Up to 1000 competitors will gather on 7-8 June for the 20th anniversary Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM), which takes place at a hitherto-undisclosed location. In keeping with the traditon of the event, all the organisers will say for now is that it'll be somewhere in the Scottish highlands.
The venue is always kept secret until 24 hours before the event. This is mainly to ensure that teams cannot reccy the route before hand; and it also helps up the tension. Competitors can always expect the unexpected, say organisers.
The LAMM is a two-day mountain orienteering competition with an overnight camp at a remote location. Teams run in pairs and carry lightweight camping equipment, clothes and food to sustain themselves for 36 hours. There are six courses ranging from elite to novice depending on ability and fitness.
The event has a reputation for providing novel surprises, such as teams being transported to their start points by historic steam trains or boats. It has also generated its share of drama such as the occasion when Phil Ham, then Lowe Alpine sales director, turned up at the midway camp covered in blood having head-butted a rock.
For two decades the event, aka. ‘the connoisseur’s Mountain Marathon’, has been supported by Lowe Alpine and run by event organiser Martin Stone. He said:
'As usual, the venue will be a fine and undisclosed location in keeping with 20 years of the LAMM. The event offers an unforgettable experience and draws people back year after year – indeed we have at least one competitor who has attended every event. This year we’re in a superb location with a beautiful midway camp, so it’ll certainly live up to expectations!'
From the first event in Arrochar in 1994 the LAMM has been recognised as one of the tougher mountain marathons. Indeed, if you had competed in the Elite category in each event you would by now have traversed 1260km of unforgiving Scottish terrain over the years, and clocked up an impressive 80,000m of ascent/descent.
One repeat offender is Clive Allen of Ascent Marketing Communications, who not only helps promote the event but has regularly taken part too.
'For some reason the LAMM is the only mountain marathon I do each year, but I have managed to stagger around six events now' he tells us.
'The first was a steep learning curve, we were equipped like racing snakes but were overtaken regularly by two 60-year-old ladies simply because they were better navigators. My response was to sack my partner and buddy up with Dave Jones, who is my secret weapon - an orienteer who specialises in micro-navigation. We compete on the Score course, which we both prefer, where each control is allocated a certain number of points. Within a time period - usually 7 hours on the first day, 6 on the second - you have to bag as many points as possible. It goes without saying that the hardest controls to get to carry the biggest scores, plus if you go over time you have points deducted per minute, so you can end up in negative points fairly quickly if you’re late. On the positive side you’re free to make up your own route, so often you’ll find yourself out there for some time without seeing another competitor. We have managed to finish inside the top 10 before now, but last time Dave sneaked a half pint of cognac into my rucksack which I believe contributed to our poor performance.'
'Why do it again and again? Simple - it’s very satisfying. Also there’s something about the halfway camps, where hundreds of competitors come together in a very remote location for one night, then all disappear again. It’s very sociable, and there’s no pressure - no phones, no email - just enforced festering. Unless there’s clouds of midges about of course, but that’s another story…'