Last weekend (28-29th September) saw the seventh annual Rab Mountain Marathon take place, this year in the north-west corner of the Lake District. Hundreds of competitors, entering as individuals or teams of 2, from around the country converged on Newlands Valley to take part in this great event. The dramatic (i.e. steep) terrain south-west of Keswick made for a very different feel to last year's event in the Howgills.

[caption id="attachment_5625" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Rab  Mountain Marathon 2012 - The Howgills Rab Mountain Marathon 2012 - The Howgills[/caption]

For those who don't know about the Rab Mountain Marathon, it requires a mix of orienteering, fell running, hill walking and camping skills as well as a hearty dose of determination.

[caption id="attachment_5618" align="aligncenter" width="450"]'Dibbers' lined up at registration 'Dibbers' lined up at registration[/caption]

Competitors spend two days running around hills trying to collect as many 'controls' (checkpoints) as possible, by holding their 'dibber' over a sensor for a couple of seconds. These are laid out in advance and marked on a map which is given to competitors. Having plenty of time to plan your route would be too easy however, so controls are given different numbers of points (partly depending on how hard it is to access them). In addition controls change in value between the two days and some are never given any points.

[caption id="attachment_5636" align="aligncenter" width="450"]This year's map with controls marked as red circles This year's map with controls marked as red circles[/caption]

There are two difficulty categories which determine how much time you spend competing. The Long category allows you seven hours on the first day and six on the second, while the Short category allows you six hours on the first and five on the second. Within this time you must: receive the list of points for the controls for that day, plan your route, complete of much of it as you can and make it to the finish. There are penalties for arriving at the finish too late.

[caption id="attachment_5624" align="aligncenter" width="398"]Route planning as the clock ticks Route planning as the clock ticks[/caption]

Everything that is needed for two days of running and overnight camping has to be carried, including food. Keeping the weight to a minimum is a challenge in itself. The lowest that we heard quoted this year was 3.4kg!

Fantastic weather all weekend made for a high scoring event where out-navigating other competitors wasn't as crucial as speed and efficient route planning. The heat and good conditions did mean that there were some heart breaking point penalties for some who started fast but couldn't keep their fast pace going and made it to the finish line late.

The overnight camp was held by the shore of Crummock Water where the setting sun on one side and Grasmoor on the other provided a spectacular backdrop for the competitor's evening meals. Not that many of them probably noticed. Almost everyone made it back to camp in one piece but unfortunately there were a few injuries. Massive respect to the competitor who ended up retiring early on Saturday and still tried to get some points on Sunday morning, on crutches.

[caption id="attachment_5622" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Overnight at Crummock Water Overnight at Crummock Water[/caption]

Despite a stiff breeze and an uncomfortable night's sleep, everyone looked relieved to see more beautiful weather on Sunday morning. The shorter day still featured some very high scores. Everyone was treated to a downhill finish on Sunday, in the valley between Barrow and Causey Pike. There were some extremely well timed days, with numerous people finishing with less than 2 minutes to spare. A short walk brought everyone back to Newlands Adventure Centre where their times were downloaded and they were treated to some Rab goodies and some massive portions of chilli and sponge with custard.

[caption id="attachment_5626" align="aligncenter" width="450"]DSC_0219 The legendary Rab Mountain Marathon car sticker and other goodies were presented in a special mug this year[/caption]

The prize giving on a sunny lawn saw some impressive hobbling and lots of good natured applause. Well done to everyone who took part and thanks to Dark & White and everyone who helped out for another fantastic event.

[caption id="attachment_5620" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Mountain Marathon veterans Mountain Marathon veterans[/caption]

Rumour has it that several Rab staff will be making an appearance in 2014 (in running shoes rather than looking smug on the sidelines). See you there next year!

A full list of results and split times can be found on the SPORTident page for the event