MANAGING CABIN FEVER

MANAGING CABIN FEVER

Sports & Exercise Psychologist David Charlton shares some expert advice on dealing with Lockdown

Right now, an entire generation across the globe are experiencing a new and seriously challenging event.  The coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have all had to make some considerable changes to how we go about our days.

Children aren’t at school therefore many are being looked after by one or both parents or carers.  Leaving many people climbing the walls, and that’s not the children!  As schools are shut teaching staff’s jobs are very different to what they normally would be, where they are frantically putting together learning resources online.  Businesses where possible are operating remotely from people’s homes.  Sadly, many companies are not able to operate as they would like to.

Buzzwords that appear in the media are uncertainty, change, panic, stress, pressure, helpless, worried, anxious and many more.

So how can we get through this difficult time, a positive and resilient mindset is one way and below I’ll talk about 3 other ways to manage your Mental Health.

Why should I manage my Mental Health?

Outbreaks like the Coronavirus (COVID-19), can be very scary and can have a big impact on our mental health.  It is important to stay informed and listen to the right sources.

The government are currently telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons, exercise or essential work.  For details see the government website.

What will this mean?

For some people, it won’t be an issue – people who are home birds and who enjoy being in their own company it won’t phase too much.   I’m generalising here, as people’s personalities differ however if you are a runner, cyclist or golfer it may not affect as much as say a footballer, rugby player or hockey player.   Athletes who take part in individual sports are more used to and quite like the peace of training by themselves whereas the team player can sometimes struggle with this as they love being around the group and go on to miss the camaraderie and banter.

If my mental health is suffering what may happen?

You might notice that because of the changes to your daily routine, future worries and social isolation:

  • That you become irritable with loved ones.
  • You may be a little restless or feel stir-crazy.
  • Some people can go on to experience sleepiness
  • Others have problems sleeping at night
  • Many people may feel more angry than normal
  • Feelings of helplessness may be another sign
  • Your body may feel more tired and tense than normal

So what should you do:

1. Focus on one day at a time
Getting ahead of yourself and spending too much time in the future can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. So look to create your future through putting in place helpful daily routines, contributions, achievements and results.
For example, look to eat a balanced, healthy diet or so some exercise first thing in the morning.

2. Focus and set yourself some daily and weekly goals
Goal setting is a tried and tested method which many athletes and fitness fanatics use regularly. It can be very motivational and help to give you confidence. I’d encourage you to give it a go and use the SMART principles, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Framed.

You may even want to follow my lead.
My goals for last week were to do 20 minutes of indoor body weight exercises every day around my work and looking after 2 young boisterous boys. In the sessions, I went on to challenge myself with 40 mountain climbers and 40 press ups each day. As a result, I feel like I’ve achieved something and feel pretty good in myself and I’m now looking forward to attempting 45 of both exercises each day this week.

3. Focus on what’s available to you
When difficulties arise, it’s very easy to look at the things missing in your life. Be that being able to go to the gym, go out to work, train or practice your sport, grab a coffee in a costa with friends, go shopping for some nice clothes (if that’s your thing – it’s not mine!), go off hiking for a day.

By looking at the things that you cannot do it can paralyse you into feeling helpless. Where you find it very difficult to make decisions and take action. So when it comes down to fitness and exercise I’d encourage you to think about what is available to you.

You’ll likely have enough room to lie down? If that’s the case you’re in business. You can do many body weight exercises where no equipment is needed.

Perhaps you don’t own any weights but have a rucksack in the wardrobe – could you fill it with some tins or other items to add some weight so that you can do some lifting or more difficult squats.

Do you have space in your garden to do some shuttle runs if you can’t get out for a run because of small children.

Or may be you’re one of the lucky ones and have a rusty old treadmill, rowing machine or exercise bike in your house? Get using it!

Why should I bother exercising regularly?

Scientific evidence tells us that exercising is good for our mental health in the following ways:

• General Well Being
With improved mental health there is likely to be a short term benefit that will reinforce your exercise training. In other word’s if you make daily exercise a priority you’ll remain more motivated, you’ll have increased energy levels, lower stress levels and your mood will likely be lifted after exercise too.

• Mood
Anxiety and depression could be side effects of such a tough period and are common clinical disorders today. Exercise as a therapy can be a very useful treatment to manage and overcome these disorders.

• Sleep
Some people can experience sleeping issues when their life and routines are thrown into turmoil. Exercise can be very helpful in regulating sleeping patterns.

• Self Esteem
A person’s self-concept and identity may be shifted significantly during this period. Perhaps you had a job that you loved and now are in a position where you aren’t working or you are the main carer for the children. That is a big shift in identity in such a short time. This is where setting yourself some realistic goals and ensuring you have created an environment that promotes feelings of mastery, competence and positive body image are important.

• Cognitive Functioning
Exercise is great for our minds too. Even simply going out for a walk can be helpful and according to research is likely to reduce cognitive decline in older adults. Whether you are young or old, I’d encourage you to create a stimulating environment around you and challenging yourself, creating a brain and body workout. Making some exercises mentally complex, changing up your environment from time to time and trying different athletic drills that you don’t normally do are great ways to go about this.

David Charlton is the owner of Inspiring Sporting Excellence, a HCPC Registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist, as well as a Mental Toughness and Leadership coach in the business world.  He has worked for 10 years successfully offering a consultancy service to 1000’s athletes across a range of sports including golf, football, rugby, cricket, triathlon, motor racing, boxing and much more.   He also supports coaches, teams, clubs and organisations, from grassroots to elite professional levels, to achieve their aims through the following main areas:

1) Improving levels of Mental Toughness by helping individuals and teams to deal better with sport and lifestyle challenges and pressures.

2) Supporting teams to collectively working together as a unit

3) Developing outstanding leadership skills

4) Cultivating a culture of high performance

NLP and SPORTS HYPNOTHERAPY PRACTITIONER
BSC PSYCHOLOGY
MSC SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY
CHARTERED SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGIST WITH HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS COUNCIL (HCPC), BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIETY (BPS) AND BRITISH SPORT AND EXERCISE SCIENTISTS (BASES)

Away from his work, David is a very active person with bags of energy and can be found with his young family or on the golf course, running or outdoors climbing a mountain. 

Race Report: The OEM

THE ORIGINAL EVEREST MARATHON*

 

Regular OMM competitor and fell running doyenne, Wendy Dodds gives an insight into the World’s Highest Marathon

Combining 3 weeks of trekking and travel with one of the most scenic off-road marathons in the world, OEM has been wowing runners for over 30 years

*Please Note: The OEM is not in any way affiliated with OMM – Original Mountain Marathon!

Perhaps it is a quote from one of the 2019 runners that links the OEM with the OMM. When I asked him after the race how he found it, particularly the cold at the start (-15*C -compared with +15*C at the finish), he said that ‘After getting into wet clothes after a poor night’s sleep at an OMM and then going out into more rain on day 2, this was a doddle’. I am not sure that all runners would agree, but then most of them had not done an OMM!

Looking North to Everest from Tengboche Campsite, Ama Dablam to the right - Copyright: Wendy Dodds 2019

The Everest Marathon is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest marathon in the world. It’s not just the race that is demanding: reaching the start line at 5184m, the original Everest Base Camp, is a challenge in itself.

It was first organised by Diana Penny-Sherpani in 1987 and she continued with this every 2 years (except from 1999-2004 when it was held every 18 months) until 2017.

For 2019, the 18th Everest Marathon, the organisation was taken over by Ali Bramall (first female to do a winter Bob Graham Round and previous organiser of the Lake District Mountain Trial) and it became the ‘Original Everest Marathon’.

The run goes across glacial moraine, down scree, along narrow tracks and wire suspension bridges, through rhododendron forest and along trails high above the river, to finish at the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar at 3446m. Although there is a descent of 1738m it is by no means a ‘downhill’ race as there are numerous ups and downs.

Although there is a descent of 1738m it is by no means a ‘downhill’ race as there are numerous ups and downs.

The non-Nepalese participants meet in Kathmandu where there are 2 nights of luxury at the Hotel Shanker, when everyone has a chance to meet other runners, do last minute shopping, have medicals and reduce trekking luggage down to 10kg for the flight to Lukla. The departure to Lukla involves an early start to the airport but inexplicably includes a long wait before eventually flying out. A magnificent panorama is enjoyed before the ‘interesting’ uphill landing onto the short runway on arrival. The return flight is already anticipated as we watch the very rapid turn round of planes descending the runway, taking off over an abyss (this departure from Lukla airport can be found on Youtube for those interested)

Statue of Tenzing Norgay from an Everest viewpoint above Namche Bazaar - Copyright: Wendy Dodds 2019
Looking North above Namche Bazaar - Copyright: Wendy Dodds 2019

To acclimatise safely and naturally, there is then a 15 day trek uphill to the start, with the opportunity of climbing Gokyo Ri (5357m) and Kala Patthar (5550m), or visiting the current Everest Base Camp. This follows the race route in reverse from Namche Bazaar, but there are two detours, spending 3 nights at Machermo, allowing visits to Gokyo and 2 nights at Dingboche (where there are 2 amazing cafes which not only had the best cakes on route -recommended by one of the doctors (!)- but also have afternoon film showings, which they switched at our request so that we could watch ‘Sherpa’) to aid acclimatisation and minimise problems with altitude.

The first day from Lukla to the overnight camp is relatively short allowing everyone to adapt to trekking before climbing to Namche Bazaar where 2 nights are spent. This allows short or longer outings to get initial views of Everest and final shopping to supplement kit.

To acclimatise safely and naturally, there is a then a 15 day trek uphill to the start

I was privileged to be one of 2 team leaders at the 2019 Original Everest Marathon. For logistical reasons (particularly camping, and eating) the group is loosely divided into teams mingling freely while trekking and running and the number of runners determines the number of teams. Two volunteer doctors are allocated to each team ensuring that any medical needs are appropriately looked after and that there is adequate safety on race day. There are also volunteer marshals who note intermediate times at checkpoints on race day, which are approximately 5-6km apart and provide refreshments.

Until Gorak Shep we stay in tents but this year it was much colder so there was a large exodus into lodges at Lobuche. Cooking is done by the team’s own ‘Cook Team’ to ensure adequate hygienic standards, but eaten in a lodge for comfort and warmth.

It is a truly international marathon with a record of participants from 16 countries in 2011 and the largest number of runners being 88 in 1997. As well as those trekking to the start at Gorak Shep, up to 20 Nepalese runners take part, going through the same medicals and kit check at Lobuche, the last habitation before Gorak Shep.

On the Trek - Copyright: Wendy Dodds 2019
Part of the 'Team', en route, with Runner, Sirdar, Sherpa, Doctor, Porter - Copyright: Wendy Dodds 2019

Nowadays the race is won by Nepalese runners though in the past the overall race records were held by non- Nepalese.

Jack Maitland held the men’s record of 3.59.04 from 1989-1999 and Anne Stentiford, 5.16.03, 1997-2007, Angela Mudge, 5.02 in 2007 and Anna Frost the women’s record of 4.35.01 from 2009-present.

In 2019 the first man was Suman Kulung in a new record of 3.39, first woman Rashila Tamang, 5.17, first non-Nepalese man Tom Gibbs, 5.23, first non-Nepalese woman Sabrina Verjee 6.51. Sabrina was obviously just using the OEM as ‘a warm up sprint’, going on to finish 1st woman and 5th overall in the Spine Race (Jan 2020) and explains why she regularly went off to do extra miles and altitude. OMM regular Barry Edwards also set a new V60 record of 6.37 and finished 2nd non-Nepalese man.

One runner was unable to start on account of illness, acting instead as a marshal at one of the check points; 3 started at Pheriche on account of illness and were able to complete a half marathon; a fourth runner was unable to complete the full course having started at Gorak Shep but managing more than a half marathon. It was only 2 of the Nepalese runners who were unable to reach the finish on account of injury, descending to the finish on horseback from Tengboche.

A night in a lodge (and a shower) in Namche Bazaar after the race was luxury. It was then generally downhill all the way to the final night’s camp before an easy day to a lodge in Lukla and a farewell meal before we left the Nepalese staff.

Next morning was an early start, with only a few tempted by breakfast, knowing about the downhill runway, before the return panoramic flight back to Kathmandu.

The return to the Shanker Hotel for 2 nights was another dose of luxury allowing everyone to get truly clean, fed and watered, with a final celebration awards evening where we were fortunate to have Mira Rai women’s winner in 2015 and now well known on the international mountain running circuit and Lakpa Phuti Sherpa from the  Ministry of Tourism, speaking to us about their fascinating lives.

Well done to Ali, with a little help from Steve (Bramall), in keeping this marvellous race going and adding to the foundations built by Diana Penny-Sherpani.

The race will now be held annually with entries for 2020 already open, a perfect challenge for the new decade

Sabrina on her way to the finish - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019

All those interested and who would like to find out details of this year’s event, 7-29th November, race day 24/11/20, can find out more by clicking HERE

 

Ed. Our thanks to Wendy for the great words and photos and to Keith (Keith MacIntosh Photography) for more great photos of the event

Marcus Scotney - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019
Adam Prentis sizing up the task for next day's start, underneath the huge West Face of Nuptse - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019
Race winner Suman Kulung. The temperature was around -15C until the sun hit the trail - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019
Early morning wake up bed tea at Toktok camp, delivered by Sar and Nima - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019
Tom Gibbs, descending the moraine from Gorak Shep - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019
Steph Wilson and Mel Steventon - Copyright: Keith MacIntosh Photography/Original Everest Marathon 2019

Winter Running

It may seem like the seasons are stuck on shuffle,
with spring almost showing its green shoots and brave first buds down in the valleys but the hill tops are still very much in the grip of winter.  

This winter, as every winter before it, came with dire warning of arctic conditions, weather bombs, polar vortices and other apocalyptic tabloidal terminology designed to put folk off from venturing further than the 24hr garage for emergency milk and wine supplies. 

Last winter even saw a major national park all but close its doors to visitors, issuing a statement to the effect that even just crossing the park boundary was tantamount to death on a stick (a statement soundly rebuffed by Mountain Rescue Teams, the BMC and most outdoors folk in general). 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little bit of planning, the right equipment and most importantly, training; the winter hills and fells can become your playground and allow you to train all year round.  

First and foremost, any decision about going out in the hills in winter needs to be informed by a few key things, everything else then follows from these: 

It sounds simple, but it cannot be stated enough that the root of all else in the mountains comes from the conditions. Check the forecast, check a different forecast and another, now check the first one again to see if it’s changed. Look at the weather in the build-up to your day out. Heavy snowfall in the week leading up to it, heavy rain, hard freezes. All these will go on to inform the later stages of your planning. 

There are a few weather sites and apps that we regularly use here at OMM, these are updated regularly and by those that know what they are doing.

MWIS (Mountain Weather Information Service)
This gives detailed forecasts for the main mountain areas of the UK with details specifically relevant to runners, walkers and climbers such as “Effect of wind on me” and “Chances of cloud free summits”. The detailed forecasts and videos are a great too for planning where to head and make the most of your winter run.

Mountain-Forecast
This is another very detailed forecast with weather maps and a choice of heights to look at. So you can zero in on the mountain or area of choice, then check out the conditions at its base, middle and top. The information on windspeed and direction is particularly useful when looking at where accumulations of snow or wind slab are likely.

YR – Norwegian Meteorlogical Institute
This website and very nifty app gives accurate and easily understandable forecasts for the UK and rest of the world. It is used by sailors and shipping companies as well as us on dry land. Whilst it is not specifically geared towards the mountains, it is regularly updated and easy to understand with enough detail to make informed decisions about which direction to head in. The app in particular is well worth having.

SAIS – Scottish Avalanche Information Service
For those heading to the Highlands in winter, this is an invaluable service used by winter mountaineers, rescue teams and winter hill goers. Detailed, reliable and thorough; these forecasts are an important part of any route planning as avalanche poses a very real risk in the Scottish mountains. There are several sites in the rest of the UK that are also prone to avalanche, it is worth looking into a winter skills or avalanche awareness course if you plan on heading to these sorts of areas.

Winter running covers a large range of conditions. There are days where you’re headed out for your local lowlevel loop, in 10oC and drizzle where you might look a little odd with ice axe and balaclava (top tip, don’t do it, the police don’t find it funny). And there are days where you’re headed for some winter Munro-bagging over large tracts of remote mountain in –15oC windchill, spindrift and 60mph winds where a pair of postman crampons and slightly thicker Buff might be deemed slightly underdressed.  

Snow: The big one. This is what turns our hills from brown lumps to alpine wonderlands. Everything looks better in the snow. But it shouldn’t be underestimated. At the very least it is going to slow you down. This is one of the biggest factors in people overshooting their estimated finish times and being out for longer than expected. Not necessarily an issue but if you factor in fatigue and deteriorating conditions, it can be very serious. 

Many people are unaware of the avalanche risk present in the UK’s hills, associating them instead with the Alps and bigger mountains. But avalanche is a very real danger, even in the modest Lake District. Get yourself booked on a winter skills course and learn how to read the slopes for danger signs. Better yet, plan your route to avoid any potential danger spots. Find out more here 

Snow depth and condition are a major factor in how your day is going to go. A powdery dusting just makes everything magical, deep slush is going to be hell and your feet are going to get wet and cold.  

Rain: Let’s be honest, winter in the UK isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogsfor the majority of us, the majority of the time it is just going to mean a slightly colder brand of rain for 4 months. But once again, don’t underestimate the impact this can have. Getting soaked through and then being exposed to cold winds can rapidly reduce your core temperature, far quicker than if you were out in much colder but drier conditions.  

Fog/Mist/Cloud: As with rain, the clag is definitely a defining factor in most people’s winter running. If you are heading into the clouds, even on fairly well-defined paths, you are likely to need to stop and take a bearing and to do so more than once. If the ground is also then covered in snow, this can make route finding a challenge and will, again, slow you down.  

Wind: On a recent foray into the Far Eastern Fells of the Lake District, I had the unique experience of being blown backwards down a section of frozen path in the face of a 65mph headwind. Wind can not only slow you down but significantly tire you. So, when checking the forecast; look at the windspeeds and get to know what those speeds feel like, then start to learn what effect that will have on your running. There is then the problem of windchill; even on days when the ambient temperature is above freezing, windchill can plunge it to well below zero. Think about your layering and how to cover as much skin as possible. 

Terrain: We are blessed in the UK with a wide variety of landscapes to play in. From low level plains to rolling moors, broad mountain slopes and craggy outcrops. Ice, rain, snow and wind can alter how we move in these spaces and you will need to think how a coating of hoare frost or an extra metre of snow is going to transform your chosen route. Not to mention potentially disguising landmarks, covering paths and generally getting in the way.  

Here are a few of our top tips, gleaned over the years of wading through slush and generally falling over in an undignified manner in the mountains:

  • You are likely to be carrying a larger and heavier pack than in summer, thanks to all these extra cheese butties and clothing. Once again, you need to consider this when planning your route. How will that 1 in 5 slope feel when weighed down and fighting slush underfoot?
  • Carry extra calories and make sure you fuel up beforehand. Even if you are doing a shorter route than normal, the very fact you are out in the cold and the wind and the snow or rain, will mean you are burning more calories than normal. It might feel like you are only moving at half speed but as far as your metabolism is concerned, it is in overtime.  Fatigue can set in very quickly when battling headwinds and deep snow and once you start to slow down, you will start to cool down too. Ensure you have enough in the tank to not only get you round but also keep you warm.
  • Nothing beats a brew. If you are carrying a pack, consider whether there’s room for a small flask or sealed insulated cup. Its a luxury and weighs heavy but on a long winter run, there is nothing better than a brew to warm you through.
  • You may have noticed we are quite keen on navigation here at OMM. Consider taking a navigation course from a specialist provider. Explain you wish to run in winter and they will tailor the tuition towards those specific needs. Don’t wait until you’re high on a Munro in a whiteout to realise you don’t know an easting from a bearing; get ahead of the game and book on before you start your winter season, its a great way to kick it off. You can find a list of OMM recommended providers here
  • Tie everything to you; though more of a kit consideration which we will discuss below, its worth repeating. If you are heading out into truly wild conditions and carrying lots of kit, it is very easy to drop and lose your map, compass or mitts. use lightweight cord to tether it to you or your pack.
  • And on the subject of kit; carry spares. Spare everything! Gloves, hat, buffs, map, headtorch, batteries… If you’re out for a long time, say on a winter Paddy Buckley, you will lose, drop, break or forget something.
  • Cold kills batteries so consider where you are going to carry them. Keep your phone and GPS unit etc close to your body and minimise how much you have them out in the open. Using a neoprene pouch or similar will help too.
  • Set off early. It will still be dark but it is better to start in the dark, when you are fresh and up for the challenge, than finish in it; when you are tired and cold. The last thing you want to do is get lost looking for the carpark!
  • Short strides and soft knees. Don’t be afraid to run on frozen terrain and snow. Just be ready for any little slips and slides that can (and most likely will) happen and think about investing in some lightweight running crampons, discussed below). You will most likely be moving slower anyway so a slip isn’t necessarily that serious, just be aware of your surroundings and take it easy on steep slopes or near any drops. What starts as a small slip can accelerate to an uncontrolled slide. Think about how you would stop a slide, should you be carrying poles or an axe? Do you know how to use one?
  • Snow crust can be a real pain (literally) if running through it for prolonged periods. Bare shins can end up frost-burnt from repeated pushing against frozen snow. Consider full length tights or high socks.
  • Water can easily freeze in a bladder hose, consider insulating with neoprene. Similarly water bottles and soft flasks can freeze up when kept on the outside of a pack or vest. Consider moving them inside or else find a way of wrapping them up! Soft flasks carried on the front of a vest are often kept warmest and you can keep an eye on them to prevent it happening.
  • Large map sheets are susceptible to being blown away, try photocopying or scanning the area you need and then laminating to create a durable route card. Many mapping services now offer a subscription where you can download and print the sheets you need.
  • There are a number of mobile apps worth having as a back up; though electronic devices are not necessarily to be relied on in cold conditions, some are worth looking in to. In particular the OS Locate App gives a grid reference and bearing that can help you pinpoint your position on the paper map and so speed up nav. OS Maps is another mapping App that uses digital mapping to locate you and plan routes. It requires a subscription but again, does not replace a real map and compass or ability to use them!

This all leads us (so neatly, its almost like we planned it!) to what kit to take. This decision is very personal and a lot of it will come from experience. Expect to take too much the first time you head out and then whittle it down to what you actually need and use (in addition to those just-in-case extras).  

A couple of good starting questions when deciding what kit to take are: 

How long am I planning on being out? 

How long will it take for someone to reach me if it goes wrong? 

How badly will this reflect on me when they find my body? 

If the answer to the first two is: half an hour and about 5 minutes, then you can probably leave the emergency shelter at home.  

But if you are heading far from the road and into the high hills, you need to consider the above questions very carefully.  

Clothing: As with your route choice, the speed at which you able to move will influence what you will want to wear. Soft snow and high winds will see you moving much slower and so not generating as much heat as when moving quickly but then slogging up a snowy slope can see your temperature rise as you put way more effort than usual into your forward progress.  

In winter, the difference between your temperature when moving and when static is most pronounced. A layering system that is perfect while moving quickly could see you dangerously exposed if you had to stop for any reason. 

Spare layers are an essential back up in winter mountains but think about which you take. Are you likely to strip to the skin to change your baselayer, even if it is soaked, or is it better to carry additional midlayers that can be added under a shell, in addition to insulation? The weight penalty of carrying an extra midlayer is far outweighed by not getting hypothermic. 

Insulating pieces are not normally part of the running arsenal, except when back at the car or overnight camp but in winterinsulation pieces can form an important part of your clothing system. The main choice in insulation is between synthetic or down fill; down is warmest for its weight and pack size but loses its insulating properties when wet; synthetic insulation is more durable than down and keeps its warmth even when wet but is slightly heavier and bulkier. Insulation pieces are often not as breathable as fleece or polyester layers and so you will need to consider this when using them. They are often best kept in the pack until you hit the tops or slow down later in the day. 

It is tempting to layer up at the car, when you are cold and static but as soon as you set off and hit the first uphill, you will rapidly overheat, soaking your baselayer with sweat and will probably need to stop to take off a few layers. The old adagesdress for 15 minutes time’ and ‘be bold, start cold’, really do still hold true.  

Baselayers are still an important consideration in winter. Though you may be moving slower over some sections, there are also going to be parts that make you sweat, especially fighting wind and snow. If your baselayer does not wick away sweat or dry quickly, you will soon get cold and wet. Use a quick-drying layer that will respond to a variety of outputs throughout the day. 

Even in relatively benign conditions, if there is snow on the ground or it is saturated with winter rain and meltwater, it is likely your socks and gloves are going to get wet and cold. You should always think about carrying spares of both (it is quite normal to head out with 3 pairs of gloves). It may also be worth looking into waterproof socks, though they may not keep you 100% dry, they tend to be much warmer than alternatives. This is also a good time to give mitts a shout out. Keeping all your fingers grouped together means they’ll be a lot warmer than in just gloves. An overmitt allows you to swap and change gloves then cover everything up and keep them warm and dry, leaving fingers free when needed.  

See below for our ideal winter layering system along with the rest of our winter kit list.  

Equipment: Yet again, the conditions will decide what you need to take but you can expect to need a few extra bits to make yourself safe and comfortable. And as ever, any piece of equipment is only as useful as the abilities of the person using it. Below are a few key pieces that can make all the difference, you can find a full winter running kit list at the end. 

Poles: Poles are no longer just for your annual ski holiday or for when you have hurt your knee. Once the sole domain of Euro mountain whippets and elderly ramblers, poles are fast becoming a year-round tool for mountain runners. Poles really come into their own in winter. Like having a pair of stabilizers, they give security over uncertain terrain, serve to push you along over slow ground and generally give you something to wave about in photos. If buying pair with a view to winter use, don’t be tempted to look only at weight; consider their strength too. Uber-light racing poles are great for fast and light summer trailbut might not take too kindly to being hammered through semi-frozen bog and hauled on up snowy slopes. Look, instead, for strength, weight and pack size. You want to be able to easily stow them when not in use and rely on them when you need them. 

Axes: There are a range of super-lightweight axes available on the market, aimed primarily at the ski-touring market but increasingly being taken up by winter and alpine runners looking for a failsafe on snowy slopes. The first thing to say is that just carrying an axe will not keep you safe. You also need to know how to use it. This and myriad other reasons is why we would strongly suggest seeking professional instruction on a winter skills course from a qualified instructor if you are hoping to push yourself over technical terrain in winter. The main reason to carry an ice axe while winter running is to perform an ice axe arrest if you slip on steep ground, they can also provide security on icy stretches; but we are not suggesting you start banging out winter climbing routes in your fell shoes! 

Micro-Spikes/Running Crampons: These are lightweight, flexible spikes that can fit most running shoes and provide traction on ice and frozen snow. There are several different designs available, from so-called postman crampons which are little more than studs on a rubber backer, more suited to icy tarmac and pavements, to coils of metal that run across the bottom of the shoe and give good traction on compacted snow and icy paths, right up to flexible crampons with multiple metal spikes that allow you to run or walk over quite steep frozen ground. Again, as with the axe, a crampon is only as good as your ability to use it and they certainly have their limits, especially on a flexible running shoe. Learn how to use them and learn their limits in a safe environment. Don’t expect to be running Tower Ridge any time soon (even if Finlay Wild can)! 

Snow/Ski Goggles: These can be invaluable in high winds when spindrift can leave you all but blind. They weigh very little and make you look hardcore plus you can read a map without your eyeballs freezing. 

Headtorch: Winter means days are shorter and you will likely be out for longer; this adds up to you probably needing some lighting at some point! Keep your batteries charged (carry spares too) and always have a torch in your pack. Looking through rescue reports from any of the country’s Search & Rescue teams and you will see call out after call out that could have been avoided just by carrying a decent headtorch.  

It is worth mentioning at this point the effect the cold can have on electronics. Headtorches and mobile phone battery life can be drastically reduced by the cold. Keep any electronics or spare batteries close to your body in an inside pocket. Plus, rechargeables tend to have a shorter burn time than disposables but disposables kill baby turtles so…swings and roundabouts. 

Emergency Shelter/Bivi Bag: If it all goes wrong or you just want to get out of the wind to eat your lunch, an emergency shelter will make life a lot better.  

You can go for either a multi-person shelter otherwise known as a ‘Bothy Bag’ which is a bit bigger but provides easy access to shelter for you and your partner/s. Or go for a foil bivvy bag or Blizzard bag. These reflect your body heat back at you and are more of an emergency option. Remember, you may not need it yourself but you may come across someone who does. Go for a bag not a blanket because a blanket will just blow away and then you’ll die. 

Gas: This isn’t a winter camping article but it is worth noting, if you are planning on taking brew making kit or doing an overnight, bear in mind some gas blends are better than others in cold weather. Make sure you get a specific Winter Mix. 

The OMM Recommended Kit List For A Fairly Big Day Out In The Hills* (or OMMRKLFAFBDOITH for short)

Clothing: 

Fell or good trail shoe (half a size bigger than normal will allow for thicker socks) 

Long Waterproof Socks (plus spare normal pair) 

 

Full length Legging  

Waterpoof or windproof shorts (trust us, they make a big difference!) 

Overtrousers  

Long Sleeve Wicking Tee 

Short Sleeve Wicking Tee 

Lightweight Midlayer (plus spare) 

Insulated pullover or vest 

Waterproof Shell (Consider going for something heavier duty than your normal summer shell as you are likely to have rain, sleet and snow pushing against you in high winds. Thin fabrics can then be pressed to the skin or layers underneath and have a cooling effect)

Lightweight Gloves (plus spares) 

Overmitt (tied to you) 

Buff (x2, one for the neck and one for head or down front of leggings if you didn’t bother with the windproof shorts!) 

Hat/Beanie (plus spare) 

Equipment: 

Poles (pair) 

Microspikes 

Axe (and the knowledge of how to use it) if doing something steep/technical 

Goggles 

Foil Bivvy bag 

Map (in case, tied to you) 

Compass (tied to you) 

GPS as back up 

Mobile phone for epic selfies (and registered to the Emergency SMS Service – just text register to 999 and follow the instructions. In a dry bag, close to the body) 

Headtorch (plus spare batteries in an inside pocket & possibly backup smaller headtorch) 

Food for the day (plus spare) 

Water bottles

Small flask of hot fluid (optional but very nice!) 

Dry bags 

Rucksack big enough to carry it all

Route card left with a responsible adult

*Not to say this is comprehensive or that you have to carry every single bit but these are all bits of kit that we have found to be useful over the years and that we think are worth considering. 

2019 In Review

HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE PEOPLE AND THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS THAT HAVE INSPIRED US THIS YEAR

JANUARY

Jasmin Paris wins the Spine Race outright

And smashes the record in the process in an unbelievable time of 83hrs 12mins 23sec! That’s 268mi along the Pennine way in the depths of winter in less than 4 days!

April

Vic Wilkinson takes her 5th win at the Three Peaks Race

Her record still stands at a fairly unassailable 03:09:19!

MAY

Nicky Spinks (right) becomes the first person to complete a DOUBLE  Paddy Buckley

122mi and 17,000m of ascent in just 57hrs 27mins! This follows a valiant effort at the Barkley Marathons earlier in the year and then a successful debut at the Tor des Geants in September!

JUNE

Jonathan Albon (left) wins the Trail World Championship in Portugal

Plus 1st at Tromso Skyrace, 3rd in the Skyrunning World Series, OCR World champ, 1st in European Spartan Champs…

Paul Tierney (left) visits the summit of all 214 Wainwrights in 6 days 6hrs 5min

That’s 318mi and approx. 33,000m ascent, breaking Steve Birkinshaw’s 2013 record by 7hrs!

JULY

Damian Hall (right) breaks the Paddy Buckley record in 17hrs 31mins.

61mi and over 8,000m of ascent taking in 47 Welsh peaks. Made all the more impressive as he completed 4/5 legs solo!

SEPTEMBER

Georgia Tindley (left) continues a stellar season by winning Glen Coe Skyline

plus top ten finishes at Zacup Skyrace, Hamperokken Skyrace, Comapedrosa Skyrace, Snowdonia Trail Marathon & Skyrace des Matheysins…among many others!

Finlay Wild takes the win, yet again, at Ben Nevis.

His tenth win on the mountain but Kenny’s Record remains unbroken.

Jasmin Paris, Konrad Rawlik & Jim Mann are the first mixed team in the Petite Trotte à Léon

and 5th overall  on the 186mi (25,000m+) course, in 103hrs 39min

The very first Scottish Mountain Marathon is a great success following on from the much-loved LAMM.

With well over 300 hardy souls taking on the wilds of Scotland, the SMM is set to be another classic in the calendar.

Josh Jardine & Pete Rigby complete potentially the fastest pairs time for the Classic Rock Challenge

40mi of running plus 15 multipitch rock routes in 18hrs 59mins

OCTOBER

Sarah McCormack wins the World Mountain Running World Cup for Ireland

Including taking gold at Snowdon International earlier in the year. And, most importantly, she was 2nd overall at this years Langdale Xmas Pud 10km!

Eluid Kipchoge runs 26.2 miles in 1hr 59min 40sec

He is yet to respond to our invitation to take on the OMM and try a real marathon but we’ll keep you posted.

NOVEMBER

Karen Nash (pictured left with Rowena Browne) completes her second OMM in as many weeks

First of all taking 1st Vets overall (& 2nd Women’s team), with partner Rowena Browne, in October’s B Course, before jetting off to Nagano, Japan to compete in their OMM’s A Course where she and partner Richard Dearden took 1st mixed and 2nd overall!

DECEMBER

Kim Collinson knocks 2.5hrs off Jim Mann’s 2013 Winter Bob Graham record

With a time of 15hrs 47mins, which also make his the 9th fastest time overall!

And then there’s you lot!

We’ve loved seeing what you lot have got up to all year with some amazing running and adventures around the world.

THE QUESTION NOW IS

HOW IS 2020 GOING TO TOP THAT!?

We’d love to hear your plans for the new year of running.

Is it a Bob Graham or your first ParkRun?

Let us know at the email below and we’ll share some of our favourite
running resolutions in the New Year!

Equality in the fells?

Is the OMM event prize structure wrong?

But first…

“Last night I saw an events company had posted about the weekend’s FRA relays on Facebook. They were congratulating the winning teams, but only the men’s. Somebody pulled them up on this in quite a light-hearted way, so they then posted a link to the full results. But others then requested that they edit their original post to give equality to both the men’s and women’s teams. After all, as one of the posters pointed out ‘we worked just as hard as the men”.
– Run247

Hands up, it was us!

We posted on our social channels about the event and named the first three teams over the line, which were all male. We really offended people:

You never even considered that this would upset anyone because subconsciously female achievement in sport is not considered equal to male achievement in sport and this needs to change! How are women meant to feel worthy and equal if this is how a brand like the OMM treat our achievements?
– Direct Message

Our mistake was focusing on the overall table of results rather than the individual race categories. OMM apologise unreservedly for any offence given. Of course, we were not trying to discriminate, belittle or ignore any of the athletes making outstanding achievements. We want to promote active participation in mountain marathons and similar sports as we believe that these are good for all individuals and society as a whole.

But it raises an interesting point

With female athletes winning other endurance events like the Spine Race, should a race focus on the overall winners or on the individual categories?

This is particularly relevant for The OMM which has always promoted an open race with all teams being treated equally, regardless of gender or age.

As the event requires a number of different skills to do well, rather than solely endurance, this has meant mixed, vets & female teams do win the classes overall.

We recognise that the field is 64% male only teams so we positively discriminate with additional prizes to encourage women, families and veterans to take part. We do not have a male race at all.

But is this fair? Honestly, we can’t say with conviction that it is, but it’s the best we’ve come up.

Here is an extract from somebody who disagrees:

“…..The Snowdonia Marathon has been going since 1982 and the OMM is now in it’s 52nd year.  And what does this road race have in common with this fell race?  Neither offers equal prizes for male and female competitors…..…….the only possible reason I can imagine that they don’t give equal prizes to males and females is that of “proportionality”.  The suggestion being that as more males enter than females, the prizes are divided up accordingly.  I do not agree at all that because less females enter, those who do well in their categories are therefore not worthy of the same recognition.  Working on encouraging more female competitors by evening up the prizes might be an idea!  It’s not rocket science is it? 

All of these disparities imply that female events are less important and that female athletes are less worthy of recognition for their efforts.  How are we even still having these debates?  Why is it not just a given?  Races offering unequal prize structures instantly make me not want to enter, not because I may be in contention for a prize that isn’t on offer but simply because it suggests females in that event are an after thought.  And so the cycle continues, less females enter going forward so the disparity continues.”

We need your help

So this is where we want you to help. Every year we discuss the results from the event and every year we discuss what we can do to encourage more participation by all ages, genders and backgrounds. It’s a tough one to get right.

  • Would you change the race categories? if so how?
  • Bearing in mind we currently give out 156 individual prizes. What changes, if any, should we make to the prize structure?

Here’s some more information to help….

The current OMM prize structure

The OMM event has 6 courses of different lengths or time limits and we present 156 prizes. Typically 1000 teams of 2 enter.

Prizes are presented to:

  • Overall Course winners

To encourage participation across the categories additional prizes are awarded for the highest placed teams on all courses. The number of prizes is dependant on the number of teams within a category entered.

  • Mixed teams
  • Vets overall
  • All Female teams
  • Family Generation
  • Military teams
  • Vets female
  • Vets Mixed

The top 3 teams on each course are publicised as the winners regardless of age or gender.

OMM 2019 Results

More info…

  • In the 2019 event a mixed team:
    • Won the Medium Score
    • Won the 3rd place prize on the Short Score
    • Won the 3rd place prize on the B Course
  • Only 1 of the all-female teams made the top 10 on one of the courses.
  • The 2019 OMM competitor field comprised of:
    • 9% female teams*
    • 64% male teams*
    • 27% mixed team*
      *(open age+vets)
  • Percentage of women competing in the last 3 years has risen from: 18%-22%.
  • Percentage of all female teams competing on the last 3 OMM events has stayed around 9%
  • With this current prize structure 8% of all competitors could receive a prize.
  • In 2019, 37% of prize money went to women, who made up 22% of the competitors.

The Results

Following this article we opened up the floor to the community for their opinions on the OMM Prize Structure.

Entries have now closed, to allow us to collate the responses and prepare a statement of response.

We thank you all for taking the time to read and respond and for the good nature of the discussion so far.

Our response and any further actions will be announced in due course.

OMM 

BOUNDLESS: An Outdoors Magic Film with Chris Nicolson

BOUNDLESS

The 2019 OMM Festival saw the first edition of the Outdoors Magic 10km Trail Race, the UK’s first fully inclusive and accessible 10km trail event.

Outdoors Magic followed one of our competitors, Chris, on his journey from professional rugby player to trail racer.

We worked closely with Chris in preparation for the event to ensure the race was not only a challenge for him and other chair users but also a challenge for all competitors, with tough hills, technical descents and plenty of loose ground.

Boundless captures that familiar sensation of agony and ecstasy we all experience over the course of a race and gives a great insight into the motivation of our competitors.

Chris uses: Trail Fire Vest

 

A customisable, minimalist solution to carrying racing and training essentials, whilst keeping them close to hand

 

The TrailFire vest is stripped down to the essentials, a low-profile, highly-versatile vest for any length of race or training. Multiple attachment points on the back allow you to expand the load carry.  The Trailfire is also compatible with Flexi-flasks for hands-fee hydration. Read More…

Adventurer Chris Nicholson to set Guinness World Record completing the OMM Festival’s 10km trail race in a wheelchair

Adventurer Chris Nicholson to set Guinness World Record completing the OMM Festival’s 10km trail race in a wheelchair

For all but a few Elite runners, Mountain Marathon’s are a test of your mental and physical mettle.  Your determination to succeed pushes you through normal barriers and as you experience challenges it redefines your limits.  When Chris Nicholson turned up at the OMM office in his wheelchair, we thought nobody had better exemplified this mental grit to get things done.

“But there will be rocky sections and tree roots with drop-offs, and we can’t be sure how the weather will have changed the surface,” we explained when he told us that he wanted to compete on the OMM Festival’s trail race.

Chris’s response, “I need mud, rock and countryside. If there is a stile I’ll get out of my chair and haul it and myself over it.  You set the challenge and let me worry about how to get around it.”

Pretty difficult to argue with and, as many OMM competitors will experience, there is often a moment when self-doubt creeps in and they question whether their body can get them through the challenge; it would be unacceptable for us to focus on Chris’s disability rather than his ability.  So he’s in!

The race is the 10km Outdoors Magic Trail Race which is part of the OMM Festival, being held on the first bank holiday in May (3rd – 5th May).  Over 1000 people are expected to attend and take part in a mix of activities including OMM Lite and OMM Bike score courses plus flagged trail races at Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km distance.  The Festival is OMM’s way of opening the fun and adventure of Mountain Marathons to people at earlier stages in their off-road career, giving them a bit of advice along the way and letting them share it with their families. We don’t promise sun, but it is a lot more likely than it will be in Scotland in October later this year for the main event.

Chris explained that he had looked around for a trail race he could take part in but all the event organisers he spoke to said they couldn’t cater for disabled athletes.  He didn’t see any reason why the accident that occurred on the rugby field should confine him to the tarmac, something that he had already proved with a record setting summit of Mount Snowdon in 2017.

The race will be attended by Guinness World Records, who will create the first Wheelchair Trail race record. The race has support from Paralympians, Invictus athletes and military charities and we hope it will lead to new opportunities for disabled competitors in the future.  If you would like to enter and race alongside Chris then click here.  If you have any special requirements then please contact organiser: emma@theomm.com and we will be happy to discuss how we can support you.

OMM Kit list

Mountain Marathon Kit List

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OMM MANDATORY EQUIPMENT LIST

Each individual and team is responsible for being properly equipped for two days unsupported racing in exposed terrain at the end of October.

This list should be seen as a minimum requirement only. Check the weather forecast, your previous experience and use sound judgement for the kit you should be wearing and carrying. The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any competitors who, in their opinion, do not have the necessary kit to survive in an emergency situation. Cotton clothing is not suitable.

EACH COMPETITOR MUST WEAR OR CARRY THE FOLLOWING:

  • Taped waterproof jacket with hood
  • Taped waterproof trousers
  • Clothing suitable for mountain running and walking
  • Spare base layer top
  • Spare full leg cover
  • Warm layer top
  • Hat, Gloves & Socks
  • Footwear designed for trail and fell use
  • Head torch capable of giving useable light for a minimum of 12 hours
  • Whistle & Compass
  • Map (as supplied)
  • Insulated Sleeping bag
  • First aid equipment
  • Pen/pencil and paper capable of being used in wet conditions
  • Survival bag (not a sheet)
  • Rucksack
  • Emergency rations
  • Water carrying capability

Spare warm kit and insulated sleeping bag must be waterproofed (i.e. in a drybag)

EACH TEAM MUST CARRY THE FOLLOWING AT ALL TIMES:

  • Cooking equipment including stove with sufficient fuel for duration of the race, plus some spare for emergency use, left at the end of the event
  • Tent with sewn in groundsheet
  • Food for 36 hours for two people
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