This report could only come from one person*. If you can’t work out who it is, have a look at the race results and see who you recognise.
We dibbed at the final control on a narrow ridge and at last could see the event centre a kilometre or so away down in the valley; ‘okay, run and run fast or failing that hobble fast that will do’, the ground is rough but a clear runners trod had formed through the tussocks from the passage of preceding teams all converging on the finish, ‘nearly done’, ‘don’t stop now’, ‘ignore the pain’, only a few minutes of our time limit remaining, ‘oh cr*p a gate, what a faff and oh, another one’, but finally we emerge onto the road and a frantic sprint down to the finish, final dib, time check – ‘yes a few minutes to spare’! And so ended my 5th RAB Mountain Marathon.
The RAB is as well established but relatively low-key event compared to the OMM and has a more friendly laid back air about it. There are only two courses on offer – the long score and standard score, giving 13 or 11 hours running over two days respectively. Score format (collect as many points as you can in a certain time limit) means less of the big crocodiles of people you can get on point to point courses, and often a much more tactical race with route choice being much more of a deciding factor.
Given I am a far better navigator than runner (and I’m not that good a navigator!) and have seemingly a high threshold for putting up with mild discomfort this, it seems, is my perfect event! This year we had decided to step up and play with the big boys in the long score class, having been first ladies in the standard class twice we thought it would be rude not to.
However, this decision was made before practically my whole summer was wiped out running wise from illness. I’d been back running about three weeks so was far from hill fit and was seriously apprehensive of going the distance let alone doing well. Still I was gagging to get back into the fells again and do an event so it was time to zip up the man suit and get on with it.
We started from a small farm mid-way between Kendal and Shap, the clag was down but it was dry and relatively warm and we set off in good spirits. Actually we were secretly rubbing our hands at the clagged in conditions ‘that’ll slow the racing snakes down a bit’ (well maybe!). The first hour or so progressed steadily and we quickly disappeared into the cloud, thankfully not screwing up the navigation and hitting checkpoints reasonably well.
Then it started raining and before long it was a full blown hoolie, this typically corresponding with us reaching the high mountains!. So it turned into a bit of a battle at times but hugely enjoyable to be out racing again and in the mountains. Our chosen route for the day took us on a tour of Shap fells then down to near Mardale Head, then High Street and various lumps in between, then to the furthest out point on the flanks of Stoney Cove Pike.
We then retraced our steps back over Thornthwaite Beacon and dropped down from Nam Bield pass to Kentmere Reservoir. From there it was a bit of a desperate struggle on my pathetic non hill-fit legs up and over a near vertical slope of horror to get over the ridge and down into Longsleddle for the overnight camp.
Thankfully the weather cheered up a bit in the afternoon and we enjoyed some fantastic views for the last hour or so and total bonus not having to put the tent up in the rain! A stunning location for the wild camp and it was a warm night so for once I didn’t spend the whole night shivering and cursing my lightweight approach!
Overnight position 36th team (out of 113) and second ladies overall so pretty happy with that (okay; outstandingly, delighted and fall off a chair surprised!) as was aiming to just get round and preferably not be last.
Day two started overcast but humid and we set off about 7:15 for more of the same but this time without the clag (damn!) which actually was a relief this time because our chosen route took us across some featureless expanses of bogs and tussocks which would have been desperate to nav in the cloud.
We kept our slow and steady approach going and were passed by seemingly lots of teams, many of whom we found out later had got less points than us which was pretty surprising but satisfying (and annoying to them!). We took a gamble and went for a checkpoint a long way out which would mean a real push to make it to the finish but we decided it was worth the risk. This made it a nail biting final two hours and a pretty uncomfortable thrashing for me trying to keep up and not let the team down.
We had a big steep climb to do then a technical decent and followed by another long climb before we would finally see the finish line and it must be said I was not a pretty sight by the end of that but did my best to keep on pushing, periodically stuffing gels and chocolate into my face when I wasn’t moaning about tired legs or being too hot etc.
We really felt we had maximised the time available and done the best route we could within our (ok mine) fitness limitations, what we weren’t expecting was to move up to 25th place overall (113 teams started 107 finished long score) and consolidate second ladies. Didn’t catch the first lady but didn’t expect to or care, I had surpassed all my pretty meagre expectations of this race and just to be out there again was utter joy. The icing on the cake was to find out that solo ladies counted in a different prize category so we were awarded the first ladies team prize – a very generous prize voucher from RAB (probably to turn into another shiny down jacket to add to my collection!) which admirably covered lots of different categories and was equal for men and women. Very Very happy. Hats off to Kate Boobyer long suffering and super patient mountain marathon partner extraordinaire.
First overall was Stewart Bellamy with 550 points, first solo lady Kirsty Hewitson 410 points and 18th overall, second ladies (first ladies pair) in 25th position was our mystery lady* and Kate Boobyer.
* Sarah Fuller.