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Mountain Marathon Guide Part 2

So you have prepared and packed and obsessed your way to the event and now you are at the start (read the Mountain Marathon Guide Part 1 for how to get here). Some events give you a start time and some a start window. Either way make sure you are ready. The start will not be at registration so allow plenty of time to get there and get ready especially if your start time is fixed. At the start line or map issue you will be asked to clear your dibber and dib the start box and your time will begin. For score events don't forget to start your own stopwatch. For a set course you need to be ready to run. You may even have a good idea of initial heading by watching the teams in front of you, but double check them just in case. For score events make sure you are ready for the next crucial 10 mins.

Score Events.

The exact sequence depends on which event you are doing and what maps they give out. For the majority of score events you will be issued 2 maps and some control descriptions. The controls will be printed on the map but not the values (some events even issue the maps before the start and just control values and any dud controls at the start). Make sure you have your gloves off and your marker pen ready. One of you reads out the control values as the other marks one map. We use one map for day 1 and keep the other unmarked for day 2. This means only one person can navigate at a time but gives you a fresh map for tomorrow which could be crucial, especially in bad weather when your map will degrade. Double navigating is safer but slower, depends how confident you are. If you do mark both maps make sure you and your partner have different coloured marker pens to reduce confusion on day 2. As you mark the map you will get a feel for the layout of the points and any high value clusters. Some events, most notably the OMM will give you 2 maps at the start which are pre printed with controls and values for day 1. You will then be issued 2 new maps for day 2. Now there is no marking to be done but a quick discussion on your rough route selection. In some ways not marking up the values yourself makes it slightly harder to get a handle on the value layout.

For all score events the idea is to plot a course to the overnight camp collecting as many points as possible and ending up with some time saving or extra point options near the camp so you use up all your time but are not late. However the course planners will put many dilemmas in your path trying to tempt you further away for higher points or putting a difficult control on the run in to camp just when you don't need it. Identify difficult controls (those in featureless terrain without an attack point) and look at the other controls around it. Are they worth it? It's also impossible to plan 7 hours running in one go so several re-evaluation points are needed at crucial route decision points and you need to be brutally honest about how you are doing and feeling at these points. It's no good going for the big climb for big points if your partner is not feeling good. You must be honest with each other. Once you have a vague plan for the day and a definite plan to controls 1,2 & 3 then it's time to get running.

Map marking in a score event

Set Routes

You will be issued 2 maps with your route for day 1 printed on it. You will be given a new set of maps for day 2. Even though your route choice is limited to how you get from one control to the next that is the only thing set on a set route. On a well planned MM the controls are not that've hard to find (not like a technical orienteering control) but there will be a tough choice between routes to get there. There is the classic up and over or around choice (research bob's rule). Then there is the longer on a path route opposed to direct but no path choice. Some routes may be preferable in low visibility as longer but safer. An exposed route in bad weather will have a high energy cost especially late in the day so the protected option may be better, even though it is longer. One factor in set routes is the formation of groups or a snake. This is where you can follow the pair in front and sometimes see the pair in front of them. This encourages you to push and catch up or you might realise you are dropping back! It does allow you to concentrate on running and relax a bit on the nav but always double check the nav and don't follow blindly if you think the pair in front have made a mistake. Score events share most of these facets but if you follow someone you want to be confident they are heading for the same control as you.

Day 2

Day 2 is roughly a repeat of day 1 for both styles of course. Score events will reuse some or all of the controls but the values will be changed. Either use a fresh map or write the new values on in a different colour. The leaders in a set route event may have a chasing start (top 20) otherwise you will have the start slot issued to you at the very beginning. Generally day 2 is shorter than day 1 for all events. There may also be an even shorter bad weather option if appropriate.

Other Tips.

  • Always bear in mind it's a long 2 days. Don't go out hard if you can't sustain it all day. Bear in mind it's not a race to the overnight camp. Many stellar day 1 performances have been let down by a hobbling day 2. A well paced team will pick up places on the 2nd day especially in deteriorating weather.
  • Watch those around you especially as you approach controls as they may guide you in or alert you to a mistake you have made.
  • You need to eat to keep going. If you feel good eat, if you feel crap eat more.
  • Observe your partner. Help them if needed before they have to ask for it. If you feel like shouting at them, they probably feel the same. Neither will make you faster.
  • Do some stretching at camp, even though you won't want to, it really will help on day 2.
That's it, the rest will come with experience. Remember it's meant to be difficult - that's what makes it satisfying and worthwhile.