Vernon joined us in April for our Mountain Marathon Preparation weekend and then enjoyed his first event at the first Scottish Mountain Marathon last weekend. He very kindly wrote this article to share his experiences:
Last summer I managed to complete a Gerry Charnley Round in the English Lake District. It is a smaller version of the more famous Bob Graham Round and is approximately 39 miles and about 3,600 metres of ascent. I usually avoid entering long hill races and decline offers from mates on the grounds that I don’t have the endurance. Sometime before Christmas I received a cunningly worded e-mail from my mate Chris suggesting that we should enter the new Scottish Mountain Marathon. The unintended consequence of the Gerry Charnley Round is that excuses about my lack of endurance have become unconvincing, and I found myself bereft of a plausible excuse not to enter.
After exchanging a few e-mails we signed up for the 2019 Scottish Mountain Marathon. In mountain marathon terms we were ‘clueless newbies’. There is an old saying that used to be popular at Outward Bound Schools - ‘good planning is the result of experience, but experience is the result of bad planning’. One way of short circuiting a failure-driven-learning-cycle is to attend a course, and I was delighted to find out that Trail Running Scotland were running a special event.
The Scottish Mountain Marathon Preparation Weekend is ideal for newcomers to mountain marathons. It is also suitable for anyone who wants to get their ‘mountain geek’ on even if they don’t plan to race.
The course leader Ian Stewart has excellent credentials because he has competed in the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM) 8 times and he came 2nd in the Elite class in 2017. Ian has also completed the Munros and a Bob Graham round.
The course fits neatly into a weekend. Friday evening provided a good introduction to the event and on Saturday morning we looked at kit in more detail. Various items of clothing and equipment were weighed and compared. This was very helpful and illustrated that you can get your kit down to about 5kg. Later on we went out and ran a few controls and got used to looking at the types of map that are used on the events. At tea time we returned and tried out a few dehydrated meals. On Sunday morning we looked at the 2018 LAMM long score course map. We then looked at the Routegadget software and examined some of the routes that competitors had taken. Then we were back out in the hills.
Here are some tips
1. Don’t over estimate your ability.
2. Light kit is very important. Comfort and warmth are beguiling but more time is spent carrying kit than is spent shivering in the tent!
3. 30 Seconds extra looking at the map can save 20 minutes running.
4. Ask yourself “is it quicker to go around?” (learn Bob’s Law).
5. Food is fuel - make sure you have enough to power you around.
6. Dehydrated food is very light.
7. The jury is out on the ‘sugariness’ of food. I prefer protein from cheese, nuts and energy bars.
8. A rehydration drink with replacement electrolytes is good for the evening camp.
9. Take the inside of a wine box (or other big bag) to minimise how often you have to leave your tent to collect water.
10. Take a spare pair of socks (a luxury) and two plastic bags (e.g. from a sliced loaf of bread). Change into your socks when you get to camp. Slip on the plastic bags before you put your feet back into your wet shoes. Don’t worry about looking odd, everyone else will be doing this too.
During the course you will pick up many more helpful tips.
The mountain marathon provides an interesting mixture of movement in the mountains (running, shuffling, or walking), navigational tests and the challenge of a remote camp with minimal equipment.
The mountain marathon is not just for fell running superheroes, although a nice feature of the event is that you will inevitably spot a few famous faces from the elite end of the sport. There are a variety of classes and styles of routes to choose from that suit everyone from the keen hillwalker through to the gnarly mountain running champion.
What did I take away? Two fantastic days in the hills with a mate in a remote part of Scotland. The feeling must be mutual as we are already crossing e-mail messages about our next event. By sheer serendipity my partner Chris announced his engagement just before the event. I am claiming that I laid on one of the more eccentric stag nights, but readers may know otherwise.
Having completed a mountain marathon we know that planning is the key to success. Let us reflect on the old adage about good planning being the result of experience.
It is clear that if I hadn’t been on the course with Trail Running Scotland we wouldn’t have been able to tap into their wealth of experience, and we would certainly not have been as well prepared or successful.
We will be running another Mountain Marathon Preparation weekend next spring, more information is here.
There is still one more event in the British Mountain Marathon Championship for 2019, the ROC Mountain Marathon in September.
Our Mountain Marathon courses are supported by our partners at: