> Karrimor International Mountain Marathon 2002 - Steve Birkinshaw

An account of one pair's experience of this gruelling event!

This years Karrimor Mountain Marathon was close to home in the Cheviots and it was the 3rd mountain marathon I had run with Morgz. We competed together in the KIMM last year and the LAMM earlier in the year and on both occasions I struggled and felt I had let Morgz down. This time I was fit and determined to do well.

The start was at the junction of the Harthope and Carey Burns, very familiar to all those who have done the Chevy Chase and it was here that we were given the day 1 course, a straight line distance of 43 km, it was going to be a tough first day. The first part of the course took us west over the College Valley, before we turned south crossing the route of the Pennine Way several times. We were one of the final teams to start and by talking to the marshall we knew that by the time we reached the 6th checkpoint near Windy Gyle we were 2nd team through and there was no-one close behind. However, the first team through of Brendan Bolland and Angela Mudge were an hour in front of and they started an hour before us, so we had taken the same length of time to this point, they were going to be the team we were going to be racing against. The course then headed south-east to the southern edge of Kidland Forest and although it did not look far on the map to the finish of day 1 this next section proved to be the toughest part of the course. The next two legs took us up and down through Kidland Forest, there was then a really hard leg over the top of Cushat Law before the day 1 finish in the Breamish Valley. The tussocks and heather on this section were over knee high on me and even higher on Morgz, and although Morgz was beginning to struggle he carried on well and we finished strongly. It had taken nearly 7 hours and we had beaten Brendan and Angela by 4 minutes with all the other teams well over 20 minutes behind.

To do really well on a mountain marathon you need a really light pack and this means everything is cut to the limit, the tent we had was a single skin one that weighed only 800g. This is not a problem in nice weather, but overnight the weather changed completely, the beautiful day we had on the Saturday was replaced by wind and heavy rain. We had put the tent on what appeared to be a nice flat site, however, there was a slight dip in the middle. The rain blew in through the vents in the side of the tent and collected in the dip in the middle. By 2am our sleeping bags were soaking wet and we were cold, the rest of the night was not at all pleasant. We were very happy to set of on day 2 as it gave us a chance to warm up.

Day 2 is a chasing start so that the first team to cross the finish line wins. We therefore set off 4 minutes before Brendan and Angela. We headed back into Kidland Forest and it was here that they caught us on the way to the 2nd checkpoint. This checkpoint was the far side of a river that was now in spate. Morgz and me tried to cross, but we only got about 1/4 of the way across before we got swept away and had to swim back to the bank. All four of us then went upstream and quickly found a bridge not marked on the map. The course then went round the back of Windy Gyle and through the saddle between Cheviot and Hedgehope, the four of us running together. From there we had a choice of contouring along the side of the Cheviot to checkpoint 6 or going down the river and then back up to the checkpoint. Brendan and Angela contoured and me and Morgz went down and up. We did not see them at number 6 and it was not until we were running down the hill from number 7 and they were struggling up to it that we knew we were in front.

They had approached number 6 from a difficult direction and had problems finding it in the mist. All we had to do to win was keep going strongly but we had run out of food and I was beginning to struggle. But I dug deep and we crossed the finish line winners having taken nearly 6 1/2 hours on day 2. We were really happy, it was Morgan's first win in a mountain marathon and although it was my 4th KIMM victory it felt great as it was my first without 9 times winner Mark Seddon.

Congratulations to all the other NFR members who competed and survived the terrible weather on Saturday night and Sunday. It certainly took us a long time to warm up, although running in shorts on Sunday did not help!

Steve Birkinshaw

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