Man vs Lakes 2021

Andrew Smallwood doing Man vs Lakes

In summer of 2021, I was contacted by some friends to see if I wanted to fill in for some dropouts on Man Vs Lakes 2021.

At the time I was sitting in Simmons at Golden Square enjoying the happy hour cocktails so I disregarded the message and forgot about it until I was chased a few days later.

So, you in? was the next message I received and after a very impulsive decision, I knew that four weeks later I would be doing my first ultra marathon.


My preparation was scarce to say the least. Unknown to me then, I would only get final confirmation that I was definitely doing it 72 hours before the start but I carried on regardless.

My general level of fitness is high and my ability to push myself is evident on my stats. I can consistently run long distances hovering around the 7 minutes per mile. But having recently had a speight of football related injuries, I wasn’t in the best of shape.


Man vs Lakes has a pretty extensive kit requirement list and a very strict policy on checking you too. You must not scrimp on kit. Obviously for a seasoned ultra runner, that wouldn’t be a problem but apart from normal running kit, I was starting from scratch.


  • Backpack
  • Waterproof bag liner
  • Running/trail shoes
  • 2l capacity water storage – bottle or bladder
  • Min 400kCal food
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • First Aid Kit
  • Whistle
  • Phone
  • £10 cash
  • Running tights
  • Cup
  • Face mask
  • Waterproof jacket with TAPED SEAMS
Man vs Lakes kit
My Man vs Lakes kit

Getting to the start

Half the challenge would be the logistics of getting to Kendal to pick up my race pack.

I had to be in Kendal, Lake District by 9pm to register but I also had to work until 5pm and my job is located in London. I managed to work from a hotel in Preston for the day and then got a hire car to drive the remaining 90 mins to the Lake District to pick up the pack and then meet the rest of my team in Coniston.

Coniston, Lake District
Coniston, Lake District

The route

The start time was variable based on the tide at Morecambe Bay so we didn’t start until around 11am. The route would then take us across the bay to get the feet nice and wet, before tackling the vertical kilometer. This would give us some altitude as we race up Lake Windermere before a few water activities then we would traverse across to Lake Coniston, before a short kayak ride would then give us a casual 4km to the finish in Coniston itself.

Man vs Lakes route 2021
Man vs Lakes route 2021

Crossing Morecambe Bay

This was not an ideal start. My mantra is to keep feet as dry as possible to prevent blisters. This was not possible whatsoever. If it wasn’t wet enough on the sand, we would soon be wading through knee deep water. A sock change at the first checkpoint 10km in was a must.

After the bay, it was relatively dry. The terrain would change from roads to rolling hills, to stinging nettle infested trails to forests.

At points, it was single file and your speed was dictated by the person in front. But it soon became apparent that it was never about speed, it was the enjoyment of doing it and getting over that finish line.

Crossing Lake Windermere

As we got up to Lake Windermere, we started to get wet again. Bags would be thrown off and a series of obstacles would soon be in our way.

The hardest for me was the lake crossing itself. Being quite short, I was up to my shoulders and sometimes treading water whereas others would only be chest high.

Lake Windermere
Crossing a section of Lake Windermere

It was after this crossing that the cramp kicked in and I lost my group. It took about 2 miles to catch up with my group and was made harder by stopping every 500 metres to stretch my calves.

After a few swimming based obstacles we then traversed from Windermere to Lake Coniston over the highest peaks of the route.

We reached the finish line after a short kayak around Lake Coniston and the final stats were 28.8m with over 4000ft of elevation gain.

It was the final ever Man vs Lakes but the organisers Rat Race have plenty more in store over the coming years.

About Andrew Smallwood

Experienced digital strategist with a foundation in web development and analytics. Leads multi-disciplinary teams in content creation and digital marketing ensuring data is at the core of decision making.

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