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.
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. https://www.ldmta.org.uk
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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!
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.
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.
This morning a group of ladies from our Tuesday sessions (plus special guest Clare O) had a wonderful run from Reeth. We had the wind to our backs as we made our way up on to Fremington Edge and then, sheltered by the wall, had a lovely run along the ridge. Then came the fun bit! It is such a wonderful descent down a springy, grassy path before a short, steeper technical section. The section along by the river is always more undulating than you would like it to be but we were back in Reeth before we knew it. A fabulous, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable run out!
Duncan Archer went out on Saturday at took 41 minutes off the record for the Durham Hewitts Round. If you aren’t familiar with the route it takes in all the mountains over 2000 feet and with 3o metres prominence in County Durham. The record has been held since 2011 by Will Horsley.