For those of you who are unaware of OMM – the Original Mountain Marathon – it is a gruelling two-day event that takes place every year in some rugged area of the UK in October. I have never done it – preferring the ‘softies version’ the Saunders Mountain Marathon – but have heard horrendous tales of wading through ice-cold rivers up to your waists, being blown away by gale-force winds, and so on. Not for me, I’m afraid. But when Carolyn Dent from BOK, Rob Hick’s partner, asked me if I wanted to do the OMM Lite with her in the Forest of Dean on the May Bank Holiday weekend, I gave it some serious thought. It’s named ‘Lite’ as it’s an easier version of the OMM – you don’t have to carry a tent, sleeping bag etc. with you and it was a score event using only paths and forest roads – no cross-country. I was worried though that I would seriously slow Carolyn down, as she is a much better runner than I am (and a number of years younger too!) but she assured me that would not be a problem as, over a long-distance event (5 hours the first day, 4 hours the second) our paces would probably even out. So I agreed to do it.
The weather was promising and when John and I arrived at the large field where the event was based, next to Speech House Hotel, Rob had already erected both tents. I was a tad disappointed to discover that the larger of the two tents, which included a separate sleeping compartment, was not for Carolyn and myself, but for the boys! But ours was fine and spacious enough.
We waited for Carolyn to arrive (the only one of us who was working that day) before we had a meal and a beer (real ale!) in the huge marquee provided. There was a really relaxed, sociable atmosphere with music playing and TV screens showing past OMM events (confirming my decision never to do one!). After dinner, we registered for the event, got our dibbers attached to our wrists and found out our start times. We were lucky in having fairly late starts (10.00 for Carolyn and I, and 10.10 for the lads) so we knew that we could have a relaxing time having breakfast and getting prepared in the morning.
So Saturday dawned bright and sunny (though our tents were in the shade and there was a heavy dew on them and the grass). Sitting outside the marquee having a cuppa and a bacon butty, watching the early starters, was delightful. The place was buzzing as there were not only the OMM Lite runners, but also OMM mountain bike competitors. It was interesting watching people studying their A3 maps carefully, trying to work out a strategy for getting the most points in the allocated time. Apparently, one competitor was part way down the start funnel after studying his map before he realised that he’d actually left the map on the table! That would have made one helluva map memory course!
10 0’clock approached and Carolyn and I were kitted up and raring to go. Lots of nibbles and plenty of water on board. On getting the map, we soon decided that we’d only focus on the forest on the east side of the map, with our Start located virtually in the middle. We located the two 50-pointer controls – one at the top and one at the bottom of the forest – and decided that we’d aim to get those and any others that we could in the time allowed. We jogged off steadily out of the field and headed south to the first 50-pointer, via another control on the way. Soon after reaching it – up a steep hill – Rob and John turned up, having already bagged 3 controls!
So we thought they’d do really well at that pace and could end up high in the results. We wished them well as they sprinted off westwards, and we headed back north, picking up several controls on the way towards the second 50-pointer. As our pace slackened due to the heat and tiredness, we had to make decisions about which controls to leave out so as not to incur any penalty points by being late. The penalties were 1 point each for the first 5 minutes; 2 points each for the second 5 minutes and then a crippling 5 points each for the following five minutes. Carolyn became a bit doubtful as to whether we could reach the 50-pointer in the allocated time, but I said that, even if we were 10 minutes late (15 penalty points) we would still gain 35 points, so it was worth risking. So that’s what we did, struggling up yet another steep hill.
By this time, I was getting really weary and I knew that I was holding Carolyn back. But she was fine with it and put no pressure on me at all – it was all about enjoying it and finishing safely together, she told me. We finally got back to the Finish line, bagging a couple more controls on the way, and we were only 4 minutes over the 5 hours. We’d picked up 260 control points, so ended up with 256 with the 4 point penalty deducted and 32nd out of 101, and 4th Female Vet ( Vet being over 45). We were really pleased with that, and even more delighted when we discovered that, although Rob and John were placed 12 places above us, they’d only got 14 points more than us. “How come?”, we thought. They were blistering along when we last saw them.
And what I’m about to tell you is a cautionary tale about strategy versus speed. I was offered money not to write about this, but I don’t accept hush money, so here goes…..
Basically, John and Rob decided that, as they were going so well and having lots of energy, they would track across to Coleford and beyond on the west of the map and pick up some controls there before skirting back to pick up the second 5o-pointer and others on the east block of forest. BIG mistake. They found that their energy levels began to drop and by the time they’d collected three controls on the west side, they had insufficient energy or time to get the 50-pointer, or many others, before heading to the Finish. The consequence was that they not only got a mere 10 control points more than us, but they’d covered almost an extra 6 kilometres in doing so! Needless to say, Carolyn and I felt pretty smug at this, rubbing it in whenever we could, and the boys admitted that they’d miscalculated badly. Having said that, they came in 20th and 2nd Male Vets – so not a bad result. But where could they have been placed if they hadn’t made that tactical error? We’ll never know.
Day 2 dawned bright and sunny again, woken by the beautiful dawn chorus. A wonderful cup of tea in bed, courtesy of John who is an early riser, and we were all raring to go again after a bacon and egg butty in the sunshine! A few photos before we set off….
Legs felt OK, considering, and Carolyn and I trotted off in high hopes of at least maintaining our position. But 4 hours and 11 minutes later, I staggered into the Finish with an extremely sore right calf and virtually collapsed by the water barrel where I was hosed down with wonderful cold water. Being just over 11 minutes over time, we were deducted 25 points, so ended up with only 195 points, putting us in 50th position. But overall we came 35th and 5th Female Vets, so were pretty happy with that. As for the lads, they had a much better run, finishing 12th on the day and 11th overall, 2nd Male Vets. So an excellent result, but left them thinking if only…….
In summary, a brilliant weekend in great company.