Recap: RAB Mountain Marathon 2016

Another year has passed and I hadn’t written a post for awhile (buying a house and car this past year has really cramped my style with regards to extracurricular activities), however, here is the recap of the RAB Mountain Marathon 2016 in the Yorkshire Dales…


Sadly, I hadn’t really done much preparation of this event.  Given I had all the equipment needed for the OMM, the only thing I needed to buy was a new, larger pack and a CamelBak.  I did a ton of research and settled on the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack, which did the job splendidly.

Apart from a new pack, the only other changes I made to my kit list (see spreadsheet below) was to bring my Jetboil for cooking, a full RAB coat as my warm layer and a warmer hat and gloves.  I also had to carry the entirety of my tent, so the final pack was a good extra few kilos compared to the OMM, where the team gear was shared.

As for physical training, this is mainly where my preparation failed.  I had done *some* running in the weeks leading up to the event and a 50 mile bike/camp ride, but apart from that I didn’t do much – which showed on the day.  As ever, I could also lose a few extra pounds, which would have helped (rather than drinking beer and eating BBQ burgers, which is what I devoted most my time to in the summer 😉 )

Away we go!…

I went to the RAB with Thursten, who you might remember from my OMM post last year.

We started off from Winchester on the Friday and flew up from Southampton to Manchester.  I had some issues when my bag got caught by security.  I thought I had removed all my liquids and put them in our checked bag, however, I had forgotten my pocketknife and my aerosol bug spray.  Luckily the knife was under the size restriction, so it was all good in the end, though it was a hassle, since I thought I might miss our flight (turns out we were on the next flight).

RAB Friday Night Camping

RAB Friday Night Camping

The flight was uneventful and quick (especially without any kids in tow) and we rented a car in Manchester.  The trip from Manchester to the event center was a nightmare, the M6 was all stop/start traffic and Thursten did a good job driving (thanks again Thursten!).  We rocked up at the event center after dark at about 8:20 PM.

That night we decided to register and eat the veggie stew we had pre-paid for, then we had a couple of pints and caught the tail end of the feature movie about a guy running the length of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Thursten had the great idea of bringing two tents, one for the Friday night and one to carry during the RAB.  This was a great idea since I wouldn’t want to pack and carry a wet tent the next day.  So, we pitched our tents and went to bed.

RAB Day 1

The next morning we tore down our tents, got some breakfast and a much needed coffee and packed our non-essentials into the car.  During this time I spilled most the water out of my CamelBak that I had just bought because I didn’t close the lid correctly – go figure, the ONE thing I hadn’t used before failed 🙁

We entered the event as Solo Short Score competitors.  So, after a windy 45 minute walk from the event center to the start, we were on our way!

RAB 2016 Map and GPS route - Day 1 (click to see larger)

RAB 2016 Map and GPS route – Day 1 (click to see larger)

We were able to study the map before we started, so we decided to go across to the other side of the valley to hit some higher checkpoints and have a direct run down to the overnight campsite.

So, we started off and hit the first checkpoint (control number 210 on the map) without too much issue, mostly because there was a train of people going the same direction.

Yorkshire Dales at the RAB 2016

Yorkshire Dales at the RAB 2016

After the first checkpoint there was an intense, steep uphill climb up to the next one.  This is where I suffered the most!  The lack of training really showed here and I was much slower than everybody else (including Thursten) going up.  I never like the long, sustained uphills, but this really kicked my ass.

I was relieved to get the elevation gain though, so once we were up I was able to take in some food and water and recover a bit.  We hit the control in the sinkhole (208) and headed in the direction of the larger mountain.

One major positive from the RAB this year is that Thursten and I pretty much hit our navigation spot on.  Even when we were out by a couple hundred meters, we often were able to survey the landscape and understand quickly where we were and how much further we needed to go.  I was quite happy about this…

So, on we went up the bigger slopes, hitting a control along the way (209).  Once we made it up to the top, it was relatively easy and we

Thursten at the RAB

Thursten at the RAB

were able to move quickly.  At one point we even busted into a full jog (220, 224, 234).

The other side of the mountain was another story.  We were still pretty consistent about hitting our bearings, however, there was some soul-destroying elephant grass and bog that made everything slow going.  Both Thursten and I had moments where we would take a step and disappear waste deep in some bog that was covered by vegetation.  There was a funny point where we were literally just standing there looking at the map and one of us sunk down! 😉

My legs, ankles and feet were in bad shape from all the uneven surface.  I was hurting pretty bad at this point and it was tough to keep going.  But keep going we did, and hit the next couple of control points (241 and 245).

Finally, we made the decision to get down to the groomed trail and head back to camp.  We made it to the overnight camp with about an hour to spare… I was happy to put in the effort, but relieved to make it.

We pitched our tents in the wind, trying to get as close to the stone wall surrounding the campsite as possible to block the rain and wind.

What, a pub?!

We had been joking at the end about how it would be great to have a beer.  Then Thursten found out that there was actually a pub near the overnight camp!  So, we ate our freeze dried dinner, then off we went to the pub.  It was enjoyable to sit down for a few much deserved pints.

I think about half the RAB competitors were in there by the end of the night and the line for the bar went nearly out the door.  It must have been the pub’s biggest day for a long while!  We had a good time sitting down and meeting other people running the RAB.  We met a couple of military guys, a husband and wife pair and then ran into a group of father/daughter teams from, of all places, Winchester (where we live)!

We finished up our pints, left the comfy leather sofa we were sitting, put our wet shoes back on over our plastic foot-bags (It’s a thing, look it up) on and headed back to the tents to sleep.  I felt a sense of victory because as soon as I zipped up my tent for the night it started to rain.

And rain it did, most the night it was rainy and windy.  Didn’t make for great sleeping, but at least I was dry and got a little sleep.

RAB Day 2

Day 2 didn’t start off too badly.  The rain had mostly stopped and my legs recovered a bit overnight.  I woke up around 7 AM, when the other people nearby woke up and started to pack up.  I boiled some water in my jetboil and had a leisurely breakfast of homemade porridge and a cup of hot chocolate.  Thursten and I packed our stuff up and rolled out to start the day around 8:40 AM.

RAB 2016 Map and GPS route - Day 2 (click to see larger)

RAB 2016 Map and GPS route – Day 2 (click to see larger)

On day 2 we had modest plans.  We had wanted to go on the other side of the valley, mostly for the change of scenery.  We hit a few controls that were on marked trails, and the navigation was easy (270, 271, 272).

We then decided to try to head for the road that ran down the center of the valley.  The plan was to take it easy down the road, where we

Me - Cold, wet and windy at the RAB

Me – Cold, wet and windy at the RAB

could move quickly, then try to score some big point controls near the day 2 finish.  That was the plan anyway…

So we headed back towards the road, hitting control 260 along the way.  Then we went further down the road to 247, where, we ran into the people we had met in the pub the night before (what are the chances?!).  We ate some “lunch” and continued along the road towards the finish.

As we got closer to the finish we did some calculations and it was clear that it would be a major push to make it up to the control we had hopped to hit and back down to the finish in time (there were major time penalties for going over the time limit).  As we started up the hill near the finish, my legs said NO and Thursten and I agreed to pack it in for the day and finish.

We dibbed into the finish, headed back to the event center to hand back in our GPS and dibbers and got out of the car park as soon as possible so we didn’t get stuck in the mud.

Thursten drove us back to Manchester airport, where we had a long wait for our flight.  We had a few beers and ate.  Our plane was late taking off, but luckily we made our train back to Winchester.  I was exhausted, and glad to be home.

In Conclusion

Apart from my lack of condition for the event, overall I was happy with the outcome.  We had hit our goal to actually complete the event, without disqualification.  It’s the first time we had done the score course, so we learned a bit about that too.

I loaded the GPX files into my Garmin Connect software and over the two days we traveled 20.38 miles over some pretty tough terrain.  This included 2,626 feet of total elevation gain.  Our average pace was around 30 mins/mile.

I really enjoyed the RAB.  I think it lived up to it’s claim of being a friendly mountain marathon and I would definitely go again.  Especially, if there’s a pub at the overnight camp! 😉

What I learned

  • Be careful flying with all your gear.  I got stopped at security and forgot my pocketknife and my aerosol bug spray.  Luckily the pocketknife was under the size restriction, so all was well.
  • Sounds obvious, but you need to pay attention to the scores of the controls in the score course.  We had realized that we could have easily scored a bunch more points by taking a slightly different route between some of the controls, rather than going straight between two high point controls.  As a result, our end position wasn’t brilliant (that, and how slow I was going)
  • It may have been better to not cross over the elephant grass and bog in the end.  I’m not sure about this, but maybe dropping down to the trails and going back up to find the controls would have been faster and easier – something to look into next time.  I know that others say that running near walls where there are established trails was a good tactic.
  • Overall, all my gear, including my new pack, worked out pretty well.  Hardly any tweaks I need to make or things to buy.  It would be good to take my gear on a non-competitive hike/camp event in the future to have a more relaxed time.

Stuff I’d tweak for next time…

  • Review the weight of my bag and try to lighten the load.  I don’t think there’s much I need to do here, but always a good idea to do.
  • Train, train, train… months in advance!  I need to train by running marathon distances in a single day and by doing more fell running (maybe in the Brecon Beacons?) with a full pack to really train for the event.  You need to be continuously jogging to score decent points and you need to be hitting a control about every 10 mins on average, at least that’s what I gather by looking at the other competitor’s split times.

Further Info

RAB 2016 Results (including cool GPS tracking of all the competitors, so you can see how the best people did and what choices they made):

RAB 2016 Race Director’s Report:

RAB Website:

One thought on “Recap: RAB Mountain Marathon 2016

  1. Perfect summary of the weekend and a honour to have complete the RAB with you.

    The event t-shirt is now official my favourite running top in part because it is a great RAB technical shirt but also because it brings back memories.

    Next year?

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