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Guest Blog: Heather Dawe on the 2013 Rab Mountain Marathon

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Heather Dawe, ultra runner and author of Adventures in Mind, reports on her winning race last weekend.

The 2013 RAB Mountain Marathon was held over the weekend of the 28th-29th September in the north-western Lake District. These fells are some of my favourite in the Lake District, and I was really looking forward to a couple of days running over and around them.
You can race the RAB solo or in pairs – I teamed up with my frequent running partner Andrea Priestley. We did the long score, which meant we had seven hours on Saturday and six on Sunday to accumulate as high a score as possible by reaching lots of different checkpoints, each of which varied in points value. I really enjoy racing with Andrea - she makes me work and brings out the best in me – ‘encouraging’ me to climb the hills faster and to push myself that little bit harder. That said, I was not impressed at being put in the 'Veteran' category for the first time – I am 36! (Andrea lends me a few years, meaning that our average age these days is over forty, hence the category change.)
The event started on the side of Catbells in the Newlands Valley. From there, we skirted the top of Catbells and bagged a few easy checkpoints before heading onto Maiden Moor and eventually a road crossing at Honister Pass. After this we headed onto the fells to the south of Honister and the Buttermere valley.The weather was superb (almost too hot!); a fantastic time to be running in the Lakes. It felt like cheating to be running a mountain marathon with such great visibility. 
Despite this visibility I still managed to make a route error coming off Grey Knotts. Heading to Fleetwith Pike, we ended up at the wrong checkpoint. This error forced us to change our choice of route and to descend steeply into and then out of the Buttermere valley instead of traversing over and around the fell tops. We were pushed for time doing this and, tired, hot and dehydrated at the top of High Stile, I declared to Andrea that once back down in the valley and heading to the overnight camp, I was not going to do anymore climbing that day. My competitiveness put paid to this when I realised we could bag another fifteen points if we climbed Rannerdale Knotts – a fell near the campsite.
We finished the first day with five minutes to spare and I for one felt pretty knackered. I think it was a combination of the hard ground underfoot, lots of steep climbs and descents, and the heat. That said, it was an amazing day to be running on the fells and in such a beautiful place. The overnight campsite was on the northern side of Crummock Water. Given the weather we had a comfortable, warm night, quite unlike most mountain marathons! 
Sunday dawned clear and sunny with a stiff breeze in the valley. The second day's running took us mostly around and about the Grasmoor massif in the Derwent fells, although we started by heading out to the most southerly checkpoint which was a sheep-pen on the side of Robinson. After this we headed north, picking up checkpoints on the ridges, fell-tops and valleys along the way. Our route took us over Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor, close to Grisedale Pike and then back towards the Newlands valley and the finish. The Derwent fells are known for their ridges and steep sides – we didn’t spend much running along these ridges, instead climbing up and down the fellsides making as best a line as we could between checkpoints. 
We finished Sunday with 10 minutes to spare and were happy with that as we thought we had got a good line through the day – which we did, finishing seventh overall for day two, compared with 18th the day before (which reflects our error coming off Grey Knotts). Over the two days we won the female category, finishing above all the mixed teams and placing 13th overall. We were pleased with that!
This was my first time at the RAB. It was a great event: really well organised and in a fantastic area for mountain running and blessed with brilliant weather. All in a top weekend! Now it’s less than four weeks until the OMM – this year being held in the Brecon Beacons – an event I am really looking forward to.
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