2018 Race Director’s Report
By Shane Ohly
Overall, it has been a very successful second edition of the ROC Mountain Marathon™ and I am really pleased that we are building on the momentum of the inaugural ROC™ in 2017, and of course the event’s fantastic heritage in the decade before that as the RAB Mountain Marathon. It is satisfying to see that, as the event gradually grows, its special reputation for a relaxed, welcoming, fun and friendly atmosphere is being retained.
ROC – The Friendly Mountain Marathon Run. Orienteer. Camp. Repeat 🙃 Entries for 2019 open later this year – get your guesses in now for where we’re headed next year and ‘Sign Up’ below to be the first to know! P.S. Tag someone who would love to join us then. 🎥 Steve Ashworth Media Posted by ROC Mountain Marathon on Monday, 1 October 2018
I recall participant feedback from 2017, which asked for better planning of the Score Courses – more route choice and use of different areas on each day – and I am delighted that we have achieved this in 2018. The feedback from the Score Courses and the vast majority of the Linear Course participants has been superb and it matches up perfectly with the overall sense of a well-executed, well-loved, and well-regarded event. That said, there have been some grumbles about the length of the Elite and A courses, which I’ll address below. I’ll add now, that I am addressing these comments in detail because they are important to me and reflect my strong desire to get it perfectly right at my events.
Heather Rumble taking part in the ROC on the Short Score said, “It’s just awesome, full stop”. © Steve Ashworth
Volunteering at an event is a fantastic way to see it from the other side and put something back into the mountain running community. This year the ROC was supported by a stellar team of regular volunteers and some welcome new faces to the ‘Ourea Events Family’. We all owe the Event Team a huge Thank You and I am already looking forward to Marmot Dark Mountains™ in January 2019 when many of us will be working together again. If you are interested to help, please check the information on the Ourea Events website. The Team for the 12th ROC Mountain Marathon was:
- Steve Ashworth
- Steven Breeze
- Alex Chesters
- Katie ‘Kitkat’ Cole
- Ian Cowie
- Aldo De Grandis
- Carmine De Grandis
- Sue Dowker
- Abbi Forsyth
- Barbara Garrett
- Tim Glasby
- Graham Gristwood
- Tom Hecht
- Alli Holland
- Peter Huzan
- Paul Imrie
- Duncan Kendrick
- Keith Montgomery
- Shane Ohly
- Ann Perry
- Hannah Phelan
- Helen Samson
- Stuart Smith
- Becky Tate
- Jenni Whittaker
- Philip Wilkinson
- Sandra Williams
- Nikki Wood
The Crew Tent. What better way to spend your Saturday night out? © Steve Ashworth
I would like to extend a special thank you to many members of the local rural community, farmers, Estates and the National Park who have welcomed the ROC Mountain Marathon™ to the Northern Fells this year. In particular:
- Bassenthwaite Commoners
- Bucknall Family
- Cumbria Commoners Association
- Dalemain Estate
- Gavin Bland
- Lake District National Park Authority
- Lonsdale Estate
- Mirehouse Estates
- Mr Adam Beeston
- Mr Craig Johnson
- Mr John Wilson
The Event Centre Farmer chatting with Race Director, Shane Ohly. © Steve Ashworth
Historically, the ROC has only provided one map for both days, and separate control descriptions for Saturday and Sunday issued at the start. Whilst this works fine and helps reduce costs, it presents some restrictions to how we plan the event and diminishes the overall challenge to the participants (the locations of all the Controls for both days are known from the start). Therefore, we made the decision to ‘upgrade’ the mapping experience for 2018 and provided new maps for each participant, on each course, on each day of the event. This has allowed for far better course-specific maps and enabled greater planning options for us. It is definitely an overall improvement in the event and there is no doubt you will see the same approach to the 2019 event and into the future.
GPS Tracking & Mapping & Rules
Since the introduction of GPS Tracking in 2016 we have seen the instances of cheating – which mostly involves crossing Uncrossable Boundaries or passing through Out of Bounds Areas whether deliberate or accidental – fall markedly each year, and although we are still investigating a few minor indiscretions at this year’s event, this is the first time we have not disqualified or penalised anyone during the event. I would like to say a massive thank you to the all the runners for their sense of fair play and adherence to the rules. Thank you. It is also worth noting, that our negotiations with major event stakeholders (like National Parks or the National Trust) across the country are significantly eased, when we can confidently say that 100% of our participants observed our Out of Bounds rules in the previous event. Really, thank you!
GPS Enabled Devices
I’ve stuck my neck out for a many years with a strong stance on the use of GPS Enabled Devices at all the Ourea Events Mountain Marathons, and I’ll continue to do this. I was struck however, by one participant who had correctly declared themselves as non-competitive at registration because they had a GPS enabled watch, only to be disappointed to see a number of participant’s wearing such devices during the event… who had not declared themselves as non-competitive. I felt for the honest participant and I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to our stance on GPS Enabled Devices, and we will reconsider how this policy is policed at the ROC Mountain Marathon™ and our other Mountain Marathons in 2019.
We expect participants to pack out their rubbish from the overnight camp, and it was disappointing that a large amount of rubbish was left in the Overnight Camp portable toilets. Some teams will have experienced the kit check at the finish, and we were specifically asking participants for their overnight rubbish. Please be under no illusion that anyone not having all their Overnight Camp rubbish will be disqualified on the spot.
Elite and A Courses
The Elite and A courses were too long this year and the result was that some participants who would usually expect to complete an Elite or A Course were timed out on Day 2. Thanks to some of the more experienced participants for highlighting this immediately after finishing day 2. Course Planner Graham Gristwood has discussed some aspects of this in his separate Race Planner’s Report, but it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure this courses are as intended. Certainly, as the Race Director, I will reflect carefully on the course planning and will absolutely improve our process not just for the ROC Mountain Marathon™ in September 2019, but immediately, so that any lessons can be incorporated into the fine tuning of the Marmot Dark Mountains™ courses in January 2019 and the new Scottish Mountain Marathon™ we are launching in June 2019 to replace the LAMM.
I think that the most important check and balance we have in our system is the experience that Graham and I bring to the game whilst running in the hills during the planning and controlling process; usually we get a very intimate sense of the terrain and the time it takes to move through it. What has been highly unusual this year is that both Graham and I have been injured and out of action all year, throughout the planning and controlling process. It is fair to say that we have been far less involved on the ground as in previous editions.
So, I think I understand why the over-planned courses were not picked up, and I will certainly review the whole planning process so that there are additional checks and balances within it. The difficult question though is what to do about this, and a number of participants have asked that I extend the Sunday Course Closure Time so that those who were timed out would be included in the results. I am not going to do this, and I’d like to explain why:
- This problem only directly affected 9 teams on the Elite and A Courses who were timed-out and some additional teams that deliberately cut short their day so that they would finish within the Course Closure time. There were nearly 500 participants at the event who had no problem with the Course Closure time and it would be a disproportionate response to change the event rules when such a small number of participants were affected.
- This year we have been through a very careful process of reviewing and updating our rules at all the Ourea Events races and now have a set of Universal Event Rules and Event Specific Rules for each event. The Universal Event Rules are just that; we will apply them fairly and blindly regardless of whether you are a potential winner or the last finisher. The process of creating these new rules was borne from some feedback that I received at the beginning of this year, essentially pointing out that I was sometimes too flexible in my application of the rules between events and situations, and this led to varying approaches to similar situations. As the Race Director, there is always a great temptation to keep a participant (who is ultimately your customer) happy by finding the wiggle room in the rules or turning a blind eye. However, this is not a fair and consistent approach and risks the perception of favouritism, especially when I know so many of the participants personally.
- Whilst rarely used, the application of the rules of the event provides an important framework that gives the event purpose and integrity. If we were to simply change the rules ad hoc, this would make a mockery of them and lead to the same questioning of the rules each time someone felt they had been unfairly dealt with. This is a precedent that I am not willing to set, and it is important that in the future participants can expect that the rules will be adhered to and followed.
- In this particular case, the Course Closure Time of 15:00 on Sunday was clearly communicated pre-event on the event website, in the final information email and printed on the event map.
- If we were to change the ROC Mountain Marathon™ rules, this would also affect the British Mountain Marathon Championship overall results and undermine the series, which I strongly believe is an important part of the future of Mountain Marathons in the UK.
- Changing the Course Closure Time would be grossly unfair on all the people who busted themselves to finish within the Course Closure Time (and did) and also the participants who accepted that they would be unable to finish within the Course Closure Time and cut short their day to ensure that they returned to the Event Centre by the Course Closure Time and stayed within the event rules.
- Whilst I am not disagreeing that the Elite and A courses were over-planned this year, I have been a regular Elite Mountain Marathon competitor for over a decade and there is always variation in the course length and time, year by year and event by event. Let’s take the last three editions of the OMM as an example:
Elite Winning Times from the OMM
- 2017: 14:19 (overall), 8:18 (day 1), 6:01 (day 2). 31 teams timed out or retired
- 2016: 10:51 (overall), 5:59 9day 1), 4:52 (day 2). 4 teams timed out or retired
- 2015: 13:31 (overall), 6:54 (day 1), 6:32 (day 2). 23 teams timed out or retired
I could trawl through the years of Mountain Marathon results, but the point I want to illustrate is that there has always been considerable variation in the difficulty of the courses – influenced by the weather, terrain, planner etc. The bottom line is that the 2018 ROC Mountain Marathon™ courses were really tough; it was not our intention for them to be that tough, but that is just how it works out some years.
Finally, I would like to add that I personally know the pain of failing to finish an Elite Mountain Marathon course and after all that training and grafting it is a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t want to belittle the huge effort that all these teams went to in order to try and complete the event and you continue to have my utmost respect for your effort.
British Mountain Marathon Champs
The ROC Mountain Marathon™ was the final counter in the 2018 British Mountain Marathon Championships, and it was an honour to present Tom Gibbs with his British Champion trophy. A full report about the 2018 British Mountain Marathon Championships, and our plans for 2019 will shortly be available on MountainMarathon.com, but I am happy to say at this stage our intention is a thorough review of course, classes and prizes (including veterans handicap) towards greater harmonisation across the three Mountain Marathons we are organising in 2019.
Tom Gibbs. British Mountain Marathon Champion 2018. © Steve Ashworth
Feedback is very important to us, and any comments you have – good or bad – are very much appreciated. Please can you send these to us via our website contact form, we’ll be delighted to read them.
Post Event Survey
It is also very important for us to collect economic impact data from the event. Please take 5 minutes to complete this simple online survey. This survey is for anyone who had an entry, regardless of whether they actually participated in the event.
The finalised results are now available on the 2018 results page. With the ROC being the final race of the 2018 British Mountain Marathon Championship, the series rankings are now live on MountainMarathon.com
Day two finish. © Steve Ashworth
GPX files for each of the teams are now available for download (zip archive only suitable for desktop, sorry not mobile). Sorry, we can not help with any technical query on use of this raw GPS data which is extracted out of the GPS tracker worn by each of the teams out on the course over the weekend.
1% For The Planet Donation
As usual, we will be donating 1% of the entire event revenue from the 2018 ROC Mountain Marathon™ to organisations involved in environmental sustainability and protection.
ROC 2018 Photos
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Photos © Steve Ashworth
The 2019 Event
The 2019 date will be Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th September 2019. This year most of the courses sold out. This is not because the event is ‘at capacity’ but because we needed to commit to the final number of maps being printed long in advance of the actual event date, and therefore once all the maps for a certain course are allocated we are definitely full! In 2019 we will plan for a small increase in the overall size of the event, but again it is likely that some/all of the courses will sell out. This year we disappointed a small number of participants who were unable to enter in the weeks before the event, and we would strongly encourage participants to enter early.
In The Meantime
We’d hate to leave it a whole year until we meet again. Perhaps you are brave enough to enter Marmot Dark Mountains™, our winter overnight mountain marathon, in January? Marmot Dark Mountains™ will kick off the 2019 British Mountain Championship, there is likely to be yet more depth of competition in 2019. Or perhaps you fancy the leisurely (think beer, cake, overnight camp kit transported for you, more paths than bee-lining…) Silva Great Lakeland 3Day™ in early May? The 2019 event is already filling up fast!