Rab Mountain Marathon

Saturday 30th September – Report by Simon Roberts


There is something remarkable about the last weekend in September. This was my sixth Rab Mountain Marathon, always on this weekend going back to 2008, and every one has been characterised by near-perfect weather. The event roams around the UK, from the Lakes to the Cheviots. Last time it was on home ground in North Wales in 2012, I made my worst ever mistake on a mountain marathon and ended up well down the field. The main issue today was likely to be whether I had the legs for a long outing.


The organisers seem determined not to repeat 2012’s rather restricted field of play, and did a fine job: in essence the decision was whether to run day one in the Carneddau or Glyderau. I opted for the former, on the assumption that it would be more runnable.


Mountain marathons are a hybrid between long fell races and orienteering events, dependent on a combination of general hill craft, route planning, navigation, speed and endurance. There are several formats, too tedious and complicated to explain here: but suffice to say that if you are a keen fell runner with some general mountaineering experience you will love them. You carry your kit for two days on your back, so weight is obviously at a premium.


The OMM is probably the most famous of these events (you may remember that it featured on the international news in 2008: myself and Huw Lewis were both there and have fond memories of the force 10 gales and torrential rain that blew the race to pieces). But there are several others, of which the Rab is my favourite.


Day one went reasonably well, although I was lacking some endurance. A long day over the Carneddau finished with a run down Cwm Llafur then round to marshy territory and two more checkpoints. Above, a 20 pointer lurked. I had the time but did I have the legs? I concluded that I couldn’t be bothered, and instead virtually walked down to the final CP above Nant Ffrancon and finished way too early: with over half an hour to spare. Still, I found myself in 10th place overall overnight, third veteran. A very pleasant evening at the camp in Nant Ffrancon with Huw, Peter Agnew and others. We’d all found space for small bottles of single malt which helped the evening pass pleasantly. It did get rather cold later on under a huge moon and clear sky, especially with my less than ideal bubble wrap mattress.


The second day involved an elegant traverse of the Glyders in perfect morning sunshine that went very well but was spoiled slightly by a careless error right at the end (actually, after the finish) which cost me the first Veteran prize. Again, I’ll spare you the tedious details, but suffice to say I could only blame my own unbelievable stupidity.


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