How cold is The OMM?
Despite the forewarnings of miserable conditions and concerns over my ability to read a map, I’m at the start line of the my first OMM, the 50th year anniversary, heading off into the hills for two days of getting lost.
It’s the calm before the StOMM, frantically scanning a map of Langdale before making the first decision of the day – left or right? My team mate Dave and I launch ourselves up the first hill towards a 40 point check point, quickly ascending into a thick mist which has inevitably chosen to fall with extremely high winds on the first day. The conditions made the Saturday considerably difficult, constantly wondering if we were where we thought we were, soon to realise that the ridge we’ve just climbed was about 3km in the wrong direction. Many a wrong turns made, but despite the 70mph winds and very poor visibility, we were quickly scrambling round some of the furthest check points, and clocking down the 7 hours Day 1 of the Long Score. As my first navigation race, having a time limit made for a much more competitive feel, constantly working against the clock. Every step in the wrong direction, every minute you spend looking at the map, puts you into the danger zone of missing your allowed time, and we soon learned the importance of fast decision making.
The atmosphere out on the hills was wild. Hills sparsely scattered with pairs of athletes, frantically running in all sorts of directions. The wind and rain really excelled the excitement, and despite being wet through and very, very cold, it felt pretty epic to be in such depths of the Lake District – a huge contrast to training runs back in London!
At about four hours in, with just two hours left to find the campsite, we realised we were further away than we’d liked and it meant we’d have to make a huge push to get back in time. We decided to take the fastest route, and not risk getting any more check points – finishing within our time limit was more important to us. The minutes in the last two hours were ticking down faster than we’d hoped and we had to push through a lot harder to make some ground. Thanks to Dave’s exceptional navigation (I’d taken a backseat drive on this one), we made good speed on a trail for about 10km, making it to the campsite with just 53 seconds to spare.
After launching ourselves into the check point and the buzzing atmosphere of the campsite, then came the difficult but rewarding task of setting up camp and getting warm and dry (as much as you possibly could in a swamp full of tents). Once the cocoon sized tent was pitched, and I’d managed to wriggle into a dry set of clothes, we lay (very uncomfortably) in the tent and cooked a hearty portion of pasta and at wolfed down at least seven toffee crisps. It was only 7pm when we finished eating, but with the cold settling in outside we didn’t really have any other option but to settle down ourselves and get to sleep.
After a very, very uncomfortable and cold night, it was up at 6:30 for Day 2. The weather in comparison to Day 1, was a belter. A crisp blue sky framed the hills around us and once we were back out in the depths of the mountains, I realised I’d never seen the Lake District as clearly as I was seeing them now. Although the sun was beaming, it was extremely cold and it took us at least an hour before we felt our feet and fingers again. We plodded on up to our first checkpoint, and were heavily disappointed, after nearly 2 hours of searching, we couldn’t find what we were looking for. We’d already lost a lot of time, and my legs were not in good shape from the day before, but we trampled on, bagging some check points on the way. I’d slowed down a lot, my knees were hurting, and although the views were stunning and I felt incredibly free running around the hills, I couldn’t help but check my watch, counting down the six hours before we could be back in the warmth of the marquee with a plate of sausage and mash.
After a relentless five hours it was time to head back, and we found ourselves at the top of one last mountain, looking down into the valley which meandered down into the finish line. With the end in sight, I picked up my legs a little faster, and followed Dave (I was always behind Dave!) down into Stool End Farm – this time half an hour before our cut off, which felt slightly less epic than the day before.
The finish line felt very welcoming and the support of the event crew and other athletes really put a smile on my face as we crossed the line. Standing in the queue to the sausage and mash boxes (thank you OMM!) with very tired legs, I felt like the Lake District really had us in all it’s glory. The landscape and climate had thrown everything at us all weekend, and we’d been well and truly in the pure elements of English weather. Hearing stories of mountain rescues, disqualified and dropped out teams, we felt lucky to have finished, and even luckier to have earned the post race dinner.
Being here for the first time, I learned that the OMM is a highly rewarding experience, not because of the race but because of the community. The athletes and event crew are all here together and whether they’re competing or not, the outlook is the same – to enjoy the thrill of navigating your way in the wild. Or in most cases, getting lost.