This was the first time we have done any mountain marathon planning. We are experienced orienteering planners, but a mountain marathon has very different requirements. In orienteering we have tended to favour courses with long legs requiring a lot of map contact, and this translates well. Harder to overcome was the desire to find the hardest possible sites for controls; instead we concentrated on finding sites that could be unambiguously defined with a 6 figure grid reference, without being trivial. We hope we succeeded.
With the positions of the start and overnight camp decided before we became involved, the shape of the shorter courses more or less defined themselves. The straight line distance from Pooley Bridge to Deepdale is more than 10km so both days would need to go fairly straight between the two with one to the east of Martindale, and the other to the west. We felt that competitors would prefer to start Day 1 by getting into proper mountain country, rather than crossing a valley so the decision was made. The only problem with this was trying to avoid too much climb on Day 2.
On day 1 the longer courses could reach the more remote and steeper areas at the southwest end of Haweswater. Hopefully this provided an enjoyable contrast to the more rolling terrain further north. We were fortunate that much less of the area was out of bounds this year than when it has been used previously; quite surprising when in general landowners and environmental groups are tending to be more restrictive rather than less. Richard clearly did a very good job with the access negotiations – thank you.
We tried to offer a variety of possible control orders, both large scale and smaller scale for Klets and Pillar. It’s not easy; either one route is clearly the best or there are a number of similar one in which case the correct choice comes down to things like local knowledge, whether the map adequately shows the roughness of the terrain and luck. Ideally the right route would be one that is very hard to spot, but clearly the best once you’ve seen it. We probably didn’t achieve this. All of which is a roundabout way of saying we don’t really know what the ideal route is, or even what we would have done.
Thinking about local knowledge, our planning was made much easier by the fact that we live a few hundred metres off the east side of the map. This meant that we could spend a lot of time on the fell identifying potential control sites and making map corrections. We marked about 90 sites in total with 55 being used in the final courses. One thing we probably didn’t take into account sufficiently was the amount of bracken that would be present on some lower slopes in July. Some of the routes choices we had hoped competitors might make were eliminated.
It was good to see so many people finishing on Sunday looking happy, and then relaxing/collapsing in the sunny finish area, though it was somewhat nerve wracking wandering round overhearing snatches of conversations about the courses and the problem competitors had encountered.
This is the first time we have seen “behind the scenes” at a mountain marathon and it has made us realise how much work the coordinator, controller and other volunteers put in to the organisation, especially given the fact that they are involved year after year, so thank you very much to Chris, Roger and everyone else. And thanks also for giving us the chance to plan; we have enjoyed it hugely. It will be strange to go back to running in the fells without thinking about control sites and route choices.
Dan and Karen Parker
2016 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
Dan and Karen did an excellent job in planning courses:
- Winners’ times were as specified, so the course lengths were right. Bedafell, Wansfell and even Harter fell, had a number of teams well inside the specified times, but the spread of finishing times in these classes is so wide, that we have to expect some teams to come in early and hope they come back next year to run a more challenging course.
- Providing a long downhill run at the end of Sunday’s courses meant that nearly everyone came into the finish at speed, and frequently with a smile on their faces. Lots of compliments and hardly a complaint. Thank you competitors.
- Designing courses so that everyone got a good look at the hills and dales of this part of the Lakes.
- Some challenging navigation for the longer courses and also some challenging route choice options.
- Their experience, thoroughness and attention to detail made my job, as controller, very easy
Richard made the task of negotiating access look easy. It isn’t that easy, really! We had anticipated restrictions around The Nab because of red deer conservation and around Riggindale, because of the golden eagle but, in fact neither of these issues manifested themselves. Sadly, the eagle is now officially dead.
The event was marred by two accidents, both of them on Saturday, both on the final descent down the steep slope opposite the overnight campsite. One competitor suffered head injuries, the other a broken arm. The Mountain Rescue appeared very rapidly after call out and the subsequent helicopters were equally quick in responding. An impressive performance. We should all be very grateful for such support. I am pleased to be able to say that both casualties were discharged later that day or on the following day, not much the worse for wear. I am also pleased to be able to tell you that we raised nearly £700 from competitors’ donations on Sunday afternoon, which becomes almost £900 after Gift Aid is added. The Saunders will be making additional contributions.
Why did we get two accidents in the same place? It was steep, but so were a lot of other places that competitors visited over the weekend. It was wet. They were probably tired. In an interview for local television, the Mountain Rescue spokesman said something along the lines of “the competitors were all very well equipped and prepared for everything and it was just one of those things.” So be it. Mountains can be dangerous places and at times they catch us out. In the history of the Saunders, it has been a very rare thing to get an accident such as this, let alone two.
Events such as this don’t happen without substantial effort and dedication from a large number of volunteers. Please remember, when things are going slightly wrong, that these people are volunteers and they are doing their best. We all make mistakes and we all forget things. Every year there is a minor crisis somewhere in the event. This year, we found ourselves caught short of loo paper on Sunday morning. Thank you for your understanding and for accepting the rationing system that we introduced and thank you to Martin, who put himself on the firing line, handing out supplies to the queue.
Many thanks to all those volunteers. And many thanks to all the landowners and graziers who accept us onto their land. Land which is invaded, every weekend by many, many visitors, such as ourselves. They still make us welcome.
On Sunday afternoon, I was able to meet up with next year’s planner and have a preliminary discussion on next year’s courses. We are hopeful of going to an area not visited by the Saunders for many years. It should be very good, so reserve the weekend in your diary, now.
2016 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon