Running the OMM Original Mountain Marathon 2016

The Original Mountain Marathon
'Running' perhaps isn't the only adjective that should be used to describe taking on last weekend's OMM in the Galloway Mountains, Scotland. You should also add 'Climbing', 'Scrambling', 'Hiking' and most definitely 'Bog Bashing' to the list; it is a running orienteering event of pretty extreme proportions...

Friday saw us drive from Portsmouth to the Galloway peninsula in South West Scotland; a casual 15 hour journey by minibus. We picked up my running partner Ben in Penrith enroute, and completed our four man team from Wiggle. Welcomed at midnight by the cheery OMM team, we settled down for a few hours sleep, not sure what to anticipate from the next day's race.

The OMM is a running orienteering event series, with events in the U.K., France and even Japan. The events all hold the same format: on the start line, teams are given a list of checkpoints out in the mountain wilderness - each one is worth a different number of 'points'. The teams of two then have to visit as many of those checkpoint as they can within the set time limit, and the team with the highest cumulative score over the Saturday and Sunday time limits is the winner. The UK edition is the original and the largest of the OMMs, with this year's edition seeing over 1,000 teams participating.

Whilst both Ben and I have done a fair bit of orienteering and walking in the past, we've never done something on this scale, or involving this much running! Our aim was to complete both days in a respectable place, within the 'Medium Score' time limits of six hours on the first day, and five hours on the second.

Saturday morning dawn brought a slight Scottish drizzle, and a thick fog covering the mountains. We cooked breakfast and then headed out in the procession of teams walking to the start line. Nicely warmed up, we collected our map and headed off in search of our first checkpoint...

Map reading is hard. I've always enjoyed it - I love maps; but using a paper aerial picture at 1:40,000 scale, to find a marker the size of magazine, on the side of a mountain, is a challenge. Our first checkpoint was tricky to find; shrouded in mist, the bog strewn mountain side proved a great hiding place for our marker; whilst the terrain lent itself more to a 'hike and stumble', than a run. We found it eventually though...

The second checkpoint involved fording a river, which at least washed off the knee deep bog mud for a while! The third involved scaling a mountain, high up into the clouds - with some epic rock scrambling in the process. Checkpoint four necessitated a rapid descent down a scree slope; trying not to lose our footing on the wet loose rocks. Four to five was a great bit of 'bog bashing' down the river valley. Then we finished Day 1 with a fast run from a waterfall to our remote overnight campsite, with all the other teams, at the side of a beautiful loch.

Saturday evening was spent munching down boil in the bag meals, stripping off wet kit, stretching, and then settling down in our little tent; ready to do it all again the next day.
The Original Mountain Marathon
Finish of Day 1 of the OMM

OMM campsite
Our remote mountain campsite, at the end of Day 1


Day two was introduced with a bagpipe wake up call; but with clearer skies, dawn also introduced us to the stunning Scottish landscape that we were in, something that had been shrouded in mist the day before.

We started off well, with a fast run along the loch pathway, before heading off-piste to do some more 'bog bashing' and collect some higher point markers on the top of the craggy mountains.

After searching for some time for our first mountain top marker, we decided we could probably also just about manage to head up the neighbouring peak, too; before then doing the long run on the good path beside the loch, back to the finish. That turned out to be a bit of an error... the ascent was far harder than anticipated - on a near vertical 'bog path'. On reaching the flatter land at the top, the bogginess did not abate, and after an hour of searching for the marker, we had to make the difficult call to cut our losses and head back down empty handed - in order to make the time limit.

A bit peeved at our failed find, we eventually rejoined the fast path alongside the loch, and began our longest stretch of running all weekend; picking up a few minor checkpoints enroute. We arrived on the finishing straight with just a few minutes to spare; we had made the right decision calling off our search when we did, as we couldn't have run that last 90 minutes any faster than we had.

Finishing within the time limit we settled for a respectable mid-pack placing - job done. I still can't comprehend how some of the Elites manage to tackle the distance they do on this event; it is certainly a lot tougher than your average 'Tough Mudder' event!

The OMM was an incredible experience, and a great opportunity to put my trail running and map reading (and 'bog bashing') skills to the test. Am I cut out for Elite mountain marathons? Definitely not. I am very tempted to sign up for OMM Bike next year though...

OMM Campsite Scotland
Early morning start - woken by bag pipes. Time for more Bog Bashing!

Salomon Speedcross shoes
I think I've christened these Salomon Speedcross 4's!




The OMM Kit Layout

OMM Kit

Here's what I took with me on the OMM:


OMM Waterproofs
I was glad of some good quality waterproofs from OMM

OMM 25 Classic Marathon Pack
It all packed into the OMM Classic Marathon 25 Rucksack

Salomon Running
A pair of well used Salomon Speedcross 4's! The OMM proved a great kit test


Comments

  1. Enjoyed you post, Tim, thank you. As someone who lives here in Glentrool I'm glad you enjoyed the area and The OMM, but out of interest I would like to know what checkpoints you were actually going for, particularly the "steep one". I have my guesses :)

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  2. I'm glad you "enjoyed" your visit to Glentrool, we had fun watching you all from the comfort of our living room window, especially Friday night when you were all wearing your head torches, it was a wonderful sight.
    Thank you for the entertainment.

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  3. Hi guys! You story and pics are great! I enjoyed them.

    You migth find it interesting: there are similar two days long orienteering events in Russia, near Moscow and near Saint Petersburg. They are called "Moscow Forced March" (Московский марш-бросок) and "Forced March" (Марш-бросок), because you carry camping equipment, food, etc. with you. You're welcome to visit!

    It's a two-stages event that starts on Friday evening. You finish stage 1 on Saturday and make a camp (any shelter will do). Stage 2 is on Sunday. Total travelled distance is around 100 km.

    Bog-bashing, beaver dam crossing, trail running, river fording, all that you like! At times, it snows during our autumn race.

    The next event near Moscow will be held in May 2017, most likely on 12-14th. You can do sightseeing in our cities and then enjoy the race!

    The only drawback for you is that the race map, legend and everything are in Russian... Well, hopefully I or someone else will join your team to translate.

    Feel free to contact by email me (pavel.yudaev at gmail.com) or the event organizers (mmbsite at gmail.com).

    These events are held twice a year: in the second half of May (both places), late September (StPetersburg) and late October (Moscow).

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