To take part in a mountain marathon has been something I have wanted to do for some years now – but to find the time, a running partner and buy the equipment has always proved relatively difficult. When Mark Ford offered me the opportunity to run the OMM with him I jumped at the chance, despite the offer being put forward only 1 month before the race itself. Mark is an awesome guy who has a taken part in some amazing races; hearing stories of adventure races, mountain marathons and other crazy events he has done was really inspiring. For example, last year he entered and completed the Dragons Back…if you don’t know what this race is look it up and you will get an understanding as to the calibre of the guy!
The OMM was founded in 1968 by Gerry Charnley and is the originator of the 2 day mountain marathon type event for teams of 2 carrying all clothing, equipment, tent, sleeping bag, food for 36 hours (not 24…) – navigating one’s own route and including an overnight camp. This year’s OMM was to take place in the Breckon Beacons in the South of Wales. Famous for testing the SAS, this area is known for breaking the best of people…
Seeing as this was my first attempt at any form of mountain marathon, Mark (who had completed the OMM many times) offered me a choice of courses to enter. I chose the Elite course, only to find out that we would actually be running a distance of roughly 90km with 5,000 meters of climb. Ouch!
We met the week before the race to discuss kit and the logistics of it all (even this was new to me…I normally just show up and race). I wish I had this opportunity before the Death Race as I found myself learning many valuable lessons before we had even reached the Breckons. For example, how to lose weight from your kit: this ranged from cutting straps, unwrapping food, creating miniatures of everyday items and generally analyzing everything that will be required. Other lessons included using freezer bags as socks at the overnight camp to keep your feet dry, how to hydrate using streams, and even basics things such as what food is best for a two day adventure race.
(My lightweight kit almost ready to go)
Mark already had a light-weight stove and tent which saved the wallet somewhat, but it is amazing (and daunting) how much money you could spend on kit for this type of event! When getting the coach to the start of the race, we could see massive differences in kit with some people carrying a glorified bum bag to some who looked like they had brought half the contents of their house.
Day one started well with the first two controls in the East of the range. Control number 3 turned out to be a massive leg which took us 4 hours alone and involved crossing over to the West. As it turned out our route choice was poor in the fact that we ploughed straight through the range, climbing and descending through rough ground when we could have cut to the North or South running on paths with less climb. This meant even though we ran well we finished a massive margin behind the quickest times. The weather was pretty atrocious but we managed well, hydrating and eating as we ran. Over this day we ran something in the region of 50km with near 3000 meters of climb; definitely the hardest run I have done to date!
(Gives you an impression of the terrain we were faced with!)
Once at the campsite we pitched up and spent the rest of the evening napping and eating. By now the wind and rain was pretty epic and stayed that way for the rest of the night. Broken sleep is an understatement but remembering back to the Death Race I knew sleep wasn’t so important for one night so I didn’t worry too much.
Come day 2 the presence of thunder and worsening weather meant “severe weather courses” were in operation cutting our run from 40km to 30km. I was unsure as to whether I was glad or upset with “not getting my monies worth” but I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it. We had managed 10th position on Saturday and with Mark and I feeling (relatively) fresh and rested we knew we had the opportunity to make up a few places before the end of the day.
Though we were experiencing some of the strongest winds and rain I have ever been in, we didn’t make any huge mistakes – finishing the day in 8th position good enough to pull our final end result up to a respectful 8th out of approximately 60 teams who entered the Elite course.
All in all, the weekend had a mixture of lows and highs but was an amazing experience! With it being my first OMM and the weather being that bad I think most would say it was an achievement to finish the Elite course let alone come 8th. Mark was an awesome team mate and I learnt a great deal from him. Hopefully we can return to better our result in future years!
I can’t wait to return to the Breckons for the Fan Dance Challenge in January 2014 and was fortunate to run in the vicinity of the route. With the OMM completed, it’s on to the next challenge – The Spartan Beast in two weeks time! Let’s hope the distance in my legs this weekend serves me well in the 25km obstacle course race…