Paul Tierney ran into the record books today when he set a new fastest time for summitting all 214 of Alfred Wainwright’s Lake District peaks in one go. He completed the 318-mile journey and the equivalent ascent of four times Mt Everest on foot in six days, six hours and five minutes.
He beat Steve Birkinshaw’s five-year-old record by almost seven hours.
The scenes captured by inov-8 as Paul ran into Keswick today to finish his run.
Paul fought exhaustion, sleep deprivation and widely varying weather during his impressive challenge. He was supported on and off the fells by friends.
Photos tell an impressive story
Paul ascending summit number 207 of 214. Credit: www.inov-8.com
Paul running along the streets to the finish in Keswick.Credit: www.inov-8.com
Paul climbing the steps to the finish line at Moot Hall Keswick with some of the big crowds behind him. Credit: www.inov-8.com
Finally…the finish line for Paul. Credit: www.inov-8.com
Paul smiling after breaking the record. Credit: www.inov-8.com
Paul with his partner Sarah McCormack, who supported him all the way and ran some of the sections with him, too. Credit: Stephen Wilson www.granddayoutphotography.co.uk
Paul, was raising funds for MIND, UK in memory of his friend and fellow athlete Chris Stirling, who died recently. MIND provide advice and support to those experiencing mental health struggles. Donate via his Justgiving page.
The inov-8 ambassador was greeted on the finish steps by family, friends and Joss Naylor, who was the first man to run the Wainwrights in one continuous circuit in 1987.
The face of exhaustion. Credit: www.inov-8.com
See a video of Paul reaching peak number 185 (Dodd) with 29 peaks to go….
Just 7 peaks left to go as Paul Tierney closes in on an incredible new record time for summiting all 214 of Alfred Wainwright’s Lake District fells. He’s been running, fast-hiking and occasionally napping for 6 days & 2 hours. His estimated finish time at Moot Hall, Keswick, is between 2:30pm and 3:30pm today.: Summiting Ard Crags (peak number 207)Story & tracker www.inov-8.com/blog/paultierneywainwright/Donate www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paul-tierneywainwrights214#inov8 #GetAGrip #wainwrights214
The breadth and range of electric bikes are on the increase. There are now electric racer, mountain and hybrid bikes. The bikes are lighter, more efficient and prices are coming down. Electric bikes are those powered by a battery that sits on or in the frame of a bike. The cyclist must still pedal the bike to make it go forward but with the aid of the electrical power it’s possible to go faster and further. Here we look at the benefits of electric bikes.
Why choose electric bikes
Did you know the invention of electric bikes goes back to the early 1800s? Back then, it was a different style of bike to wha you will see today. he modern electric bike is now a much lighter and sleeker product – and in some case you would not even know the bike is electric because the battery is so neatly hidden.
Electric bikes are an environment-friendly form of transport because they emit less pollution than other vehicles, such as cars and motorcycles. They also help lower the overall consumption of energy, as they only consume an average of 100 to 150 watts. People who ride an electric bike, such as to commute to work, often do so instead of driving a car or taking the train.
Go further and faster
The new technology of e-bikes allows the biker to cover longer distances with relatively less effort. If you can ride a normal bike 10 miles, you will be able to ride an e-bike much further. The power-assist is also useful for getting up hills. As you pedal the bike, the action also ads to the storage of the battery, so you will be able to ride further than ever before.
A good leveller
If you have a partner who is faster and stronger than you or you are finding that a group of friends are now faster than you as you age, an e-bike offers a great leveller. It allows you to keep up and still enjoy going out with your favourite people.
Good for sore joints
E-bikes have a battery-powered pedal-assist, which gives you a pedalling boost while cycling. Such a feature reduces the impact of stress on the knees and thighs, especially when climbing hills.
Good for physical and mental health
Cycling on an electric bike has several benefits for your health, whether mental or physical. Riding an electric bike is the same as riding a normal bike. It involves pedalling, which is good form of cardiovascular exercise and a great strength builder.
Being out in the fresh air, especially if you ride in the countryside, is good for mental health, too.
Once you have bought an electric bike, you have an efficient and cheap-to-run form of transport. Electricity is far cheaper than other fuels, such as petrol. You’ll also save money on public transport. It’s a great long-term investment.
See more places
By e-bike you will be able to ravel further and explore new places. It’s an excellent – and environmentally friendly way – to journey through your own country or abroad.
I used both the OMM Mountain Raid Jacket and OMM Mountain Raid sleeping bag during the recent Scottish Mountain Marathon. Lightweight kit is important for a mountain marathon because you need to carry all your own items for self-sufficiency over two days. But quality and warmth are also vital, especially if you are like me and get cold easily and quickly.
The OMM Mountain Raid Hood Jacket is a unisex fit so I requested a small size. It is still quite roomy for me but useful for times when I want to add a layer over all that I am already wearing. I always carry this sort of insulated jacket with me on the hills, mountains and during events.
I find that if I can quickly add an insulated jacket over the top of everything I maintain my core temperature. I wish I had discovered this kind of jacket years ago because it would have saved me many chilly experiences.
I really like the fabric of the OMM insulated jackets. It is light and silky feeling but also very hard wearing. I have owned a similar jacket for a couple of years and it has been well worn and washed in the washing machine many times. It is still a favourite layer.
There are many great features of the Mountain Raid jacket. The fleece-lined hand pockets are lovely. There is a useful chest pocket, too.
And the front zip is two-way. This is very useful and many brands have decided not to use two-way zips these days, which annoys me. I like being able to pull the zip upwards when I want to access layers underneath.
There is very little bulk at the cuffs and I appreciate that, too.
The jacket is very easy to wear and to throw on wherever and whenever you need it. It’s lightweight yet really warming. As soon as I add the jacket over all my layers, even when they are wet, I feel a whoosh of warmth.
At 380g and packed away into its own pocket this is an excellent jacket for carrying in any walking or running pack and also as part of the kit for a mountain marathon.
I just wish there was a version of this jacket that is
female-specific so it has a more flattering female fit.
On test: OMM Mountain Raid 1.0 sleeping bag
This is a Primaloft Gold Minimalist sleeping bag. I wanted a lightweight sleeping solution and decided that the Mountain Raid pants that fit into the Mountain Raid jacket would not be warm enough for me. So I went for a lightweight sleeping bag instead. I like the idea of being cocooned inside a bag rather than lying down with a jacket and trousers on and no bag around me.
The mountain marathon took place in summer and on a
relatively warm night. I mean, warm for a Scottish summer. It has been very wet
but it was not windy.
I took an inflatable Thermarest as a luxury item so I was insulated from the cold, wet ground. I wore a thin baselayer, the Mountain Raid jacket, running tights and socks to sleep in.
The sleeping bag was just about warm enough for me. Half-way through the night I found my legs and bum were chilly so I wrapped an extra baselayer around my legs inside the bag for further warmth. This worked well.
Another competitor told me they have a tip for warmth at
night, to use a silver blanket as extra insulation. I think that would have
been good for me.
Worth considering is the Mountain Raid 1.6 sleeping bag, which has extra Primaloft insulation and weighs 450g. If you get cold at night like me or it is going to be a cold night where you are camping, you might like the extra warmth of he 1.6 bag.
Saying all this, I was pleasantly surprised by how well a lightweight
sleeping bag could keep me warm (when wearing all my clothes!). The hood was
useful for keeping in the warmth and the zip was perfectly adequate.
I had enough room for wriggling about inside the bag
although it’s worth noting I am a slim female.
The bag is easy to stuff into its bag and fits into a small
corner of a rucksack.
Ensuring that my kit was high quality, that is, does the job
it’s meant to do, and lightweight, I
packed a few recommended items from the OMM shop. OMM stands for Original
Mountain Marathon and as well as organising a popular event, they also make and
sell mountain marathon clothing, sleeping systems and packs.
Some of the kit for the Scottish Mountain Marathon.
I took with me the new OMM Halo pants, OMM Kamleika Jacket, OMM Mountain Raid hooded jacket and OMM Raid sleeping bag. This blog review takes a closer look at the OMM Halo pants and OMM Kamleika Jacket. See my OMM Mountain Raid jacket and sleeping bag review.
Unisex-fit OMM Halo pants
On test: OMM Halo pants
The waterproof pants weigh
an incredibly light 80g. The pack into a tiny size by stuffing them into a
small inside pocket. I have not been more impressed by the size and weight of
an item for a long time.
The trousers also look totally funky. Maybe they are not to everyone’s taste but they are so much more fun than the boring black waterproof trousers you see in shops.
The trousers are sold in unisex sizes so they are not that flattering but I am not sure I need my waterproof trousers to fit snugly.
They work a treat, too. I
have never liked wearing waterproof trousers, especially when moving fast in
the hills. They usually make me sweaty and annoyed. But the OMM Halo pants are
so lightweight that you hardly know they are on. They do not make a loud
rustling noise either, like other trousers seem to.
They keep out the rain yet
still breathe (technical details: 10 m hydrostatic head; 10,0000 G/m2
breathability). I have worn the Halo pants in heavy rain and they do a great
job of keeping out the rain.
The chances are they have a
DWR treatment and that will wear out with use but I will simply re-waterproof
with treatments such as Nikwax.
Wearing the OMM Halo pants during the Scottish Mountain Marathon.
The Halo pants have now
become my must-pack summer waterproof trousers. They fit into a tiny pocket in
my rucksack and I hardly notice I am even carrying them.
A couple of things though. While
the Velcro ankles allow for running footwear to pass through, you’ll need to
remove walking boots to get the trousers on.
Also, the fabric is
lightweight and thin. I am not sure how robust these rousers will be for
general hill walking activities especially in Scotland where there is a lot of
abrasion form rocks and heather etc. I think the trousers are best reserved for
mountain marathon type events and for occasional use in the summer mountains,
rather than likely use in the winter mountains.
Female-fit OMM Kamleika Jacket
On test: OMM Kamleika Jacket
This women’s specific jacket
weighs 225g and is made of a soft and quiet face fabric. It has a full length zip
and a hood.
Other features include:
Waterproof and breathable (20m hydrostatic head; 18000 G/m2 breathability)
While the Halo pants are unisex fit, this jacket is female-specific. And it fits beautifully. I find OMM female clothes are a little on the small size so I went for a medium instead of my usual small. I am glad I did because the extra bit of room allows me to wear layers underneath.
The shape of the jacket is perfect
for slim females (don’t expect to fit large bosoms inside!).
The jacket is wonderfully
quiet to wear. If you have ever worn a jacket that rustles with every movement
you’ll know how refreshing it is not to have to deal with this.
The dropped rear, adjustable
cuffs and fully adjustable hood are great details. I found the hood a bit
tricky to adjust at the start, but once I worked out how to use the toggles it
The hood as a stiff peak so
even when fully adjusted close to the face it keeps its form. One thing,
however, is that when you pull the hood in tight to stop it falling down in
wind or rain, the elastic forms large loops at the side of the head. I am not
sure if there is a way to stop this happening but I found the loops a
There are two useful hand
pockets. Purists looking for a very lightweight jacket might suggest that
pockets and zips add extra weight but I like to be able to access things from
pockets and have a place to stow bits and pieces. An alternative is the even
lighter Halo jacket.
My view on the jacket is
that I need a jacket that will be properly waterproof and long-lasting. I
thought the Kamleika looked more robust and versatile than the Halo.
The Kamleika also has a
brilliant four-way stretch to the fabric, which makes it very easy to wear longer-term
rather than just for an emergency downpour. I am not saying he Halo jacket is a
poor choice, it’s just that I think I’ll get more wear from the Kamleika
because I will use it for a variety of different activities.
Already, I have been
choosing to wear the OMM Kamleika for summer Munro bagging.
Certainly, the Kamleika does
an excellent job of waterproofing. I have worn it in heavy rain and it keeps me
nicely dry. It is also breathable and that is a bonus when moving fast in a
mountain marathon or generally in the Scottish mountains.
One thing to note, though, is that when you try to get the jacket on with wet or damp hands/arms the fabric is quite sticky inside. I struggled to get my arms through. It’s a small thing but it could be frustrating if you are trying to pull on the waterproof jacket at speed. Make sure your hands are dry or wear a pair of dry liner gloves when pulling on the jacket. Or, simply, take your time!
The price of £180 might seem
quite high but this is a fully seamed, waterproof and breathable running jacket
and you pay quite a lot for that.
I have been testing a pair of the latest road running shoes from On Running. The Cloudswift are described as a “lightweight road shoe featuring Helion superfoam for high performance in urban environments.”
Strong yet stretchable mechanical sideband for gentle midfoot support.
Engineered-mesh sock to allow your feet to breathe.
Hidden place to stash laces.
Soft landings and high traction thanks to “impact protection” and “durable rubber reinforcement”.
Helion superfoam for cushioning with “zero compromise”.
Male and female fit.
Different colour ranges in male and female collections.
I confess that ON Running shoes have grown on me. The first pair I tried I didn’t like that much. The next three pairs I liked. This latest pair, the Cloudswift, I love.
The “clouds” of air in the soles are not new. These air clouds are what make ON shoes different from other running brands. It’s the Helion superfoam that’s new and promises to “deliver durability and rebound at a previously impossible level”. Really, that’s quite a bit boast, don’t you think? To an “impossible level”. I prefer a bit more modesty from brands but anyway, I’ll tell you how the shoes felt when testing them.
As soon as I put on the Cloudswift they felt very comfortable. The mesh sock is a genius part of the design and helps the foot to feel hugged and secure but not overly so. I have a narrow foot and I appreciate the extra snugness. It feels like I am wearing a slipper, it’s that comfy.
I confess I didn’t realise the sideband doubles as a place to stash long laces however I can see that might be useful. The laces can be stuffed under the sideband.
The shoes also look lovely. I know that shouldn’t be a decider for buying them but I think it helps.
The sole of the Cloudswift
Side view of the sole with air cushion holes.
I have walked in the shoes a great deal and also run the streets in them. They feel light and comfortable. The cushioning is excellent and I feel like I have a soft landing but quite a firm push off.
I have no idea if the Helion superfoam delivers rebound at a “previously impossible level” but they do feel good to run in. Durability will only be tested over the coming months but so far they seem to be doing well with my many miles of walking and street running.
Apart from the over-egged promotion of the “superfoam”, I can’t find anything to complain about in terms of cushioning and underfoot feel. The Cloudswift are a great shoe to run in.
I do have a couple of quibbles, however. Because my ankle is narrow I find the Cloudswift a bit roomy at the heel. I have to tie the laces quite tight to keep the heel in place when I run. In fact, there is a bit too much stretch in the upper rear area for the best back end support for my foot. It’s not too bad but it’s not great either.
Also, the soles of these innovative shoes pick up stones. There is a channel that runs along the middle of the sole and I am forever having to remove stones, mostly ones that collect in the shoes from my driveway. The soles are better than previous ON shoes that I have tried but it is annoying to have any stones collecting in the soles.
Overall, the ON Cloudswift is a comfortable, cushioned and responsive running shoe that has become my favourite for street running and also for walking pretty much anywhere.
The great outdoors brings an amazing sense of freedom and is well documented to be good for both physical and mental well-being. But it’s important to be aware of the things that might go wrong – and to be prepared with safety essentials.
Here is a list of the top 10 safety items every hiker, backpacker and camper should take while travelling.
1. First-aid kit
Safety and first aid kits go hand-in-hand. It goes without saying that heading out on a long hike or camping trip without at least a basic collection of first aid supplies doesn’t make sense. Travel first aid kit essentials include the following:
A good first aid kit doesn’t have to be big and bulky. You can purchase compact kits enclosed in soft sided, nylon bags for easy carrying.
2. Water container
The second most important thing, after a good first aid kit, is a water container. It’s important to carry sufficient water to stay well hydrated, or else take an empty bottle for filling up when you see fresh water rivers and streams.
A water filter or filtration system can be helpful in areas where you are unsure about the quality of the water.
3. Map and compass
A map and compass are vital if you plan to get off the beaten track or you are heading into the mountains where the weather might make it difficult to navigate.
4 GPS device or smartphone
A GPS device, or a smartphone with a GPS app, is a useful extra or back up for knowing where you are and how to get back to the start point. A mobile phone is also important for communication should you end up in a difficult situation.
5. Insect repellent
Insect repellent – and midge repellent in the UK – is a very important item of safety kit, especially in the summer. It’s important to avoid bites where possible. Also take a midge net if you plan to be outdoors in the early morning or evening, especially in northern England, Scotland and areas of wales.
6. Tick remover
Ticks can be a menace in many areas, especially in the summer. Ticks can be Lyme’s disease carriers, too. It’s important you remove any ticks as soon as you spot them. Also read: Be Lyme Disease Aware.
7. Sunscreen and lip balm
Though some might consider sunscreen and lip balm as items for the first aid kit, they are preventative in nature. That’s why they are listed separately here.
A good sunscreen protects your skin against exposure to the sun, while lip balm protects against chafing due to the wind, the sun, or cold temperatures.
Finding yourself trying to make your way back to the car as the sun sets can be a scary experience. Remember, there are no overhead lights in the wilderness. Once the sun goes down, you are left to your own devices along with whatever light the moon and stars provide. That’s why you should never embark on a trip without a working headtorch and extra batteries/a way to recharge the torch.
One of the most indispensable items for outdoor enthusiasts is the utility knife. A good utility knife is both lightweight and tough. Moreover, you will be surprised by how many useful purposes it serves on your travels.
10 Bivvy bag or safety shelter
If you end up having to stay out overnight or stay put in difficult weather conditions, you’ll be grateful for a shelter to keep yo warm and dry.
Enjoying the great outdoors is a wonderful thing. Attempting to do it without being prepared is foolish. Before you leave on your next journey, make sure you are adequately prepared. Make a plan ahead of time and stick to it. You’ll be safer that way.
The Scafell Sky Race is part
of the Lake District Sky Trials, developed by Charles Sproson of Mountain Run.
This was the third edition of Scafell Sky Race, which offers a 40km, 3500m vert course through the UNESCO status English Lake District.
It is a technical course that
traverses the highest summit in England, Scafell Pike. However, on the day of
the race, difficult weather conditions resulted in organisers making the tough
decision to remove two sections of the race course, including Scafell Pike.
From the start, the men’s
race was dominated by Damian, as well as Jayson Cavill, from England, and local
fell runner Matt Reedy. The trio worked hard to push their own limits and they
set a fast pace.
At the mid-way Feed Station at
Seathwaite Farm, Damian saw the chance for a break away and pushed hard up Sour
Milk Ghyll to take the lead. He finished first in a time of 04:20:25.
He was followed closely by
Jayson in second place in 04:25:29 and Matt in third in 04:34:40
In the women’s race, Kasia Osipowicz, of Glossopdale Harriers, and
Jo Stevenson were in contention. Jo fought strongly all the way round, taking
first place in 05:24:07. She was 17th overall.
Kasia, who will be competing in next month’s Lakes Sky Ultra, took second place in 05:38:55. She was 22nd overall. Meanwhile Eva Wilkes, of Norwich Road Runners, was third in06:25:22 and was 55th overall
Of the 201 starters, 187 finished the race with 14 runners retiring either at the Mid Way Feed Station or being timed out at Esk Hause, CP7, which was moved from the summit of Scafell Pike to accommodate the adjusted course.
If you are a family that likes to cycle together, then a biking holiday is a great way to bond and have a really healthy holiday. So, where will you go? Here are some great suggestions for cycling holidays with the family.
Regarded as the most bike-friendly city in the world, Groningen offers the safest type of city cycling because cars are prohibited from entering the city centre.
You can combine your cycling with visits to museums, take in impressive architecture or, if you want a longer ride, you can tackle the Lauwersmeer cycling route that covers 43km and can be broken up with overnight stays.
Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada
If you fancy a cycling holiday with breathtaking views of mountains then this should be perfect. You can camp in the park and hire bikes while you are there, making use of the former railway trail that is now used as a flat bike trail for those who like their bike rides to be superiorly picturesque.
There are loads of other exciting activities for the family at Algonquin Park, including watersports, scenic hiking routes and you can also go skiing in the mountains.
It is worth noting that to travel to Canada you will need to submit an eTA Canada application as you will require a tourist visa for Canada. You can find out more details about eTA Canada at https://www.e-eta.org/.
Along the River Danube from Passau to Vienna is an amazing bike ride that is also very flat. The scenery is stunning and the cycle pathway is well-maintained and winds through some of Europe’s most historical places.
The great thing about this route is that it can be as short or long as you want to make it and there are plenty of tourist points to enjoy along the way.
Italy is another great destination for cycling holidays with many routes that are ideal for families that enjoy the sights on a relaxed, safe and easy route. The route from Bolzano to Lake Garda covers 120km so it is better for stronger cyclists or why not spread out the distance with multiple days of cycling.
The first section sees you take the path along the River Adige,
which winds through a mix of orchards and other beautiful scenery. The pathway
will take you all the way to Trento, which is a lovely old town with lots of
quaint buildings and great restaurants and cafes to stop off at to refuel!
The next stage takes you into Lake Garda South where you might want to take a boat trip across the lake. Garda can be quite hot at some points in the year, so you should check the average weather and select a suitably cool month to travel, so that your family does not suffer from the heat.
A mountain marathon is an extended form of fell or mountain running, usually over two days and always with a strong orienteering element. Competitors participate in pairs or solos, depending on the event, and they must carry their own kit for two days of self-sufficiency, including food and tent.
There are a range of competition courses, Elite, A, B, C and Long, Medium and Short Score.
Elite, A, B and C are linear courses and each checkpoint must be reached in order. The fastest person or pair to complete all checkpoints in the right order is the winner. From Elite to C the course becomes easier. Penalties are awarded for being late back and missing checkpoints.
Score courses require participants to choose the checkpoints to reach and in any order. Each checkpoint has a different score. The Long, Medium and Short courses are timed, with long being the longest time. Penalties are awarded for being late back. Classes are male, female and mixed.
The inaugural Scottish Mountain Marathon
The first Scottish Mountain Marathon took place last weekend. The base was Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron, in the north-west Scottish Highlands.
A large area of wild landscapes became the playground for some 200 pairs of competitors during two days of ticking off checkpoints. There was an overnight camp close to Bendronaig Lodge.
The night before the SMM, as I registered for the race at Attadale Gardens, with my good friend Rob, I gazed around the event tent and field.
Many participants looked like racing whippets and experienced orienteers. I could tell immediately that these people knew what kit to pack, how to pace themselves, exactly how to choose and navigate to checkpoints and the finer details of being fast over tough mountainous terrain.
I felt intimidated. At many other races, I reckon I look the part and I usually feel a great deal more confident but the mountain marathon format was new to me.
Discussing this with Rob, we decided we would treat the weekend as an adventure and a training session. We would not worry about the competition but aim to do the best we could and enjoy the experience.
Some of the items that went into my rucksack.
Packing for a mountain marathon
Prior to the race, I’d done my best to work out what to pack and how to make my pack as light as possible. I usually loathe a heavy pack and because I am relatively lightweight myself I aim to carry as little as possible while taking enough kit to be safe and warm.
I had laid out the mandatory race kit (see kit list), sourced some ultra lightweight kit through OMM products and snapped my toothbrush in half (did I really need a toothbrush handle?!).
Other weight savings included looking out miniature products, such as tiny tubes of toothpaste and sun cream saved from various hotel and plane trips.
I know I get cold so I packed two lightweight insulated jackets for night-time, as well as dry socks, tights and a t-shirt. I added gloves because I suffer with Raynaud’s, even in summer.
I packed some zinc oxide climber’s tape and a couple of Compeed blister plasters just in case of rubs and sores on my feet. (The Compeed did save Rob from the agony of a worsening blister.)
It looks a bit sad but this Fruit Shoot bottle of gin and berry liqueur was a great treat.
I wanted a small luxury, so I emptied the juice (disgusting!) from a Fruit Shoot bottle (it was the smallest plastic bottle I could find in the supermarket) and added a good helping of gin and berry liqueur. Almost everyone I asked had a little luxury item and whisky was popular.
I worked out the food I would need to eat throughout the day – small pork pies, mini Peperami sticks, Babybel cheeses and cereal bars. (I am not a fan of energy gels. Instead, I packed high-calorie foods that are moist and easy to eat on the move.)
Summit to Eat camp food.
I sourced Summit to Eat freeze-dried meals for the Saturday evening and the Sunday morning because Rob told me they were lightweight and filling when rehydrated.
I also took a one-person Mountain Hardwear tent (0.85kg), an inflatable NeoAir thermarest and a very lightweight OMM Raid 1.0 sleeping bag. While most pairs of competitors were tent sharing, Rob and I were sleeping in our own tents because our partners preferred it that way. We respected their wishes and, in any case, I like my own we tent space but this did mean we each had extra kit to carry.
I carried a camping stove and Rob brought the gas canister. Other bits and pieces included my iPhone, a compass, emergency foil blanket, normal glasses, plastic cup, spork, a spare buff and the all-important midge net.
I wore a running skort, t-shirt, long-sleeved baselayer, socks, trail running footwear, a buff and prescription sunglasses.
A Score Course map.
Checkpoints and mountain running
There are different courses to enter in a mountain marathon, including linear and score, and we had entered Long Score. This meant we chose the checkpoints (CPs) to collect. On day one we had seven hours of CP collecting and on Day 2 we had six hours. If we were late back we would collect time penalties.
It’s a strange kind of race because as soon as you cross the start line you stop. It’s only after starting that you are handed the day’s map and you can then take a look at the location of the CP. This is when you take the time to assess where you will go.
So, on day one, Rob and I started – and then sat down on the grass just outside the camp. We discussed possible CPs to reach and a sensible route. We looked at the distances, points to be scored and height gain required to reach a CP. We spotted the overnight camp marked on the map.
We noticed other people setting off in all directions but we had no idea which course they were doing nor what their plan was for the day. Each Score pair had to choose their CPs and route.
And things can change as you get going…
We had decided on our first few CPs and as we became more familiar with the type of terrain we would face – rough, often trackless, undulating and mountainous – we made some reassessments.
I have no doubt that people with more experience were quicker to choose their route and faster over the ground but we wanted to learn as we went along – and we were keen to make joint decisions.
For me, it was a great experience and an amazing learning curve. Navigation on a micro scale was mentally challenging but also rewarding. Rob and I hit every CP we had aimed for although some were easier to locate than others.
Rob checks the map for our next CP.
A remote checkpoint.
One word: Reentrant
I had heard of this mythical “reentrant” prior to the race but I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be on the ground. A “reentrant” CP is one that is situated on an inward angle; in the inward curve of a contour. This means that because it is not on raised ground it is harder to spot from a distance.
For some reason, Rob and I became a little obsessed with reentrants. It was hugely satisfying to find these and we used a combination of following a compass bearing while also keeping track of our contour height on Rob’s altimeter. It worked a treat mostly, but we were aware that by choosing to find reentrants we were losing time on the course.
But, you know what? It felt good to be able to navigate in tiny detail and without GPS.
As we ran and hiked across the large area of remote Highlands landscape we also caught up with our chat. Rob and I are friends through Munro bagging and we share the same career industry so we always have a lot to chat about.
The mountain marathon wasn’t simply a competition for us, rather it was an adventure weekend and a chance to spend time together and catch up on this and that.
Tents up at the overnight camp.
There was plenty of space to camp.
Plastic bags keep your dry socks dry in wet footwear.
Two words: Camp life
The overnight camp is simple. You have all your kit on your back. There is fresh water in the river. Mobile toilets were provided.
The aim is to set up camp as soon as you can, eat, drink something hot, chat over the day’s racing, enjoy a luxury (if you decided to pack a wee dram or a Fruit Shoot of gin. See 21 tips for a mountain marathon) and sleep.
Unfortunately, as we set up camp it was raining hard. It rained hard for the next couple of hours. My aim was to get changed into dry and warm clothes, put up my tent before the midges came out, eat a meal, rehydrate, try to avoid leg cramps, enjoy a gin and then get off to sleep.
All this happened mostly in the right order and I remained fairly warm. I wore one down jacket on my torso and tucked the other down the OMM Raid 1.0 sleeping back around my feet. The sleeping bag is brilliantly light to carry and warm enough on a summer’s night if you’re also wearing clothes, such as socks, thermal leggings and baselayer and a down jacket. I added an extra down jacket at my feet and around my legs.
There is an OMM Raid 1.6 if you don’t mind a little extra weight and you want more warmth.
Thankfully the air temperature did not dip too low and it wasn’t windy. If it was a chilly night I think I would need a thicker sleeping bag but, then again, I would need to carry this over the two days of racing and that is a weight consideration.
In mountain marathons, as I quickly learned, it’s a balancing act between weight and warmth.
Rob and I at the finish line on day 2.
Three words: Fear of penalties
If you reach the finish line on either day outside your time limit you lose hard-earned points. From 0 to 5 minutes late, it’s 1 point per minute and then 2 points per minute from 5 minutes to 15 minutes. For the next 15 minutes, it’s 5 points per minute. If you are more than half an hour late, all points are lost. (This did happen to a pair doing our Long Score course.)
These cut-off times played on our minds and especially in the last couple of hours of each day. We spent time asking ourselves if we had time to reach another CP or if we should play it safe and head back a bit earlier.
On day one we reached the finished line early. It had been raining hard and we had faced a tricky river crossing in the final hour and I think we were both relieved to be heading to the campsite with plenty of time to spare.
Of course, it’s too easy to replay the steps of the day and wonder whether you could have got just one more CP and extra points but we tried not to dwell on this.
On the second day, we had to run quite hard for the last half and hour to make the finish line in time. An exit via a deep gorge with muddy paths and an unforgiving traverse of a fern thick slope* had taken far longer than we had estimated and by the time we reached a more runnable track we knew we might be out of time.
Again, we discussed whether we had chosen the right CPs that day; taken the right route; whether other people had worked out a better line than us; if we had been silly to have tried to reach a CP on a high summit; whether we should have gone for the Munro peaks instead of sticking to lower ground; and if the exit plan had been the best one.
But, on each of the days, we did what we thought was the best route and plan. We were not last in our competitive Long Score course, although we were not that high up the field either, and we were aware we were up against some amazing and experienced orienteers and mountain marathon participants. (In fact we were fifth mixed pair so that’s ok really isn’t it?)
*There was a small low point!
During the final stages of day two I love my sense of humour for about five minutes. We were traversing a steep slope of thick, scratchy ferns and cruel knobbly trees in a deep river gorge. It was slow and uncomfortable and I was tired and hungry.
I suddenly heard myself cursing and grumbling under my breath, letting rip with more than a couple of FFSs.
My thoughts rage wildly: “What the fuck am I doing here? All these
fucking ferns and trees. My poor legs and arms will be shredded. When will this
torture end? How many bloody points will we lose for being late to the finish
line? Fuck, I can’t stand to lose points after all the hard work. Why did I
agree to this race in the first place?”
But, as I said, it amounted to only five minutes of h-anger (hungry anger) close to the end of the two-day Scottish Mountain Marathon. As soon as we re-found a more obvious path and I felt like we were getting somewhere faster than an injured snail my mood lightened again. (I was also aware that I didn’t want Rob to think he’d chosen an angry partner.)
For the other 12 hours and 55 minutes of tough racing, plus a wild camp overnight, I had been happy, upbeat and focused on having fun.
I reckon that only five-minutes of h-anger during a challenging race and in my first attempt at a two-day mountain marathon was an impressive result. It could have been a lot, lot worse I figured.
Fabulous landscapes and views.
Final thoughts: The Scottish Mountain Marathon
Above all, Rob and I had fun. We enjoyed the adventure and I learned a huge amount about micro navigation.
I loved the landscapes and the feeling of being so remote and cut off from the busy real world for two days. We also met some lovely and very friendly people.
I appreciate that fact that the sport is not just running. It’s thinking hard about every step. It’s a cerebral kind of outdoors pursuit and that ticks lots of boxes for me.
The Nevis Range Mountain Experience, Fort William, has launched a new mountain bike school. It is also the first trail centre owner-operated bike school in Scotland.
Running annually from May 1 to September 30, The Nevis Range Bike School will offer skills coaching and guided rides to kids, families, individuals and groups of all ages and abilities.
The two-hour sessions will utilise the 60km of mixed graded cross-country trails of the Leanachan Forest and the world-renowned orange graded downhill track and the black graded Top Chief track, both accessed using the UK’s only mountain gondola.
The Nevis Range Bike School will also offer a mountain bike hire service in association with Trek Bikes as part of the coaching and guiding service.
Coaches Elise Macgregor and Louise Anna Ferguson with Dave Parfitt at Nevis Range.
Dave Parfitt, the Nevis Range Ski School Manager and a Fort William local with 20 years of service with the organisation, is heading up the Nevis Range Bike School.
He said: “We are really excited to be adding mountain bike coaching and guiding to our summer operation here at Nevis Range. We have a variety of quality waymarked trails for all skill levels coupled with the most amazing views.
” We want our mountain bike visitors of all abilities to fully immerse themselves in some of the best riding in the UK, whilst having the best possible day out on a bike.
“Our qualified and experienced guides know the trails inside out. For each session they will tailor the routes to the technical abilities of the individual or group, whilst helping to rectify bad habits, improve technique and build riding confidence in a friendly, fun and relaxed environment.
“Our coaching and guiding sessions will be a great introduction to the trails and tracks of Nevis Range, an internationally recognised bike destination, guaranteed to be of benefit to any rider at any level.”
David Parfitt is heading up the Nevis Range Bike School.
Nevis Range MTB guides
The team of four locally based mountain bike guides, all level two and three British Mountain Bike Leadership Award qualified coaches, will offer guiding and coaching options to suit abilities from beginner to expert.
They will operate in a guide to client ratio of one to eight, enabling them to cater effectively to the specific requirements of every rider.
The The Nevis Range Bike School will offer six different mountain bike guiding and coaching options to suit different skill levels, from the entry level cross country course, an introduction to cross country mountain biking on the more gentle trails within the Leanachan Forest, to Downhill 101 where the highest level riders can experience the technical demands of the multi-award winning and internationally renowned World Cup downhill track under expert supervision.
Nikki Stafford, commercial manager of Nevis Range Mountain Experience, said: “We are excited about the opening of our bike school this Summer.
“It is vital to us to bring on the next generation of world class mountain bikers and the introduction of our own bike school will allow us to do this. We have a strong MTB community in Fort William and this will allow it to grow further.”