were both really polite about it. I caught up with Amy somewhere around Elterwater and we ran together more or less until the end. We both insisted that we didn’t care where we placed as long as we were on the podium, then I ran away from her on the final descent as I really wanted to be second by then!”

We at Montane would like to congratulate each and every single runner that participated, each volunteer, all race organisers and generally everyone that was involved. Without your valuable help, this race wouldn’t be the race it is today. “For me, the people there really make it special, from organisers to checkpoint staff and runners – everyone is there for the same reason and puts so much energy into the event. It is certainly one of the best ultra race weekends in the country” – Jayson Cavill. We couldn’t say it better ourselves.


ML100 – men’s category

  1. Michael Jones – 20:22:19
  2. Marcis Gubats – 20:52:35
  3. Tony Maxwell – 21:52:60

ML100 – women’s category

  1. Sabrina Verjee – 23:15:22
  2. Wendy Chapman – 27:09:47
  3. Jo Hill – 29:23:22

ML50 – men’s category

  1. Caspers Kaars Sijpesteijn – 07:34:07 [new course record]
  2. Andy Laycock – 07:51:42
  3. Adam Lloyd – 08:15:30

ML50 – women’s category

  1. Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn – 08:02:32 [new course record]
  2. Kim Cavill – 08:57:23
  3. Amy Sarkies – 08:59:03

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