A very wet day around Borrowdale

You were probably wondering whether we were there [ed, Original Mountain Marathon; OMM] or not … of course we were!

We knew the weather forecast was atrocious, so we packed our wellies along with our mountain marathon gear before heading to the Lakes on Friday night. We arrived very much in the dark after fish and chips in Wetherby (the greatest fish and chip shop in the UK). The parking field looked rather muddy, but the wheels seemed to stick as we rolled to a nice spot next to a wall. We put the tent up and literally fell into it, although sleep was not forthcoming due to the winds which were causing a nearby tent to flap uncontrollably.

Saturday morning came soon enough and as always we were almost late to the start (this happens regardless how early we get up). Once at the start we learnt what “bad weather courses” actually meant. In actual fact the courses were even shorter than the bad weather courses which had decreased the course length by 1 control. These bad weather courses decreased the courses by 3 controls … there were only 8 in total!

So we set off up the first hill, which was fairly breezy, but not too bad. Then at about 10.00 the rain started. The winds slowly increased and by the time we were ascending Lingmell and later, Great Gable, the winds were pretty strong and the rain was lashing. At times I didn’t know where my feet would land. Nevertheless we soldiered on feeling like this was the real thing, it was a real endurance challenge. After a while longer we began descending into the Buttermere valley. This was rather exciting. Deluges of water were lashing both down the sides of the mountain transecting the paths, but also lower down, the path literally turned into a river. Nevertheless we ran on and were soon at the finish. As soon as we’d punched the finish control we realised that people were putting their tents up straight away before downloading dibbers. We presumed this was because of the necessity to get a high camping spot on the field. We followed suit and pitched the tent and then went to download. The man hanging around download informed us that the race was cancelled and that we should return to the events centre. We couldn’t even go to the loo, as most of them had blown over! We took the tent down and then headed into the barn to find a few hundred people and then after a quick chat to Alan, the owner of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, we headed off from Buttermere, over the Honister Pass back to Borrowdale. The rain and wind going over the Honister Pass was remarkable. Horizontal rain, gusty winds and the sheet of water on the road was quite a site. Every so often a gust of wind would literally blow everyone over … the sight looking down the valley of people huddled together was quite incredible. Nevertheless once we reached the top near the mine the worst was over and we jogged down into Borrowdale. We passed a few floods before reaching the events centre, but then as we approached the parked cars along the road, we realised that the water was between knee and hip deep. In fact I’m sure a Nissan Micra on the side of the road kept changing location slightly throughout this time. At this point we were a little concerned about our car, but after walking past the car parks we decided that it was probably ok. We headed for the events centre barn, downloaded the dibber, ate soup and then pasta and then at about 4 pm went to the car. The car was fine. We took off our wet gear and got in and that is where we stayed until 6am the following morning. Throughout the whole of this time it had been raining torrentially and in the car it sounded even worse. Although our car was fine, the water was flooding parts of the field we were in and so I was slightly apprehensive how we would fair until the following morning, especially as the weather forecasts on Radio 4 were not positive. We ate weetabix for tea and got into our sleeping bags to keep warm. It was quite surreal seeing various cars around with lights inside – I think this was probably a world record for the greatest numbers of people sleeping in cars in a field! It was also surreal hearing on the radio that 1500 runners were stranded … the truth was that most of these if not all, were quite safe. I didn’t get a good nights sleep, as I was keen to be looking out of the windows every hour to check on flood water, but thankfully there wasn’t a problem. In the morning we surveyed the scene, met up with old friends and became amused by the BBC reporters around (especially the scene of the reporter filming a chap trying to move his car and thinking that he was stuck – when actually he had his hand brake on!)

We managed to get our car out of the field after a few hours and we drove back through very wet (and flooded) Cumbria.

We had a great day on Saturday and were disappointed that the event was cancelled, but we suspect the pressures of flooding at the midway camp prevented the race from continuing.

:star: I had a fantastic time! :star:

16 thoughts on “A very wet day around Borrowdale”

  1. Amazing report Rachel!

    Sounds like the media reporting was a bit over dramatic? Especially the bit about the 1500 stranded runners who weren’t! :angry:
    I bet the BBC had about 1500 reporters there too – all at license payers expense!

    It looks like a right good adventure! :mrgreen:

  2. Having just posted this on the OMM forum, I am amazed to have almost 100 views of the post in 30 minutes! Even considering that only 50% actually read this article, that is probably many more reads than my scientific paper will ever get! Pete – can I start publishing my science on here too?

  3. I’m pretty sure that was a ‘no’ from Pete!

    To add to the report:

    I don’t think either of us did anything unnecessarily dangerous at any point in the race. Yes, it rained incredibly hard, but we were well equipped for that and I don’t think we were at risk of hypothermia at any time. Yes, the wind was strong enough to blow you over, but only in gusts, and you could simply wait until it was safe to move. Yes, we crossed some fast flowing water, but again it was well within our capabilities.

    I also don’t think the organisers did much wrong. It appears the race was cancelled only because the mid-camp was flooding and there would be nowhere for everyone to camp. It wasn’t cancelled because of the conditions. I think they probably should have had signs and/or tape up on the road to Seathwaite to prevent people parking on the road where cars got flooded. They also should have recorded the fact that we’d been to the mid-camp before we walked back over Honister pass to the event centre. Apparently the forecast was for less rain on Saturday than there had been on Thursday when the mid-camp flooded, so I don’t think they can be blamed for expecting the mid-camp would be OK.

    I think most competitors will be back next year, and will be hoping that the rather sensationalist news reporting doesn’t jeopardise future events.

  4. Yeah that looks like fun 🙂 I figured the reports were typical media over-hyping and 1500 “stranded on the mountain” actually meant 1500 highly experienced people doing the sensible thing and bedding down somewhere for the night.

  5. Thankfully it seems that many people are not taken in by the media. Lots of people at work have said they think the media have gone mad and that the race is for experienced people who know how to deal with those kinds of conditions and can make their own mind up whether to go out or not.

    Anyway, I’m still glad you were both safe.

    I couldn’t really tell from your photos, but the news footage only seemed to show people walking. Is that because of the weather, because they were knackered, or is it really just a walk?!?!?! 😉

  6. The videos I saw were of people walking over Honister Pass back to the event centre (so not racing), or people climbing up the side of Great Gable from Wasdale Head. Even the elite teams don’t run up stuff like that! Or if they do, they don’t do it for long. 😯

    We run the flat and downhill stuff, and the uphill if it isn’t too steep.

    As far as I know, nobody actually slept out on the fells on saturday night. Many people were in a barn at the mid-camp. Others were at a School in Cockermouth, the Glaramara Centre, and Honister Slate Mine. There were lots like us who were back at the event centre.

    It appears 17 people needed assistance off the hill, of whom seven, including two Mountain Rescue Team members were helicoptered off a small island in the middle of a river after becoming trapped there, but only one was injured. The real story should be: “2500 experienced mountain runners went up the fells in horrendous conditions and 2483 of them returned without incident” ❗ 😀

  7. Hi Rachel,

    Glad to hear that you, like 99% of competitors had an enjoyable, safe and certainly memorable time.

    To give a little more in-sight ‘from the horses mouth’ as it were, I was out with Penrith MRT, ‘assisting’ Keswick along with Cockermouth. I think Wasdale MRT were out as well, but doing their own thing. In reality, all we did was drive about occasionally chatting to very soggy but usually smiling competitors!

    As you say, the OMM organisers had their bit covered, and Keswick had the MR side of things covered. They were certainly busy, but it was manageable and multiple casualty scenarios is something all teams train for.

    Unfortunately, and I still don’t know quite how yet, plod got involved, hit the major incident button and it all unravelled from there… :geek:

  8. Pingback: OMM 2009

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