Finished Business & New Beginnings
Emily Woodhouse

It all started, like many mad ideas, at the pub. My friend Mark was recounting (not for the first time) how he and another mutual friend had an epic on their last OMM. It was Langdale 2017, the 50th OMM and an event so apocalyptic that tales of its suffering have been told in pubs worldwide. I’ve heard stories of emergency camps, tents flattened at midnight by the roaring wind and people with solid mountain experience getting completely turned around in the fog. Many people had unfinished business with Langdale.

Mark and his partner had got into trouble on the first day in the worst of the weather. After the first series of tops, they’d got stuck in the clag, unable to find a safe way down. They lost an hour, but critically got very cold and very wet. Even once they’d escaped and got back on route, the weather meant they couldn’t properly warm up again. Despite being on one of the shorter courses, they finished in the dark. The next day they decided it was safer not to continue.

Around a third of the teams that entered the 50th OMM made the same decision over the weekend, most on Day 1.

“I’d like to do it at least one more time,” he said to the group of us, huddled round a table after a damp evening on the moors. “Don’t want to end on that note.” He’d completed several OMMs and it seemed wrong to finish on a disappointment. 2022’s event, the 53rd OMM rescheduled due to Covid, was back in Langdale. “I’d just need to find someone to do it with.”

I secretly wanted to have a go, but waited patiently like a teenage prom date for someone to ask me. And no one ever did.

I am not a runner. Mark, on the other hand, is the sort of person who qualifies for the Iron Man World Championships. But I’d spent enough time stomping around the hills and mountains of the UK to be familiar with the OMM. My friends at university did it every year, even though it was during term time. What better way to spend a weekend than charging around the fells getting soaked? But as a non-runner, or at least someone who owned a pair of trainers but spent most of their time walking, I felt like someone needed to ask me. I secretly wanted to have a go, but waited patiently like a teenage prom date for someone to ask me. And no one ever did. So when, in that cosy pub in January many years later, Mark turned to me and asked if I’d do the OMM with him, I knew I had to say yes. Because what was the chance of anyone ever being mad enough to ask me again? Of course, I didn’t say yes straight up. I had no idea whether I could run a mountain marathon.

The last 5k I’d done was in Primary School cross country.

“But I’m not a runner,” I said.
“But you can navigate. And you can survive in miserable weather. That’s exactly the sort of person.”

One person thought I was capable of doing it. And apparently that was all I needed. Ten months later I was standing on the start line in the rain, below the towering dark pillars of the Langdale Pikes split by an imposing line of low cloud. Grey sky, grey horizon, wet feet before the day had even begun.

Two minutes to navigate before the cold blow-dry stopped my hands working. Down, down across the bog and in between all the knobbly crags, bouncing like on a water bed.

We wasted time on the first checkpoint, never actually finding that little orange control worth 20 points. But then it all started to fall into place: power-walking uphill, dashing back down – letting gravity do its thing. Darting across the map, into mist, out of mist, up onto Esk Pike: our only manned control but in the full force of the wind. Two minutes to navigate before the cold blow-dry stopped my hands working. Down, down across the bog and in between all the knobbly crags, bouncing like on a water bed. So distracted by the nav and the quick succession of check points in our treasure hunt that I forgot about the running. In fact, as we squelched into camp for the night, I was surprised to discover a good 50% of the day had been Type 1 fun.

Not a suffer fest at all.

 

All considered, the lowest of the low was being woken by unexpected bagpipes at 6am and, being on a shorter course, the long chill wait in a sleeping bag before it was sensible to take the tent down. But the steep uphill immediately out of camp pulled me back into the present, buoyed on by the marshals – far too cheery and in fancy dress. We spent the morning on the northernmost Coniston fells, with enough speed and ascent that I was somehow running around in a t-shirt despite the thick, dank mist and a strong wind on top. Then out of the grey room, down into the valley below Hardknott Pass and up onto Pike of Blisco, Mark encouraging me that I could manage more and more checkpoints before we ran out of time. And we did. Sneaking in one final 10 pointer, on the exact contour line we’d hoped, before 300m sheer descent back into Langdale valley, sliding most of the way the ground was so saturated.

You don't need to be a runner. Someone could do well in the London Marathon and still be utterly out of place on the OMM.

Of course some pairs are super-fit, super-serious fell running jedi. But it’s not really the running that unites competitors. It’s the attitude, the appreciation of the mountains and the mettle to say game on – to have a crack at something your friends down the pub will call mad but you call Type 2. Don’t be put off by ‘marathon’ and ‘race’. If you have spent any amount of time in the hills, knee deep in bog, powering through the fog, grinning from ear to ear… then this is for you.

If you have spent any amount of time in the hills, knee deep in bog, powering through the fog, grinning from ear to ear... then this is for you.

It all started, like many mad ideas, at the pub. My friend Mark was recounting (not for the first time) how he and another mutual friend had an epic on their last OMM. It was Langdale 2017, the 50th OMM and an event so apocalyptic that tales of its suffering have been told in pubs worldwide. I’ve heard stories of emergency camps, tents flattened at midnight by the roaring wind and people with solid mountain experience getting completely turned around in the fog. Many people had unfinished business with Langdale.

Mark and his partner had got into trouble on the first day in the worst of the weather. After the first series of tops, they’d got stuck in the clag, unable to find a safe way down. They lost an hour, but critically got very cold and very wet. Even once they’d escaped and got back on route, the weather meant they couldn’t properly warm up again. Despite being on one of the shorter courses, they finished in the dark. The next day they decided it was safer not to continue.

Around a third of the teams that entered the 50th OMM made the same decision over the weekend, most on Day 1.

“I’d like to do it at least one more time,” he said to the group of us, huddled round a table after a damp evening on the moors. “Don’t want to end on that note.” He’d completed several OMMs and it seemed wrong to finish on a disappointment. 2022’s event, the 53rd OMM rescheduled due to Covid, was back in Langdale. “I’d just need to find someone to do it with.”

I secretly wanted to have a go, but waited patiently like a teenage prom date for someone to ask me. And no one ever did.

I am not a runner. Mark, on the other hand, is the sort of person who qualifies for the Iron Man World Championships. But I’d spent enough time stomping around the hills and mountains of the UK to be familiar with the OMM. My friends at university did it every year, even though it was during term time. What better way to spend a weekend than charging around the fells getting soaked? But as a non-runner, or at least someone who owned a pair of trainers but spent most of their time walking, I felt like someone needed to ask me. I secretly wanted to have a go, but waited patiently like a teenage prom date for someone to ask me. And no one ever did. So when, in that cosy pub in January many years later, Mark turned to me and asked if I’d do the OMM with him, I knew I had to say yes. Because what was the chance of anyone ever being mad enough to ask me again? Of course, I didn’t say yes straight up. I had no idea whether I could run a mountain marathon.

The last 5k I’d done was in Primary School cross country.

“But I’m not a runner,” I said.
“But you can navigate. And you can survive in miserable weather. That’s exactly the sort of person.”

One person thought I was capable of doing it. And apparently that was all I needed. Ten months later I was standing on the start line in the rain, below the towering dark pillars of the Langdale Pikes split by an imposing line of low cloud. Grey sky, grey horizon, wet feet before the day had even begun.

Two minutes to navigate before the cold blow-dry stopped my hands working. Down, down across the bog and in between all the knobbly crags, bouncing like on a water bed.

We wasted time on the first checkpoint, never actually finding that little orange control worth 20 points. But then it all started to fall into place: power-walking uphill, dashing back down – letting gravity do its thing. Darting across the map, into mist, out of mist, up onto Esk Pike: our only manned control but in the full force of the wind. Two minutes to navigate before the cold blow-dry stopped my hands working. Down, down across the bog and in between all the knobbly crags, bouncing like on a water bed. So distracted by the nav and the quick succession of check points in our treasure hunt that I forgot about the running. In fact, as we squelched into camp for the night, I was surprised to discover a good 50% of the day had been Type 1 fun.

Not a suffer fest at all.

 

All considered, the lowest of the low was being woken by unexpected bagpipes at 6am and, being on a shorter course, the long chill wait in a sleeping bag before it was sensible to take the tent down. But the steep uphill immediately out of camp pulled me back into the present, buoyed on by the marshals – far too cheery and in fancy dress. We spent the morning on the northernmost Coniston fells, with enough speed and ascent that I was somehow running around in a t-shirt despite the thick, dank mist and a strong wind on top. Then out of the grey room, down into the valley below Hardknott Pass and up onto Pike of Blisco, Mark encouraging me that I could manage more and more checkpoints before we ran out of time. And we did. Sneaking in one final 10 pointer, on the exact contour line we’d hoped, before 300m sheer descent back into Langdale valley, sliding most of the way the ground was so saturated.

You don't need to be a runner. Someone could do well in the London Marathon and still be utterly out of place on the OMM.

Of course some pairs are super-fit, super-serious fell running jedi. But it’s not really the running that unites competitors. It’s the attitude, the appreciation of the mountains and the mettle to say game on – to have a crack at something your friends down the pub will call mad but you call Type 2. Don’t be put off by ‘marathon’ and ‘race’. If you have spent any amount of time in the hills, knee deep in bog, powering through the fog, grinning from ear to ear… then this is for you.

If you have spent any amount of time in the hills, knee deep in bog, powering through the fog, grinning from ear to ear... then this is for you.
Emily Woodhouse is a freelance writer and editor, specialising in all things adventure and outdoors. She is a Mountain Leader based on Dartmoor and is currently working towards her Winter Mountain Leader. She has been an active member of Mountain Rescue since 2015. Pacing into the fog across a featureless bog at midnight is her happy place. Despite evidence to the contrary, she still isn't quite ready to call herself a runner but will definitely be back for more OMM. Check out more work by Emily here: www.travellinglines.com
Emily Woodhouse is a freelance writer and editor, specialising in all things adventure and outdoors. She is a Mountain Leader based on Dartmoor and is currently working towards her Winter Mountain Leader. She has been an active member of Mountain Rescue since 2015. Pacing into the fog across a featureless bog at midnight is her happy place. Despite evidence to the contrary, she still isn't quite ready to call herself a runner but will definitely be back for more OMM. Check out more work by Emily here: www.travellinglines.com

If you have a story to tell, whether it’s from the OMM, another race or challenge or just how you use our kit, get in touch! Just pop an email to james@team-ark.com and who knows, you might just earn yourself some free kit!

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