Running Up and Falling Down

By Hati Whiteley

The Alpkit Team headed up to Grasmere for the 40th Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon last weekend to run and navigate under sunny Lake District skies, whilst Events Man Talyn and Store Hero Amanda brought the Alpkit Teepee, pop up shop and their enthusiasm to support the participants.

As always, the atmosphere at Saunders was social, supportive, enthusiastic, and encouraging. We'd like to say a huge thank you to the event organisers and volunteers who made it happen, and a congratulations to the participants for getting out on the hill despite the blistering heat! Here's how the Alpkit team got on...

Team Alpkit! (raring to go on Saturday morning)

Main camp at Grasmere

Dave and Cal: Ambitious and Cursed Repeat Offenders

All-important beers in hand...

Calum and I are cursed: as a pair we have a Mountain Marathon success rate of 1 in 3 and both have had bad luck at Saunders previously. However, we lined up for the Bowfell class full of confidence, it was my birthday which would surely bring us luck and we had bubble wrap for beds, tiny bags and short shorts, what could go wrong?

The first few checkpoints went well with perfect nav and good running past Steel Crag and Ulscarf. On the way through Stakes Pass towards Glaramara it all started to go wrong…

Calum had just run the LAMM and Swaledale Marathon in blistering heat, I didn’t suffer during Transvulcania too much so we thought the heat wouldn’t be an issue… oops. Despite drinking twice as much as me Calum got very dehydrated and was suffering from heat stroke. On the descent from Glaramara it was all too much and collapsed in a dry riverbed hiding from the midday sun. We then learnt two very important lessons: maybe we aren’t too good in the sun, and always double check the checkpoints you are heading to. Upon crossing the finish line, we were told that we had punched the wrong checkpoint and were disqualified. Gutting as it was, we had more important things to do like sitting in the stream and cracking open beers, we could redeem ourselves the next day. The overnight camp at Saunders is great, it’s much more social than normal as everyone is lying around in the sun rather than huddled up in tiny tents so you can catch up with all highs and lows from the day.

We woke up feeling pretty fresh, the bubblewrap was surprisingly comfy and the day before had not taken its toll too badly. Off we set, keen to put a competitive time down on the 2ndday. Descending from Bowfell with an ominous sense of déjà vu the heat started to get to us. This time it was me who was worse off; I went over on my ankle badly at which point my body decided it was all too much and apparently I passed out. I woke to Calum holding my legs in the air looking quite worried. It seemed to do the trick as suddenly my ankle didn’t hurt and the heat wasn’t so bad. We now decided that finishing and enjoying the weather was more important than running. We had a swim in Stickle Tarn and bimbled back to the finish. It wasn’t the race we had planned but was still great fun, and I refuse to complain about such glorious weather in the Lake District.

Calum is going back to what he does best: running in cold, horrible weather in the OMM, whilst I am now in prep for Glen Coe Skyline again.

Grasmere at its sunniest!

Dom and Hati: Self-Confessed MM Rookies

We think all that sun may have got to us a bit!

The nerves probably kicked in a week before, but they evaporated away the moment we set off. 2 days in the Lakeland hills, what could possibly go wrong?

57 minutes later we realised that the sheepfold we’d dismissed half an hour before did in fact contain our checkpoint, and that maybe we were going to learn some valuable lessons at SLMM.

SLMM left us with a lot of anecdotes, sun tans, very sore legs, and psyche to do some more events! Day 1 saw my hydration bladder burst in my bag (refreshing but a little inconvenient), lots of monster hills, and jubilant singing followed by a sudden bonk that left us trudging uphill amongst a group of equally zombified SLMMers. We had a great day, but by checkpoint 7 my foot injury had flared up and we arrived at overnight camp doubting whether we’d be able to set off again the next morning. We ended the day with a bask in the river, dehydrated meals, birthday flapjack for Dave (a little squashed), and a chill with the AK team - overnight camp comes with a great vibe.

Painkillers, tape, and trekking poles are wonderful things! Sunday morning we were feeling ready to take on the world (although this is hindsight talking). More monster hills soon took the wind out of our sails but rewarded us with some whoop-worthy technical descents; Dom took a swim in a tarn, a tricky checkpoint left us panicking about timings, then we finished with time to spare. Best of all, we worked well as a team throughout the two days, despite my terrible singing.

The food back at camp was AMAZING, and like all the best athletes we ended the weekend with a stop at the chippy in Glossop.

Thank you to the SLMM team and participants for a wonderful weekend with an excellent atmosphere!

Overnight camp: Above - Saturday evening at overnight; Top left - Amanda and the Alpkit Teepee ready to welcome runners; Bottom left: Checkpoints coordinates distributed on Sunday morning; Left: Runners set off for Day 2!

Ben and Lola

We awoke Friday morning after 3 hours of sleep feeling slightliy hungover, and before we knew it, we were off! “Blimey it’s hot”, was the catchphrase of the day. Occasionally blimey was replaced with other words but the sentiment was the same.

First three checkpoints went without a hitch. Our navigation was spot on and the terrain was pretty easy, then came my achilleas heel, or more accurately my runners knee (which is ironic as I am anything but a runner) and Lola’s ginger syndrome which resulted in the back of her legs visibly burning in the unbearably fabulous weather. We were 5K into the route which ultimately turned out to be 25K and each step downhill was pure agony, but thankfully we were able to climb the hills without too much trouble, and we were able to reduce the distance by following a bearing and crossing whatever terrain came before us.

We made it to the overnight camp and crawled over the finish line and directly into the river to cool off. We must have been a very interesting sight, laying down in ankle deep water trying to hold ourselves together.

We unfortunately didn’t learn our lesson from the night before, and somehow ended up being the last ones to bed again!

Sunday morning rolls around and after a look at the route card and cut off times, there was no way that my knees would stand up to that sort of punishment for a second day, and with the temperature set to rise even further than the previous day, I had to retire in order to stay safe and not put either of us in any situation that we couldn’t get out of. Unfortunately this meant that my indisputably stronger partner Lola was also unable to continue due to race rules. Much guilt was felt.

Would we do it again? OF COURSE! We’ve already booked onto the OMM lite next year and plan on going back to the SLMM next year to conquer the second day!

Let the knee strengthening begin!

Georgia and Josh

This was my first ever running multi-day event so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how I would get on with my massive backpack. It was really hot, so on the first day we took advantage of a tarnside checkpoint by taking a quick dip to cool off before shooting straight off up Jack’s Rake. When I say shooting off, I mean shooting off, and it’s safe to say I needed a break at the top! Later in the day we got the fastest time between controls 4 and 5, I don’t know how we managed it, but our nav was pretty on point!

I’ve never really run much further than this so I started to bonk through controls 5 – 7, luckily by 7 we weren’t too far off the finish, we did spot a plunge pool in Langstrath River and couldn’t resist another dip!
We managed to finish 10th place in the Harter fell category by the end of the first day. Once we had set up camp, had lunch and had a nap, it was time for another swim, so we wondered back up the valley and found a quiet plunge pool with a little waterfall going into it, sitting underneath it felt like a cool jacuzzi, which is just what you need after running all day in the scorching sun!

Day two wasn’t quite as eventful. We were tired and just wanted to get back, which meant a couple of nav errors – luckily nothing too major! We stopped in every pool of water we could find to cool off, and wet our feet in streams in hope of preventing blisters - it worked too!

We finished 11th overall in the Harter Fell category (despite both being injured) and had an amazing weekend!

10/10 would do it again!

Back at the finish line, complete with Dave's all-important calf guards (a race staple)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published