The Original Mountain Marathon, commonly known as the OMM, was in Perthshire, Central Scotland this year. As the OMM website states, this event is the premier UK event to test teamwork, self-reliance, endurance, outdoor and navigational skills and this year was no exception.
Richard and I had entered the long score in hope of avoiding the lengthy caterpillars of teams trawling across the mountains. This meant that there were two long mountain days ahead of us; 7 hours on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday. As soon as we arrived at the events centre in Comrie late on Friday night, the wet weather that makes the OMM what it is, descended upon us.
Saturday morning came too soon and by 8.15 am we were sat on a bus. We mused that a coach trip around Perthshire would be nice, but unfortunately the bus stopped all too soon at St Fillans, located at the end of Loch Earn, and from there we were shephered a few kilometres up a hill to the start. At this point we had no real idea of the type of terrain, or the height of the mountains, as the cloud was hanging low causing the visibility to be pretty poor. We set off into the hills at 9.19 am after spending a little time with the piece of string working out the route we intended to take. This was simpler than usual because almost all of the controls were worth 20 points. After our late arrival at the mid-camp earlier this year at the Rab MM, we were sure to give ourselves a number of options at the end of the proposed route so that we could shorten it should that be necessary.
From the start we headed north towards Meall Reamhar along a track and then headed off into the terrain and into the cloud. We found the first control, on a stream, without difficulty and soon headed onto the second. This control proved significantly more difficult as you can see from our GPS track. The visibility allowed around 50 m of vision and so we carefully followed an old fence line until it changed direction and from here we took a compass bearing and ran about 250 m into bleak, gently undulating bog. The control description stated that we were looking for a hilltop. We visited all the hilltops in the area (along with a number of other teams) and found no control. Were we in the wrong place? or was the control in the wrong place? We ran back to the fence and re-located off a different part of it, and when that didn’t yield our control, we decided to continue regardless. This was a good tactic as it turned out that the control was in the wrong place (it was actually on the side of a hill) and we were awarded the points anyway.
We continued to visit controls and collected another 80 points ending up at our most westerly point near Loch Breaclaich. From here we changed direction and started to head eastwards in the direction of the campsite; a straight-line distance of 15 km away. Along the way we collected a further 110 points. By this point the rain was really heavy and the wind was cold and blustering. We were completely soaked through and it was very easy to get cold if the pace slowed. At one particular control the navigation became quite tricky and we slowed down to make sense of the bog around us that was surrounded by cloud. We wandered back and forth a few times (see the second ‘blip’ on the GPS track!) and eventually decided to give up. We started to walk away from the expected control site and after a few minutes, we stumbled across our control! This was luck, not judgement!
We ran into the mid-camp in 6:49:05. Despite being 10 minutes early, Richard quickened the pace in the final few kilometres so that we stood a better chance against other teams who may have scored a similar total to us! I was very glad to get into camp and after a short rest we walked through the puddle-covered field/bog to find a place to pitch the tent. Thankfully we found a site that was slightly higher than the remainder of the campsite and slightly less waterlogged. I’d never been so wet after a mountain marathon before and the practicalities of getting dry and warm are not straightforward. After shedding waterproofs, we got into the tent and realised that water was literally draining from our clothes into the tent! After swopping wet clothes for dry ones we wrang out our running gear, inflated the balloon beds and got into our sleeping bags to get warm. This took a surprising amount of time as almost everything was slightly damp. On days like this you are reminded that coping with the elements is one of the more important challenges that the OMM provides.
We were happy with our performance on day 1. Our GPS tracker stated that we’d covered 35.6 km. We were in 15th place overall and 2nd mixed team with 250 points. We were also in the chasing start the following day, with an exceptionally early start time of 7.06 am!
Sleep was broken. I couldn’t get comfortable and Richard had unfortunately placed his balloon bed on a thistle. The wake-up was early, 5.15 am! We walked to the start in the dark and it only just became light as we left the start box. We paused to chart our route for the day and then set-off along a flat track leading to an easy control in undulating ground. From here we ascended towards the top of Meall nan Oighreag collecting 20 points on the way, another 30 just over the brow of a col and then a further 40 by descending a significant distance. Given our time constraints of 6 hours, we decided to miss out the next control, but at the last minute Richard decided that we were nearer than he originally thought, so we detoured to gain a further 20 points before traversing towards Creag na h-lolaire and then down to a number of controls lower down. As we neared the finish we had time to visit a 10 point control before racing into the finish. Again, although we thought we would have enough time, Richard pushed the pace right until the finish and we arrived in 5 hrs 52 with a total of 240 points for day 2.
After regaining our breath and chatting to friends, we collected our cup of warm soup and then headed off to the bus stop, suddenly realising how much our feet/knees/ankles ached. We’d covered 29 km on day 2, totally 64.6 km (40 miles) for the weekend. But had we done enough to improve our placing?
It turned out that our main competitors (our friends Adrian and Ellie) were a little late in, which meant that we ended up 12 points ahead of them, and also 20 points ahead of the next team in, who were also in the mixed class. So, we won the mixed class and came 13th overall. It’s about time we had a good run!
Finally, can anyone identify this: