The Original Mountain Marathon (OMM and previously the KIMM) is a two day mountain navigation event that has taken place since 1968 (https://www.theomm.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Mountain_Marathon). This year was my 25th event and 19th in the prestigious Elite class. Although I have won it 7 times the last time was back in 2009 and I am running out of opportunities to break Mark Seddon’s record of 10 wins.
Although it is 4 months since I broke the Wainwrights record I am still not back to full speed. Luckily I had got a partner than I knew would be really strong. Adam Perry nearly broke the Lake District 24 hour record (most number of Lake District peaks in 24 hours, which is currently 77) and he has just been getting back to form at the right time.
I also decided that I would have to go super lightweight. The forecast was OK, windy but not much rain so I went for the Berghaus Vapourlight Hypersmock and Hypertherm. The waterproof trousers were the same material as the Hypersmock and like my pertex gloves were a one off build.
We decided to drive the two hours over from the Lake District to the Cheviots hills in the morning. Clennel Hall was a great location and registration and car parking easy so we had a relaxed start. Normally the maps at the OMM are great but unfortunately the maps this year were really bad. Not only were they reduced from 1:40,000 to 1:25,000 the printing quality seemed really bad so it was almost impossible to read the contours. They then only laminated one side so the map gradually disintegrated during the day.
As soon as we set off I knew I was in for a hard day. Adam jogged up the first climb while I laboured behind him trying to get some shelter from the wind. On 3-4 we decided to follow the fence line and then suddenly behind us most of our main competitors appeared having gone a different route. The Estonian team of Sander Vaher and Timo Sild gradually pulled away from Oli Johnson and Neil Northrop followed by me and Adam and then Jon Ascroft and Andy Fallas. But just as we approached checkpoint 6 Adam told me the SI dibber, which proves we have been at the checkpoint, had fallen off his wrist somewhere in the 30 minutes since the previous checkpoint. Obviously it had torn off in one of the many falls in the deep heather. This was a bit of a disaster but we carried out hoping we would not be disqualified. We punched the map using the spare pin punch to prove we had been to the checkpoints and knew that the SI boxes at the earlier checkpoints would record the fact that we had been through these.
There was a tough 400m climb to number 7 and this finished me off. I started to move at a snail’s pace so Adam took my pack and we speeded up a bit. We were lucky to find an unmapped track for most of the way to number 8, but then I had another real bad dip soon after. Oli and Neil caught us up again at number 10, which was great as we could follow them to the last control (11) as that bit of the map was not really map anymore just mush.
At the finish they recorded our time and took our maps with the pin punch marks. They put us in the chasing start for the next day 9 minutes behind Sander and Timo, two behind Oli and Neil and 4 in front of Duncan Archer and Jim Mann who had started a bit earlier and run the whole day by themselves. However, we knew a final decision had not been made so we had the hard job of trying to put in the back of our mind the fact we might be disqualified and prepare ourselves for a hard day 2.
Camp site selection is often crucial in the OMM. With no heavy rain forecast the key was going to be selecting somewhere away from the wind. This was really strong and forecast to get worse. We found a little gap between some other tents and a few extra stones to reduce the flapping.
We had a comfortable night – we were warm and dry. That is all you can hope for lying on some bubble wrap with a tent flapping around you on a slightly slopping pitch.
My legs felt heavy on the second day and Adam set off looking as strong as the first day. A good route choice meant we reached number 2 the same time as Oli and Neil. But an out and back to number 3 showed that Sander and Timo had extended their lead to 15 minutes. Even with Adam carrying my rucksack again, gradually Oli and Neil pulled away from us, particularly on the rough stuff. We pushed hard to the finish but came in 12 minutes after Sander and Timo and 3 minutes after Oli and Neil after 12 hours of hard racing over two days. Unfortunately Duncan and Jim had had to pull out with an injury.
After some soup, pie and chips we then had a good discussion with the event organisers (the planner and controller) about what they should do about our missing dibber. They trusted that we had been to all the check points on day 1 but could not prove it until the check points were all collected in the next day. They decided to make us non-competitive, although put us down in the results between 2nd and 3rd. Despite our persuasion we could not get them to change their minds as it does say in the rules that anyone who looses their dibbers will be disqualified. It is hard when you have pushed it all weekend to be told that it does not count but we accepted that they have a difficult decision to make and appreciated that they came and told us the reasons for it.
So that is it another OMM finished (16 elite finished, 1 elite n/c finished, 1 elite abandoned due to bad weather, 1 elite retired injured after day 1). Apart from the problems with the map and our dibber I thought it was a good one. I thought Clennel Hall was a great location with a short walk to the start and the finish at the event HQ. The terrain was tough but variable ranging from deep heather and tussocks to fast grass. The elite course was at the hard end but well planned with some good route choice. The wind made the overnight camp fairly wild and hard work when you were running into it but it was mild and there was not much rain.
Congratulations to Sander and Timo and all the other winners. Also thanks to the volunteers and marshals it is great to see some of the same faces every year. Thanks also to Adam for dragging me round and being happy to carry two packs.