The Manx Mountain Marathon 29th Sept

Nearing the top of the first climb
The Manx Mountain Marathon has been on my to do race list for about as long as the Lake District Mountain Trial.  So after finally getting around to doing the LDMT, I looked for another race and thought why not. The race appealed to me as it’s a nice line roughly  going from the North to the South West of the Isle Of Man. Starting in Ramsey and taking a line across the mountains to finish on the cliffs in Port Erin. It is 30 miles and 9,000 feet so it is a tough race. Helping me to commit to doing the race was the day I found a good rate for a foot passenger crossing on the local Heysham Ferry service combined with a 2 night Hotel stay. This was a deal set up with the race organisers, in a vain attempt to encourage more over from mainland UK. It was a small field this year but, a change of date from the April to late September may have, hopefully,  accounted for this, and next year more will make the sea crossing.
The crossing over on the Friday was a little rough and made me feel a touch queasy. I dreaded the return crossing  due to a forecast suggesting good weather if a little windy  for the race, followed by gales on my return day on Sunday. although I needn't have worried. I soon recovered after the rough crossing though and by the evening was o.k. Race day was a 5am start. I forgot to organise a breakfast, and as the Hotel didn’t start serving until 7.30 am  I had to improvise. Therefore my breakfast was a cup of Horlicks and a Cliff energy bar.  Never knew I liked Horlicks! Maybe this drink is eventually discovered with age?  The older you get the more likely you are to have tried it. I digress. anyway... a walk down the promenade followed by a lift from one of the organisers and a chat about the race and its lack of attendance whilst traversing over the mountain road, saw me at the start venue in Ramsey  just as it became light.
After a quick chat with Murphy (met on the FRA forum) we were off down the small Promenade and then the streets then heading in land to the first climb of North Barrule I started off at a steady push and kept this going all the way up the first climb. At the top it was obvious that this was going to be a tough race,  the heavy ground combined with a very strong head wind made forward progress really difficult at times. The ridge was long and connected a nice series of small summits. But now and again the wind even made it difficult to descend steep ground, my glasses nearly blew off my face at one point. The severe wind was still in preference to fog, as I could see the route and the stunning scenery. The lack of a recce opportunity meant that the big challenge of the route for me was navigation. At the start it was a case of follow the leader, but 2 hours into the race it was quite spread out, so it was more difficult to do this. But I was managing to keep, hopefully more initiated runners, in sight.
After about 3 hours of running a speedy Jackie Lee Overtook me and it was obvious she knew the way. I could fairly comfortably keep up with her so decided it would be a good strategy to do so. Whilst on a mildly steep descent across long grass I fell and hurt my shoulder and leg enough to slow me down. I then, on the next climb lost her and after she took some clever lines I reached the summit clip with no idea which way she had gone. This lead to me descending the wrong way, and without a map handy, I faffed about zig zagging across the steep hillside of Carraghan, I think I lost about 10 minutes messing about before finally getting back on track. It was then a quick run through the CP and on up a really awkward climb through the heather strewn hillside of Colden. I got this a bit wrong and ended up being corrected by a runner shouting as he ascended to me. I climbed with him so as not to panic at my errors, I decided it would calm me down, to then pick up the pace again after the ascent.
After a steady climb and a chat with my “guide” I pushed on buoyed by the confidence of seeing a lead train of 4 yellow vested Manx fell runners stretching out over at least a mile ahead. So I pushed on along the undulating ridge overtaking 1 or 2 as I trudged through the muddy trails. The drop down off the ridge was painful as it was a tight trod that weaved through very tall prickly Gorse bushes. After accruing a few leg cuts I followed Mark, who I had now caught up after my errors. We then missed the flagged area through a farm and had to hop a few fences. It was then a flat run along a trail for about 2 miles. I ran through the CP, as I did at most, and ascended start of the next ridge. This was the halfway point and the start of the 2nd leg for the relay runners. I was overtaken by a speedy runner before remembering that they were fresh second leg runners. I then decided to use their  pace to help keep me going strong.
I kept running strong all the way along this boggy ridge, yes they were all boggy, until the route started to feel more like a trail race twisting and turning on tracks then eventually a road section. Here I realised that I was closing in on Simon Halliday and caught him quite quickly. I ran with him chatting and enjoying the scenery as we crested the next hill top to reveal the welcome sight of the coastal cliffs. They looked beautiful in the afternoon sunshine. We ran together for a while before he took off to leave me chasing him up the last two cliff top climbs. We then swung around on off the last top to descend on a nice firm trail, at last, into the finish on a ledge just above Port Erin. The finishing banners were propped against a wall due to the strong onshore wind, so I didn’t even realised that I had finished. I saved a sprint finish but never got to use, never mind I didn’t feel like trying to out sprint Simon anyway, as it never felt like a serious full on race anyway.
I finished in 6 hours 20 minutes and in 12 place. I loved this race, and the whole weekend on the Isle of Man, and will definitely be going back next year.

The scenery and typical heavy ground conditions

Mark Murphy met on the FRA Forum
Me Just past Half-way

1 comment:

Mark Thomson said...

Great writeup, I have a friend from UNI who lives in peel and he keeps pressing me to enter the IOM triathlon at some point. I have never done a long distance Mountain race, but regularly run at home (not far from Glen Coe) so a "normal" run is a fell run of some sort. Question, if you are going to do something like the IOM MM or a multiday even, what pack would you use? obviously it would depend on it being an overnight stay or not I suppose. If I was going to do say a 30-40 miler in the hills, would something like this OMM Adventure Light 20 be sufficient? Or am I looking for something with a little more bulk?