2018 Race Planner’s Report
By Graham Gristwood
The Northern Fells proved itself again to be a great Mountain Marathon venue, with a real mixture of physical and technical challenges. The Event Centre and Overnight Camp provided excellent venues and gave us good scope for some interesting Score and Linear classes, and that was reflected in the feedback we have received.
Course Planner: Graham Gristwood © Steve Ashworth
The Score classes had an almost entirely different set of checkpoints each day (I think 3 were shared – and they had very different points value each day). Day 1 had more checkpoints to the south of the map in the slightly rougher terrain, and Day 2 had more checkpoints to the north of the map in the slightly more runnable terrain. The feedback was that there was plenty of choice, and that people felt that the days were distinctly different in character.
The Linear classes were also well received in general, with people complementing the route choices. My philosophy when planning these courses is always to use the least number of checkpoints possible to make a varied and challenging course, and people seemed to appreciate that. Looking at the tracking, it seems like the route choices did split teams up, and there have been some interesting comments from participants about the trade-off between shorter hillier routes and longer flatter ones.
I also believe that teams should not have to hunt for checkpoints – the challenge should be in choosing good routes and then executing them well rather than getting into the general area and then getting lucky. There should not be any checkpoints which are unfair in any way, or cause differing weather conditions to affect the outcome severely.
Andrew Higgins (leading) and Adam Stirk enjoying the fantastic terrain of the Northern Fells © Steve Ashworth
There is no question that the Elite and A classes were too long (for various reasons) – both on Day 1 and Day 2 – and it is unfortunate that this lead to a small number of teams falling foul of the course closure time on Day 2. Having spoken with a large number of participants on these courses, my feeling is that the courses were well received but that it was disappointing that teams had to decide whether to complete the course knowing that they would miss the course closure time, or head back to the finish early and miss out the last few checkpoints. This is a valuable lesson for myself and the others who have been involved with the planning process – both in judging the length of the courses, the speed of the runners (and specifically not only the leading runners) and also about the format with essentially an 8 hour time limit on Day 2. With a guide winning time of approximately 5 to 5 1/2 hours, and many runners running approximately 150% of the winner’s speed, there is not a huge amount of scope for errors in course lengths!
I would be really interested to hear any feedback from participants about any aspect of the course planning.