Report from Sarah Fuller:
“would you like some chips with that beer?” Not the normal question you expect to hear at the overnight camp of a mountain marathon. Normally overnight is a purely functional (eat noodles and try and sleep) and mostly unpleasant (hide from rain in tent about the size of a postage stamp) affair but not so for the highlander Mountain marathon. Day one ended in the walled garden of a lovely old house in Inverailort (on the road to the isles), where there was a large marquee that we were later to discover would host a large selection of ales, whiskey, a ceilidh and 400 smelly fell runners.
Saturday went really well for us. Starting in the rain at Glenfinnan, we spent the first 3 hours getting wet and mostly in the clag but it soon cleared and the rest of the day was stunning. We made one small error in the clag but thankfully were soon back on track and the rest of the day flowed really well. The hills were punishing and the terrain was mostly very rough with no paths at all and plenty of tussocks. The course explored the hills to the south of the road to the isles between Glenfinnan and Inverailort, no munros but the highest points at around 890metres were not far off. The planner had done an excellent job and the route choices were abundant (the sign of a good score event!) which made an interesting race with teams all taking very different lines. We misjudged the timing slightly finishing early and kicked ourselves for not picking up a control earlier on in the day not far off our route (we decided we wouldn’t have time!) which would have put us first ladies but that’s how it goes with score and we felt it better to play it safe. After 7 hours of running (well 6 hours 40 minutes in our case!)we finished the day 11th overall and 2nd ladies so more than chuffed with that. An amazing evening of dancing and making new friends and a few too many ales put the icing on the cake of a great classic day in the mountains.
We couldn’t believe our luck when day 2 dawned clear and sunny to the sound of a lone piper and at 7 am we headed back into the mountains this time on the north side of the road and back to Glenfinnan. After getting the map and planning our route we felt a little disappointed that the course was like a linear course with no real choices to make apart from near the end, the distance was too far in a straight line back to Glenfinnan to give much option in the 6 hours we had available, and for a good proportion of people just getting back at all proved a challenge and a third of the field lost all or significant amounts of their points total. Still it was a glorious day in the hills and an absolute joy to be out with like-minded folk and a good friend (my long suffering MM partner Kate Boobyer!). For us it went a little pear shaped as the day went on, perhaps we should have been more conservative early on and left a couple of early controls but it seemed logical at the time (and the day before it was ‘if only we had got that one!’) and we felt good and weren’t to know the terrain would be even more punishing and slow going than day 1. With less than 2 hours left we took stock of our choices to get back and it didn’t look good – there was no easy bail out and it was a choice between a direct route over an enormous mountain or 2 or a long run round the back of the hills with a few ups and downs to some checkpoints on the way and a dash down glenfinnan on the track. We felt our legs were going to be too trashed to do the big climbs in the time available so opted for the longer route which I think was the right choice but in our stress and panic we didn’t execute it very well and with time running out we had to run past a 20 and 10 pointer which were only 5 to 10 minutes detours thus taking a big hit on our final score. Still we were determined to pick up the last 15 pointer and not be late but ended up running up the wrong little hill looking back to see the control flag sitting proud on another top only 300 direct line metres away. But no time to correct this school boy error and we now had less than an hour to do over 7km – with 12 hours running in our legs and backpacks! Not possible I thought and I was right –but only just (we were only 2 minutes late so only a few points lost but 45 were binned on the way in through irritating errors or time pressures – very annoying!). Immediately chalking it down to experience – that’s the joy (and heartache!) of doing score format events and a lot of people fared far worse than us!
So combining day 1 and day 2 scores this placed us 14th overall (out of 50) in long score and we slipped to 3rd ladies, but our rubbish day 2 score had far less impact than I thought it would on the overall results. Chuffed to bits with that but more so what a privilege to spend a weekend in such a remote and inspiring place (and a new bit of Scotland for me!) with some amazing people all doing something we love, and top marks to the highlander organisers for a great event and fantastic overnight camp experience. Definitely do this one again.