The Original Mountain Marathon 2016 — 'Bog Bashing'

The Original Mountain Marathon
'Running' perhaps isn't the only adjective that should be used to describe taking on last weekend's OMM in the Galloway Mountains, Scotland. You should also add 'Climbing', 'Scrambling', 'Hiking', and most definitely 'Bog Bashing' to the list; it is a running orienteering event of pretty extreme proportions...

Friday saw us drive from Portsmouth to the Galloway peninsula in South West Scotland—a casual 15 hour journey by minibus, picking up my running partner Ben in Penrith. Welcomed at midnight by the cheery OMM team, we settled down for a few hours sleep not sure what to anticipate from the next day's race.

The OMM is a run orienteering event series, with events in the U.K, France and even Japan. The events all hold the same format: on the start line teams are given a list of checkpoints out in the mountain wilderness—each one is worth a different number of 'points'. The teams of two then have to visit as many of those checkpoint as they can within the set time limit, and the team with the highest cumulative score over the Saturday and Sunday time limits is the winner. The UK edition is the original and the largest of the OMMs, with this year's edition seeing over 1000 teams participating.

Whilst both Ben and I have done a fair bit of orienteering and walking in the past, we have never done something on this scale, or involving this much running. Our aim was to complete both days in a respectable place, within the 'Medium Score' time limits of six hours on the first day, and five hours on the second.

Saturday morning dawn brought a slight Scottish drizzle, and a thick fog covering the mountains. We cooked breakfast and then headed out in the procession of teams walking to the start line. Nicely warmed up, we collected our map and headed off in search of our first checkpoint...

Map reading is hard. I have always enjoyed it—I love maps; but using a paper aerial picture at 1:40,000 scale, to find a marker the size of magazine on the side of a mountain, is a challenge. Our first checkpoint was tricky to find; shrouded in mist, the bog strewn mountain side proved a great hiding place for the marker; whilst the terrain lent itself more to a 'hike and stumble', than a run. We found it eventually though...

The second checkpoint involved fording a river, which at least washed off the knee deep bog mud for a while. The third involved scaling a mountain, high up into the clouds—with some epic rock scrambling in the process. Checkpoint four necessitated a rapid descent down a scree slope; trying not to lose our footing on the wet loose rocks. Four to five was a great bit of 'bog bashing' down the river valley. Then, we finished Day 1 with a fast run from a waterfall to our remote overnight campsite, with all the other teams, at the side of a beautiful loch.

Saturday evening was spent munching down boil in the bag meals, stripping off wet kit, stretching, and then settling down in our little tent; ready to do it all again the next day.

The Original Mountain Marathon

OMM campsite

Day two was introduced with a bagpipe wake up call. With clearer skies, dawn also introduced us to the stunning Scottish landscape that we were in—something that had been shrouded in mist the day before.

We started off well, with a fast run along the loch pathway, before heading off-piste to do some more 'bog bashing' and collect some higher point markers on the top of the craggy mountains.

After searching for some time for our first mountain top marker, we decided we could probably also just about manage to head up the neighbouring peak, too; before then doing the long run on the good path beside the loch, back to the finish.

That turned out to be a bit of an error... the ascent was far harder than anticipated—on a near vertical 'bog path'. On reaching the flatter land at the top, the bogginess did not abate, and after an hour of searching for the marker we had to make the difficult call to cut our losses and head back down empty handed in order to make the time limit.

A bit peeved at our failed find, we eventually rejoined the fast path alongside the loch and began our longest stretch of running all weekend; picking up a few minor checkpoints en-route. We arrived on the finishing straight with just a few minutes to spare—we had made the right decision calling off our search when we did, as we could not have run that last 90 minutes any faster than we had.

Finishing within the time limit we settled for a respectable mid-pack placing. I still cannot comprehend how some of the Elites manage to tackle the distance they do on this event; it is certainly a lot tougher than your average 'Tough Mudder' event.

The OMM was an incredible experience, and a great opportunity to put my trail running and map reading (and 'bog bashing') skills to the test. Am I cut out for Elite Mountain Marathons? Definitely not. I am very tempted to sign up for OMM Bike next year though...

OMM Campsite Scotland

Salomon Speedcross shoes

The OMM Kit Layout


My OMM Kit List

OMM Waterproofs

OMM 25 Classic Marathon Pack

Salomon Running

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