Report from Sarah F:
Anyone who reads my race reports (all 2 of you!) will know I am particularly partial to a mountain marathon (which for the un-initiated has everything to do with mountains and very little to do with the marathon!). The ROC (formerly RAB) at the end of September has been a firm favourite since I first ran it in 2008 (the second edition of the event). I ran with my usual MM partner Kate, who I have done many many of these events with now so we are well in tune with each others strengths and weaknesses! Mountain marathons usually offer two different course formats – linear and score. The former involves navigating between checkpoints in a set order in the fastest time, the latter is a timed event where the aim is to collect as many points as possible in a set period (checkpoints are worth different values usually depending on how much hassle they involve to reach!). Kate and I have become somewhat of score specialists over the years, preferring the added challenge of route choice and planning which can give the steadier runner an advantage over the racing snakes if they are better planners / navigators! For the ROC we entered the medium score course (6 hours on day 1 and 5 on day 2) – the most popular of the score classes on account of it being part of the annual mountain marathon championship (which sadly we weren’t eligible for as we had missed one of the events earlier in the year).
This year the event took place in the Lowther hills in the much underrated southern uplands. The area is really lovely and perfect mountain marathon territory (i.e. few paths, lots of bogs and tussocks, steep hills and remote!) but the forecast was grim! We set off in the dry though but expected to be sealed within waterproofs before long, however the weather just got better and better through the day and was nice and sunny by the time we got to the overnight camp! The first hill was a rude awakening steep and clad in deep heather – nice! From there it was into the giant tussocks and spongy bogs – even better! It became very clear that unless you were elite then there was probably not going to be huge amounts of proper running involved and progress between controls was going to be steady – it was all about who could move efficiently across the ground and some luck in finding trods. This suits us as we aren’t the fastest runners ! Our day 1 route was tough and for 4 ½ hours out of the 6 I think we had a really decent route and made some good (lucky!) choices but the last hour of so was not so great. We misjudged the timing a little and misjudged the terrain which meant our planned route didn’t work out quite as we hoped and we finished 20 minutes early – bit annoying with the benefit of hindsight! Still the sun was shining and we were actually really surprised to find we were 27th at the overnight (out of 79) and first ladies.
Overnight camp was the usual affair of squeezing 2 people into a space seemingly designed for a small child and eating ones own bodyweight in noodles, and sure enough the bad weather came in eventually so it was a largely sleepless night with the side of a tent in my face listening to the wind and rain lash down! Day 2 started off grim – very grim. As usual though the thought of going out was worse than the reality and once we are on the hill inside our waterproofs we were enjoying ourselves again. The route planning radar was working a lot better on day 2 and our nav seemed more polished as well so we made good progress (well as fast as the underfoot conditions would allow!). The last hour was a little fraught though as we went for the last couple of checkpoints pushing the time limit to the max. Some steep and slow terrain meant the final run in down a massive steep hill was fast and frantic and my legs were well and truly trashed by the time we screeched into the finish with a couple of minutes to spare – phew!
We thought we had done slightly better on day 2 and enough to hold our position and so it was – for the weekend we finished 24th overall and 1st ladies. Very very pleased with that!