This week we spent in familiar territory, not far from home, completing Enigma Running’s Three Lakes challenge. The event takes place in Milton Keynes and consists of running three marathons in three days, each around a different lake.

Cam will be slightly embarrassed about me writing this but she did come first lady on each of the three days, and overall-winner of the three day series (and this despite starting late one day due to a traffic hold-up). A small event maybe, but still quite an achievement and worthy of a short post for this and also to talk about the Enigma Races.

Enigma Running

Enigma Running  has featured quite highly in our running careers. It is probably true to say that whereas parkrun got us started running in general, the Enigma races set us on the path of multi-day marathon running and our quest to complete 100 marathons. We certainly did our first double marathon with Enigma – it was actually two of the three lakes back in 2013; three seemed impossible at the time!

Enigma Running is presided over by David ‘Foxy’ Bayley, a runner of some achievement himself. The race-series started in 2010 as ‘The Bletchley Enigma’ (named after the war-time, code-breaking machine invented by Alan Turing at nearby Bletchley Park). This was meant to be a one-off race to raise money for The Brathay Trust charity.

The Brathay Trust works with young, often disadvantaged, people to help overcome barriers that prevent achievement in education and work. They attempt to provide positive, empowering experiences for young people by organising outdoor and creative activities in both residential and community settings. You can read more about their excellent work here.

Alongside other fund raising events, every May the charity holds a challenging ’10 in 10′ marathon race series around Lake Windermere in the Lake District, for which entrants raise money for the privilege of running. David Bayley had entered the event that year and has since completed the challenge six times which is the most completed by any one individual. 

Following the success of original ‘Bletchley Enigma’, Foxy went on to build up a series of races based around the lakes in Milton Keynes.

The Enigma races are small, low key events. The courses are lapped which makes for sociable running and lots of friendly encouragement. One aid station, plenty of parking and an on-site hotel/pub/restaurant make the race logistics easy.

Although all the events stand alone they usually take place over a weekend and come in two’s, making multi-day marathon running an option. Building on from this is ‘3 in 3’ at The Three Lake Challenge, and one step further (well, in practice much more than one!) is perhaps the best known of the Enigma events, ‘The Quadzilla’ – 4 marathons in 4 days. You don’t have to stop there though – ‘Week at the Knees ‘ as its name suggests allows you to complete 7 marathons in 7 days. Foxy’s multi-day marathon series established a popular format which other race directors have followed.

Above : Jacquie on one of the residential sections of Caldecotte lake

Right: Cam lost in music

The Three Lakes Challenge

The Three Lakes is our favourite Enigma event and this was our third time of completing it. We like the variety of changing lakes each day, and the camaraderie that builds up with the other runners over the three days. 

Each lake has its own character and, although the courses are relatively flat, short and sometimes steep hills become quite significant when repeated seven (Caldecotte Lake), nine (Willen Lake) or in the case of Furzton Lake seventeen times.

The lakes with their water sports and other attractions can be busy at the weekends, but this event takes place mid-week meaning that the paths surrounding the lakes are quiet and peaceful.

This year we were very lucky with the weather. We had two glorious days full of blue skies and autumn sunshine. The third day was not so good – after a couple of hours the rain started and ended up being quite torrential. I don’t think it put any one off, though. We are a tough bunch.

Our main aim in completing the three marathons was to build up our endurance for future events. We treated them as training runs – trying to go out at a reasonable pace but not racing. So for Cam this meant three sub-four hour marathons, for me quite a bit slower (especially on the first day when I found myself having a marathon-length conversation with a runner who I just met that day) – 4:40’s felt comfortable. Interestingly, we both had our best runs on the third day.

Multi-day distance running is a bit of a mind game. As with other distances the brain seems to adapt to what is going on. Just as after a fast 5K race you feel like you couldn’t run another step, or when you finish a half marathon you can’t contemplate running a whole marathon – when you know you are running for three days you don’t think of the end of the day as a marathon completed but as a third of the event finished. And at the end of the final day there is a huge sense of satisfaction on completing the challenge.

Thank you Foxy and Jenny Lupton (lap counting!) for another three enjoyable days at the Lakes. We will see you again in the New Year.

Next up – The New York City Marathon – we’re just a bit excited about this!