My original courses sent all classes out to the north of Wet Sleddale and brought them back via Shap Fells to the south. However, the southern area is managed for the breeding of grouse and the land manager had concerns that breeding might be delayed following the harsh winter and withdrew access to the area immediately south of the event centre. This meant that all Day 2 courses would have to come in from the north and most, if not all would be on or crossing land used on Day 1 which was far from ideal.
Re-routing all Day 2 courses through Ralfland Forest to accommodate the loss of Shap Fell brought concerns from Natural England regarding the number of competitors passing through this area as it is the most successful breeding area in the Lakes for merlin, short eared owls and other ground nesting birds. The end result was a compromise that favoured the birds but gave us limited access for some courses on Day 2.
Natural England was also concerned about a colony of rare mountain butterflies located below High Raise. Rather than make the butterfly location out of bounds an agreement was reached that no controls would be placed in the area and that controls immediately outside it would be placed to “encourage” competitors to gain the High Raise ridge early rather than contour below it. The exclusion of Riggindale was, of course, because of the eagle whilst Blea Water was out of bounds due to merlin and fragile flora.
The constraints detailed above along with the limited (300m) gap between Swindale Foot and Tailbert Head and the even narrower gap between Naddle and Burnbanks (ie the bridleway) produced the shape of all the courses. I would have liked much more variation in leg lengths and more route choice than I was able to give you.
Sadly, control 124 on Gatescarth Pass went missing on Saturday and we have no explanation for this other than vandalism. On Sunday there were allegations that control 127 (bridleway above Swindale Foot) was missing. However, the control was there for both early and late arrivals and was still there, correctly sited, on Tuesday when I collected it. The control was clearly visible on the bridleway junction and not hidden in any way. If you did not find it, you were clearly in the wrong place.
Finally, an apology to Bedafell and Wansfell competitors. A pet hate of mine on mountain marathons is a long stony track run in and I gave you one on both days.
And finally, finally a thank you to my long term mountain marathon partner Joe Howard who became an essential part of the planning team.
Now that the event is over, I have two tasks to do: Write this report and then do a debrief with the officials and get the ball rolling for next year.
How do I feel ?
I feel angry !
David, the Organiser has already contacted you about the rubbish at mid camp. I will reiterate what he said – if we find out who left that pile of rubbish in the field they will be banned for life. Hopefully, other similar events will do likewise. But these culprits were not the only ones. Look at the Fell Runners Association web forum and you will see comments about those that left rubbish in other places, like the toilets. The whole affair is despicable.
However, rubbish is not the only thing that has annoyed me. How many of you crossed a wall that was marked as uncrossable on the map ? Also, it states in the event instructions that all maintained walls are not to be crossed. I saw one team dislodge a stone and just carried on without replacing it. How many other stones were dislodged ?
Half an hour after the last team had left the overnight camp site, the farmer arrived and drove round the field. Thankfully, David and his team had sorted the mess. This is not what they are there to do. We had a very amiable relationship with the farmer and he helped us significantly. However, just think what would have happened if that pile of rubbish had been left and the wall not repaired. A large part of the land in the Lake District is covered by commoner arrangements between the farmers. We work with them to organise the event. If one farmer has a problem with us, that tale quickly spreads around the dale, and then to other dales. The net result is our request to hold the next event over their land is refused.
We have a good relationship with all the parties involved. These include
The Landowners, Farmers, Commoner Associations, Lake District Authority, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Natural England, National Trust, Forestry Commission, Police, Mountain Rescue. I wish to maintain that relationship and am not going to have some moron destroy it.
I would rather have 100 responsible teams than 600 wasters. If you are one of them, do us all a favour and stay away.
On this occasion, I am not going to go into sticking with your partner on the hill except to say that one pair were identified flouting this rule and suffered the consequences.
How do I feel ?
I feel Happy !
When David and I went to Long Sleddale I told him that we had found the near perfect Mid Camp. Judging by the comments we have received, most of you would agree with this. It is very difficult finding an area in The Lake District that is not known to many of the participants but we thought that you would appreciate something slightly different this year. Most of the terrain was grassy, some tussocks to make the going a bit harder but very little rock. However, what the map did not show was the extent of some of the many Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). What we managed to arrange was access to some of these areas. Brian did a sterling job in these negotiations. In the past, it has been nearly impossible trying to gain access to an SSSI. A lot of this achievement is due to the good name that the event has within the Lake District. We act in an accommodating way with all the parties involved. We would not have had an event if this had not been the case.
You know you have had a good event by watching the teams come in to the finish on Sunday. Bob Saunders was there and commented on several occasions that, despite the conditions, people were coming in with a smile on their face. That is what makes it worthwhile. So, yes, I feel Happy. That is the impression I want to remember this event by.
So, to the future. I mentioned the de-brief that the officials will have in the near future. There have been a few comments made to us that we will discuss. The most common comment was about the supplies of liquids at the Mid Camp. Those on longer courses are at a disadvantage. There have been several suggestions which we will consider and hope to have an improvement for next year.
However, there are two issues I would like your comments on.
We are looking for someone to plan next year. My policy is to try to give as many as possible the experience of putting their ideas into practice. You do not have to have planned in the past. We will guide you through the process. What is required is some experience of running in a Mountain Marathon. I would say at least five years worth. If you think you would relish the chance, please let me know. How about one of you ladies ? As far as I am aware, no female has ever planned this event. Or what about one of you veterans ? You have considerable experience in these competitions. You have seen good and not so good courses but do not know the constraints that the planner has to work under. Now could be the time to widen your experience.
The second issue is a bit more difficult. Some of the organisations that we have to negotiate with, have commented that we would find it easier to get access if we had the event at the end of July or even early August. The Saunders has its own ‘clientèle’ which is different to, say, the LAMM or OMM. We cater for the family teams and like to encourage the Juniors. This event takes place just as the Universities are finishing and just before the end of the school term. If we put the event back a month, my feelings are that we would lose a lot of the teams we are trying to encourage. Families will be away on holiday and the students will in the Antipodes.
Let me know what you think about the date.
To all those responsible people thank you for participating and I look forward to meeting you again next year on a different hill.
Thanks, too, to the officials, marshals, The Doctor (Rhona), Physio (Karen), Computing Services (Andrew and Mark), Backpackers Club and the Lakeland organisations mentioned above who helped to make this event possible.
Several competitors have sent in photos of the event. These are available for viewing on the web site, follow the link to the Picture gallery. All these are contained in one section. Vote for the picture that best epitomises the event and the taker will get a small prize for their artistry. Send your votes to the firstname.lastname@example.org. This is open to competitors photographs only.
In addition, we were sent some photos from people walking the fells. They are included in a separate section. Many thanks to them for their interest.