Mountain fears for Otley's Sarah

Ilkley Gazette: Sarah Fuller decided to quit the race as conditions worsened Sarah Fuller decided to quit the race as conditions worsened

Last weekend’s snow didn’t hamper the competitors in the first Marmot Dark Mountains mountain marathon, with Otley AC’s Sarah Fuller making the trip to the Lake District to take part in the two-day event.

However, with around 100 starters the weather did impact on the finishers with only 11 people completing the course.

The organisers stated afterwards that the statistics didn’t highlight the high degree of mountain sense that the competitors displayed by deciding to pull out when conditions became potentially dangerous and return to the event headquarters at Muncaster Castle.

Sarah Fuller was on the fells at 2.30am on Sunday morning with torrential rain and horizontal wind so strong that her and her running partner were reduced to crawling to reach the ridgeline and checkpoint number six.

She said: “I’d long ago lost count of how many times a leg had disappeared thigh deep in snow or bog. We’d been moving for four hours and were about to make a decision. We were going to give up.

“For an hour we had been walking the thin line between a deeply unpleasant night on the hill and a potentially serious situation.

“Having to stop and change torch batteries and a momentary loss of concentration leading to a missed control and some wandering around trying to locate it was the tipping point.”

Marmot Dark Mountains is the first overnight mountain marathon with a similar format as established events such as the OMM, but the idea is you start in the dark, run through the night and don’t have the overnight camp.

It effectively means running day one and two together.

Fuller added: “We got cold, very cold. However, we pushed on and found the next control without further navigational difficulty but didn’t really get back on track mentally or physically.

“We were warned about hypothermia when we set off but never thought for one minute we would need to heed the warning.

“After a short discussion and a serious reality check, we descended as quick as we could and made our way direct to the finish still about an hour away, so not far, but across the grimmest terrain I think I have ever encountered.There were half-frozen mega-tussocks submerged in knee-deep icy water and bog.

“Safely back at the event centre it was strangely busy, and we later found that about 90 per cent of the field had retired. We felt disappointed but proud that we’d used good mountain judgement to get out of there before things went totally pear-shaped.”

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