RAB Scafell Sky race – some like it hot

So, yesterday was the RAB Scafell Sky Race, hosted at Langdale, nestled in the heart of the Lake District. It’s a race that I’d looked at a while back particularly before doing the Ring of Steal – but hadn’t originally added to the calendar – it’s around 40km, 2800m metres of ascent taking in some of the local classic hills – Harrisons Stickle, Green Gable, Borrowdale, Scafell Pike, Eskdale and skirting more.

Having initially decided to focus on a couple of other ultras this year, I decided to join the Kellys on this one – the Lake District is beautiful, and there’s generally a great atmosphere and range of peope at this type of event. I’m generally better at varied terrain – I really enjoy hills ands mountains although I tend to burn through energy getting up them and have to remember to eat more (to varying success), and I’m a reasonable bit heavier than the others I generally run with. The views, a bit of exposure and moving through the landscape are a special feeling, and one that I don’t get in day to day life.

Race Prep

Preparation for this race has been….interesting. I’ve had some on and off health oddities for a while that are still being resolved that often completely sap my energy – these didn’t come in *too* much for this race, however having recently had what’s suspected to be Compartment Syndrome in one calf (probably due to overtraining), I’ve had almost 2 months off proper training – still, I’d got in a couple of Peak District 30-35k races in the weeks before and some training runs, so went into this one feeling relatively confident if not at full power.

We decided to head up to the Lakes the day before the event – didn’t really feel like driving up for 3-4 hours before a race that started at 8am, and it gave us a chance to enjoy the Lakes a little more (give or take a lot of traffic before the Lakes). I’ve stayed in the Lakes a fair bit, and run from Ambleside / Coniston / Keswick – this time we were staying in Chaple Stile, near an area that we’ve been bouldering at before – it’s a small village, but there’s a pub, cafe, a decent looking campite and I suspect a range of AirBNBs similar to the one that we had.

Top tip – always stay somewhere with a steep spiral staircase when racing – it adds evening entertainment.

The day of the event!

As is traditional, the race was a fairly early start from a field opposite the New Dungeon Ghyll pub – we’d registered there the night before (the kit check appeared very much to be ‘we’ve told you what you should have’), there was separate parking for those entering the races (there was a short hill sprint the night before – we passed on that!).

There was a small race village (a couple of sponsors, some good food trucks, enough toilets), and a fairly varied field (I recognised and caught up with a couple of people from the continent) – shortly after a random rendition of ‘La Bamba’ on an accordion with the entrants singing along, the race got moving.

Ignore the bit that says 2022 – it was 2023…..

There was a couple of small constrictions to get through at the start, before getting straight into the first ascent of the day up Harrison Stickle – at this point I’d started feeling alright, but was already getting warm. It was in theory between 13-23 degrees C for the race – it was already starting to get warm, particularly with the fairly rapid hill ascent. At this point, I should have been fairly comfortable – but for some reason I couldn’t get my breathing / energy right, and the ascent felt harder than it should have – coming over the top down to Stickle Tarn the descent wasn’t too technical, I reached the short run around it before going back up the other side and……had nothing on the flat bit. Null. Nil.. It was like the bottom had dropped out of any energy I had.

I’m not sure if it was due to heat issues – I’ve lacked training in the past couple of months, but on the same note have run similar and generally been fine. As it was, I ended up with some food (possibly I should have eaten on the ascent up Harrison Stickle), breaking out the pole and grinding it out back up the other side.

The next 5-10km I’d had in my head as being fairly easy, flowing terrain – some of it was a bit more technical that I’d planned but nothing unusual – I’d normally run through that type of terrain fairly fast, but in this case it was a case of trying to cool down and get some food in me, so it went on for far too long – but the time I got down to the road section. I’d started to recover in the breeze at the top of High Raise and was feeling alright, but coming down Greenup Gill to Stonethwaite, then along the road to Seathwaite was a washout with feeling very disconnected, more walking than running. This is where I lost the majority of my time in retrospect, and should probably have just jumped in the river to cool down more when opportunity arose.

Checkpoint 5 at Seathwaite was the food / water station – the kids armed with water sprayers were very welcome, and I took on some flat coke, cheese and packed some crisps for later. I was immediately feeling better for cooling down – I tried not to hang around for too long, but talked to a couple of the other competitors whilst there – I got in there at about 11.50, fairly near the back of the field at this point, at left at 12, mindful that the cutoff was 12.30.

Given the speed and heat issues, I’d been concerned about not even making that cutoff – which felt ridiculous as I’m normally near the mid field or top third on longer distances – but you work with what you’ve got.

Having exited Seathwaite, the first thing that greeted us was a short and sharp slightly technical ascent up the side of the Sour Milk Gill waterfall – I took the ascent gently mindful of the heat and full sun, did my best to ignore someone’s underwear neatly folded at the side of the path, and talked to a couple of the other competitors who were looking fairly beaten up by the heat. By the top of that section, I was overheating – so jumped in the pool at the top to cool down, which made a massive difference. The view wasn’t bad either.

I picked up a fair amount of speed on the section underneath Base Brown – some occasional hiking but back to running a lot more, stopping for some food on the way up to Green Gable – then it was onto the scree / single track traversing under Great Cable. I’d like to have gone a bit faster at this section – it was technical with poles being helpful at some points, but I was mindful of the heat issues, and was topping up water whenever I heard streams nearby.

This section went on for a while, largely because I was back to hiking given the terrain – and whilst I knew that having been tight on time on the checkpoint before there was potential to timeout, it was frustrating to get to the first aid station at Spout Head Pass to be told that we’d timed out by 10 minutes (another runner was with me), at 2.40 in the afternoon. I’m not going to argue to cut-offs – they’re there for a host of reasons – but having felt a lot better on that second half, if it wasn’t a race, I’d have been fine going up the Corridor Route to Scafell Pike – and the terrain up there was what I’d really entered the race for.

A DNF – with an 11k walk out!

I suspect that if I’d been doing that route in 5 degrees cooler, I’d have been at least and hour or two faster to that point – but it is what it is, and largely I think that the heat and the time I’d had to take out of training took their toll.

Whilst eyeing up all the crags that I *wanted* to be going up and over, we started off traversing across to their ‘bad weather’ route to get back to the start – I’d note that if people had got to that safety station with injury or illness (heat exhaustion, etc – and there was some people in that state behind us – they would probably have not been happy with the walk out (10.4k apparently, felt longer). On the flip side, it went past a number of tarns and a big stream, which would have signficantly helped those people – I’d got to the first aid point with 1.5 litres of water spare in readiness for Scafell Pike the later terrain, so didn’t need it.

The path back down was ok to run in sections, but fairly dull compared to what else we’d been doing – I started feeling the heat again, whilst possibly would have had implications if I’d continued the higher more exposed route – but I also think that retaining ‘race mindset’ would have offset that and I’d have got on with it and enjoyed it more.

So….thoughts on it?

It’s bittersweet – great scenery, good atmosphere, but also frustrating as I was capable of continuing, even with the recent health issues.

All in all, I’m glad I did it – the route is well marked, the marshalls were friendly, logistics worked fairly well although it was dry on course, and it would have been great to have had some citrus fruit or similar at the food station – I grazed, but wanted something to freshen things up.

I’d probably come back again when in a better state, and hopefully it’s a little cooler – but the last edition of the race was apparently equally warm, the one before was soaking and they had to cut out parts of the course so,,,,,


  • Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest (getting very worn!),
  • Scott shorts,
  • UD Adventure Belt for holding poles
  • Black Diamond Carbon Z poles
  • A couple of soft flasks plus a filter flask
  • Mizuno Wave Daichi 7 shoes (comfortable, good protection, this race would have benefited slightly deeper lugs)
  • Montane running cap (one of the few that fits me ok – big head!)
  • P20 suncream – important on a day like yesterday, and lasted the whole day!


  • I started with a litre of water and a spare filter flask, having waypointed likely water sources on my watch – the filter flask (Katadyn BeFree) worked well, but is a little too tall for the running vest I had.
  • Hummus wrap (turned into mush), mini pork pie (not sure it survived the heat well),
  • a mixture of basic SIS and Torq gels
  • It’s worth mentioning the SIS Beta gells that I had 2 of – those have 2 different types of carbs, and appeared to help me pull back from running out of energy faster.
  • I started with Active Root ginger hydration drink, and switched to some SIS electrolyte tabs later on.
  • A SiS energy bar – couldn’t make my way through that due to being too thirsty at that stage
  • Some boiled potatos with salt, oil and hummus on them

So, a DNF…..?

That’s my first ever DNF, so feels a bit odd. On the walk back in, I had no desire for instance to walk back into the race village through the finish arch, and it was weird being around everyone talking about their experiences. Fundamentally, I did most of the route if not the final (more fun looking) elevation – and I’m taking the view that it’s good training with elevation, in the heat. I met some great people to talk to, and enjoyed the more technical parts of the route.

I don’t intend to make a habit of DNFs, though,

what is matched betting and how does it work

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