Saunders 2007


“Oh, you’ll be alright on the Saunders. You don’t have to carry your tent – you come back to the same place for the night, and there’s a bar at the camp and you can get food and everything.”

Complete b*ll**ks of course, but it did the trick! I knew really that John was lying through his teeth when I asked him if he thought I’d done the right thing in agreeing to have a go at the Saunders!

After years of waving John and Jan off on various MMs, it was mine and Jo’s turn, and I was excited and petrified at the same time. I really liked the idea of the running and navigation, however, having to carry a pack and, most of all if I’m honest, the idea of “The Trench” was quite a turn-off.

I needn’t have worried. Quite remarkably, Jo and I managed to weigh in our packs at exactly 5.5kilos each, and as we drove into Patterdale early on Saturday morning, a welcome row of green portaloos were a comfort for the eye and stomach!

Almost immediately we spotted Phil Ward, the Giggleswick sports therapist, who was about to do his 60th MM. As the rain began, he very kindly invited us into his camper van and made us a pre-race cup of tea.

Phil, nursing a calf injury, and his partner, Ian, were doing the same class as us, Wansfell, the shortest running class. Jo had already written something about beating them in Phil’s appointments diary when he had his back turned during a treatment earlier in the week, so there was quite a bit of friendly rivalry already.

Soon we were off. It was quite showery, but spirits were high and we managed a bit of camaraderie with our fellow runners. There were two ladies with pink fairy wings attached to their rucksacks who it turned out were on a hen night – one was getting married and the other was the bridesmaid the following Saturday. We both decided that Jan and John wouldn’t have approved of the fairy wings for weight reasons – our mantra for the weekend was John’s motto: “Every ounce counts”!

It was a bit of a follow-my-leader across the fells so there wasn’t much navigation really needed to find the checkpoints, but we still paid careful attention to our maps, in case the 500 others were wrong!

After a first day of rain showers and bracken trods, a really nasty contouring moment and me up to my hips in a bog (not at the same time!) we descended to the northern end of Haweswater to the much appreciated sight of portaloos at the midway camp.

We ran in to see Phil and Ian were already there! Bah! But results analysis showed we were almost 2 minutes ahead of them! We were 55th overnight, roughly half way down the field.

What a nice atmosphere at the midway camp! We didn’t have any beer, although plenty of people did, and (another personal fear of mine) we didn’t go hungry at all. In fact, I was stuffed! Ainsley Harriot pot noodles and muesli bars, chocolate brownies and chocolate filled us up. We had a sociable time and both did something which was an absolute luxury – we had an AFTERNOON NAP!!!! The mothers out there will particularly appreciate just how special this was!

Up bright and early for the start at 8.05am. The Saunders does not have a chasing start, if you’re not given a time, you can choose your own start time anywhere between 8.05am and 8.35am. The queue to start snaked its way round the entire campsite.

Day two was quite a bit shorter, but still with some significant climbs, and one pretty hairy downhill, which we could easily have abseiled down! The navigation was easier too, because it was a glorious day, a really lucky break in the weather, so we could see exactly where we were headed. What beautiful scenery, we felt really privileged to be out there.

Coming back into Patterdale we were really on a high, and the final charge to the finish was exhilarating. A meal and mug of tea from Wilf’s was very welcome and we even had a massage in the physio tent as a post-Saunders treat!

Phil and Ian had a storming second day and managed to beat us comprehensively. We finished 59th with a combined time of seconds over eight hours, they were 49th and about half an hour quicker.

I think we did about 14.5km on day one, and 12 on day two, with a total ascent round about 1600m,

What a fantastic event. All thanks to Jo, without her it just wouldn’t have happened, and a better partner I couldn’t imagine. I loved it and can’t wait for next year!

Julia Murfin