2023 Report - 13 Valleys Ultra Starts in Style

2023 saw the first running of the 13 Valleys Ultra. Read our report here with images, video and runner interviews.

Beau Smith
By Beau Smith


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The inaugural 13 Valleys Ultra kicked off on 29th September with four fantastic events over the course of the weekend. The full 13 Valleys route is around 180 km in length showcasing all 13 unique valleys on the Lake District in an epic loop. The men’s event was won by Mark Darbyshire in a hugely impressive time of 22:55:27, while the first female back was Elaine Bisson in 33:40:20.

Aside of the event organisers hope the route, backed by OS Maps, will become a popular long distance walking route, showcasing the whole region and spreading an economic boost to all corners of the Lakes. With some of the best views, best walking and best running trails in the Lake District, there’s a lot on offer!





VOOM Ambassador Lewis Ferguson took on the full 13 Valleys course, entering around 8 weeks before the event, on the basis that training for his other events this season would already have got him into decent shape. "I knew I had the fitness and when the opportunity came about, I couldn’t resist jumping at the chance to run the 13 Valleys Ultra.


I had mixed emotions at the start line as I hadn’t attempted a race of this distance before and also this would be my first 6pm start, meaning that I would have to run right through the night which I had not done before. Then I realised that this was a self-navigation route with no signage until the route merged onto the 5 and 2 valleys sections.


Ultra trail runners light up a trail by head torch as they make a descent during 13 valleys ultra 2023



I started off running well and got into a nice rhythm chatting to Luke and his mates that I had been speaking to on Instagram a few days before. After about 10km I settled into my own pace and found myself running on my own, heading towards the first CP. I didn’t stay long at this checkpoint as I had all the nutrition I required for the first 40km, so I cracked on into the dark of the night towards CP2. I ended up running along with Felicity for a while as we headed over Black Sail Pass and joined up with a couple of others just before CP3.


Two VOOM Fusion Fuel sachets on a table as a runner mixes carbohydrate drinks up for an ultra running event.



This is where it all went wrong for me, as we left CP3 I was running through a boggy section when I took a tumble which flared up an injury I had been carrying for a couple of months. I was no longer able to keep up with the group I’d been with and soon found myself on my own again. I continued through the night for a further 20km or so before having to call it a day at Coniston. I was really annoyed with myself at the time, as it was one of the first races where I actually felt I had managed the start perfectly. My nutrition was on point, and I felt great, my pace was perfect and at the point where I fell over, I was actually sitting in a great position (apparently around 10th, or so I’ve been told by friends and family watching the trackers). 

The event village was set up very well, with plenty of space to mooch around and check out what some of the brands had to offer and also allowing you to pick up any last-minute bits that you might have forgotten, a very good set up considering this was the first 13 valleys event. The aid stations were fantastic, and all the volunteers were excellent and very helpful (especially the medic who bandaged up my ankle haha). I’m confident it will go on from here and become an excellent race in the future.”



A crowd standing beneath a 13 Valleys branded archway ahead of the event start in Keswick's Crow Park




The 7 Valleys Ultra 2023


The 7 Valleys (approx 110km), the 5 Valleys (55km) and the 2 Valleys (20km) were all popular with the event village at The Theatre By The Lake a buzz of activity all day Friday for registration and Saturday for racing. The male and female winners in the 7 Valleys event were Richard Lazenby (13:01:47) and Anni Stumpf (15:45:58) respectively who both had built up around a 30 minute lead.


Ultra runners climb up out of the Langdale Valley as part of the 13 Valley route in the Lake District, England.



VOOM were able to catch the 7 Valleys winner Anni Stumpf for a few words after her impressive performance.


The 7 Valleys with 65 miles and approx 11500 ft elevation was the longest and hilliest distance I have completed to date. The course was challenging, including any terrain a trail runner could think of, and definitely never boring. Everything was well thought through - the event village, transport to the start line, route markings, safety measures and support. Especially the aid stations which were well stocked with a great variety of food options. Unfortunately, my stomach started to get grumpy when I got to Grasmere (approx half way) but that is a part of trail ultra running.

You never know exactly what is going to happen, but you have to handle it. That's what I love about it! The only fuel that kept me going was watermelon and VOOM. So a big ‘Thank you’ VOOM!


A female trail runner using running poles climbs a steep ascent in the Lake District



Win With VOOM


Back in July we were able to collaborate with 13 Valleys Ultra to offer an entry to the event as a competition prize to the VOOM community. Mark Bispham was lucky enough to win the place and enjoy his prize…


I don’t even remember entering a competition to win entry to the 7 Valleys Ultra, but I must have because at the end of July and eight weeks before the race I received an email saying ‘You’re in! Yikes, panic, best get training!”


“The weeks ticked by but I was lucky to be able to recce the entire route before race day. My dad and a close friend had also offered to give up their day to crew me so I felt like I was in as good a place as I could be.”


A runner starts to descend a Lakeland trail at dusk during the 13 Valleys Ultra event



“At 6AM on the 29th September I was off, with one plan… Finish! This was going to be my longest run by 10 miles so I was sticking to a plan to run anchored for the first 50 km loop through Langdale, Borrowdale and back through Grasmere and Rydal. Then I would grit it out until the end. Fueling with 500ml of VOOM Smart Hydrate every hour along with some extra water, a ton of Lemon & Lime Pocket Rockets and a couple of the Berry Caffeine Kick I got round the 105 km in 14 hrs 42 mins and surprised myself with sixth overall!”


An ultra runner holds a Caffeine Kick Pocket Rocket, about to use it to get a carb and caffeine lift.



I thoroughly enjoyed the route and organisation of the event along with great support from my crew and the sustained energy from VOOM products which all helped make the day a success for me. Cheers VOOM & 13 Valleys!”




5 Valleys Ultra 2023


At a ‘modest’ 55km in distance (2250m) the 5 Valleys may accidentally be underestimated beside its larger siblings. Two who certainly didn’t underestimate the course were Andy Norman (5:00:56) and Sabrina Verjee (5:19:15) who took the inaugural male and female titles respectively.


In terms of entry numbers the 2 Valleys was the busiest event of the weekend with almost 400 runners blasting round the 20km route which took in sections of the disused railway line as well as trails round Latrigg and Lonscale Fell, nestled between Skiddaw and Blencathra.


Runners head off at the start of the 2 Valleys Trail Race in Keswick



Speaking of the event weekend as a whole Race director Colin Murphy said

“What a weekend it was! It had everything; sold out distances, hugely supportive volunteers and communities, a full moon, a huge amount of rain, and some seriously strong winds! The Lakes threw everything at us, and that’s what the 13 Valleys Ultra is about. Experiencing everything that makes it so special. 


Every year will bring a different challenge, for participants and organisers alike, and that’s why we love it! We loved our first year of staging the event, we wanted to give people an amazing challenge but keep them safe at the same time. It comes down to fine margins sometimes, but we are happy with the safety calls we made. 


We are really excited to make a whole host of improvements for next year when we are hoping the event will be bigger and better. Bring on 2024!”


A big thanks to Steve Ashworth Photography whose images are copyright protected.

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