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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon


From well before the control sites were visited and tagged in early May to the collection of the kites and SI boxes everything about the event went very smoothly and according to plan - give or take the odd hiccough.

For the recce we had the last 3 days of the hot cloudless days on the hills before the rains came and stayed. Martin joined the four of us for this and sorted out the layout of the event field and the mid camp. The area's potential was obvious and it looked stunning in the May sunshine. Andy had already planned the Elite to D courses and these were not significantly changed. More work was needed on the Score in finalising which start we would use, the selection of controls and points loading.

With Andy and Angela making up the four of us we started putting out the 70 controls on the Sunday before the event, and all but the penultimate controls were in place by Wednesday evening - about 14 man-days work between us. The only late change that Andy made was to the D course. Following Angela's report on the level of water one of the streams he diverted the early part of the Day 1 course so that it left the forest by the path on the East boundary and not the South. Although reducing the winning time by 20 mins or so this probably improved the course whilst eliminating a potentially fierce river crossing. More about rivers later.

Conditions for the event were wet underfoot in places but otherwise both days were ideal for running, with good visibility aiding the navigation and providing stunning views. Winning times were in line with what were expected in these conditions and Andy's courses provided plenty of route choice on most legs.

Planning the Score class is particularly difficult at the LAMM bearing in mind the scale and ruggedness of the terrain and fact that the mid camp is almost always going to be a long way from the Day 1 start, whichever start is chosen. Some have asked for a shorter Score time limit but that would make it very difficult for the slower teams to reach the midcamp with any points at all! A look at Route Gadget shows how well the Score worked for the top level teams. They covered a remarkable amount of ground and had plenty of options - truly elite performances. Last year many of the slower competitors struggled to finish in time, particularly on Day 1. This year offered them more options and a good chance of finishing without penalties, and the results bear this out.

We heard a report of a team in the chasing start running without their numbers on display. Whether this was forgetfulness, a chaotic life style or plain naughtiness it is against the rules and spirit of the event and the organiser would have been justified in disqualifying them.

This year's innovation of putting closing times on controls seemed to work very well. It helped Dave plan the great control gathering exercise. However, it is always worrying when teams come in hours after the course closing time. The last team to finish on Day 2 were also in last by a long time on Day 1. It would have helped them and everyone else if they had moved down a class or to the Score on Day 2.

The night after the event the rain came again so we failed to achieve the plan of retrieving all of the controls by Monday evening. Although most controls were accessible the level of the rivers had risen alarmingly and we had to wait until Tuesday to get the final two controls. By then the waters had receded almost as quickly as they had risen. There might have been more to collect if Matt had not crossed one river with it up to his waist. All of this made us realise just how lucky we had been at the weekend. Had we had conditions like that for the competition there would have been major difficulties to say the least. However, the LAMM is a very nimble organisation with flexible hardworking helpers, and competitors who are familiar with difficult conditions in the mountains so it should be capable of making radical last minute changes to courses.

Many thanks to:

  • All of those who helped with control collection; without this assistance we would struggle to wrap everything up until the end of the week after the event.
  • Martin, who also extends to the planning and controlling team the usual talents of charm and diplomacy which he brings to bear on land owners, ghillies and local interests.
  • Our fellow controller Angela. Her ability to cover enormous areas of the highest ground is greatly appreciated by the two over 60s (or M65s).
  • Andy for his excellent courses which made the controlling job easy. One of Andy's great strengths is his knowledge of the Scottish hills. This means he has a working knowledge of any area well before he is immersed in the planning. Perhaps after all there is some practical benefit to having completed the Munros, Corbetts and Grahams. To use Andy's own words when writing about the area on the website, he is a "real hard core hill bagger".

Brian Jackson and Dave Coustick

Climate Care

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event

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