Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon (SLMM)

Eskdale, 2022

What is it?

‘The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon (SLMM) is a two-day mountain navigation competition (or race) that is held annually in the Lake District for teams of two runners.

The event comprises  6 linear courses of varying lengths and technical difficulty and one ‘score’ course where competitors choose which controls to visit over a 2 day total of 12 hours.

The first day finishes at a mid-way campsite. Competitors must carry the lightweight camping and safety equipment listed in the rules. Competitors need to be competent in the use of map and compass in the mountains’

How did the 2022 SLMM go?

This year the event centre was in Eskdale. A beautiful location. DFR member Joe Addison had headed over earlier in the day on Friday with his running partner, armed with beer and deck chairs ready to do some carb loading whilst soaking up the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the weather was distinctly ‘unSaunders’ like (sunshine is usually pretty much guaranteed). For those of us who arrived on Friday night, heavy rain meant it was a mad dash to complete registration and then back to tents or vans to hide from the weather.

For Andy and I this was our fourth Saunders together and our eighth mountain marathon. So we have our getting ready routine pretty sorted. By this I mean Andy keeps telling me to stop faffing and aims to leave 5 mins before we actually need to leave so we passed James Osborn’s van in plenty of time on our way to the start. Andy stuck his head in to wish them good luck to be met with James and his partner Matt staring at food laid out on the van floor with James realising he had forgotten to pack anything for his breakfast on Sunday morning. It seemed best to leave them to it. James can run for 8 hours on one mini snickers bar so we weren’t overly concerned for them!

Thankfully, the worst of the weather cleared by Saturday. There were some heavy showers during the day but nothing too dramatic, the cloud stayed high enough and the wind was not as high as forecast.

Andy, myself, James, Matt and Digby were all in the Kirkfell class. Digby and his partner had a great run on Saturday, finishing top of the DFR entries. Andy and I did not have our finest day. We made some questionable navigation decisions, running 36km (3km further than James and Matt). Cue plenty of self-analysis!

In the Wansfell class, Patrick Bonnett was running with his daughter Emily. This was also the class that Joe Addison was running in.

This year the mid-camp was in Wasdale Head. It really was a spectacular location. A lovely breeze coming off Wast Water kept any midges at bay. Two camping fields meant we could all spread out and there were plenty of non-boggy, flat spaces to pitch your tent. A real treat. Although we did spend the evening staring up at Yewbarrow towering above us promising that no one was going over that in the morning!

Patrick’s camp
If you ever come to a Saunders, don’t camp next to Patrick. He always has the gourmet food. And isn’t up for sharing.
Patrick enjoying his gourmet grub.

On Sunday, Digby had another strong day and finished well in 8th place. In consoling ourselves on Saturday night, I told Andy that we always have a strong second day and we did have a much better day. We concentrated a lot better and continued to move OK. We came within two minutes of the next pair but this was not enough to make up for Saturday’s losses and move us up any places.

James and Matt, Kirkfell, start of day 1
Fran and Andy, Kirkfell, end of day 2.
Patrick and Emily, Wansfell, finishing day 2

Overall, it was another fantastic event. Always so well organised. It is hard to describe the intensity of spending two days out in the hills hunting for checkpoints but I find it such a welcome relief from the everyday. I would be no good going for a spa weekend. I would just lie there thinking about all the other things I should be doing. For me, these two days of pure mountain fun are such a treat.

‘A great weekend in a rarely visited part of the Lakes. Well organised, friendly and competitive enough to make for a challenging couple of days but without being too ‘hair shirt’ Patrick Bonnett

‘Another fabulous weekend at the Saunders hunting down checkpoints, this time in Eskdale and surrounds. We were blessed with an overnight camp beside Wastwater to debate the day’s route choices over a beer. A civilised and inclusive event catering for people of all abilities’ Digby Harris

‘A great way for like-minded individuals to have as much fun as they can and eat as much rehydrated food as they can possibly carry. It can be a ‘leisurely’ holiday or a real challenge and anything in between.’ Joe Addison

‘Matt and I both agreed in the run up to the event that we would take it easy. Matt was recovering from a ruptured Achilles a couple of years ago and I was still recovering from a round of tendinitis. Neither of us were on our A-game. It started well and we were moving well together. The Blacketts were only 5 minutes behind so we could hear their intimidating calls at the early checkpoints. We made some great route choices through the day that played out well despite our relaxed effort. Only one nav error, which is pretty good for me! Matt had his poles out most of the time that left me to do the nav – a risky move! Overnight camp on the side wastewater was incredible. Just enough breeze to keep the midges away and good chat with everyone else. Day 2 and Matt was struggling a bit with his hip. We decided to walk back. The route choice changed from ‘fastest’ to ‘easiest’ and we had a nice day in the hills. Overall a great weekend with great people and plenty of hours in the hills. I give Saunders Mountain Marathon 5*. Would recommend.’ James Osborn

If reading this has tempted you to think about having a go then we have plenty of club members with incredible mountain marathon experience. I would not even like to guess how many Mark Bevan, Alan Hunt, Patrick and Steve Lumb among others have done between them and I know they would be happy to answer questions/give encouragement.

Roll on the next one; Kong Scottish Mountain Marathon on Arran http://kongmountainmarathon.org.uk Entries open until 20th August. I can’t wait. 

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