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The 50th anniversary of the OMM was a huge success – but brutal conditions tested competitors, maintaining the race’s legendary reputation

If you want to test the limits of your fitness in the hills, if hillwalking and backpacking don’t push you enough, then fellrunning could be for you. But as competitive fellrunning goes, the OMM is up there with some of the most arduous events in the world.

The Original Mountain Marathon was created to allow competitors to test their abilities in the mountains. As with anyone participating in outdoor activities on the British hills, the OMM requires its competitors to be able to navigate, make route decisions, manage their kit and move quickly over rough terrain. In August, Great Langdale was revealed as the venue for the much-anticipated 50th-anniversary race this year.

On Friday evening, the 2,000 competitors gathered in the marquee to share stories of past years and pay tribute to Gerry Charnley who created the OMM back in 1968.

But on Saturday morning the blue skies gave way to more typical OMM weather: driving rain and high winds. The Elite teams, led by eventual winners Shane Ohly and Duncan Archer, skipped past competitors planning their routes. Shane commented that this Elite Course had the hardest Day 1 course he’s ever done. This comment was echoed across the field, partly due to the challenging courses, partly due to the conditions.

Self reliance

On the exposed Lakeland tops, competitors were battered by 60mph winds and had to navigate in 30ft visibility. The conditions led to 20 per cent of competitors retiring early. Those who chose to tough it out elected to either shorten their routes, go direct to the overnight camp, or return to the event centre.

OMM commented: “The event promotes self reliance and having the skills required in the mountains. The event provides the opportunity for competitors to test their navigation, route selection and kit management skills within the safety net provided by the organisers.

Sound mountain judgement is a fundamental principle of the OMM event. The teams all carry tents, sleeping bags and dry kit, and are expected to adjust their route and kit selection to match the conditions and terrain they’re heading into. The event is meant to be hard and make the competitors think about their actions in the mountains.”

At the end of Day 1, only seven teams had finished the Elite Course. The only all-female team of Nicky Spinks and Kirsty Hewitson made it to Checkpoint 10 near Wasdale before deciding to call it a day. They commented that they felt strong but the conditions had slowed them down. They realised they weren’t going to make it to the overnight camp before the cut-off time so elected to return to the event centre, arriving back around midnight.

Competitors remarked on how testing and rewarding Day 1 had been. Day 2 started under perfect weather conditions, allowing runners to easily pick up their required checkpoints and make their way to the finish back at Stool End Farm.

Looking back at the weekend, OMM said: “It’s been a fantastic event. We’ve had challenging courses and conditions in line with the challenge the event has offered for 50 years. It’s also been great to see the OMM community stronger than ever after so many events. We’ve had long-retired OMM competitors come back to give it one more bash. Seeing the long-time competitors standing alongside the first timers is proof that the mountain marathon community is growing and has an exciting future.”

The top three teams on the Elite Class were:

  • Shane Ohly and Duncan Archer taking 1st
  • Steve Birkenshaw and Andrew Berry in 2nd
  • Tom Gibbs and Paul Tierney 3rd

In the score events the Long Score was won by Nick Barrable and Darrel High whilst the first Ladies team of Claire Gordon and Sarah O’Neil finished in 16th. The results from all the courses are on the website.

Well done to all the winners and everyone who took part. 

Next year the 51st Original Mountain Marathon will be held in the South West on 27 and 28 October 2018. As is customary, the exact location will be released nearer the time. You can enter on the OMM website at www.theomm.com.