LAMM Mountain Marathon (An Teallach, Fisherfield & Fannichs) 2017
Day 2 Start: Duncan Archer (left), Shane Ohly (right).
Featuring Duncan's 'super bright - follow me' Buff hat… & bed head modelled by Shane! © Jon Brooke
After an ad hoc appearance in previous years, the ‘connoisseur’s mountain marathon’ returned in June 2017 on its usually weekend. The LAMM has always been my favourite mountain marathon (that I don’t organise of course!) and the extra bonus was that my regular mountain marathon partner Duncan Archer was available. Duncan had won the event with Jim Mann on the previous three editions, but Jim wasn’t available this year so I was able to step in.
The LAMM is characterised by its adventurous atmosphere and wild landscapes, often held in remote Scottish Highland terrain, the courses have fewer checkpoints than other mountain marathons (occasionally resulting in win/lose route choice options), and of course it is famed for its remote overnight camp.
Checking out the start list we felt that a good result was a reasonable expectation for the weekend. We didn’t want to feel complacent as there were some experienced teams racing but, on balance, no one that should threaten us if we had a good run. Despite reminding ourselves to take nothing for granted, we really never got into the killer mind-set that has characterised our best mountain marathon performances and Day 1 often felt more like a long training run than a hard race.
That said, Day 1 was a joy: huge mountains, route variations and the rough and tough terrain typical of the Highlands. Without doubt my favourite route choice after 15 years of regular mountain marathon racing was between checkpoint 4 and 5, where we deliberately planed a short swim across the neck of a loch to save 400m of running. It worked, and with the warm weather and reassurance that our sleeping bags and spare clothes were ‘double bagged’, we decided on the same ‘swim-across-the-loch’ approach for the next checkpoint. Alas, the water level was much lower here so that we never got beyond wading and bog.
Day 2 Start: Shane Ohly (left), Duncan Archer (right).
© Jon Brooke
Just as we were enjoying ourselves the sky suddenly darkened on the way to checkpoint 8, and within minutes there was hail and sleet blasting our faces as we walked the steepest section of the col before the checkpoint. Slow to get our waterproofs on, my hands quickly became numb with cold, and I was struggling to to hold the map… A good reminder that the weather in Scotland is often more serious than elsewhere in the country. For the first time that day we upped the effort level to our true racing potential just to stay warm, and were quickly rewarded with distant views of the stunning and remote overnight camp.
We finished Day 1 with a 50-minute lead, which felt very generous given that we never really got out of 4th gear. Martin Stone (the Race Organiser) was impressed with our Day 1 time, and somewhat disbelieving, when we said we could have gone quicker.
Overnight we reminded ourselves that we must try harder the following day, and that we really must not take anything for granted; our lead could quickly be eroded with another lacklustre performance and a route choice error.
Day 2 was game of two halves in the fabulous Fannichs mountains. Initially the course took us over two steep hills, culminating in the Munro summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala, and this accounted for nearly all of our day’s height gain in the first half of the day. A long downhill section followed before fantastic undulating moorland, with navigation more typical of a long orienteering course, brought us back to the Event Centre and Finish.
Delighted at the Day 2 Finish: Shane Ohly (left), Duncan Archer (right).
© Jon Brooke
In all honestly, we never hit top gear again. The almost hour lead gave us such a cushion we were able to enjoy the running and mountain views without the stress of being chased down. We managed to extend our lead by another 5 minutes, but on the long drive home we reflected on our approached to the weekend and realised it had been far too relaxed. We resolved, that we approach the OMM later in the year with renewed mental toughness and a ‘do or die’ approach. Nothing else was going to cut it with a field that was expected to be much more competitive.
LAMM Elite Winners 2017: Duncan Archer x4 winner (left), and Shane Ohly x1 winner (right)
© Jon Brooke
My first mountain marathon was the 2002 LAMM where I completed the D Course with my friend Rich Parry. We had a brilliant and memorable weekend, but were so hopeless and inexperienced that we handicapped ourselves with every other decision. It really was a comedy of errors! Fifteen years later I have finally won the LAMM Elite; the mountain marathon that started me on a personal journey, and later a business pathway, that sees me where I am today.
I was so inspired by that first mountain marathon experience, and I really hope that current novice mountain marathon runners will dream big too!