Where should I start ?. At the very beginning I suppose. Two years ago, as I was just finishing the Klets, Chris Hall, the event controller, asked if I would consider planning an event. He is a very clever gentleman as I was clearly below par, physically and mentally, at the time. I agreed in principle and that set the ball rolling. My good friend Jane Hornsby planned the courses last year and gave a good overview of the basic planning procedure, so I will not go over that again.
Once the event area was decided upon, back in September / October last year, the hunt was on for an event centre and overnight camp. The event centre turned out to be easy to decide upon as the owners of Beckside Farm, Robert and Rowena Morris-Eyton, were keen to get involved. They had hosted the K.I.M.M. back in 2000 and therefore new exactly what they were letting themselves in for. They were very supportive of the whole process and made us all feel very welcome. I sincerely hope that you all agree with me when I say it was a fantastic event centre from which to head into the hills, made all the better by the good weather this year.
The search for an ideal overnight camp was not so easy or straight forward. It had to be close enough not to over stretch Wansfell / Bedafell but far enough away for the top courses not to cover the same ground on both days. At one point in time there were no less than five sites under consideration. I remember the moment that Chris and I walked up the track at Stainton Farm, looking at the fells, the fields and the map and thinking this is it. It was some two months before this became a reality. Again I hope you all agree with me that it was one of the better overnight camps. Our thanks go to Robert and Ann Thorton for all of their help.
With all of this background work completed it was now over to me. In the new year I spent countless hours poring over maps, past control descriptions, past results and even past planner’s comments. The pressure was slowly building and although I have competed in 131 Mountain Marathons, in at least 7 countries, this was my first time “this side of the fence” and I desperately did not want to let you lot down. I am, to my regret, rather known for not being a happy bunny when things do not go according to plan.
With outline thoughts and plans in my head I first got on the hills in early March, I do live nearly 300 miles from the event area. I remember being at the trig point on Black Combe, in a howling gale with less than 20 Mts. visibility and a foot of snow, thinking what have I let myself in for. My aim, in these first few days, was simply to get a feel of the land and to check out and grade all of the walls and fences marked on the map. These had worried me as if they were all uncrossable my job would have been much more difficult. As it was most were easy to cross without damage. I came home thinking I was getting somewhere when bang, 3 Mt. snow drifts the following week. As my armchair planned controls needed to be checked for viable use in July this kept me off the event area for nearly a month.
Natural England have a very strong say in where we can and cannot go and with their help we identified all of the sensitive areas and I endeavoured to avoid these as much as was possible. These included many SSSI’s and an area of plant disease on the fells, easily spread by foot fall, that we kept well away from.
I had two basic desires when laying out the courses. Firstly that the top two courses went to the top, or nearly, of Harter Fell and secondly that all of you went to the top, or nearly, of Black Combe. These I both achieved. The courses finally took shape with great care given to their distance and climb. We now had 53 controls spread out over the entire map, on paper anyway. By this time I had spent some 70+ hours on the event area, in absolutely all kinds of weather, checking and tagging controls. Then having them checked for fairness by my watchful three controllers, what pressure.
The week before the event arrived and the team met up at the event centre for final preparations. We set about putting out the controls and doing a whole myriad of things before the big day arrived. For me this included having to change 10 of the 14 courses ( seven each day ) due to a last minute access problem. Hence the extra O.O.B.’s. at map corrections and the rather up and down nature of the middle section for which I apologise. Once the problem was recognised the farmers involved were very helpful and managed to get some 800+ sheep into that new O.O.B.’s. to stop you from driving them into Eskdale. Many of them were first time on the fell and as yet did not know where home was.
I give you this information for a very good reason. When on this type of event and you have O.O.B.’s. and uncrossable boundaries on your map PLEASE abide by them. We would much prefer not to have them but they are always there for a good reason and the future of such events greatly depends on your continued cooperation, thank you.
Soap box away and back to your event. I know that a large number of you will disagree with me but this was definitely a “Soft” year. I had added some extra distance to this year, due to the rather benign nature of the area, but I did not add enough. I can feel the fury at my words growing as I type. The facts are that all of the courses were won in times much less than desired, averaging at least an hour down on expectation with Carrock Fell and Bedafell some 2 and a half hours down on middle range. There are good reasons for the Bedafell shortfall as it was won by an ex. Klets winner with his very talented 14 year old daughter. But for the rest of you, given the near perfect weather, you had an easy one. I will now not be able to return to my running club for fear of bodily harm.
I do not intend to go through all of the courses as they were all executed, in the main, without incident. However, I must comment on day 1 of the Klets. When I planned this I thought there was 3 maybe 4 viable control orders, ( they can take them in any order, but must get them all ). But to my complete surprise, of the 44 who successfully completed day 1 there were no less than 22 different route choice orders and, you’ve guessed it, none of them were mine. So what do I know. I am just putting it down to a combination of brilliant planning and the desire of many to go walkabouts to simply get better value for money. By the way, it took me over 3 hours to work that out so if I am 1 out please keep it to yourself.
I list below my best memories from this 9 month journey.
(1) Long days out in the hills, going about my business, enjoying the solitude. I only saw 3 people in the hills in all that time.
(2) Teaching myself to look at the map and the ground in a totally different way, I simply love maps.
(3) Dealing with Natural England and the farmers and getting a glimpse of what their complex world is really like. We are very privileged to have access to these wonderful places and should never forget it.
(4) Watching all of you disappear into the hills at the start.
(5) Waiting, with great apprehension, for the first teams to arrive at the overnight camp. In spite of the fast times, it seemed to take a lifetime. Then, in about 8 minutes, 4 courses in and I can start to relax.
(6) Watching the start of day 2 and feeling quite emotional as it unfolded.
(7) And finally seeing you all return, enjoying the sunshine and the food, and very much appreciating all of the positive feedback that I received. I know there had to be some unhappy bunnies amongst you and I thank you for keeping it to yourselves.
What were my worst memories. There simply aren’t any.
What would I change in a rerun, apart from keeping you all in the hills a little while longer.
Only one thing comes to mind. I stood at the finish of day 2 feeling slightly uncomfortable at the amount of you that decided to “B” line the penultimate leg from 145 to 121, “White Hall Knott Summit” to “Gate”. This was not my intention, I wanted you to study the contours, run down the much easier gradient to the south and swing right to the gate. I soon new that as the trod off the top got established the kamikaze route was to be the order of the day. For this I apologise as I know from the massive spread of times on this leg it was very uncomfortable for many of you and not what you wanted at the end of your day. I should have anticipated this and planned to make this an unviable route. Lets all be very pleased it wasn’t pouring down at the time.
One last point about the courses. There were 2 places on the hill where there was 2 controls quite close to each other. These were, in my terms, passage controls and only existed to channel you through or away from very sensitive areas. There were 2 in each case to spread the load and avoid congestion. They were approximately 300 Mts. apart, in both cases, and on very different features with different numbers. They were planned by me and accepted by my controllers as fair and necessary.
Unfortunately around 5 teams at each of these areas recorded their visit to the wrong control. When you are “in the area” of your next control and there are lots of folk about PLEASE, PLEASE check the control description and control number BEFORE dibbing. This is not the first time that 2 controls were close together and it certainly won’t be the last.
Finally I would like to thank, most sincerely, Chris Hall, Mark Hawker, Brian Dearnaley and the rest of the team for putting up with me, in various measures, over the last 8 months or so. While it has not been plain sailing all of the time and there have been some stressful moments it truly has been an honour and a privilege to be asked and allowed to plan this years event and I would not have missed it for the world. The experience will stay with me forever.
I suppose its back to my side of the fence next year. At least I get to moan about all of those dodgy controls and strange bits of O.O.B.’s.. But then, upon reflection, maybe I won’t.
My very best regards to you all and I hope to see you sometime soon on the hill.
2013 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
We were blessed with sunshine over the weekend of the Event which was very different to the conditions on the hills earlier on in the year. The carnage that the farmers had to stand are still evident over all the Fells. It is with gratitude that they allowed us to use the area from Black Knowe to Corney Fell to Harter Fell.
Throughout the Lakes there are sites of special scientific interest. Each year we sit down with Natural England and agree the restrictions. The constrictions at Buckbarrow Bridge and around Devoke Water were part of the agreement. These were clearly marked on the map. Marshalls were deployed to monitor these areas. It is disappointing that there was a team that flouted the OOB area at Devoke. It is this sort of thing that could make it more difficult to arrange access in the future. The following is an edited version of the Marshalls report:
“Here are photos of the Devoke transgressors. These are date stamped at xx:xx 06/07/2013. They are heading north from Seat How CP113, which they would have booked in around 5-10 minutes earlier.
I blew the whistle – they stopped – “Go this side of the tape” – “Why?” – I blew again but they ignored me. A passing competitor said something like “There’s always one”.
Everyone else was fine. Occasional ones stepped into the area, but at the whistle they paid attention to our instruction, obeyed, and even thanked us. Very well behaved as usual.”
The help and support we were given by Robert and Rowena Morris-Eyton, their family and the staff at Beckside, the Event Centre, was considerable. We cannot thank them enough for what they did.
Likewise, we have to thank Robert and Ann Thornton who allowed us access to Stainton and its views across Ravensglass. Also, the Capstick family, who farm the area to the west and south of Black Knowe, and all the Commoners Associations.
For the first time, we had a class devoted to juniors. I am very interested in any feed back in general and for Bedafell in particular. Was the course too long or too short ? Was the handicapping fair ?
If you had a favourite photograph of the Event, you should already have submitted it to me. Now is your chance to vote for the best. The person with the largest number of votes wins a prize. If there is a tie, marshalls are then allowed to vote. The Controller has the final say.
Our new caterers were a success. There was, however, a problem. The queue on Sunday. The cause : you arrived too early. That, clearly, is our fault as we did not keep you on the hill long enough !
Photographs and free certificates are available at http://www.randrphotos.co.uk/event-photos.php
I made two announcements at prize giving:
- Please note that the SLMM has been put back by one week next year to the weekend of 12th/ 13th July to accommodate those that wish to see the Tour de France.
- The other announcement was that we are thinking of starting a 24 hour event to be run over the same weekend as the SLMM and in the same area. What are your feeling about it ? Please note that we have many hurdles to cross if we do start this and we have not surmounted them at this stage. An example is insurance for a night event.
Lastly, I would like to thank all the Team and Marshalls without whom this event could not function and lastly to Brian Layton, the planner, whose enthusiasm was without bounds.
Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon