Over-ambitious and under-prepared

Early in 2014 Chris entered us in the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM). A demanding event held each summer in a wild location somewhere in the Highlands. The exact location of the start is not released until a couple of weeks before, so you can’t go up there and reconnoitre beforehand.

This would be a step up from our usual activities for the following reasons:

  • There is no marked route but an orienteering course requiring pinpoint navigation
  • There are few paths ; just rough open country all the way
  • It is a two day event with an overnight camp. All the gear for this has to be carried, you arrive at the campsite knackered and get up to do it all again the following day

We were delighted when the venue turned out to be Strathcarron; just south of the Liathach-Ben Eighe massif. We had been there before for the CELTMAN. This is lovely country.

They looked after us well on the Friday evening. There was a big marquee with live music as well as food, beer and equipment for sale. We sat next to a bloke from Swaledale who – once he had quizzed us about our level of experience – seemed pessimistic about our prospects. ‘How much does your pack weigh?’ We told him. He shook his head and said, ‘Most people will be carrying half that’.

He was right. Making or way to the start the following morning I felt a proper amateur. Our bags were far too big and heavy.

It was a great day though! Our route took us through wild and remote country. It was challenging; one of the most memorable days in the hills I’ve ever had.

The checkpoints were an adventure, even in excellent visibility. In mist, these would have been very tricky to find.

My problems began between CP 5 and 6. It had already become apparent that I was under-prepared for this. Chris was full of beans and well inside his capacities but I had done little preparation on real hills, none on bigger mountains. I was struggling by CP 5 and kept falling over on the way to 6. Slowing down significantly and falling over constantly, I was going to be a liability for the rest of the journey. We decided to call it a day around 16.00 hrs – nevertheless, we still had a five mile walk back to base.

I felt rotten for Chris, because he could have finished.

Some lessons learned:

  • We entered the B class – this was (for me) too ambitious
  • We needed lighter kit
  • More than anything, I should have trained hard on steep, pathless terrain. The LAMM is nothing like anything I’ve ever done before!

So do we have another bash in 2015? Oh yes, I think so!

There’s no such thing as a DNF – only a training run for next time.

The Paras 10 TAB – Catterick 2013

The scenario: you have been dropped by parachute behind enemy lines and are ten miles from your target. You and your team must get there quickly carrying all you need to complete the mission.

Every year, the Parachute Regiment challenge the public to complete it’s 10 mile ‘P company challenge’ event in the same conditions and carrying the same weight as the young lads seeking selection for the Paras. The only difference is that you don’t carry a weapon, unlike this guy…

Military people call this activity a TAB – Tactical Advance to Battle – the skill of moving quickly into position to engage the bad guys. Would-be paratroopers must get ’round the hilly, challenging course in 1 hr 50 minutes or less – that is a pace of one mile every 11 minutes. If they make it they qualify to wear the famous maroon beret – they become a member of one of Britain’s elite fighting regiments.

Dan Cawley, Andrew Lowes and myself took up the challenge at Catterick Garrison on September 8th this year. We had trained hard, running big hills and long routes several times a week during the hot days of July and August. We got accustomed to running in army boots, combat trousers and carrying a rucksack with 35 lbs of sand inside. ‘Train hard – fight easy’ was Andy’s motto (he’s an ex marine). We were well prepared, and knew we could run ’round the course – but we were not sure if we were fit enough to pass ‘P company’.

On the day we joined 665 others doing the P company challenge as well as 300 people running it without weight. The terrain was less hilly that our training runs; but with longer climbs they were just as challenging. Andy and Dan left me behind in the first half – maintaining a 10 minute pace in the hope of having 5 minutes in hand by the half-way point, but I caught them at mile 5 and we were together from there to the end.

Shortly after, we caught the Para who was doing the race at 11 minutes per mile as a pacemaker for the rest of us. He had blue balloons on his Bergen, so we couldn’t miss him. From that point, I knew that, If I kept him behind me, I would pass ‘P company’.

It was a struggle, he kept passing me because I was pretty exhausted at the end, but we did it and we all got home in around 1 Hr 45 minutes. The other two guys were slightly quicker than me – Dan by only one second! Here are our times:

Andrew – 1hr 45min 08sec (148th overall)
Dan – 1hr 45min 40 (155th overall)
Dave – 1hr 45min 41sec (156th overall and 10th veteran – ie over 50 years old)

What really pleased me – apart from passing the challenge (they said I was too old to join up, by the way) – was that there were over 500 fit people behind us! That was very satisfying.

“You don’t have to be superman to pass P Company; you just need to be prepared to dig deeper than the ordinary man in the street”

Corporal Chris Carlin – PTI Parachute Regiment


31 Jan 2012, 6:52pm

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Ordnance Survey Getamap

Try this out. With a free subscription I’ve just plotted one of my favorite local runs so the world can see it. Here it is:


This is, quite simply, gobsmacking – the potential is limitless!


Here’s another! This is exhilarating!


Even on the free subscription, you can print the maps out on A4 paper – it costs £1.99 a pop. But the annual subscription is only £19.99 and for that you get extra features and as many A4 printouts as you like – unbelievable.