Many thanks to all who contributed. These comments are really valuable and even those of us who have completed many Mountain Marathons picked up new tips.
Don’t carry too much, train and enjoy! Try a low-key orienteering event. Tell your partner you may get cross with each other but it’s only temporary. Look out for how each other are feeling, encourage them to eat/drink etc. Keep checking in with each other and keep a sense of humour!
Don’t start too fast or worry about placing well but just enjoy
The best training you can have for a MM is to go out and get off the paths and get your legs used to being on the rough stuff.
Start snacking before you think you need to. Your body will thank you 5-6 hours in.
All the other competitors are very friendly at the midway camp. Make friends and learn some of their expertise.
Enter a course lower than you think you can do so that you enjoy your first time. The following years, go harder once you know what harder means
Please ensure you take the time to choose an appropriate course. e expected which was frustrating but meant we could finish.
Be ruthless with what you take – if it isn’t on the mandatory list and doesn’t serve multiple purposes then do you really need to take it?
Do it just for fun, you will have a great time.
Take lots of food and eat all of it.
Pay attention to your navigation at all times – silly mistakes will cost you time, places and lots of frustration.
Do everything on the move. It’s amazing how much time is lost through stopping to plan, eat, faff, etc.
Enter, it’s brilliant and you will really enjoy it. Do read all the competitor information that is sent out and pay attention to the details of essential kit, safety recommendations etc. It is there to save you should the worst happen and it can happen in the mountains. Be prepared and anything can be dealt with
This is a common one, and I didn’t think of it – plastic bags to keep your socks dry at the overnight camp.
Allow an extra few minutes planning time at the start
If you are thinking of doing a Mountain Marathon for the first time, then the S.L.M.M. Is definitely the one to do. Never “too” wild and at the right time of year, long daylight hours, whatever the weather. BUT beware, unless you have experience elsewhere, ALWAYS enter a course below your expectations, as the stated straight line distances are ALWAYS a lot tougher than they look. It is ALWAYS better to find your right level by doing well and moving up, rather than being thrashed and demoralised and then moving down. I have never known of a first time winner not returning, but have seen many new teams D.N.F. and disappear forever. The stats show that the middle courses usually have the biggest D.N.F. rates and this must be, in part at least, simply people biting off more than they can chew. After all, we do this for “fun” and, hopefully, for the long term, so don’t rush it
People should be aware that this is a mountain marathon and expect it to be challenging and expect to encounter mountain terrain (bog/rocks/ditches) and height gain and a certain amount of discomfort… it all makes it very rewarding when you complete it, but need to be aware of what you are letting yourself in for.
Get an entry in, best mountain marathon event by far, about the terrain, not the money making. As it should be.
If you learn to navigate, you don’t have to be a super speedy mountain goat to complete and enjoy mountain marathons.
Try the score class as it limits how long you are out each day. I personally think score classes are more fun and anyone coming from orienteering will understand the format. Oh and don’t skimp on food.
Practise navigation on rough ground with a Harvey’s map. Include lots of ascent and descent in your training.
Get out and practice on a previous year’s course to see what it is like and if it is for you
Bring spare socks
Get out in the hills and practice running with a pack. Get used to going up and down and then back up and down again!! Spend a bit of time double checking controls before you leave.
If you see a lake or river and you are deciding whether to swim, go for it!
Expect to walk a bit further than you expect so bring a spare pair of socks; expect a few blisters – we both got them – so take a few blister plasters (which we didn’t…). And if the sun is shining carry a small reserve water bottle as you don’t know your hydration pack is running-out until it’s too late. Oh – and finally – be prepared to smile a lot – you’ll love it!
Train with your partner before the event on similar terrain if possible.
Make sure you can use a map and compass, even if the weather forecast is sunny!
Remember to take a minute to forget about your exhaustion and pain to appreciate the views, where you are and how fortunate you are to be there.
Please don’t sit on top of the control kites! It makes them hard to spot.
Train a lot harder than you might think!
Do a test run with your partner so you understand each others strengths and limitations (ie at least one long day in the hills navigating)
First timers should not be put off thinking that this is an event for superhuman racers. You need to be able to navigate well, and train by running, carrying a pack and getting up some hills – the more the better!
It is an excellent adventure that is very enjoyable. A good level of general fitness is all that is is required in my opinion. I regularly run 20-25 miles per week in 5-8 mile runs only. I do not run longer distances in training and found the fitness side very straightforward. You don’t need to be an ultra-runner/ marathon runner to take part as bouts of running are interspersed frequently with walking, scrambling up steeper slopes and trotting. Lovely!
Look at the previous course stats (SLMM need to give a realistic average of course distances/climb from previous events, straight line stats are just not realistic) to help decide the level you want to compete at, be careful what you buy/carry look at the weights, get some good hill training in as well as navigation practice, it’s the climbs that will get you and where you can make up lots of time if your fit enough to take them head on.
The occasional look around at the spectacular scenery or a short chat/break with your partner is worth a few seconds
The event is well run and you are made to feel welcome from the moment you arrive. However, unless you enter with an experienced competitor you need to be prepared both physically and mentally. Whilst the scenery is breath-taking, the terrain and mountains are unforgiving and if you are not an accomplished map reader or navigator you will find the event incredibly challenging, even at the so-called “easier” levels. That said, the challenge and sense of achievement when you finish leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Relax, talk to other teams ask for help. It is such a friendly event.
Train for hills and rough terrain. An obvious comment but coming from the south east this harder than it would appear
You’ll get loads of blisters on the small sharp rocks, bring really good socks – it’s worth it.
Make sure to take high density food with you and have a bit every 5/6k or so. bring lots of plastic bags, including ones for your feet. Bring a good amount of food for the evening.
Try and get some experience in the mountains, as it’s totally different up there. Get your orienteering on point, if I did it again I’d spend less time in the gym and more time studying
There is a bit of assumed knowledge for a first timer like I was this time, for example chasing starts bit there are plenty of friendly fellow competitors to ask.
Get out there and spend as much time as possible navigating (old tech) in the hills.
We asked 2018 competitors to let us know if there was something , other than Mandatory Kit that was particularly useful, or something they didn’t take but wish they had taken.The list turned out to be a lot longer than expected!
A wide brimmed sun hat
Midge head net
Water purification tablets
Blister specific plasters
2L water container
Cap with neck cover/flap
Glasses with prescription for reading
Spare running top and socks
Buff to wet and put round neck for cooling.
Lightweight cap with visor
Inflatable pillow. Hardly any weight and a better night’s sleep.
A gas stove extended foot, so much safer than just the canister on the ground.
Long handled titanium spoons for eating overnight food
A collapsible cup for scooping water out of streams whilst on the move.
Pillow and earplugs
Phone for decent pictures – pleased you now allow this in the rules.
Toothbrush and paste.
Ultralight walking poles
A meat and potato pie for Sunday breakfast.
A white peaked hat, purchased at the last minute
Plastic foot bags.
Swiss army knife (climbers model) and duct tape
A small flexible cup to grab a drink often whilst running
Sun hat with wide brim all round
Zip lock plastic bags as water carriers at camp
A crossword puzzle for Sat evening
A bottle of wine for the overnight camp, decanted into a plastic water bottle which reverted back to its main function (water) on Sunday
Insect repellent wipes
Talc to help avoid blisters
OS Maps, not used to Harveys
Many thanks for all the positive comments from those who completed our survey. Thanks also to those who made suggestions for improvements-we have added them to our list of things to consider for next year rather than publish here.
“Great introduction to mountain marathons in delightful scenery” – Thomas Hague
“The SLMM would be a great first event for a family or friend pairing. It’s very well organised and friendly, with the bonus of being able to pre-order drinks for the overnight camp. The courses offer a great challenge in beautiful scenery”. Nickcompass44
“High quality event organised by people who know what they are doing and who do it well” John Coon
“Don’t underestimate the navigational aspects of the course – this is something that always gets me. Most importantly, see the SLMM as a great weekend out – the atmosphere is always lovely and the banter fun. It’s an event for everyone, with such a wide range of entrants and fitness levels. I was cynical, but now I’m hooked (and sore…)” Imogen Jones
“As I first time competitor I was quite worried that I would be too slow and would need to run the majority of the course. I found the course I entered to be really enjoyable, incredibly friendly and within my ability. Definitely a brilliant introduction to Mountain Marathons (although the weather was a great help!!)”Roz
“2018 was not only my first Saunders but my first mountain marathon as well. I’m told the weather is as sunny as that every year… It was a joy from start to finish – low key but very efficiently organised, with lovely people, an absorbing score class in Fairfield and the backdrop of the Lakes in blisteringly hot conditions to add to the challenge. The overnight camp was huge fun and everything we needed to recover just enough to do it all over again the following day. I’ll definitely be back, hopefully with either my son or daughter to do Bedafell or Carrock as they would enjoy the whole experience, Who knows, it may even be sunny next year! Thanks” Alan Dorrington
“A really friendly event in such a beautiful part of the country. Great community feel”. Paul K
“First time at the SLMM 2018 loved the event, well organised and challenging highly recommended”. Shaun Boorman
“The best mountain marathon in one of the most spectacular places in the UK”. Sharon McDonald
“Excellent, friendly, well-organised mountain marathon” – Ian Hamilton
“I think the S.L.M.M. is truly a unique and great event, but I may be biased as I have done the last 30 of them, including planning the 2013 event. The Lake District is a wonderful area and it is truly a privilege to compete in this event at this time of year. I have seen many changes over the years and the event continues to evolve, at pace over the last two or three years, to keep it up to date, but also to keep the traditional “feel ” going, did someone mention beer?. There is simply no better way to spend two days in early July than doing the S.L.M.M., and now that it is a “not for profit Community Interest Company”, there’s even more reason to support this great event and this wonderful part of the country, can’t wait for next year. See you there” Brian Layton.
“A fantastic 2 day event. Well organised and great fun” David Oldfield.
“SLMM is the best weekend away – it’s totally absorbing, it is always in upliftingly lovely countryside and whatever was only your mind at home is quickly forgotten. ”Amanda, St.Albans
“The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon is an excellent event, well organised by friendly volunteers and gives an excellent challenge”Ian Sayer
“The Saunders continues to be a well-run, friendly event in excellent terrain. Thanks to all of those involved in putting the event on. See you next year”. The Hindles
“What a fantastic event, and what cheerful volunteers. The terrain was great and the organisation outstanding. Thank you to all the people involved and I will definitely be back next year!” Jacques Penderis
“Great event! First daytime MM and loved it. Can’t wait to come back for more. So well run! “Chris Barnard
“Great event that tests your navigation skills and endurance” Mark Lath
“The SLMM has the uncanny knack of making running with a pack up hill over difficult terrain following a compass bearing a pleasurable experience!” Jon Griffiths
“Two years ago I decided to run a mountain marathon and began looking around for the perfect one. The SLMM was the first event of this type that my dad ran (40 years ago) and it felt right that I should enter the SLMM in its 40th year. It was hot, intense but thoroughly enjoyable. Wansfell provided an excellent introduction for me, I’m already hooked and marking this event on next year’s calendar! Thank you to the event organisers and supporters who were brilliant.” Sally Parkin
Congratulations to everyone who took part at the weekend. Conditions were really tough, given the heat and very light breeze. Ironically this was the first year we had an official set of pre-planned bad weather courses…
Congratulations also to Nev, for planning a set of courses which provided a good mix of route choice and detailed navigation.
We attempted to be more scientific in working out appropriate course lengths this year. We analysed results from the last 12 Saunders MMs, taking into account the actual distance and climb on the “best” route (rather than those given on the descriptions), to come up with a variant of “Naismith’s Rule for the top teams on each course. This was then used to check that the planned courses would give the required winning time.
Judging from the results and competitor feedback, it would seem that we got it wrong for the Wansfell, Harter, Carrock and Kirkfell courses, while Klets, Bowfell and Bedafell were about right. Also we expected the winner to just about get all of the controls on Fairfield which proved to be the case.
We’ve attempted to understand the reasons in the hope of improving things in future years. We think there are three main factors involved:
We add our apologies to Nev’s regarding the control on the bridge at the start of day 2. We’ll remember this for the future.
Hopefully see you next year.
Dan and Karen Parker
Controllers 2018 SLMM
I was asked if I would like to plan the SLMM 2018 in the summer last year. When informed of the area to be used I had no hesitation in saying yes. I live in Oxford and became very familiar with the M6 over the subsequent months!
I appreciated being the first to have a go at planning the new Fairfield course, with its unusual format. When I plan orienteering score courses I try to spread the highest points controls evenly around the area used. Often planners place them far away and up big hills where only the very fit can go, virtually guaranteeing that they top the results. A more even spread makes them think more, whilst enabling the less fit to get a satisfying number of points. It was pleasing to see such a large entry for this course
For the linear courses I had two main aims. One was to offer some interesting route choices, and the nature of the terrain certainly gave opportunities for this. The other was to reduce “crocodiles” forming up, particularly on Sunday. I tried to do this by circulating the courses in opposing loops. For example, Harter went NE on Saturday and SW on Sunday, Carrock SW and NE.
Winning times vary from too short to about right, and too long. The Controllers Report explains how we arrived at the course lengths and climbs, so I won’t repeat that here.
I must apologise for the lengthy queue at control 114 on Sunday morning. I’ve planned countless orienteering events and appreciate the need for multiple SI boxes at busy sites. We failed to make the connection between the big mass start and the number of competitors very soon arriving at the bridge. That lesson will be learnt.
I would like to thank the Controllers, not just for checking things out on the hills but also for a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes administration work.
My thanks also go to those who kindly volunteered to bring in controls on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Planner 2018 SLMM
We are delighted to announce that the 40th Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, which takes place on the weekend of June 30th /July 1st, will be starting at the village of Grasmere. This is a classic location for the SLMM as we also used it for our 20th event. Further details will be circulated by Monday 18th June.
Some courses are now full and others are approaching their limit, so if you wish to change course please then do so as soon as possible. You can change course, or partner, by going to the Si Entries web site and clicking on “Edit Entry”. If you know anyone who hasn’t entered, and may wish to do so, then please remind them as a matter of urgency. As we are within 6 weeks of the event, we are not able to offer refunds for any reason and unused entries can not be carried forward to future events
The future of the Sanders Lakeland Mountain Marathon as a non-profit making event has been secured through the incorporation of a Community Interest Company (“CIC”). Lakeland Events Community Interest Company (registered company number 11191535) has been formed to organise the 2018 event and all those in the future. The company does not have shareholders, is limited by guarantee, and any profits made can only distributed to registered charities.
The company’s objectives is provide benefit to residents of Cumbria and visitors to the area by the organisation of competitive navigational running events that take place in the Lake District and surrounding area. The company provides incentives which encourage young people to participate in these events and believes that regular participation will lead to many of them retaining a commitment to physical activities throughout their lives. The company looks to providing quality events at a relatively low entry fee.
The company’s activities will also benefit local businesses that provide services both to the events themselves and to the visitors who come to the area to participate in them and require accommodation and supplies.
Any surplus will be donated to registered charities that provide outdoor activities in the Lake District for disadvantaged young people and to charities which pursue improvements to the local environment.
The 2018 event will be the 40th Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon since it was started in 1978. The event continues to rely on a large number of committed and hardworking organisers, helpers and marshals and the event could not be staged without this voluntary support.
A Mountain Marathon is a navigational event taking place in high and rough ground where competitors, make their way between a series of specific checkpoints over two days, with a break at an overnight camp.Competitors must carry all the equipment necessary to camp, feed themselves and cope with adverse weather conditions. A Mountain Marathon is race, but not in the conventional sense. Each team starts at a different time, but it is still the fastest team that wins.
Mountain marathons generally have two types of format and competitors choose which they prefer when entering the event. A “line” course requires visiting a series of checkpoints, usually between six and 10 of followed in a set order with the competitor choosing the best route between each checkpoint. The winner is the person or team with the fastest combined time over the two days. The other format is known as “score” and in this case the competitor has to choose which checkpoints to visit within a certain time. Different checkpoints have different points allocated to them. The objective is to plan a route so as to obtain many points as possible during the time allowed. Penalties will be imposed for overrunning the time allowance.
Generally, mountain marathons are run in pairs partly for safety reasons, but some events have specific classes for experienced solo entrance. At least one mountain marathon allows solo entrance in across all classes.
When considering entering a mountain marathon it’s important to note that distance is not comparable with road or trail races. If an organiser quotes a distance or vertical elevation for a course it will generally be by drawing a direct line between checkpoints, as they don’t know which route people will choose. In reality competitors will not be able to travel in direct lines as the ground may be impassable or unsafe or involve an excessive amount of climb. Actual distances covered in the event can therefore be very different to those shown on the courses.
As well as the irregular distance there are some other important differences with Road and Trail Marathons. The course will not be marked with tape or arrows and you must make your own way between the relevant controls. Most Mountain Marathons forbid the use of GPS so you will need to rely on a map and compass and maybe an altimeter if you have a separate device. Whilst many Fell Races are advertised as requiring navigational skills, and equipment must be carried, it is often possible to follow other runners. This is not possible in Mountain Marathons and you need to be able to find the way yourself. Most events feature around eight individual courses with competitors from different courses starting at the same time. Generally, you will not know which courses other competitors are completing so it not sensible to try and follow other teams.First timers should enter the easier, shorter courses. It must be emphasised that good map reading and navigation skills are still necessary
There will be no feed stations on the route and you will be completely reliant on the food you take with you for the for the weekend. There are no drink stations set up for the event and you will rely on drink that you carry or water that you take from streams – and you will have to judge whether it is suitable for drinking. There will be no crowds or bands on the route to cheer you on and your motivation must come from yourself or your partner. You are required to carry everything necessary to look after yourself on a weekend on the fells in any weather conditions and must carry sufficient food and fuel to maintain energy levels over the weekend. Indeed, you will be disqualified if you buy provisions from a shop or a pub. If you want to stop and go home, there is no bus to pick you up and you will have to find your own way back to the event centre to let the organisers know you are pulling out.
Being successful in a mountain marathon requires more than just being able to move quickly. Route choice between controls is often as important as speed on the ground. It goes without saying that nobody is going to win a race unless they can find all the controls so navigation is important and can be difficult when weather conditions are poor. Fortunately, in most mountain marathons the shorter courses will be easier to navigate as well as shorter in distance and cover less severe ground.
When training for a Mountain marathon it’s worth trying to replicate the conditions you will find during the event this means carrying a full rucksack, seeking out rough ground, climbing big hills and getting used to running with wet feet. Often events cross marshy ground and will also involve crossing rivers and streams. You would be very lucky if you manage to keep your feet dry for the whole event. Covering huge miles on the road in training will not necessarily help you get “hill fit”.
There might be times when you are cold wet and miserable but the positives are huge. Completing a Mountain Marathon is a great test of endurance, navigational skill and teamwork. The events are likely to take you to new areas that you may not have thought of visiting. Even if the general area is a familiar one, you are likely to visit parts of it that you would never thought have visiting since the courses will take you a long way off the beaten track. You will be amazed at all the secret places you discover that you want to go back to.
In the UK there are a number of Mountain Marathons that take place annually, with each usually being run at the same time every year. The general area in which the event takes place will be announced but usually the start location will be revealed by the organisers only a few weeks before the actual event – and often only when entries are closed. This is to prevent super keen competitors from getting to know an area before the event takes place.
Often the Event HQ will turn out to be in quite a remote location and some competitors will choose to camp there the night before. The atmosphere is fairly relaxed but competitors will need to register before starting at their allotted time. It is only at this point that a map will be given out and details of the day’s course provided. The clock will be ticking whilst you decide which route to take. Also, this is the first point at you will find the location of the overnight camp to which you are heading
Teams will complete the relevant courses as quickly as possible and then arrive at the overnight camp throughout the afternoon, putting the tent in whatever space they can find at the overnight camp. This site will have organised toilets and water available and some may have other some other facilities but generally the ethos is that all competitors are self-sufficient for the weekend. The second day of a Mountain Marathon usually involves a ‘chasing start’ with the overnight leaders setting off first and then a mass start for other competitors. In most cases the second day will be slightly shorter than the first with the aim of finishing early in the afternoon.
The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon is one of the longest standing events and has been held for 40 years. It is unusual in that it always takes place in the same general location, the Lake District, and it is always at the beginning of July. Although the weather cannot be guaranteed and, competitors must be able to cope with all conditions it does offer the prospect of relatively benign conditions and pleasant camping.
Coming after most school and university exams have finished, and before school holidays start it is popular with families with a specific course aimed at those as young as 14. For first timers, the Saunders is a good entry to the world of Mountain Marathons. The event is relatively relaxed and sociable and, being run in the Lake District, has some of the best scenery in the UK. Another feature of the Saunders is that drinks, including beer and cider, can be all ordered beforehand for collection at the overnight camp. As with other Mountain Marathons, you must take your own food.
We hope this article gives some idea what Mountain Marathons are about and hasn’t put you off. If you like the idea, then there is no better event to start with than the Saunders Lakeland Marathon and we hope to see you there next year!
We want to encourage more young competitors and will be offering reduced entry fees for those under 25 on the day of the race
The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon is ideal for younger runners, from age 14 upwards, as it takes place after most exams and before the beginning for the summer holidays. We offer one course, Bedafell, specifically for teams that include one junior and one adult., , The younger runner will be between 14 years and 18 The older runner will be 21 or over and a parent or “accompanying adult”. This course has a handicap arrangement, based on the age of the younger competitor. Harter Fell, a slightly harder course, can also be entered by a runner over 14, in a team on the same basis but this is an open event with no handicap applied. Carrock Fell, is slightly harder than both these courses and can be entered by a runner over 16, in a team with parent or guardian 21 or over.