In the beginning
It all started early this year. I was sat at my desk when an email popped up:
Alexander Jeffreys has used SiEntries to enter you for the activities / purchases shown below. Please contact them if any of these details are incorrect.
LAMM – Scottish Mountain Marathon – Friday 1st to Saturday 2nd June 2018″
Turns out it was meant to be a surprise for my birthday! Not everyone’s cup of tea, but he knows his audience 😊
Alex hadn’t visited the highlands before so we decided to spend a week travelling up Scotland before the event. The weather was glorious and he now has a very warped view of what holidaying in Scotland is like, which i’m sure will be shattered next time we go.
The ferry to Harris from Uig was packed with happy chatty runners, many of whom seemed surprised that we’d picked the LAMM – “the connoisseurs mountain marathon” – as our first one. Go big or go home right…? A bagpiper welcomed us off the boat at Tarbet around 8:30pm, where we registered, pitched our tent in the school playing fields and headed over to the community hall where they’d laid on hot food, Skye brewery beers and some live music before turning in for the night.
Up at 6 the next morning, we put down our tent, grabbed a bacon butty for breakfast and packed our bags ready for our 8:20 bus to the staggered start. I spotted a familiar face zooming past in a car and made a mental note to seek out fellow Harrier Chris Smith at the mid-camp later.
We were handed a map and a list of controls and, after reminding ourselves how bearings worked, set off on our merry way. The first control was on a tiny island in a tarn, just too far to leap to without getting a chocolate foot, resulting in a squelchy climb up to the first summit and the second control for the D coursers.
We’d decided to do the short course for our first MM to get our eye in and dust off our navigation skills. In the end our day 1 route was more like the B course – 26.5km/1500m ascent as opposed to the advertised 20km/1000m, but we had a great day on the hills and managed to bag all the controls without getting lost, so we weren’t complaining!
Mid camp was a wonderful sight at the end of a long day, soft white sand, green grassy verges to pitch our tents and clear blue sea to swim and frolic in. (Disk scratch) Our eyes fell upon the toilet – two trenches to straddle and squat over. Lush.
After a swim, setting up camp and making food we settled in for a chilled evening of chatting and people watching. There were some big names there from the fell running world, most notably Jasmine Paris (Bob Graham record holder) and Nicky Spinks (double BG round woman of steel). I just about managed to refrain from going full fan girl, running up and asking them to sign my face.
We also managed to catch up with Chris, who’d also had a hard first day on the B course. Excellent training for his upcoming Bob Graham attempt on 6th July – good luck Chris!!
Once most teams were back they announced the dishing out of the ‘chasing start’ numbers over speaker phone. I wandered over to the main tent to see what it was all about and came back giggling like an excited child clutching our numbers and pins. Chasing start is a rule whereby anyone who finished day 1 within a certain time of the leader gets a number displaying their course and position (D6 for us). This is effectively a target on your back for other teams in the top spots to chase/fend off. The leader is then set off at 7am on day 2 and the people in the chasing start are set off after them based on their times for day 1. Everyone else can set off any time they like between 7 and 8:30. We qualified for chasing start (a total surprise) but being 1hr 28 behind the leader we were one of the very last teams to leave camp on day 2.
We were woken at 5:30 the next morning to Scotland the Brave blasting out over the campsite as a bagpiper wandered about the tents. Considering our chasing start was at 8:28 and all we had to do was put our tent down and eat some hard boiled eggs it was a bit early, but entertaining all the same.
By the time it was our turn to set off a fog had dropped over the hills making navigation tricky. Although the risk of getting lost was high, we decided to risk contouring around the side of a ridge instead of wasting time and energy climbing the two peaks between dibbers 2 and 3. By some fluke we nailed it and came 4th in that section.
Alas, our navigation up to now was too good to be true. Cue the navigational domestic.
Not naming names, person A took a bearing, which would take us on a long gradual descent delivering us directly to the next dibber. Person B spotted two lads on our course pegging it down the hill in a different direction and decided it would be better that way. After a small debate we went with person B… Person B was wrong. We descended to the road too early and had to trudge back around the headland, losing valuable minutes. Person A was grumpy and swore a bit.
The grumping was short lived, however, and after a pork pie and a glug of stream water (it was a boiling hot and humid day) we were back on track.
It was quite fun being part of the chasing start. As we overtook other D coursers we’d get running updates: “Ooh it’s D6! D5 isn’t too far ahead…”, which was quite the motivator through the tough terrain and heat. We never did manage to catch D5 though.
Descending back down off the mountains to Tarbet was great and after a short run through the town to the finish line we were done. We hosed ourselves down to cool off and rehydrate then gorged on food, cakes and tea laid on by the organisers. In our dazed post race state we missed the prize giving – we were busy searching for a cold pint and ice cream in town – but we later heard that the organiser, Martin Stone, had announced that it would be the last LAMM he would be running. A sad moment, but what an event to go out on (#MicDrop) and the party afterwards with beers in the sun and live music was a very happy affair.
The organisation that goes into these races is huge and it was a truly great event to take part in. We definitely have the MM bug now!
Results (Day 1, Day2)
Elite (42km/2220m, 32km/2100m)
Winner – Steve Birkinshaw and Neil Talbott – 07:30:19, 07:15:37 (tot. 14:45:56)
A course (32km/1900m, 26km/1900m)
Winner – Iain Embrey and Andrew Reeve – 06:12:57, 06:06:00 (tot. 12:18:57)
B course (25km/1500m, 24km/1500m)
Winner – Joe Farnell and Hazel Farnell – 05:29:11, 06:37:11 (tot. 12:06:22)
24th – Chris Smith and Desmond Thorpe – 06:58:35, 08:10:06 (tot. 15:08:41)
C course (24km/1300m, 20km/1000m)
Winner – Sam Gomersall and Jack Gomersall – 05:04:54, 04:11:31 (tot. 09:16:25)
D course (20km/1000m, 18km/900m)
Winner – Adam Forrest and Jack Forrest – 04:48:18, 04:38:15 (tot. 09:26:33)
6th – Alex Jeffreys and Cathy Gill – 06:16:46, 05:01:31 (tot. 11:18:17)
Score (7 hours, 7 hours)
Winner – Konrad Rawlik and Jasmin Paris – 300 points, 379 points (tot. 679 points in 13:52:35)