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.
This was the first two day mountain marathon organised by the team that have been behind the ‘mini mountain marathon’ series for the past ten years or so and the first mountain marathon held in Scotland since the final LAMM in 2018. When the location was announced, it seemed rude not to go and support this new venture.
For Andy and I this event came at the end of a month long van/cycle touring family adventure along the length of the Outer Hebrides and then back down through mainland Scotland. Our participation in the event was only possible thanks to the dedication of my mum who drove up from Durham, and met us on the Arran to take over childcare duties for two days whilst we went and destroyed ourselves in the mountains.
As a result of all this, we were probably the least prepared running wise that we have ever been going into one of these events. However, this did mean that I was probably the most relaxed. The pressure was off. If I was rubbish then I had 5 weeks of little to no running to blame! The weather was set fair and as we took the short ferry ride from Ardrossan to Brodick and the mountains of Arran came into view then I felt really excited for the weekend ahead.
We were not the only Durham Fell Runners to have made the journey. Steve Lumb and Tom Carter were taking on the A course (running with separate partners), Digby Harris was on the long score course and Meghan and Rory were running together on the C course. Here is my account our Arran adventure.
Day 1 – 30km, 1541m ascent
The weather was incredible and as we set off we were in high spirits. The first few checkpoints were relatively straight forward and there were plenty of cheerful and friendly exchanges with fellow teams on the hill. Our first decision came as we looked at our route from CP 4 to 5. Andy was very taken with a route that went over an inviting and attractive looking ridge. I was more keen on a riskier route that descended below the ridge and contoured through a bog. As we mulled over ‘midge or ridge’ neither of us were keen to budge. In the end we went midge and I was relieved that it was a good line! Then from CP 5 – 6 the fun really started. It looked relatively straight forward on the map. What the map didn’t tell us was just how horrific the terrain was: tussocks, reeds, tree saplings for four long kilometres. The cheery exchanges with fellow teams were now grumblings and mutterings about how slow and grim the terrain was.
After finally reaching CP 6 we were heading inbound to mid camp. Although there was still a long way to go, it felt good to be heading in the right direction. One more decent climb ( I am sure it was steeper than it appears in this photo. It certainly felt it!) and then everything else was pretty straight forward until our final route choice to the final CP of the day.
Andy was keen on the direct line. I had spotted a slightly longer route that got us off the rough ground more quickly and joined a path along to the CP which was on the path/stream junction. I was tired. I wanted to be off the hill. It seemed a safe option. Andy didn’t feel strongly about his route and so we took my line. And we were glad that we did. The direct route down off the hill to the CP went through what was marked as ‘mixed woodland’ on the map. In reality this was impenetrable rhododendrons, trees and gorse. Many teams lost a lot of time negotiating this. Finally the finish was in sight. We were very relieved to have made it.
Midcamp: As we made our way towards the camping fields we saw a guy eating his meal in the middle of the road. ‘Are the midge that bad?’ ‘Yep’. He was not wrong. The midge situation was desperate.
A respite from the midge was provided by a Ceilidh (with bar) that had been arranged by the organisers. A room full of sweaty runners all in their hill gear giving their all to some excellent dancing must have been quite the sight.
Day 2 – 27km, 1576m ascent
I am not sure how to give an account of day 2 without it being a massive whinge but I will give it a go! This was the hardest day I have ever had on a mountain marathon. Maybe the hardest day in the mountains I have ever had! The lack of fitness played a part. My base fitness was good enough for one tough mountain day. When I asked my body to go again the next day, it did not have a lot to give.
After a glorious 400m along a path, the day got going with our first climb. Up through wet grassy tussocks which made my legs (cut to ribbons by the previous day’s fun) sting like crazy and then deteriorating into loose, grumbly rock that just came away in your hand. It’s 745am.
Me: Is it too early to lose my sense of humour?
CP 1 was successfully located and we tried to rally ourselves. It was another clear and beautiful day. The sight of runners silhouetted against the skyline struck me. This is a pretty crazy game to play but there are these incredible moments of peace and calm among the stress.
We were taking each CP one at time, trying to remember to eat and taking turns to boost moral when low moments became too much. And then we reached a rising contour into a hanging valley across rough boulder and heather covered ground. This was the lowest of the low points. As we approached the ridge line to a checkpoint ‘cross on a hill’ (I think I will always remember this one) it was all too much.
Me: I just can’t do it any more
Andy: Well I’m not going back down through that **** ground
Me: I don’t want to go back down there either
Andy: Well then you’ll have to keep going up
Me: I don’t think I can
Andy: What do you want to do then?
Me: Call for help
Andy: Fran, I am not calling Mountain Rescue
Upon reflection. I think Andy was right. To call for help was not the best course of action. He let me sit down for a few minutes, gave me a gel and we regrouped for the final push because as it had taken us so long to get to this point we were now in a race against the clock to beat the 4pm cut off. Miss the cut off and we would DNF the whole weekend. Brutal. The next checkpoint was the summit of Goatfell and then it was a long and painful descent down to the finish line. It was tight but we made it with just 10 minutes to spare. The sight of my mum and the boys at the finish line was such a joyous feeling (although they had spent so long waiting they were more interested in their snack they’d just been given!) and there was so much relief at having made it.
In the end we finished 26th of 29 finishers. 14 teams DNFd so I like to count these and say that we finished 26th of 43 starters. Meghan and Rory finished 5th in the Short Score. Digby Harris finished 9th in the Long Score. Tom Carter did not finish a brutal A course. Steve Lumb’s partner was injured during day 1 on the A course so they did not complete. He ran with a new partner on day 2 (as her partner was also injured) and so completed with A course with an *!
‘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.