Many thanks to all those competitors who completed the survey so quickly after the 2017 event – when they were still recovering from a weekend on the fells! We has around 350 responses which represented around half of the teams entered in the event and confirmed that the SLMM is a much loved event with a strong and loyal supporter base who want to retain the very special feel of the event. Nearly half of respondents enter every year and three quarters enter every year or most years. Of those that completed the 2017 event 72% have already made plans for next year and 26% not yet decided. Only 2% won’t return in 2018 and that is largely because of other commitments. We had some very good suggestions for building on success and we plan on introducing a few improvements that will be announced in due course. Come along and see how we do in 2018!
We are delighted to be introducing Score course, to be know as Fairfield, in 2018.This will run over the two days so you will need to think carefully about strategy when you set out on the Saturday. It works like this:-
At the Start on Day 1, the competitor will be issued with a list of all relevant checkpoints for the two days. Each checkpoint will have a points value allocated to it. You should plan your course for each day in order to accumulate as many points as possible during the two days. You will not gain points for visiting a checkpoint that you visited on Saturday, again on Sunday.
Time allowed is 7 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday with the score being cumulative over the whole 12 hours. Competitors who do over run the time allowance will be penalised with loss of points.
Come and give it a go in 2018!
History of the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
The Bagness/Webb Years 1990 – 2004
The focus of this “history” is very much on the organisational aspects of staging an event like a mountain marathon viewed from the perspective of one whose experience of them is that of a lowly marshal. Even “marshal” seems an overstatement – someone who has helped out at half a dozen events. From first contact I became fascinated by the dynamics of something which brings together over a thousand people to some remote area of Lakeland to test themselves in an activity which outside the sport few people know about and if they did would shrug it off as some kind of collective insanity. Collective insanity demands superior organisation and control – God knows what would happen if it spread to the general population!
Tent manufacturer Bob Saunders (1930-2012) started the SLMM in 1978. In that year some attempt was made to organise the event by a committee. It didn’t work out well. This led to Bob approaching Ken Ledward who he had met through Ken’s equipment testing service and asking him to take over running the SLMM. For the next ten years Ken established the event in the fellrunning calendar introducing many of the features that have continued to this day. During his time and the two years that followed under Keith Fazey’s stewardship the SLMM grew in popularity.
When Keith stepped down Bob was introduced to experienced runner and orienteer Martin Bagness by Tony Wale then manager of Silva, UK. Martin knew he could make a go of course planning but he needed help with the overall organisation of the event. In 1987 he planned the Rock and Run Mountain Marathon with Andy Hyslop. A young outdoor instructor Charlotte Webb helping out with the start had a few things to say about the shortcomings of the weekend. She had impressed Martin so much that when he took over the SLMM he quickly invited her to join him in organising it.
Thus began a partnership that lasted 14 years. As with all successful collaborations it was based on mutual respect, trust, understanding and a shared commitment to making the SLMM an enjoyable event. Bob Saunders became the “benevolent benefactor” as Charlotte describes him. With his business in Essex he did not have the time to be involved with the detail of event planning. This allowed Martin and Charlotte the freedom to “get on with it.”
The planning started in January. The big decision was to settle on an event centre. Over the years of their involvement there was a strong tendency to settle on Lakeland’s hubs – Grasmere, Coniston and Langdale all used three times each which were “easily accessible and [had] plenty of parking” as Martin points out. “We would try and move around the Lake District but it’s not that big,” Charlotte recalled. “We had a couple of events in Wasdale and that side but getting competitors to those places could be hard. It made for long days out when Martin and I were planning the event.”
The requirements for mid-camp (which influenced the way Martin planned the courses) were “an agreeable farmer, access for organisers’ vehicles and Bob’s BMW!”
Once these aspects of the race were settled Martin and Charlotte would then divide the rest of its organisation between them. Martin would concentrate on planning the courses and getting permissions while Charlotte gave her attention to all the other aspects – the paperwork, liaising with Bob’s office which collected the entries, ordering the marquee, toilets and catering.
Martin’s approach to planning was determined by two priorities – the route choice for each leg and the desire to keep off the paths and the main walking and fellrunning routes as much as possible. He would try to include controls in some of the remoter locations “corries on the sides of ridges – rather than following the main ridge tops and valleys”. Once he had established all the good route choices of an area he would then link them together to make courses of the right length. Provisional control sites would be chosen at significant mapped features. This was followed by a process of “rationalisation to reduce the number of controls to about 25 so most of them could be manned by Backpackers Club marshals.” In part this was achieved by reversing courses so Scafell/Bowfell day 2 would be similar to Kirkfell/Carrockfell day 1. In June he would visit and place every checkpoint and making final adjustments to the courses.
Charlotte’s priorities were of a different order. Without a great deal of guidance from Bob she based her budget on a rough calculation of the entry fee multiplied by the number of entries and worked within this figure. From that she would pay Martin for the maps and his expenses then cover other aspects. “I had a list which went on year after year. I would get in touch with the mountain rescue people, the toilets, the food, the marquee and organise teams of people to help on the starts and finishes.”
Her first SLMM was a baptism of fire or perhaps more properly water. “The weather was atrocious. Martin had this idea of being a wild event – at the overnight we had two toilets for a thousand people. The first one was just dreadful but after that I got to grip. From there we would see what we could to improve matters to make life easier for ourselves and the competitors.”
The biggest improvement came about through the introduction of information technology. Martin remembers, “Initially all finish times were worked out by a team based in a barn or a tent. This took ages – control cards got lost and mistakes were made. Charlotte was ahead of her time and got a local computer shop to come and do the results – they had to write all the software and there were some glitches on the day, but it was ground-breaking stuff!” That event in 1991 sticks in Charlotte’s memory too. “The change-over wasn’t very smooth…The computers were really slow, didn’t have big memories and everything was very clunky and was going to run out of power after 30 minutes.”
The following year Charlotte contacted Martin Stone who was just starting up his results service. The experience of the previous year focused her mind on what she and Martin (Bagness) wanted from the new technology. Its application led to innumerable improvements. Martin Stone had written some software for providing a results service at fell races and was keen to extend it to Mountain Marathons.
Martin (Stone) explained, “From 1991 to 2003 control cards were checked visually to ensure that all teams had visited the requisite checkpoints on their course. Times for each day were input manually into my results system. From 2004, SPORTident provided an electronic timing system with timing data collected from each checkpoint and results calculated automatically at the finish of each day. It was now possible to provide split times for each leg. From 2008, SiEntries was used to take entries for the SLMM and this eased the burden of admin for Bob Saunders significantly.”
Through electronic control boxes as well as finish times competitors were given split times between controls. It saw the introduction of a different start procedure on Sunday. (The chasing start) In addition it enhanced the safety of the event. Boxes could be interrogated should any teams fail to turn up. Previously a no show would necessitate hours of trawling through lists and stubs.
Safety had always been covered by members of the Backpackers Club who manned the checkpoints. With dibbers and control boxes their role changed. “Less of them were needed but they are still invaluable because their presence out on the fell still provided an important safety aspect,” Charlotte explained.
On the weekend of the event itself Martin and Charlotte would bring in a (“surprisingly”) few helpers and supporters to ensure its smooth running. Thanks to Charlotte’s involvement with Wilf’s Events Catering she knew that side of things was taken care of. Friday evening registration was one of her innovations which eased pressure on Saturday morning. “You needed five people on that task” More on Saturday – one person per class. Martin would sort out a start team. At the overnight you might need a couple of people.” All this was voluntary effort. “There were a few people who would help stoically year on year but nothing was paid…I would involve people by giving them free entries if they had helped on the previous event or had helped with the car parking.”
Martin decided to finish after the 2004 event “Things went well for a number of years in succession but it became less and less interesting to plan and organise. The event needed some fresh enthusiasm!” Charlotte oversaw the transition period when Mark Hawker came in as planner. She was finding the business with Wilf’s events and then café was taking up more and more of her time. “I was now having to organise the Saunders in my free time and it was not what I wanted to do in my free time.” Secure in the knowledge the event had been handed on to a safe pair of hands she retired from the SLMM after the2006 event.
So closed a remarkable era. Martin Bagness and Charlotte Webb had built on the firm foundation laid down by Ken Ledward to establish the SLMM as popular and enjoyable event in the race calendar. They were at the forefront in using computer technology to improve its organisation and provide a better service for the competitors. “I would like to think people enjoyed the course – getting off the beaten track and finding new corners of the Lakes – with some fair but interesting navigation. Charlotte’s organisation and catering certainly created a good and distinctive atmosphere at the finish. No single memory stands out – just a blur of (generally) sunny Sundays with runners streaming into the finish then crashing out on the grass eating Wilf’s Café stew.”
Robert Saunders is a man that my wife Jan and I feel privileged to have known. Many people have good ideas, but it is rare to find a person who is not only innovative, but who also has the drive and imagination to put their ideas into practice. Bob was one of those rare people.
Born on 1st April 1930, Bob certainly turned out to be no fool. Like many East Enders he spent childhood holidays hop picking in Kent, sleeping top to toe with his cousins and playing around the camp fires. As a boy, he loved to terrorise his aunts with the model aeroplanes that he made and he showed an early glimpse of his later inventiveness by rigging the planes up with a camera to take pictures.
He spent the war as an evacuee in St Just, Cornwall, together with his mother and sister Pam, later on being conscripted into the RAF, which enabled to join The Victory Services Club in London. This became one of his favourite haunts in which to enjoy himself and meet up with family and friends, something he was still doing just two weeks ago.
As a young man, he helped to run a youth club in Dagenham part of the duties being to produce its magazine. One of his articles was bizarrely, but appropriately entitled, ‘How To Make Friends on the Underground’. As many of us know Bob could make friends, young and old, absolutely anywhere and his daughter Carolyn remembers coming home from a night out with her dad when he managed to get the entire contents of a tube carriage chatting in one big conversation. Anyone here who has traveled on the London Underground will know just what an extraordinary feat that is!
Bob was 23 when Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first persons to reach the peak of Mount Everest and over the next 10 years he became fascinated with the problems experienced by Himalayan expeditions. Tents were too heavy and it was becoming more and more expensive to hire enough Sherpas to carry the weighty cotton tents up the mountains, so in 1964, Bob began producing lightweight tents using man-made fabrics, a revolutionary new idea at the time, and together with wife Joan he began to build up the business that became so revered around the world – a small family firm with a loyal and highly skilled staff, headed by a man brimful of ideas.
Over the next few years, Bob’s ability to think outside the box enabled him to revolutionise tent design and manufacture, introducing a breathtaking array of innovations, including fitted groundsheets, suspended inner tents, double skin tents and high strength ripstop nylon flysheets
The Veteran outdoors journalist Peter Lumley, who knew Bob for many years has written this, which I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting, ‘The products which bore his name helped shape – even change – an industry and the lifestyle of his customers.
‘For years, from the early 70s just about every true innovation in tent design and tent-making came from the Robert Saunders camp, Many developments we take for granted today originated with Saunders, including tents which pitched outer first to protect the inner from rain, the first sloping ridge tent and even the transverse ridge, which developed into the ubiquitous bended hoop which is almost universally used in modern tents.
‘To put it in perspective, as recently as 2007, The Guardian’s ‘Expert Choice’ column was still recommending the Saunders Spacepacker as the number one choice for backpackers’
The Guardian wrote this, ‘The Spacepacker is the iconic backpacking tent and its creator, Robert Saunders, is a legend among those serious about the lightweight tent they carry. Sure, there are lighter tents. And tents that boast more features. But, despite being around for decades, the Spacepacker beats them all.’
Bob’s innovations won him numerous awards for tent design and also a Fellowship of The Royal Geographical Society and his tents became something to dream of and aspire to owning, and some of his designs such as the Basecamp, the Spacepacker and the Jetpacker still enjoy legendary cult status in the camping world.
One story doing the rounds is a tale of two men crossing the Kalahari Desert. They come across an old man sitting under a piece of polythene sheet.
‘Ah’, says one of the men, ‘You need to buy a tent’.
‘I will,’ comes the reply, ‘As soon as I can afford a Saunders!’
You only have to Google Robert Saunders to see in what respect he is held. Here is one quote – “Mr Saunders was ahead of his time with the revolutionary designs he produced. I bought my Satellite Plus over 20 years ago when I was in The Scouts. It wasn’t cheap but it has lasted me and still accompanies me on my travels to this day. I am now a Scout leader and I always tell my Scouts that if you want to buy a good tent that will outlast everything else then you have to buy a Saunders”.
Another comment says “I went halves on a Spacepacker Plus with my parents for my 18th Birthday present in 1985. Sent it to Robert about 5 years ago for a tart up and he sent me a brand new inner, repaired the poles sleeve and provided all new rubbers. Its now as new and it is still watertight. It has been used all over the world and is an outstanding performer. Sadly, I am about to send it to my nephew in Northern Ireland. It’s hard for me to say goodbye to my faithful friend, but I know its going to a good home and it will serve my nephew well in his induction to the hills for years to come. 12 outa 10 Robert Saunders. Sad to see you off the scene, you really did under state and under sell yourself (as I remember arguing with you). Tent legend!”
That reminds me of what the great Victorian philanthropist John Ruskin once said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility”,
In 1978 Bob also started the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, now in its 34th year and scheduled to take place again this July. Some of his friends from there are with us today too, bringing Lake District weather with them! Thank you for that.
There is no doubt that Bob’s ingenuity brought a new spirit of endeavour to the camping industry, but to show the gracious nature of the man, Bob was never critical of his competitors who were following his lead and trying to emulate his innovations.
The website MyOutdoors say in their obituary, “In an age of innovation that saw some of today’s best known outdoors companies starting out, Robert Saunders not only stood head and shoulders above the rest, but unlike today’s society he did it for everyone! No intellectual copyright law suits and complicated design patents, the transverse ridge, hooped poles and fitted groundsheets were there for anyone to use.”
They close with this, “If there’s ever an outdoors ‘Hall of Fame’ the name Robert Saunders should be the first name on it – his legacy is, and probably always will be, unequalled.
Which brings me to the man that Jan and I knew. In his private life as well as in business, Bob was a kind, generous, humble man.
He adored his family and had masses of friends, both human and animal; one of the friends who will be missing him is the Robin that comes into his kitchen from the garden to be fed!
He made some of his friends, such as Josef and Aloise, during the many European camping holidays that he spent with his family. Other friends such as Jerry Moore, he met through his trade, which involved travelling all over the world. Bob made friends everywhere and there are many people scattered all over the planet who are saddened by his death, not least his friends in Naples, Florida and Ebach, Germany who would have wanted to be here today. Even on his forays into London he also made many friends among the restauranteurs around Soho and Bart’s Hospital, who have also been raising their glasses to honour his passing.
Closer to home, his friends and neighbours in Five Oaks Lane and in Theydon Bois were very special to him and he will be remembered by them for his fish and chip suppers, his BBQs and his parties.
My own two sons will never forget the huge garden party that he held during which every child could choose a large teddy bear to take home.
Bob was a very thoughtful man. He loved his family very much and was enormously proud of Carolyn, Sharon and Oliver, and his grandchildren Tom, George, Henry and Olivia.
As most of you know, Bob had been courageously struggling with his health for some time and Carolyn and Sharon want me to thank all of his friends and family who were such a support to him, especially thank you Laura for all the soup and the very kind visits! Even though he wasn’t well, his last few weeks have been incredibly positive as he has spent them doing what he enjoyed so much – visiting old haunts and seeing friends.
He even spent his 82nd birthday earlier this month with John and Maureen, and cousins Tony, Karen, Andy, Jo and Danny, remarking that he had had a great time with them!
He died peacefully in the home that he loved so much, with his cat curled up on his bed (it’s probably now eaten the Robin), and his hand being held by Carolyn.
Like all of you here, Jan and I have a life that is richer for knowing Uncle Bob. We will never forget him, especially when we and our sons climb into our Jetpackers and Spacepackers with his name discreetly stenciled on the side. In that sense he really will always be part of us, especially when we are on holiday, in a beautiful field, with a glass of wine to hand.
I personally don’t believe that death is the end and I very much hope that one day we shall all see him again.
History of the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon.
The Ken Ledward Years 1979-1987.
The first Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon was held in 24th-25th July 1978 at Ambleside. It was conceived as a test of stamina, self-sufficiency, navigation, camping skills and the ability to run or walk competitively over the rugged fells of Lakeland. Bob Saunders whose company designed and manufactured tents sponsored the event. In 1979 Ken Ledward, then a 46 year old outoor instructor at Outward Bound, Eskdale, and in the process of establishing his own company Ken Ledward Equipment Testing Services was approached to take over from David Meek to organise the event. The interview below which took place in October 2015 reveals how he became involved and how he approached and planned the SLMM.
The past is a different country and in terms of mountain marathons there are obvious differences in aspects of organisation. Punched controls, manned controls, handwritten and typed documents – all very lo-tech. Yet during the Ledward years a template for running the event was created which it has retained to the present.
How did you become involved with the event?
I was working for Outward Bound Eskdale at the time and field testing gear for a few outdoor equipment suppliers and had done some tent designs for the Antarctic. Bob [Saunders] had met me about these. He said we’ve just had a bit of a disaster we have just run our first Saunders MM and it did not go too successfully due to the organiser having too much other work to do, so could I step in at the last minute and that was it. At that time I just got to know a man called Jim Allen who was establishing a campsite at Park Foot on Ullswater. It fitted in conveniently because he told me he had two fields he didn’t know what to do with. So I thought that’s an ideal gathering place without doing any more ground work. It was the first one I ran – the second of the Saunders Series. I went on to organise the next ten events. The last one in 1987.
What was your relationship with Bob?
I did some tent testing for him because at that time I was also working doing a voluntary park rangers job for the National Park. So I was here, there and everywhere. I had Bob Saunders tents in places where nobody else saw them. This gave me a very good input to all the landowners and farmers because I was moving around all the time. Getting permissions was never a problem.
By the time you became involved with the SLMM the KIMM (now OMM) had been running ten years. Did you have a different vision on how a MM ought to be?
I had been running in the top class of the Karrimor so I knew from my own fellrunning background how the thing should go. I said to Bob we should make this totally different from the Karrimor which can be a survival course. And we should introduce a social event to the overnight camp. And so we established from the very first one I did to bring in milk and drinks.
At what point in the calendar did you start planning?
About February. Because I was working in the hills all the time I could have started anytime but February was the best time for me because the cross country ski courses we were running fitted in nicely – nice and staggered. So I could be out any day to suit other programme. I cost Bob nothing in all the research I did because I was in the area. Once I decided where an area was going to be I could ensure the courses operated in that area.
What were the main factors determining the venue?
In the early days we didn’t have the need for vast areas because there weren’t that many competitors. The main need was to have easy vehicle access to the main venue. ..and always a back-up for getting vehicles off the field. So we always made sure we had a tractor.
What were the issues with running an event in the National Park?
You had to get permissions. The National Trust and the planning Board were the two bogies. The National Trust in particular. In the early days they didn’t use to charge us anything. For the last couple of events I ran they use to ask for donations and I would just pass that along to Bob to deal with. But we didn’t have any trouble clearing. I only ever had one really serious problem with the water board for permissions. I wanted to put some checkpoints up below High Street at Blea Water so the water board had to be approached. “Where do you want to put it?” I said, “There’ll be a tent at a checkpoint with two or three people in it and they will be there probably one or two nights depending on whether they go up there the night before.” “Oh no, “he said, “That will affect the water supply.” At that time we had a man called Tom Pape of the Backpackers Club, he organised all of the checkpoint marshals and we had very reliable good people who would camp out and would never leave litter, never soil the area. Anyway this guy said to me, “But they may foul the water. It’s a drinking supply.” I said, “They wouldn’t but are you going to move the sheep off the fell because they don’t know about this.” He then summoned me to a meeting at Stricklandgate in Kendal. He said, “We need to talk about this in more detail.” That was the only one who ever phoned me up. He said, “We need a guarantee that they won’t foul the water.” I said, “Well our people won’t foul the water. You tell the sheep.”
Having established a centre what were you looking for in a mid-camp location?
I would look at the area I could cope with in distances so that the maximum distance would not complete the area of the route. I would put in dog legs. Specifically I would put in drop out points for people who were finding it too much so they could make their way back to the venue or to the mid camp. I never made it a stipulation you couldn’t camp out. In the KLETS class I said you could camp wherever you want. But those others in the lower classes Bowsfell and Wansfell I wanted to know where they were all of the time. You have a lot of people who enter these things and they haven’t a clue what they’ve got to do. They can read a map but can’t relate the map to the ground. So it was important to have the distance of the mid-camp that was possible in a straight line to allow those who decided to drop out at mid camp to get back. We never offered transportation. If anyone dropped out they had to do their own thing.
How did you manage the final recce of the routes?
Throughout my time in fellrunning I have known runners now not competitive but want to help out. So I would get a whole team together and we would recce every route and I would have the fastest runners doing the Scafell route and KLETS route and find out what the optimum times would be. So I would know months in advance how long each of the events was going to take. But then I would not allow those people lacking the obvious skill to enter the event.
How did you mark out the controls?
We use to put a post down. And Tom Pate would work very hard to find out from those people who volunteered to do a check point to nominate whether they wanted to do a high, exposed, craggy checkpoint or whether they wanted something in a valley then Tom would confidentially tell them where the checkpoints were located one month beforehand. So they had the opportunity to go out and check them out if they were not all that confident.
Who was in your team?
I had a magnificent team of people who volunteered to help – fellrunners or people who had been fellrunners but still wanted to retain contact although not now racing themselves. My most wonderful right hand man was Les Ashscroft who was a joiner from Broughton Mills. He was a moving force when I first developed the Duddon Fellrace. My son did a bit of fetching and carrying. Jim Garnett and Barbara Turner looked after the entries. Tom Pape ran all the checkpoints. Jason Pratt monitored all aspects of the KLETS class. Ron Kenyon was the main organiser of the timekeepers. Then Bob would have five or six people he knew who would do the registration at the start and finish. Everything had to be written down. Lists! We use to use polythene sheets to put everything in. The book keeping was done by Bob. He had very little book keeping to do directly with the event, but did appear to organise hospitality events for journalists and friends. I always had a mountain rescue team unofficial stand by because they can only turn out when the police notify them. I always made sure my colleagues and the mountain rescue teams knew where we were going to be and in case we needed a hand. By involving them wives and girlfriends and children would help out. Marshalling cars into fields was probably the biggest job we had on the weekend itself.
On the weekend of the event what time would you start?
We would be at the event centre very early in the morning. If possible camp over the night before so I was there crack of dawn. The thing you had at Karrimor people arriving after midnight we never seemed to have that problem with the Saunders. We’d say what time start time was and what time you had to leave and people didn’t come after that time. Thinking back now it was an easy ride for us. Nothing was very difficult. You just had to be at a certain place at a certain time and the pre planning worked almost always. We put the basic essentials down and everybody seemed to co-operate.
Where did you like to be when the first competitors set out?
I’d be on the run out. Somewhere along the run out. That’s where you’d get a very good feel if people have no clue as to what they are doing. You can give them a bit of a prompt. “Are you sure you’re going the right way?” Les would operate the actual start. I had four different time keepers over the years. My wife would be there of course to tidy up and provide the helpers with a snack.
How did you manage all the aspects of complex organisation?
It was like a mechanisation. These elements were all developed individually and when you said go they all moved together. And it did flow. We only had a very few hiccups in all the time I was involved. You’ve got to have a team that is committed to the whole event.
Do any particular years stand out?
I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I knew that before anyone had run any of the courses I had run every one of them. So I knew beforehand what the answers were going to be to the questions.