Cronkley Fell Race Results – 9 Sep 2023

Cronkley Fell Race – 9 Sep 2023

age cat
1 1 1 Chris Alborough MSEN Durham Fell Runners 01:20:20
2 2 2 Adam Perry MSEN Helm Hill 01:22:39
3 3 1 Robert Bee M50 01:23:32
4 4 3 John Woodhouse MSEN Durham Fell Runners 01:27:03
5 5 4 Will Carter MSEN Dark Peak 01:27:31
6 6 1 Matt Walker M40 Durham Fell Runners 01:28:01
7 7 5 Joseph Addison MSEN Durham Fell Runners 01:30:14
8 8 6 Tom Hamilton MSEN Elvet Striders 01:31:21
9 9 2 Martin Wilson M40 Durham Fell Runners 01:31:45
10 10 7 Tom Carter MSEN Durham Fell Runners 01:32:28
11 11 8 Andrew Armin MSEN Saltwell Harriers 01:32:34
12 12 3 Andy Blackett M40 Durham Fell Runners 01:32:48
13 13 4 Richard Bateson M40 Northumberland Fell Runners 01:33:05
14 14 2 Simon Mounsey M50 Howgill Harriers 01:36:03
15 15 5 Graeme Watt M40 Elvet Striders 01:37:13
16 16 6 Simon Long M40 Saltwell Harriers 01:40:24
17 17 9 Joe Stringer MSEN Northumberland Fell Runners01:40:39
18 18 1 Tony Bolton M60 Northern Fells Running Club 01:42:14
19 19 2 Philip Pearson M60 Northern Fells Running Club 01:44:35
20 20 7 Jamie Hardman M40 01:48:41
21 21 8 Andrew Stimson M40 Durham Fell Runners 01:49:56
22 22 3 Ian Warhurst M60 Pennine Fell Runners 01:50:47
23 1 1 Tamsin Imber W40 Elvet Striders 01:52:26
24 23 9 Sean Robinson M40 Howgill Harriers 01:52:27
25 24 3 John Rippon M50 Northumberland Fell Runners01:53:44
26 25 4 Chris Curtis M50 Northern Fells Running Club 01:54:56
27 26 10 Jordan Rogers-Smith MSEN 01:55:48
28 27 4 David Armstrong M60 Northumberland Fell Runners01:57:12
29 28 5 Andrew Fahey M50 Durham Fell Runners 01:58:26
30 29 6 Jonathan Mills M50 02:00:19
31 30 10 Dominic Martin M40 Saltwell Harriers 02:01:26
32 31 5 Paul Doxford M60 South Shields Harriers & AC 02:01:33
33 32 7 Iain Atkinson M50 Durham Fell Runners 02:02:57
34 33 11 Jack Fuller MSEN 02:06:50
35 2 2 Claire Calverley W40 Northumberland Fell Runners02:07:25
36 34 8 Simon Dobson M50 Elvet Striders 02:09:49
37 35 11 Matthew McGuinness M40 02:11:07
38 36 12 Jack Coglan MSEN 02:12:50
39 3 3 Marie Murtagh W40 Easington Running Club 02:14:11
40 37 6 Eddie Peat M60 Durham Fell Runners 02:14:45
41 38 9 Gareth Cozens M50 Howgill Harriers 02:16:23
42 4 1 Denise Tunstall W50 Durham Fell Runners 02:17:39
43 39 12 Matthew Farrer M40 Mynydd Du 02:18:59
44 5 1 Kim Taylor W60 Northumberland Fell Runners02:19:36
45 40 7 Andrew Duncan M60 Northumberland Fell Runners02:21:03
46 6 4 Zoe Robinson W40 Howgill Harriers 02:21:52
47 41 13 Thomas Mitchell MSEN 02:37:50
48 42 1 Andy Charles M70 Durham Fell Runners 02:43:55
49 7 2 Contogiorgi-Smith Elena W50 02:46:08
50 43 13 Scott Dewhurst M40 Cheviot Trail Runners 02:48:44
51 44 10 Simon Bray M50 Sinfin Running Club 03:03:59
52 8 5 Helen Smith W40 03:04:00
Fixture Details

flickr photo album
Durham Fell Runners - Cronkley Fell Race - 9 Sep 2023

Chapelfell Top Fell Race

For a preview of the race and general race organiser chat with Charlie Baker, click here for the latest episode of On the Back Foot.

On the Back Foot; Chapelfell Top preview

Chapelfell Top Fell Race

Information for Runners

Sunday 23rd July

Men’s race 1pm start

Women’s race 2pm start

We are looking forward to welcoming you to our fell race up Chapelfell Top. The race is unmarked and goes across rough ground. Please ensure that you are wearing appropriate footwear and clothing and are prepared for the conditions. 

This race is licensed by the FRA and is run in line with their rules. GPS must not be used for navigation and no walking poles are permitted in this event. 

Kit requirements:

Race number; collect at registration

Timing dibber; collect at registration

Map; available to download on the race website, some will also be available at registration



Waterproof top with integrated hood and taped seams

Bring and be prepared to carry depending on the weather forecast: 

Waterproof bottoms with taped seams



Race day information

  • Car parking will be available in a field to the east of the village, £5 per car. Please car share if possible as space will be limited. What3Words
  • Portaloo toilets will be located in the finishing field behind the cattle mart. 
  • Registration will take place in Barrington Hall on the village green and will be open from 11am. Please arrive in plenty of time to park and go through registration prior to your race start time – allow an hour.  Men’s race starts at 1pm. Women’s race starts at 2pm. 
  • Water will be at the finish. Some paper cups will be available but please bring your own bottle if you can. These can be left in the finishing field while you race. 
  • Post-race refreshments will be available to purchase from Scoops and Smiles ice cream van, Piggy Blinders burger van, Chatterbox Café, the Blue Bell Inn (offering cakes, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks) and the Golden Lion pub. 
  • Pete Bland will be at registration with his van for any last minute kit purchases. 
  • Prizegiving will take place at Barrington Hall after the completion of the women’s race (approx. 3pm). 

We look forward to seeing you on the day and hope that you have a great run! 

Fran Blackett


A weekend at the OMM Festival, Grasmere

The OMM Festival is a relatively new event and seems to be developing each year. The event centre is based in Grasmere, Lake District and the options are incredibly flexible with it advertising itself as being inclusive and family friendly. You can visit for the day; stay locally and come onto site or for the runs or talks; or you can camp (in tents or vans) on site all weekend. 

The event centre:

This was well organised with fields for vans and tents and ample portaloos! The main marquee had a well-stocked bar and a decent food provider. All registration for events took place here but it never felt busy and I don’t think I queued for anything all weekend. There were a whole range of talks happening across the weekend and although I did not attend any of these there were some that sounded interesting and had we not had the children with us we certainly would have gone along. 

The event centre

The running: 

There seemed to be a running event to suit everyone’s tastes. This year the following running events were available: 

  • 5km 
  • 10km 
  • 17km 
  • Marathon 
  • OMM Lite short (9 hours total) and long score (12 hours total)

I believe that next year they will be adding an evening fell race into the mix. 

Our weekend:

This was the first year that either Andy or I had been and I can confirm that the whole event was incredibly family friendly (I emailed prior to the event to request an early start time to help accommodate childcare and this was happily sorted out by the organisers which felt welcoming and inclusive). We arrived on the Friday evening. We were camping on site all weekend and were efficiently shown to a camping spot. It felt slightly discombobulating to be seeing the OMM banners in hot, summer sunshine and without the feeling of impending doom that normally comes with seeing them in late October. Andy and I had decided to run solo at this event and had both entered the short score (which was 5 hours on the Saturday and 4 hours on the Sunday). We had our boys with us and Andy’s parents had kindly jumped on board with a plan whereby they stayed at the YHA in Grasmere and came down to the event centre each day to look after Joss and Kenny while Andy and I ran. Huge thanks to them for this! It felt great to have the boys with us. For years they have been going off to Granny’s house or Grandma and Grandad have been coming to look after them at home while we disappear to ‘race in the mountains all weekend’ without them really having a grasp of what we are doing. The boys were so excited to come to registration with us and were fascinated by the dibbers being attached to our wrists and seeing the start and finish gates really helped them start to understand what we were doing. 

There were plenty of events taking place during the day on Saturday to keep them entertained and feeling involved. They had great fun taking part in the Teddy Dash (it was only 200m but all children got a race number). There was also an orienteering course around the fields of the event centre as well as an orienteering maze which was complete with dibbers and download so that they could see their times. This appealed particularly to our eldest who seems to have a strong competitive streak. Can’t think where that comes from.

The Teddy Dash 

A little note on what a short/long score navigation event is: 

For these events you are given a set amount of time to be out which begins when you dib at the start. As you cross the line you are given a map. On this map are many controls spread across the event area. The controls each have a number of points ranging from 10 to 50 depending on how challenging they are to get to. The game is to collect as many points, by visiting the controls and dibbing there, as you can within the time limit for your event. If you are late back then you begin to lose points. If you are more than half an hour late back then you lose all the points you collected. The winner is the person with the most points. 

Fran’s Saturday: 

As I mentioned earlier, to help stagger the times that Andy and I were out on the fells, I had negotiated an early start time of 8am. This meant I was starting with those completing the long score event (they would be out for 7 hours, I would be out for 5). This didn’t really make much difference to anyone competing but it did mean I had a trophy on my dot which Andy’s dad was tracking all morning. I was sorry to disappoint him when I finished that this was only the case as all others on the short score just hadn’t been running for as long so didn’t have as many points! The weather was clear and it was obviously going to be another hot day. It was pleasant starting at 8am but this wasn’t going to last. The organisers are working hard to make this an inclusive event and accessible to those who are not familiar with navigation events. This included a race briefing at the start where the organiser went through the usuals of tell us if you retire, make sure you have your kit with you etc and then he dropped the bombshell that you had to remain on footpaths and rights of way for the duration of the event, even when on the open fell. Normally, once on the open fell then anything goes and I spend very little time on paths as I contour and find optimal routes (well, most of the time!). This seemingly small rule change was going to take up a lot more thinking time for me. 

Pre-race briefing 

Briefing complete, it was time to dib the start, get my map and make a day plan! I have done countless events like this. In the beginning, Andy and I would always do the score courses. There is no set distance, you get as far as you can within the time, if you can’t find a control it doesn’t matter you can just move on and look for another one with no penalty so they are really great for those that are less confident on their navigation skills. However, they are stressful in that you have a lot of decisions to make about which way you are going to go and which controls you are going to visit, how long that will take you and will you be back on time. I have moved towards preferring to enter linear courses where you have to visit every control on your course in order (if you can’t find one you DNF which is the main downside!). 

Which way to go? 

So when I dibbed the start last Saturday, took the map and looked at it I was filled with a familiar panic! Which way was I going to go?! Normally a clockwise or anticlockwise loop jumps out at me but nothing did. I decided to head out on a loop that would take me up and above the event centre before looping back down to Loughrigg (CO, CM, BC, BG). 

The navigation looked straightforward and I reasoned that I would be able to get a good look at the map while I completed this loop. This worked well. I made decent progress and came up with a plan. From BG I decided I would head up Loughrigg (BB) and then down to DF to the east of Elter Water. When I got there I would look at the time and come up with a plan. I could either start heading back towards the Event Centre or head up the Langdale valley. I was toing and froing with a female pair who passed me on the ascent of Loughrigg then I caught them on the descent then together we made our way onto the road. Then I lost sight of them. Pleasingly as I arrived at checkpoint DF, they approached shortly afterwards from the opposite direction. They had gone the long way round on the road whilst I had taken a shorter if more fiddly way navigation wise. This pleased me as it is why I can perform much better in these events than a straightforward race to the gun. A little wily route choice can keep me in pace! 

Fran’s route from the summit of Loughrigg

The time was looking pretty good so I headed up Langdale valley. This meant a long stretch on the Cumbria Way, tarmac road and hard track. I was wearing Inov8 mudclaws. Not the best footwear choice it turned out (I trashed them, losing about 4 studs by the end of the day). I also got really hot. Really, really hot. By the time I reached checkpoint AE I was cooked. My heart was racing and my legs were jelly. I was now looking at the clock and wondering if 2 hours was going to be enough time to get back to the event centre. Score course anxiety kicking in! I had a steep 400m climb ahead. Normally, I reckon on doing 100m of elevation gain every 8mins or so which would have given plenty of time. But I knew I was no longer moving that well. On my way along the road I spotted a river. I topped up my soft flasks and decided to dunk my cap. This was joyous! Why hadn’t I done this earlier? On I plodded. I didn’t feel stressed. I had decided that it wasn’t worth giving myself heat stroke for. If I was feeling that rubbish, then my body was telling me something. So I just took my time. One step in front of the other and grovelled my way up the steep climb. 

I was aiming for checkpoint CC at the top and then I was on my way back. However, the checkpoint wasn’t exactly where I expected it to be (later, Andy would tell me that he had also struggled to find it as there were two parallel paths). My head was so fried by this point – I had been concentrating on my own for 4 hours – that I did not have the problem solving capabilities to fix it. I am full of regret now. I must have been so close to it! I enjoy running solo, it is challenging – and I can go where I like – but in moments like these a partner would be able to pick up the slack and help me out or tell me to get a grip and solve it! 

Checkpoint abandoned, I headed back to the Event Centre without any other real problems. 8 minutes inside the time. I definitely should have spent that 8 minutes looking for checkpoint CC! 

Finish line on day 2. This was sprinkling cold water down on me which was glorious. 

Andy’s Sunday:

After day one, I was in 2nd place on the short score course, having matched the points gained by Charles Levitt and being 2 minutes late back, so being 2 points behind.  Picking up the map there was an obvious horseshoe of Great Rigg for 140 points, but it would have been hard work picking up more than that, so I looked at the rest of the map.  It was clear heading West towards High Raise (CH) then Pike of Stickle (DH) would give good points, and lots of options on the way back in.  I saw 3 routes to High Raise, Easdale Tarn (BN) via (BO) followed by Far Easdale (BH) gave 70 points, Helm Crag (AH) gave 40 points or Greenburn (AM) gave 40 points.  I went with Easdale Tarn/Far Easdale to get some points in the bag, recognising this would mean I would probably not be able to take all the options I saw for the 2nd half of the route.

I took the green route for 70 points, rather than the pink or red for 40 points each.

Things went smoothly to High Raise, then I lost concentration on the way over Thunacar Knott, it is ground I know well, and I thought, “Thunacar Knott, I’m not on the BG, I can bypass the summit of this one to the East” I didn’t look at the map and realise the path I was on would lead me towards Pavey Ark and I had to go round past Harrison Stickle then descend before climbing towards Pike of Stickle. This error probably cost me 15 minutes, and I made it to save a few seconds by not considering the map.

Long story short.  As I was descending to Pike Howe (CB) the sole of my right shoe started to peel off, I put my glove over the toe of my shoe, but that kept coming off, tried some first aid tape, which wasn’t strong enough, then took off my left sock and put it over my right shoe.  Scott Collier did this for 1.5 days at the Saunders MM once, so I figured I would be ok for the next 2 hours.  It worked well, but faffing around probably cost another 5 minutes.  I was now much later than I planned, binned off most of my options for the way home, and headed for (DO) for another 20 points.  I misread the map in my panic incorrectly identified the correct wall corner, ended up in a jumble of drystone walls, abandoned the last planned control, and ran back to Grasmere, got lost looking for the bridge over the river and came in 12 minutes late to loose 25 points.

If I’d found the right wall corner it would have given me 20 more points and led me to a shorter run in which would have probably got me in on time to avoid the 25 point penalty and I’d have won by 8 points.  However at the end of 9 hours running there will always be some errors or sub-optimal choices and I’m pleased with how it all went.

Andy’s planned route in blue, actual route in red
Prizegiving, second place in the short score

If, after reading all this you think you might fancy coming along next year, the dates are 1st-2nd June 2024. It would be great to have a larger DFR crowd there. Ideal if you fancy a two day navigation event but don’t much fancy a cosy night spooning with your partner in a 1 man tent. However, remember, you don’t have to spend hours chasing points round the hills; enter the 5km and spend the rest of the time enjoying what the beer tent and ice cream van have to offer! 

Click here for more information here is a link to the event website

Chapelfell Top – Entry information

Details of the 2023 English Fell Running Championships counter race can be found following the link below.

Enter via SiEntries here 

Entries for those on the guaranteed entry list will open on Saturday 13th May at 0800. To be guaranteed an entry you should enter by 09:00 on Friday 19th May.

Entries for FRA members only will open at 10:00 on Friday 19th May and close at 09.00 on Friday 26th May or when 70% of the places have been filled.

Entries for all remaining places will open for all at 10:00 on Friday 26th May and a waiting list will be used if the event becomes full (500 limit).

2023 Preview

Here is brief preview of key club events happening throughout this year. It is not an exhaustive list but I think includes the key fell running events of 2023.


Sunday 8th – Commondale Clart – club champs, short 


Saturday 4th – Wadsworth Trog -club champs, long 

Saturday 11th – Ladies on Tour to Carrock Fell, Lake District 


Saturday 11th – At the Double – club champs, medium 


Thursday 27th – DFR organised Cockfield Chase race, RO Andy Blackett 


Wednesday 10th  – Cautley Horseshoe – club champs, short 


2-4th June OMM Lite Festival, Grasmere – a weekend with camping, food, beer and races to suit all tastes from 5km trail runs to 7 hour score course. Andy and I are taking the boys for the weekend. It’d be great fun to have a bunch of people from the club there for a relaxed running filled weekend.

More info on the OMM Lite here: 

Saturday 10th – Roman Wall Show – club champs, short 

Sunday 11th – Navigation day in Hamsterley Forest, details TBC.


1-2nd Saunders Mountain Marathon – the friendliest mountain marathon on the calendar. Courses to suit all abilities. Grab a partner and give it a go!

Saturday 1st July – Chevy Chase– club champs, long

SUNDAY 23rd JULY – DFR organised CHAPELFELL TOP ENGLISH CHAMPS RACE – clear your diaries – with the possibility of up to 500 runners, we’re going to need marshals galore (up to 10-15).


Sunday 20th – Sedburgh Hills – club champs, long 


Saturday 2nd – Grisedale Horseshoe – club champs, medium 

Saturday 9th – DFR organised Cronkley Fell race, RO Paul Hodgson

Sunday 10th – Lake District Mountain Trial – a classic in the fell running calendar. A chance to test your navigation and mountain craft in a long running event.


Sunday 1st – Hodgson Brothers Relay, Patterdale, Lake District – we pick our strongest male team for this prestigious event to take on the best runners from the best clubs. There is a limited number of clubs accepted to participate and a waiting list of other clubs keen to jump in. With this in mind we need to field as strong a team as possible. Clear your diaries fast lads!! 

Saturday 21st  – British Fell and Hill Relays, Keswick, Lake District – organised by Keswick AC this year so pretty easy to get to. Last year we had three teams (male, female and mixed) complete the relays which was incredible. If you’re excited to take part then put the date in your diary! 


Sunday 10th – Simonside Cairns – club champs, medium 

Saturday 16th – DFR organised Bollihope Carrs race, RO Andy Blackett 

Monday 18th – DFR organised Silent Night race, RO Andy Blackett 

Silent Night Results 2022

PositionGender positionAge cat positionNameClubTimeCategory
111Chris AlboroughDurham Fell Runners39:38MSEN
222John WoodhouseDurham Fell Runners42:15MSEN
333Joe StringerNorthumberland Fell Runners42:36MSEN
444William BowersOchil Hill Runners43:13MSEN
555Andrew ArminSaltwell Harriers43:52MSEN
666Martin WilsonDurham Fell Runners46:55MSEN
771Matt WalkerDurham Fell Runners47:00M40
887Max WilkinsonDurham Fell Runners47:34MSEN
992Mark DavinsonDerwentside AC50:26M40
10108Harry Madgwick LawtonCroydon Striders50:27MSEN
11113Adam MalloyNorthumberland Fell Runners53:22M40
12124Graham Lewis-DaleNorth Shields Polytechnic Club53:54M40
13135Paul HodgsonDurham Fell Runners54:15M40
14146Andrew StimsonDurham Fell Runners54:28M40
15157Ian HutchinsonDerwentside AC55:17M40
16168Adam BridgesDurham Fell Runners57:02M40
1711Helen HeaneyNorth Shields Polytechnic Club59:30W40
18179Jonathan HeaneyNorth Shields Polytechnic Club59:31M40
19189Joe WinstanleyNorth Shields Polytechnic Club1:01:07MSEN
201910Ed Walker1:03:47MSEN
21201Pat McIverHowgill Harriers1:07:24M50
2222Alison GouldingDerwentside AC1:08:22W40
23211Andrew CharlesDurham Fell Runners1:25:14M70

Club Champs

From Paul:

Final race in the 2022 club champs saw 4 DFR members head down to East Lancashire for the AL category Tour of Pendle.

The weather was kind but the rain during last week made for a tough 16 miles up and over Pendle hill in just about every conceivable direction.

Thomas Dobbing took maximum points in the men’s competition finishing in 2:48 ish, Martin Wilson also dipped just under 3 hours. I was a bit behind, finishing in 3:17 and Denise Tunstall was the only DFR runner in the women’s and takes the points.

Also nice to bump into Nina Mason from Elvet Striders before the race.

Well done all who took part this year, I hope you’ve enjoyed the races.

Club Champs 2022 - Results Men

Andy Blackett11940394039404039
Michael Sturla11539403738403738
Mark Smith103383332383332
Dougie Nisbet10037363231373231
Chris Alborough40400040
Martin Wilson1194040393839404039
Joe Addison37370037
Owen Carter36360036
Andrew Stimson1233739363935403939405
Paul Hodgson1163938343938393839
Adam Bridges67343303433
Dan Hoyle76383838380
Andrew Henderson35350350
Tom Carter40400400
Max Wilkinson37370370
Stan Gibson37370037
Dan Rhodes38383800
Tom Dobbing40400040
Club Champs 2022 - Fixtures and Details

Club Champs 2022 - Results Ladies

Dawn Hosking120404040404040
Denise Tunstall1253939404038404040405
Meghan McCarthy11940403939404039
Roslyn Kelsey38380038
Club Champs 2022 - Fixtures and Details

OMM 2022 – Langdale

Fran Blackett

It is tempting only to write enthusiastic event reports when things have gone well. Maybe there is as much, or maybe even more to be learned when things have not gone well. As has been the case at my first attempt at the OMM.

I initially entered the OMM back in early 2020 or maybe it was even late 2019 with my lovely friend Nim. She lives in Inverness. The OMM was due to be in the Arrochar Alps. It seemed a great a way to spend the weekend together. This OMM was duly cancelled. Then it was moved to Langdale. Nim could no longer make it. Taking part was now something that had become important to me. I have completed 8 mountain marathons but the OMM is THE BIG ONE. It seems a gap in my mountain marathon CV to have not done it. So I talked Andy into being by partner. Last year it was cancelled last minute due to the fact that Langdale was under water and all roads were impassable. So our entry carried over to 2022.

Having completed 2 Kirkfell classes (roughly equivalent ascent and mileage) at the Saunders we thought that it was feasible to enter the A Class at the OMM. It would be a challenge. Our chances of completing were never certain. I have a complex psychology when it comes to entering events. If my chances of completion are certain then I struggle to get excited by it. For me, the challenge is pushing to see how far I can go/how hard a class I can complete. This is a risky game as the chances of failure are always present. For us to complete the A Class we were aware that everything would have to go well.

On the Tuesday before the OMM I came down with a sore throat which then turned into a horrible throat infection/virus. I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday in bed with a fever and swollen glands. Eating was so painful that the necessary pre event nutrition just did not happen. This did not fit in with everything going well! I crawled downstairs on Friday morning and reckoned we could make it to the start line on Saturday. In hindsight, maybe we should have changed courses but I thought it was worth a roll of the dice.

So, a quick lateral flow was taken to reassure Granny that the kids weren’t going to give her Covid then they were duly dropped off. Then the kit list was checked and bags were packed.

This is just my individual kit in the picture. Andy gallantly carries the tent and stove.

As we arrived in Langdale on Friday evening it really was exciting! It was dark, wet and breezy but you couldn’t resist the pre event buzz as we got registered.

Saturday morning dawned and we quietly and methodically worked our way through our familiar event morning routine and arrived at the start calm and ready to go. Spirits were high and the obligatory start line selfie was taken (that is why mobile phones are on the kit list right?). It was 8am. I joked that this would be the last smile of the day. I think that it may have been.

Startline Selfie

We set off steadily but as we hit the first climb it was soon clear to me that I did not have a lot of strength. Andy asked how I was feeling. Not great but not awful I think was my assessment.

We worked through the first 6 controls which were all around Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and then over by Cold Pike before dropping down to cross Wrynose Pass. The cloud remained stubbornly low – we had about 10 metres visibility all day and it never felt like it got properly light. After the first hour or so the rain was pretty constant for the whole day with some periods of it being heavier than others. I was cursing my Kamlieka waterproof which just felt heavy and not in any way waterproof. My new Inov-8 ‘waterproof’ mitts proved to be waterproof for about 30 mins. I was soaked through and although I was keeping warm enough I just could not get going.

We headed up on to the Coniston fells and continued to work our way through the controls but my lack of pace was starting to worry me. I started clocking the closing times on the controls. We had a sketchy contour into control 8 across rocky scree slopes. All day the ground had been absolutely soaked and the rocks so slick that I just couldn’t trust anything I put my feet on. The visibility seemed worse than ever. We were searching for a reentrant (are often a bitch to find at the best of times). We heard voices and came across a pair of young male runners. They had been searching for the same checkpoint for a while having reapproached the area from several different attack points. We were looking for a spur which would lead us to the reentrant. I clocked on the map that the spur the reentrant was next to should be facing SE, the one we were at was facing S. We moved a little further on, found the spur facing in the correct direction and quickly located the checkpoint. I was pleased that I was still functioning enough to pick up on these small details. We had to keep thinking all day which makes you mentally as well as physically fatigued. We were there 40 mins before it closed. We had 1 hour 40 mins to get to the next checkpoint.

We got to checkpoint 9 an hour before it closed. We had 2 hours to get to the next one. It seemed that if we just kept moving we would be OK. Only our route to checkpoint 10 took us on a long, rough contour across more wet, slippy, rocky ground. And now it was dark. After a torturous climb up beside a stream we dibbed the checkpoint and had 90 mins to get to the finish. We started off on a bearing up a direct route climbing Grey Friar but we very quickly hit a boulder field. In the dark and with visibility so poor we had no way of knowing if this was just a few metres long or a few hundred metres long. We changed plan and headed around to the col up a grassier climb.

Every step for me by now was an absolute battle and I was starting to lose my head, unable to get anything to make sense. When we reached the col we had a final route choice to make. Take the path up and over Grey Friar. Or gamble on a contour that looked like it would be rocky. We’d had enough treacherous rocky contouring for one day and headed up the path to the summit of Grey Friar – hoping for a path down to the crossing point we needed to hit. This path did not exist and we slipped and crawled down horrible ground to the fence. But no crossing point. Our final decision – go along the fence to find the crossing point or head down and around the out of bounds area. We had 7 minutes to make it to the final checkpoint. Andy backed himself to navigate around the out of bounds. It didn’t pay off this time. There was a mess of fences and walls some of which seemed to be unmapped. The 7 minutes ticked by and it was game over. We never made it to checkpoint 11 and trudged into camp after 12 hours out on the fells in the most horrific weather to be facing a big fat DNF.

It was 845pm and we knew we needed to be careful and look after ourselves. I was exhausted and soaked to the skin but first we needed to find somewhere to pitch the tent. We wandered around a boggy field desperately searching for anything that wasn’t ankle deep in water. We squeezed in beside another tent and got ourselves sorted. Tent up, dry clothes on, food on, hot chocolate on, sleep.

The next morning we were awoken at 6am by the sound of bagpipes kindly provided by the organisers. Last night had been all about surviving. This morning, the realisation of not making it started to become clear. It is pretty hard to motivate yourself to get up and going, putting wet kit on, making breakfast while squished in a tiny tent without the excitement of a day 2 to go at. I had already decided not to run. I had felt so awful all day on the Saturday that I just needed to get back to the van. Cue an announcement from Martin Stone offering to pair up people whose partners didn’t want to run. Andy went off to seek a day 2 partner and he had fun running day 2 of the B course with a young guy called Henry who had also failed to find checkpoint 11 on the A course the night before.

48 teams started the A course. 24 teams completed both days. We were in no way alone in our failure to complete. This is an absolute brute of a challenge.

Should we have changed to the B course? I know that we would have got round it and I could have said that I had completed an OMM. However, I also know that I would have been left wondering, what if?

So what now? If everything went right, could I do it? We were about 10 mins and a poor call away from getting day 1 of this one done. OMM 2023 is in Snowdonia. I do like the Snowdonia.

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 Entries open until 20th August. I can’t wait.