Mountain Masochism

MOUNTAIN MASOCHISM

Experienced mountain runner Jonny Muir came in for a chastening

experience at the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM), one of Britain’s

most brutal races

ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN MARATHON

Sitting at home, dry and warm for the first time in almost 36 hours, I re-read the OMM blurb: ‘Held in some of the most remote locations and at a time of year when conditions can be extremely challenging, the OMM is meant to be hard.’

Soon after finishing my first OMM,
I was asked for three words to define the experience – the experience of slogging for 13 hours across tussock mazes, calf-deep heather and frigid bog, covering some 40 miles while ascending and descending around 3,000 metres. It was too soon to rationally coordinate my thoughts. It is only now that a single word to describe the OMM has crystallised in my mind: chastening.

Originating in the 1960s, the OMM is the Glastonbury of mountain marathons; both are muddy and teem with the unwashed, but unlike the music festival, the OMM moves around Britain, seeking the country’s most challenging mountainous terrain. The destination of the 2015 edition lacked glamour, but the Tweedsmuir Hills in the Scottish Borders are brutish bulwarks of no nonsense.

With the hills bathed in mist and rain skittering across our hoods, Duncan and
I began running, immersed in the hopeful optimism that imbues new beginnings. Along with some 2,000 others (all running as pairs), we were carrying everything we needed to survive for two days.

Faced with a choice of eight categories, we chose the ‘long score’, a course with
a fixed completion time of seven hours
on day one and six on day two. Numerous checkpoints of different numerical values – far more than we could feasibly visit – were sprawled ominously across a map that we had not seen until the clock had started. There was no route; that was for us to decide.

The challenge of the OMM is to override instinct. Think of how we like to move over mountains: we follow defined paths; we cross rivers at bridges; we yearn for summits. Even in the mountains, humans are not as free as we would like to think. We still crave comfort. The OMM devours comfort – and, for us humans, that can be deeply unsettling.

“I WANTED TO CRY”

We had been running for two hours. Duncan had already taken the stove, the gas and the tent to lighten the weight of my bag. It made a marginal difference only. I wanted to cry. My body was engulfed in a special brand of tiredness, although I do not know what came first: mental capitulation or physical ruin. The words of the blurb haunted: ‘The OMM is the most complete test of character and is regularly underestimated.’

Somehow we completed day one, with seven hours of unremitting effort climaxing in a frantic charge downhill on cramping quads to scrape into the overnight camp with minutes to spare. Dinner – soup from a packet, couscous from a packet, hot chocolate from a packet, custard from a packet – felt incredibly luxurious.

Day two must have happened because I am writing this in the past tense, but the memories are hazy – a consequence of the trauma, no doubt. Some things are definite, however, like falling face first into a river and the hands-and-knees ascent of an awful hill called Dead for Cauld.

We did not rest for a moment. By the end, I scarcely had the coordination to descend without fear of stumbling. With time growing tight, Duncan took my bag. My emasculation was total. Rarely had I endured such type two fun, the sort of activity that is only fun – and I am being generous with this word – in hindsight.

The OMM is about as real as it gets in British running, offering something deeply metaphorical. Here is A, there is B – you choose the way. I can’t say I enjoyed the hardship of the OMM, but that is far from the point. Chastened is good. It is meant to be hard.

Author: Jonny Muir – Mens running UK
mensrunninguk.co.uk

10 things you need to know to complete the OMM

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO

COMPLETE THE OMM

As any OMM athletes will tell you there are a few tips that will make things a little easier when taking on the OMM. 

OMM regular Johan Guasden has these tips for those planning on competing in this years event.

1. Sandwich bags are better than socks

Ever wondered why everyone has a couple of sandwich bags with them on the OMM? When you reach the overnight camp, these bad-boys will give your feet the much needed dry environment to relax and ‘enjoy’ your well earned rest.

2. SMALL LUXURIES MAKE IT ALL BETTER

Whilst weight is always an issue on the OMM, taking some small luxuries with you for the overnight camp make life much more bearable. The extra weight of a tasty treat may well be worth it in the long run, raising dampened spirits at the end of the day.

3. LEARN HOW TO PITCH AND STRIKE YOUR TENT

In the inevitable wind and rain, a quick pitch in the evening and strike in the morning can make the all the difference for a nice dry night, and a swift morning get-away.

4. Try different sleeping systems

A good night’s sleep can make all the difference to the second day. Make sure your sleeping system is both warm enough, and doesn’t try to kill you during the night. The maps provided do not provide enough insulation to keep your feet warm!

5. Learn to run with a pack

You need to be fit for the OMM, and this includes carrying weight whilst running. Go for some runs before-hand carrying the kind of weight you would expect for the OMM, and you’ll cope much better both physically and mentally.

6. Control your panic

Try to get out in horrible conditions before the race, with the intention of struggling towards a difficult point with a time limit. Navigation is easy when conditions are nice, but time pressure and uncertainty can cause panic which is only ever counter-productive in a race, especially when the check points are so “easy” to find.

7. Back to back runs

Try and get your legs used to a second day of tough running. It takes a lot to get up the day after 7 hours of running and do it all again, but as with everything, practice makes perfect… or at least makes it easier.

8. Eat like a champ

Mountain Marathons aren’t just about running and navigation. Eating is an important part of OMM events as you’re out on the hills working at maximum effort for hours on end. Try different foods on training runs until you find combinations which will power you through the day(s) without feeling too sick.

9. Using the uphills

No one finds uphills easy, but this can be used to your advantage. Don’t try to run every step as this will just tire you out, and there’s a long way to go. Instead, slow the pace a little, take smaller steps and eat as much as you can without suffocating yourself. It’s much better this way round than trying to shove trail-mix in your face as you fly downhill, or wasting those precious flat sections where you should be moving fast.

10. Enjoy yourself

We’ve saved the most important point until last. OMM events, whilst tough, are all about a good atmosphere and enjoying yourself! Take your time to appreciate your amazing surroundings and fellow competitors; it’s always good craic, and we wouldn’t change it for the world!

Results: OMM Festival – Cannock Chase

RESULTS & IMAGES.

A huge thanks from us for making the weekend a massive success. All images are below and FREE to download.

Our next events can be found here.

See you next year!

LIVE COVERAGE is on our social channels. If we do find signal, usually on a windy hilltop, we will post to our social channels linked below: