By Mountain Marathon correspondent Chris Baynham-Hughes
There are times in life when the mind can wonder and draw some leftfield conclusions; the weekend of the Scottish Mountain Marathon was one of those for me. As a ‘born in the 70’s, child of the 80’s’, I grew up on magnificent films like Flash Gordon, and I’m starting to believe Shane is actually Ming the Merciless – I realise it’s an outlandish statement, but stick with me a moment.
In the opening sequence of the film, Ming is having fun by controlling the earth’s weather; sending hot hail to batter the planet. Looking at the evidence dating back to 2012 when I first met Shane and started competing in his events, he always seems to defy the weather Gods and get the right conditions for the event. Who else can lay claim to organising four week long events in Wales over a seven year period and have blazing hot conditions throughout? Marmot Dark Mountains this year had strong winds and a mini blizzard – pretty much exactly what one signs up for.
The inaugural Scottish Mountain Marathon had a terrible forecast; this event deserved clear skies to take in the seemingly endless rugged mountain scenery Scotland provides… and we got it. Nobody likes to run in strong winds… not a problem, Ming *ahem*, sorry, Shane is on the case. Maybe the rain would at least hold off or break so teams could at least pitch the tent and cook… well, sort of… still, the evidence is out there, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Getting into the action, whilst the Elite Class only saw four teams brave enough to battle it out, Alistair Masson and Tim Morgan from Edinburgh University Orienteering Club were ruthless in their execution. Any pair that can put 50 minutes on Jim Mann and Duncan Archer are formidable indeed. With neither Steve Birkinshaw or Charlie Sproson (Marmot Dark Mountains Winners) competing this has left the Elite Championship very interesting indeed. Two pairs with a win and two very strong pairs with a second place chalked up already means there are at least eight people in with a shout of winning. I for one hope to see all eight entering the ROC Mountain Marathon for an Elite Class showdown!
Elite Class Winners Tim Morgan and Alistair Masson ©Steve Ashworth
The A Class proved a tight affair on day two, but Philip Vokes and Adam Fieldhouse stormed day one and thus took the win by just under half an hour. In the mixed Chloe Lumsdon and Anthony Emmet put on a show to win comfortably and take 4th place overall. Veteran class winners Iain Macdonald and Michael Ayres placed 5th overall, whilst the winning ladies team consisted of the formidable Wendy Dodds and Sarah Rowell (If their veteran adjusted time had been factored in they would have placed first overall – formidable indeed!)
As far as the A Class standings for the overall Championships go, it’s a mirror of the Elite Class with eight people in a shout of winning the men’s, whilst Chloe Lumsden has already won the ladies following a win at Marmot Dark Mountains and Scottish Mountain Marathon; Congratulations!
Turning to the B Class, orienteers Craig Nolan and Harry Pulham turned around a five minute day one deficit to take the win over veterans Donald Brown and Ian Pledger. Freya Shepherd and Alasdair Pedley took the mixed comfortably whilst Rebecca Harding and Bryony McLeod won the ladies over veterans Rowena Browne and Karen Nash. The men’s standings overall are wide open with 17 men technically able to be crowned Champion and the ladies table is in a similar position as nobody has competed in two events yet.
It was great to see so many people competing in the C Class. The C Class has such a varied set of competitors, from first timers to U18s, to parents and children, those out for a shorter day and those that won’t let age get in the way of the sport they love! In the end, the class was dominated by another pair of orienteers, Louis MacMillan and Alex Toomey. Toomey and MacMillan put over an hour between themselves and the chasing pairs and are no doubt going to be contenders for the longer classes in the future. Keith and Chris Brown won the male vets by 23 minutes (or 50m once adjusted for age). Orienteers Louise Adams and Alexandra Boloux took the ladies title on the day ahead of the first placed female vets combination of Lesley Gomersall and Gillian Clunas. The mixed category was closer fought with just 12 minutes in it between victors Rob Latimer and Kim Stewart over Philippa Gullett and Pawel Plonczkier.
Neil Brooks and Ray Johnson are currently holding onto the men’s C Class title, but it’ll depend who commits to the ROC Mountain Marathon as to whether they can hold that position. The ladies rankings are squeaky tight with Albon, Boloux and Adams joint first and plenty of competitors hot on their heals.
Once again the Score Classes proved a popular choice. I believe the appeal varies from the turning up of the strategic nature of the event through route choice, the fact you can just call it a day when you feel like it, the all important jeopardy created by the loss of points for a late return, or all of the above.
The terrain and mapping for the event proved interesting and challenging for many, and may explain the strong showing in each class by those with an orienteering background. The 1:30,000 scale certainly threw me for quite some time, and the 15m contours meant that many of the knolls weren’t shown, making it tricky on the micro navigation; that’s the story I’m sticking to at least! I think the results reflect this with many of the different Class Winners coming from an orienteering background; the old adage of going slow in the right direction rather than fast in the wrong direction always holds true.
The Score Classes all share the same map and open controls making it interesting to compare winning totals between classes as well as within Classes. The teams that won also had to be bold and back themselves for big scores. This doesn’t always work out as it can result in coming in late and potentially end in a score of zero; jeopardy adds to the interest though!
The Long Score was dominated by veteran teams, scooping first, second and third overall. First on both days with a total score of 850 were Keith Masson and Darrell High. Second overall and first ladies were Susan Blackwood and Katy Boocock with 729, whilst Sue Richmond and Geoff Briggs took 1st mixed team and 4th overall with 670. These results mean that Briggs is currently leading the men’s Championships, but the category is wide open as only four competitors currently have two scores in and anybody in the top 20 is capable of winning the Champs. Sue Richmond is currently leading the ladies but Eleanor Johnstone (MDM winner), Boocock and Blackwood could change that at the ROC Mountain Marathon; the category to watch!
The Medium Score proved incredibly popular with 37 teams competing. After a near identical first day, it was day two that delivered a 45 point gap between first and second place for Jonathan Cox and Chris Naylor (738). First mixed and third overall were Catriona and Alastair Graves on 645 whilst first ladies team were veterans Marianne Lang and Angela Conroy on 375. First male Vets were John Elliott and Peter Bardsley on 505. The classy second day scoring from Cox and Naylor also sewed up the 2019 Medium Score title for the Mountain Marathon Champs – fantastic work gents! On the ladies side Elaine Giles has a commanding lead following two second placings, but Charlie Bradshaw (Marmot Dark Mountains Winner) and Catriona Graves both have a win to their name so I hope to see them both challenging for the title along with Giles at the ROC Mountain Marathon.
A second win in the series for Alan Irving and Paul Managh has confirmed them as 2019 Mountain Marathon Champs in the Short Score; Congratulations gents! Irving and Managh have consistently put it on the line to bag high scores within the Class, even when it threatened a zero score (18 mins late back on the Marmot Dark Mountains). Fast, accurate and bold is what is required to win the Short Score and they have consistently delivered that; winning the Scottish Mountain Marathon by 20 points on a score of 560. I hope we’ll see them partnered again for the ROC Mountain Marathon later in the year trying to make it a clean sweep. Graham and Morag McIntyre took the mixed with 480 whilst Nicola and Ellie Dunn were first ladies on 195. The ladies Short Score Champs are very much open at the minute with none of the competitors having chalked up two scores yet. Julie Ferris (Marmot Dark Mountains Winner) and McIntyre are tied for first, with Emma Stuart and Mhairi Wardner both with a second place to their name. Who will enter the ROC Mountain Marathon? Who will win?… Only time will tell.
As always, the event was impeccably organised and run by the magnificent Ourea Events team. Everybody involved made the event a roaring success. On behalf of all competitors I’d like to say thank you for all the smiles, support and everything else that goes into enabling us to play. As for Shane, well, if he starts growing a pointy beard and wearing rather magnificent capes, it won’t be a surprise to me!
See you at the ROC Mountain Marathon in the Lowther Hills, Southern Uplands, Scotland for the third and final deciding round in the 2019 British Mountain Marathon Championship.