It's a misty morning in mid June and Alex and Ed are stood on the side of a remarkably steep peat bog on the Isle of Mull. If they were being honest, they'd admit at this point that they don't really have much clue about what they're doing. At the start of their first mountain marathon (the LAMM), their entire preparation has involved the odd bit of running up and down the hill at Netherall school, reading internet pages to try and get an idea of what people usually carry/eat/wear on these things, and a quick bit of food poisoning. Not put off, however, they set off at a fine pace around what will later turn out to be the wrong side of the first hill.
They soon settle into a rhythm, and begin to enjoy the glorious views of the inside of clouds, sea mists, and bogs. [Ed also gets an almost-constant view of the back of Alex's headâ€¦ which seems to disappear painfully quickly towards the horizon on every ascent - Ed.]
Everything goes remarkably well for a few hours until the navigation starts to get tricky on an upland plateau made up entirely of those funny little identical rocky hillocks with tarns between. Tempted into going for a navigationally risky straight route by the behavior of some confident-looking Scandinavians, they overshoot badly and have to spend a good 15 minutes thrashing around pretending they're relocating. A lucky happening with a stream and a trig point helps, and after Ed restrains Alex from running off in the wrong direction by 180 degrees, they eventually find the control. Alex celebrates by throwing himself waist-deep in the nearest bog.
Things speed up again at this point, and after the odd bit of blind luck/outstanding navigation (same thing in my book...), and after Alex has managed to fall foul of a good few more bogs, they arrive at the overnight campsite. A quick wash in the stream and it's time to put up Ed's super lightweight tent. A remarkably large amount of time later, they sit in the door of their jauntily-angled temporary home, hope the wind doesn't increase, and cook dinner. Probably the only useful thing you'll read in this article is never eat any 'food' made by someone called travel-lunch. Such was the quality, they may as well have eaten it un-rehydrated and saved on the cooking.
At this point our intrepid pair learn that they managed to finish 7th on their course for the day and will be in the 'chasing start' the next morning. After a quick discussion about "what was everyone else up to?!", and a visit to Alan, a very small tent, and a worried looking Toby, they retire for an early night.
Awoken by the tortured keening of bagpipes, in no time they're lining up to start with their 7th place numbers proudly displayed. The amount of pride being displayed decreases significantly at control two when passed by the people who were eleventh overnight. Oh well, they carry on regardless, and when catching up the ex-eleventh-placed team on the way up the final big climb, they're shocked to be informed that they're in the middle of a race for fourth place! Spurred on, they stagger at speed up the never-ending hill, and dash down the other side to the next control.
Whilst doing a bit of intricate navigation through the mist, they hear the cry "that's 510 metres" from their rivals - they've got an altimeter! Any thoughts of not caring if they beat team fancy-navigational-aid-sounds-like-cheating-to-me quickly disappear, and the next hour or two can only be described as painful, as team compass pulls out a lead on the runs, only to be pegged back by team altimeter on the fine navigation into the controls.
Justice is served, however, as team altimeter drop too low on the way into the last control, and Alex and Ed finish in 4th place. A quick bit of hyperventilating later and they eat the best tasting bean-rich-mush from Wilfs either of them can imagine. Only a miniature railway, a ferry, a bus, a few trains, a bus, some more trains, and 18 hours later and they arrive home to Cambridge tired but happy.