The LAMM has been on my radar for many years, but I’d never seriously thought about entering it before. It’s a mountain marathon based in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. But this year was a bit different, there was a buzz about it. Martin Stone, the organiser of the event for the last 22 years, announced that it would be located on the Ise of Harris and promised it was sure to be a classic. This was one not to be missed.
The organisation that went into this event was phenomenal. Sorting logistics for some 700 runners to arrive in a small village in the middle of an island with just two ferry ports and one small airport must have been a huge undertaking. Not to mention providing food and various facilities to look after us while we were not running in the hills. And then their were our own logistics to plan, which essnetually involved lots of travelling. After 8 hours of driving, a stopover at a friend’s flat (thanks Barbara and Simon), a 2h30 ferry and an hour coach transfer, I arrived safely with racing partner Pete Wilkie.
From the second we arrived at the ferry port the atmosphere was great, meeting friends old and new, everyone was excited for the adventure. And that atmosphere would only grow throughout the long weekend. Well, I say weekend but Harris being a very religious island, there was to be no racing on the day of rest. So the two days of racing was over Friday and Saturday.
We had opted to compete in the Score class, which gives us 7 hours each day to collect as many checkpoints as we can, with points lost for every minute late back. We set off along a track, but after about 2 minutes we veered right and up our first hill. This was to be the last path we would use for the rest of the weekend!
The scenery was incredible, so wild and remote. Even with all the runners on the hills, we were on our own for a lot of it, although this could have meant we were taking a rather niche route selection. All was going well, for the first 5-6 hours, but the problem with score is that one small decision can have a big impact on the overall result. Approaching the final stages of the day, I had tried to calculate how long it would take us to reach the finish while picking up 2 high scoring checkpoints on the Western most peaks. Problem was, I didn’t correctly account for the contours we needed to cross. Long story short, we had to abort and only collected a measly 10 points in the last hour rather than the 60 we aimed for. More annoyingly, I didn’t spot a much shorter route that would have netted us an easy 50 points with time to spare. But that’s why score is so fun, right!? Still, 9th after day one isn’t so bad (…2nd would have been better)
Anyway, the remote campsite was incredible. We just don’t talk about the toilet situation.
Here’s some great drone footage from the event, thanks dropro aerial imagery
Day 2 was another stunner. A bit of mist in the morning, but lovely views and weather as the day went on. There was still a tough 7 hours of hills, hills and more hills, but there were no complaints. Our aim was to make the most we could of the course, and I think we made a good overall plan. We thought better of a risky last push to grab a few more points towards the end, so we finished with time to spare and smiles on our faces. We managed to gain one place, finishing 8th overall, with the top 10 being close it was always going to be hard to make up for yesterday. Congratulations to Konrad Rawlik & Jasmin Paris (and baby who joined them at midcamp!) on a storming 2nd day and pulling away from the chasing pack and being ahead by literally the distance of the highest mountain on the island.
Another great feature of the event is that because we were on an island, no one can escape before prize giving and the evening’s entertainment! The school gym was packed as Martin told us about the lead up to the race and provided some insight to what it takes to put on such a great event. After prizes were awarded, it was then time for Martin to make an announcement. He was so pleased with the “Harris Classic” it was time to go out on a high, this was to be the last LAMM he would organise and with him the name would also retire. A standing ovation of several minutes followed and many a tear was shed. I’m so privileged to have been part of the event and so happy that we decided to give this one a go. Thank you to Martin, his team of volunteers, the Islanders of Harris and Pete for pushing hard the whole way through the event.