This article was written for Axe Valley Runners' newsletter.
The Karrimor International Mountain Marathon: two days of fell running/walking/plodding/staggering with everything you need on your back - tent, sleeping bag, food, etc.
I did it every year from '84 to '89 then gave it up as a bad job - October is not the best time for that sort of thing. I was persuaded to try it again in '95 (and was even interviewed on a really tacky Radio 5 Live show as a result) but it was a Very Long Way and Oh-so-cold. Somehow I'd been talked into doing it again this year with a different partner. Bad move.
Bryan had been fourth in the A class last year with a slower partner than me so we had high hopes of a good result. That always means it's not going to work out and whaddya know? It didn't.
55Km straight line distance over the two days. But you can't do straight lines in the hills. There are things in the way - valleys, mountains, cliffs, interminable bogs, etc. and its mostly on rough fellside (rocks, grass, bogs, etc.) with some paths and a few miles on road. So don't think "that's only five and a half 45-minute 10Ks." It doesn't work like that!
It was wet. It was windy. It was moderately cold. Bryan couldn't get going up the hills, my feet ached and my kit suffered from terminal decay. One of my rucsack straps parted company from the pack about 200m into Day 1 and had to be bodged up. My right shoe insole rucked up to exert uncomfortable pressure on my instep half way round Day 1. Each stop wasted a few minutes. Lots of sub-optimal route choices, wasting a few more minutes each time.
The rain stopped for the last half hour of Day 1 and we reached the campsite reasonably dry. Excellent - some layers of clothing could remain on to supplement the spares in our packs. Whereupon the heavens opened and we got saturated as we pitched the tent. Bang went the extra layers. Where was my waterproof? Around my waist, the integral bumbag being a vital component of the Perratt patent broken-rucksack-strap-repair-mechanism!
Into the tent and sleeping bags, water on for food and drink then sleep (alternating with waking up cold) for twelve hours.
Day 2. We're going home today! There's just a slight matter of 25Km (straight line) on tired legs. We were in fourth place overnight and I always have a better second day. But my legs wouldn't go any better than Bryan's (and worse at times). Racing mode off; trundle mode on. And on. And on. And then, strangely, all courses came together just before the finish, the obvious line being along a road. It was like a refugee column and I can only wonder what the few people driving along there thought.
Most courses dived off straight down to the finish but, being hard men (and women), we were expected to climb another hill which we duly did before tumbling down its steep face to finish in ninth place. So much for my better second day. Never again. (But mountain marathoners are well known for saying that even more frequently than British rowers.)
Although victory would have been beyond our capabilities (just over eleven hours compared with our thirteen), saving a mere twenty minutes would have put us in fourth place and half an hour well into second. Think of all those few minutes wasted in adjusting laces, bodging rucksacks, indifferent route choices, etc. Definitely a case of "Could do better." To which a friend added "... next year." Which is not a pleasant thought.
Here's the official Karrimor website.
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© Garry Perratt, 2000