A weekend of rest and recuperation was needed and hence, with the team name, “A weekend of R and R”, Richard Dearden and I embarked on the Highlander Mountain Marathon. This new event on the mountain marathon calendar took place on the 29th March to 1st April on the fells of the Strathconnon Forest, about 30 km west of Inverness. Being my first real mountain marathon (carrying all the necessities) and due to the possibility of snow, we chose the D class; 40 km and 2030 m of climb in 2 days.
The weather was on our side with beautifully clear skies and sunshine. Armed with 5 kg of rucksack for me and about 9 kg for Richard, we set off to the start. Richard with eye liner pencil in hand. I am not certain of Richard’s past on this following matter, but he assures me that it is the best thing for marking ones laminated map at such events. Thankfully Richard had been shopping on Friday morning and had purchased said eye liner pencil. Along with some pear slices which he purchased at the same time to decrease the number of eyebrows raised. The route to the first control saw us overtake at least four couples, who perhaps were wishing they also had an eye liner! By the time we reached control 3, another couple were behind in the distance. The terrain was runnable, some peat bogs, often steep and as you would expect rather hilly. Red deer stags were roaming around with their ladies and time flew by. By control 7-8, I was feeling the effects of running for 3 hours and the 140 m climb over 2 km was hard going. No realistic input of jelly babies made a difference … thankfully the numerous frogs on this ridge slowed Richard down as he stopped to chat. The run to the last control was equally exhausting on tired legs – 520 m decent in 1.6 km on uneven heather. Nevertheless we sprinted into the finish in 4 hrs 20 mins, in 2nd place, 2 mins 20 sec behind the winners. The afternoon was spent lazing in the sunshine and eating cous cous with shitaki mushrooms and chorizo. Saturday night was an evening to be remembered. In a marquee complete with chandeliers, we were treated to a basic meal, the chance to have a massage and entertainment by a ceilidh band. We think the caller will also remember the night for a long time the night all the dancers wore lycra and had their feet in plastic bags. Dancing helped loosen the tired limbs and all were in bed by 9.00 pm.
Day 2; 5.15 am
We awoke to a very cold morning; apparently -7 degrees Celsius. Everything was frozen; water, shoes, tent. However our chasing start time of 7:02:20 had to be met. Day 2 of running began up another steep path leading to the fells and within 15 minutes the sub-zero temperatures were no longer a concern. The second day saw us cover 16.6 km and 1050 m of climb of which Richard mostly navigated, as I put most effort into going as fast as possible. We could see our competitors in the distance, however they had obviously not been dancing as much as us the night before and keeping up was impossible. Nevertheless a spectacular days scenery was experienced and we made our way as quickly as possible around the course, finishing in 3 hours 20 mins.
We finished in 2nd place overall and were the first “mixed” team on the D course. Champagne helped to ease the weary bones and now, 3 days later, I can walk in a straight line again!
I highly recommend this event. The organisers did a fabulous job of providing enjoyable courses, great weather and fantastic entertainment.