This past weekend, around 60 Team New Balance athletes from all over Europe made their way to the small village of Glenridding in the Lake District for the New Balance Athlete Summit. It was a great weekend organised by New Balance UK (Pete Riley and Steve Vernon especially). It provided us with a rare opportunity to meet and socialise with Team NB athletes outside of the athletics and running arena.
The majority of us met at the New Balance Office, just outside Manchester on Friday lunchtime and then travelled up on minibuses to the Lake District. We stayed at Helvellyn Youth Hostel which is perched 963ft up on the Helvellyn mountainside – the third highest mountain in England at 3117ft (behind Scafell Pike at 3,209ft and Scafell at 3,163ft) . The only way to reach the Youth Hostel from Glenridding was via a rather steep unmade road which probably wasn’t the ideal terrain for minibuses full of people and bags, but nevertheless, our competent minibus drivers successfully got us and the minibuses up to the hostel in one piece!
With bunk beds, communal bathrooms, no wi-fi or phone signal for miles, it was a back to basics weekend in the best possible way. There was something quite refreshing about going back to basics, and I genuinely don’t think the weekend would have been half as good if we had the luxury of a 5* hotel! Up on the Helvellyn mountainside, our luxury was a spectacular view over Ullswater and the Lake District along with some great company!
After arriving on Friday afternoon, it didn’t take long (for the men mainly!) to begin foraging for wood to build a big bonfire. Others went running, while the rest of us sat and socialised with tea or alternative beverages! It turns out that as well as being top class athletes, Team NB also has some top class fire builders/starters!
Feeding 60+ hungry athletes is never easy, and although we were staying out in the sticks at the side of a mountain, this didn’t stop New Balance from providing us with some good hearty food! It had been arranged for a caterer to stay at the youth hostel with us and cook our evening meals. He did a great job of feeding hungry Team NB members! Following a big feed, the rest of Friday night (along with Saturday and Sunday night) was spent socialising around the bonfire until our clothes and hair were saturated with smoke!
Saturday’s main activity was called Via Ferrata Extreme located at the spectacular Honister Slate mine. Originally from the Dolomites in Italy, Via Ferrata literally means “Iron Way”. Essentially it involved climbing vertical rocks using iron footholds fixed into the rock face, and ascending/descending ladders on the steep mountainside of Honister Crag. Pictures probably give a better description than words, but even the photos don’t quite do justice to just how big and steep the cliff was! It definitely wasn’t an activity for the the feint hearted! There were a few hair raising moments as well as lots of shaking arms and legs as we navigated our way across the cliff side and over a precarious bridge! After the scramble across the cliffs, we had a short walk through some of the old mining tunnels and then a little hike up to the top of Fleetwith Pike where we were greeted with some amazing views over the Lake District! After all the adrenaline from the cliff climbing, there were quite a few weary and sore bodies once we made it back to the minibuses, we were ready for some feeding! For those of you that are thinking that this sounds like torture, there was an alternative and more sedate option of a steamboat ride on Ullswater for those that weren’t massively keen on heights (no one was forced into doing Via Ferrata!).
With the majority of athletes on the weekend being distance athletes, we obviously had to fit it a few runs at some point too. The locals probably didn’t really know what was going on when their village was taken over by several brightly dressed runners! There were some really great routes from the hostel down the hill to Glenridding and then around the Ullswater lakeshore. The only downside was that at the end of each run, we had a rather steep mile long climb back up to the hostel! It was a good way to get the lungs burning, and being a mile long, it was great if you really enjoy suffering… “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
Sunday was another action packed day (depending on which activity you opted for). Some opted for a morning run (a Sunday isn’t really a Sunday without a long run!) while those who were on their end of season break enjoyed lie ins and a leisurely breakfast. Following breakfast we had some informative and interactive talks on New Balance apparel and footwear. Everyone found the talks really useful and we all walked away with a better idea of how the New Balance apparel and footwear works and what style/shoe model each of us are suited to. We also got to sneak preview some of the very good looking spikes for the 2016/2017 season which we all got quite excited about!
We were provided with two options on Sunday afternoon; coffee and cake in Glenridding or a substantial hike up to the top of Helvellyn. Most of us that had run a fair few miles in the morning opted for the relaxing option coffee and cake and quite happily waved the hikers off on their adventure up Helvellyn. Having opted for the cake option, I can’t provide much of an insight into the Helvellyn walk, but there were quite a few tired, weary yet satisfied faces when they returned from their hike. They had climbed up to 3117ft after all!
On Monday we sadly had to say goodbye to Helvellyn Youth Hostel and make our way back down the mountain. Fortunately, there was still one more treat in store for us. On our way back to Manchester we stopped off at the lovely little town of Bowness-on-Windermere, which as the name suggests is situated on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. We spent a couple of hours there being tourists, reminiscing on a great weekend and eating our national dish – fish and chips! From there we made our way back to Manchester where we said our final farewells to our new friends from the New Balance family. I think we all left the weekend feeling even more proud and privileged to represent Team New Balance!
There are so many people to thank for such a memorable weekend, but I think New Balance UK, Pete Riley and Steve Vernon deserve a special mention! Thank you also to Dan Vernon for the classy photos along with the amazing video that he put together from the weekend which can be viewed here (New Balance Athlete Summit Video).
By Eli Kirk