Early morning at the event centre …
After glorious sunshine on Friday evening, competitors were a little disappointed to wake up to a misty start this morning. Some late arrivals filed through check-in just in time for a bacon buttie before making their way to the start.
The Swiss pair, Christian and Jan, who's adventurous journey started on Friday evening when they were stranded, spoke about how much they had been looking forward to the race (their first mountain marathon in Britain). 'Although it may not seem to be as difficult as some of the European races on first appearance, we have heard from friends that the LAMM is the real tough race in the UK and we are looking forward to a weekend in the mountains.'
Filmed by the BBC for Vets In Practice, Tom and Betty Leonard were looking forward to their first LAMM with mixed feeling - excitement and hesitant anticipation. Betty's comments were 'what have I let myself in for, I can't believe I let Tom talk me into doing this?'
There was much friendly banter amongst competitors as they made last minute checks of their running packs in anticipation of the start.
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The start …
B, C and D competitors wove their way up a steep slope to a grassy knoll for their start. A cruel warm-up as the ground was fairly rough as well as steep and muddy.
In contrast Elite, A and Novice competitors were treated to another of Martin's notorious magical mystery coach tours which began at the event centre, Shiel Bridge and ended a short distance along Old Quarry Road where they were handed their maps. (No one received a map until they arrived at the start.)
The race begins …
Elite competitors had one of the LAMM's surprises in store at the end of the day. At Fraoch Eilean they where met by one of the many event marshals - who are mainly volunteers and all wear bright yellow bibs for easy identification. This marshal however did not make the usual commands but instead informed them that their race clock had now stopped and they were about to make a journey by boat to Eilean a' Gharblain . Their time would begin again as soon as they punch the electronic key timer on the other side. Once they the short crossing was over the final section of the course was the most demanding navigation of the day.
Initially Team Lowe Alpine member Mark Hartell and his partner Mark Seddon, thought they might be in for a swim, 'we wouldn't put it past organiser Martin Stone to provide us with this kind of excitement - there is always a new challenge!'
Many elite teams said the cloud and mist was very low for the second part of the day.
A class competitors left, at one minute intervals, for the rough and craggy slopes of Biod an Fhithich. The course would lead them to Buidhe Bhienn, Druim Fada and Sgurr Mor and eventually to the beautifully positioned mid camp at Arnisdale.
A class competitors were also treated to the boat crossing but most comments from A class finishers as they came in described the particularly tricky running along the shoreline beach. The stony covered shoreline made progress painfully slow.
According to Dave Suddes of Lowe Alpine there were long sections of traversing which proved very tiring but despite the tough terrain the course provided some great scenery with spectacular views over lochs and along valleys. The midway camp only became visible to them at the very end of the course.
According to D class competitors their course was comparatively more runnable last year and there were many exultant finishers in this category. One pair however found their navigation skills were overtaxed in the conditions of the day and found themselves on the verge of retirement before finding their control more by chance than skill! "We even went scrambling at one point, it was the only way through we could find." said Ian and Myles as they made their way into the barn at the finish control.
The central part of the course, passing beneath the Saddle and the length of the Forcan Ridge was the most impressive, but this was followed by the tough ascent of Sgurr na Sgine.
The finish …
The first teams back were looking forward to a relaxing evening by the side of Loch Hourn, looking through the mist and drizzle to the lovely Knoydart hills. Fortunately the weather brightened a little for the evening, and the rain stayed off, so everyone could cook outside and compare courses.
D teams began arrived at around 1.30pm in dribs and drabs followed by a steady stream of people from 3 onwards. BBC Vets in Practice stars Tom and Betty Leonard were one of the first teams through to the mid camp and spoke about their difficulties, 'We were going really well until the very last check point and made the mistake of ending up on the wrong side of the river, we then had to wade through water up to our thighs.' When asked how he kept going through the day by his BBC director Colin Napthine, Tom said he felt 'rejuvenated by peanut butter sandwiches at one of the check points'.
Alun and Ifor Powell from the Elite category were settling down to an evening meal of noodles and soup followed by marzipan for extra energy.
Mark Hartell & Mark Seddon found the course less runnable than in previous years as there was much more steep climbing to be done. The surfaces were very rocky but the course was generally up to the usual high standard.
Top female athlete Helene Diamantides, recent outright winner of the Western Isles Challenge and a newcomer to the LAMM, said ' I always hoped the LAMM would be a superb race and I've not been disappointed. It's likely spending a weekend running with your mates unlike some races with lots of competitors.' She continues, 'I'm in awe of Martin Stone and the job he does, this is so well organised.'
Mark Hartell & Mark Seddon will be spending the night sleeping on bubble wrap - the only truly lightweight sleeping mat, Seddon said 'we'll be popping the bubbles in the morning to save space!' Hartell said he'd found £4.50 in his pocket and would be hoping to telephone for a pizza delivery as Seddon was being particularly greedy with the coucous they had brought for tea.
Phil Mann doing the D course commented 'this year the tracks have been much better, but there was this masochistic col to get to just when you thought it was over. I was so knackered and we had to climb again, followed by an invisible checkpoint. Our finest moment came when we decided to cross this bog and I think we made up four places.'
Jan and Christian came in at 6.39 and said, "We found it very, very hard. It's the longest competition we have done. The French Raid Francital and Swiss MIMM are half of this distance. It was also hard to run, more walking than running, the ground was so rough'.
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