The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2000

Garry Perratt

This article was written for Axe Valley Runners' July '00 newsletter.

After a few years' absence I had been persuaded to do another mountain marathon. Our aim was to enjoy ourselves rather than take it too seriously but ... well, let's just say that things don't always go according to plan.

A Leisurely Day in the Hills.

Saturday ignores the weather forecast (thundery showers) and dawns fine and sunny instead. Excellent conditions for a great day out. We repack out rucksacks for the final time (nine pounds apiece - that'll do nicely).

We're off. Run to the route description issue to see where we're going, mark on the first couple of controls and get moving. The first one is less than a mile away but fifteen hundred feet up! I mark the rest of the controls as we climb, Alan shouting out the grid refs - we can climb and write or climb and read, but all three together is rather tricky!

On the next climb, Alan marks the rest of the course as I hold his map case which contains his compass ... until it falls out, which we don't notice until it's too late! Oh well, on on. Slight navigational errors on the next few controls each waste a minute or so; not such a big deal over the hours we're going to be out but annoying, nonetheless.

I'm going a bit stronger than Alan by now but that gives me more time for unhurried navigation and to appreciate the views! Controls come and go with lots of contouring, a few steep descents and two long, hard climbs. Then we reach the best bit of the day, the penultimate leg down a gently-sloping, grassy fell which makes for easy running on tired legs!

The last control is just a mile along a wall round a small hill. I suspect it won't be as flat as we would wish (you can hide a lot of ups and downs between 50-foot contours!) but it's easy to navigate, good underfoot and Alan's really suffering from dehydration by now so we take it as the easy option. It turns out to be a classic case of "don't take the obvious route" as there is 150m climb (twice as much as going over the top of the hill) and it takes over 20 minutes! But finally we're dropping down to the mid-way campsite to begin the serious business of refuelling for the next day's endeavours.

Then the bad news. Despite our leisurely day we've managed to run ourselves into second place! With everything to lose (the third place team is just ten minutes behind) and little to gain (the leaders have twenty minutes on us) Day 2 isn't going to be another easy one! But that most definitely doesn't mean it isn't going to be fun ...

Fast, Furious and Fun!

The morning brings low cloud - excellent! We get the control descriptions well before we start today so have plenty of time to plan the optimum route while queuing for the loo! With a chasing start the leaders go off at 7:45 and we follow 20 minutes later. The course is very runnable (for a mountain marathon, anyway) and the low visibility requires spot-on navigation to avoid costly mistakes. The legs do what they are supposed to (e.g. run up gradients that we walked yesterday) and we hit all the controls exactly as planned with not so much as a minute wasted. Even the cloud parts at the crucial moments so we can spot destinations in the distance, reducing the time spent running on compass bearings.

Across the bog, up the hill, second knoll should be the control - got it! Up the slope, boulder field to the left, knoll on the left, along the col, rising now, control should be just ... here! Big stream, smaller beyond, another big one, should see the tarn just over the rise - voila! Contour round, Alan finds a small path going exactly the right way, should cross the path we want just round this corner ... yep!

Suddenly I'm flagging. We've only been out for a couple of hours but I really haven't eaten or drunk enough for the frenetic pace we've been setting. A few mouthfuls of Sainsbury's luxury fruit 'n' nut mix (only the best will do!) and a swig of water pick me up and, anyway, we're nearly home.

An easy descent now, bear left of the path (the path's the safe option but we're incapable of making mistakes today so take the better line), down to the col, hit the top of the big stream, follow the top of the slope round for a hundred yards and should see ... the control! 'Tis awesome - it rarely comes together so well!

Then the end is in sight, way down below. But first there's more than a thousand feet to descend in a third of a mile (that's one in two!). Now we're hammering along the valley floor to cover the last mile and a quarter in just under eight minutes as the heavens open. I'm on such a high that it's difficult to fight back the tears! And so we end a superb weekend with what we later discover to be the fastest Day 2 time by four minutes. Yes! (Not bad for a couple of southern softies who average 25 miles per week.)

As I said, things don't always go according to plan ... sometimes they're better!

© Garry Perratt, 2000