Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

by Jon Brooke

The scale of the 2018 Isle of Harris LAMM is so epic that one is forced to mix multiple metaphors (yes, I know they are similies, but that doesn't scan) in order to describe it. With a build-up not seen since Operation Neptune, LAMMers are now arriving from all corners of Scotland and as far afield as New Zealand, like the Mongol hordes sweeping across the plains in Taras Bulba, once again proving the point that "if you build it, they will come" (like in that film with the baseball pitch).

The logistics effort this year has been truly heroic for both organisers and competitors alike with almost 380 teams making their way across the water to Harris in the Outer Hebrides in order to take part in the event. Some have been flying into Stornaway, others have been taking the ferry from Uig on Skye into Tarbert where the event is based but others have been making a week (or more) of it and wending their way up the islands from Barra to South Uist, to Benbecula, to North Uist and thence to Harris. That is the way that I travelled too, meeting several LAMMers along the way.

A popular hardcore combo seems to have been to do the Isle of Jura Fell race which took place last weekend and then to cycle to the LAMM via the rest of the Outer Hebrides. One of those, and more hardcore than most, is Wendy Dodds, who was on the Barra ferry on Monday regaling all and sundry with the tale of the gash she sustained running off one of the paps (please write in if you need to know which one - I can't remember) and the resulting 2" flap of skin that she managed to hold in place by pulling up her gaiters. She will be taking part in her 11th LAMM on the score course with a new team mate, Keith Brown (8 events), who she has (amazingly) never met and who will therefore still not have heard about the leg.

On the same boat was Digby Harris (1 event), who is also doing the score with another veteran of the event, Kenny Leitch (10 events). Digby isn't quite so hardcore as Wendy because he was in his car and not on a fold up bike.

Today on the Berneray to Leverburgh ferry across the Sound of Harris I met up with a couple of Carnethy Runners who were also doing the cycling to the event thing. Mark Hartree (1) is doing the B course with his partner Jeff Roberts (1) and Auren Clarke (0) who is a Kiwi is doing the same course with his partner Tom Elliotte (0), not only have they not done the LAMM before, neither of them has done a mountain marathon at all, but following a week of amazing weather that looks set to continue and with the course they have in store (the all-controls map is now online) this looks like the best possible introduction.

Finally, having sussed she was in the area after spotting all the LAMM stickers in her camper van we caught up with Rhona Fraser who has done 19 of the 22 LAMMs with her LAMM neophyte (sounds better than virgin) partner Sandra Coy.

Of course not everyone has had such an interesting journey to the event, although of course everyone has a LAMM story of one sort or another. Probably the shortest geographical journey was that of Adam Johnson (0) who is principle of guidance and PE at the Sir E Scott school where the LAMM is making use of the only piece of ground in the area that is flat enough and large enough to cope with 250 tents on the night before the event. When Martin Stone, the event organiser was first sussing out the possibility of an event on Harris he was given Adam as a contact at the school. As Martin started to explain the situation and the critical importance of the school laying field for the event, Adam told him not to worry because he (Adam) had taken part in the second ever Rock and Run event in 1989, which was a precursor to the LAMM, that he understood the event, and that he would do his best to make it happen, and so it has. He is also on the B course with his partner Ruari Miller (0) who is a geography teacher at the school so no pressure on the map reading.

Hamish Scott - pipes the LAMMers the opposite of aboard

Digby Harris and Wendy Dodds

Auren Clarke and Mark Hartree

Rhona Fraser's badges of honor

Rhona Fraser and Sandra Coy

Sir E Scott school sports field, early on, its nearly full now!

Catching up at the event centre

Martin and LAMM marshalls at the end of last year's event

Martin not singing but introducing Adam Johnson

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event

Lowe Alpine Mourne Mountain Marathon