Where else can you spend a weekend, in tough conditions, camping in a tiny tent that is pitched on a wet slope, in the wind and rain, and end up with a smile like this after 50km of running up and down big hills?
It was the challenge of navigating in the mountains and the camp craft that attracted me to my first Mountain Marathon in 1999. Since then I’ve got fitter but the challenge is still the same. I like the score classes. You don’t receive the map until 2 minutes before setting off. The map is marked up with controls. These are 15cm square flags, with a small electronic “dibber” on them, Each control has a number of points, these points, with your exact time are recorded on a little chip you wear on your wrist. This chip is dibbed into the control box when you find the location. Each team of runners has a set period of time with penalties for not finishing within the time period. It’s a two day event and the pair of you must be self sufficient. The winning team is the one that collects the most points over the two days. In the event of tied points, the fastest team wins.
I’m really lucky to have a really solid running mate to share this with – Jeremy.
There is a huge amount of tactics involved, and for the winning teams a lot of fitness. I really like running these events with Jeremy. After talking to another team a few years ago, who persuaded us that being minimalist and uncomfortable isn’t necessary. We now do things in comfort, cheese, crackers and whisky make the evening far more enjoyable than being in a cramped tent waiting for the morning.
This year neither Jeremy or I were that fired up for running fast across the Cheviots. We set off on Day 1 with the plan to have a nice weekend. We were a little surprised to find out in overnight camp that we were lying seventh, and had made the chasing start of the top 20 teams. We had obviously picked a good course to pick up plenty of points.
This meant a 0742 start for Sunday, but with the clocks going back it wasn’t going to be a massive hardship.
In retrospect we made a strategy error on the Sunday, and should have gone West, onto the moors, instead of East of the start line and into the forest. We were lured by some controls with big points, and totally missed the fact that we could have picked up several smaller scores, worth more, in the same time. Anyway, we ran in, finished 54th on day 2. Combining our points gave us 22nd overall which, given 120 starters, and our less than competitive approach to the weekend is pretty pleasing.
For me, the event is all about the chance to go run somewhere that I wouldn’t normally and have the challenge of having to have really good navigation. That I get to do it with my best mate makes it really special.
Thanks Jeremy, a cracking weekend, and proof that guts makes glory, not a diddy rucksack! Though to be fair we could cut back in a few areas…I might take one less buff next year!