A look back at where the Fells Marathon idea came from and how it developed.
In 1975 two Haltemprice Leaders were concerned that Scouts were not being given a real challenge in the Navigating and Backpacking area. Too many events were being run on a "turn up and you pass" basis.
John Loncaster and Dave Laud had already competed in the then Karrimor 2 day 2 Man Mountain Marathon (it is still being run today under another name). The idea of this event was to navigate over a 2 day course, carrying all your own gear in the hills without knowledge of the route prior to the weekend.
Both John and Dave saw the potential to transpose this event into the Scout Section on a much watered down basis, but still keeping the same emphasis, and so was born the first Haltemprice Fells Marathon. It was held in Appletreewick in the Yorkshire Dales, in early May 1975 with 12 teams from Haltemprice taking part.
The framework which was developed in that epic first Fells was to be broadened into a full scale "semi military" operation over the next 30 years or so. What started off as a committee of John and Dave has now grown to around 20 plus.
If you imagine in that first event in May 1975 (it was changed some 10 years or so later to October because of exams), there were no radios; checkpoints were put out the day before by John and Dave and were closed down by either John or Dave going round and closing them (remember no communications). There were no Sweep teams or Doctor. Starting and finishing was done by Dave in those halcyon years and any walking was done also by John and Dave. The Minibus was usually manned by Dave who brought retirees back when he closed the checkpoints down.
For the overnight camp, this was always high up on a bleak moor which was manned by John. Dave went up and camped later on when he knew most of the teams had left the last checkpoint before the camp and walked up with the last team.
The Fells was also designed to only have a 70% chance of completing it – this was to make sure the event was tough. Remember that the age range in the 70’s was a minimum of 13 up to 15. The event was to prove a resounding success, being run out of a small camper van and buildings none existent in a field in Appletreewick.
The route was first seen when they started on the Saturday morning with a envelope being tied to a long piece of string and when the whistle blew they ran to the string, pulled it off and started planning the route – the start times were the same, but the finish times were not!
In 1980, a building was used for the first time (this was Birch Hall which has been used again since) and after one more year in 1981 in a field, the Fells moved permanently to the use of a building. Also in 1980 saw the use of radios for the first time, initially by the Stockton team and then a few years down the line by Frank Cook and his Team.
Times changed and a badge for each year was introduced. 1979 saw the addition of a Doctor on the Team and Sweep Teams were being built up. We have always had a great cooking team, led over the years by Jean Wilson and Brenda Marshall.
Tragedy hit within a few years of the Fells starting up, when Dick Greenwood sadly passed away. Dick used to run Base Camp and a trophy was named after him. After over 25 years of pioneering and co-starring in the running of the Fells, the biggest tragedy of all was to lose John Loncaster who died after a short illness.
Life goes on though, and in 2008 the Event was handed over to Neal Ingram and the current team to continue the drive forward with Dave still helping.
The Wolds Challenge and The Fells Marathon are organised and run by Blacktoft Beacon District Scout Council.
Registered with the Scout Association: 016357. Registered Charity Number: 1148031