With the 50th edition of the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) just around the corner, Wiggle trail runner Rob Berger shares his tips on how to prepare.
It's been two years since my first experience of getting freezing cold, eating food out of a foil bag and sleeping VERY closely to another stinky man in a tent at the OMM and now I can’t wait to do it again. So, on the last weekend of October, my race partner and I will be traveling to Great Langdale in the Lake District to tackle the 50th edition of the famous OMM race.
The format of the OMM is fairly straightforward. It’s essentially two days of running between pre-defined check-points and the route is up to you so you need decent orienteering skills as well as a degree of fitness. Each checkpoint is worth points with more points awarded for ones that are harder to reach for example in the middle of a bog or up a mountain. At the end of the event the winner is the team with the most points. Easy? Well, not as easy as it looks; the challenge is as much about tactical planning as it is about physical fitness. You'll need to plan a route that strikes the right balance between picking up the maximum points and keeping the distance and elevation to a manageable level. In addition, competitors must be self-sufficient; you'll need to carry everything you need over the two days - food, clothes and camping gear.
The terrain is what makes the OMM unique. Often remote and always challenging; expect to run off-road the whole time. The beauty of this event is you get to choose your route so you can scramble straight to the top of that mountain on your hands and feet or take the easier and longer trail.
Choose your footwear wisely. You need off-road running shoes with good grip and you should expect them to get very wet and muddy. I avoid Gore-Tex shoes and prefer a shoe that may well get wet quickly, but then dries just as quickly. My choice this year will be the Salomon Speedcross 4 Shoes. With an aggressive tread and a very supportive fit, it’s the perfect off-road running shoe.
If you weren't interested in orienteering at school, now's the time to learn. This is a self-navigation event so you need good map reading skills (no GPS or mobile phones are allowed for navigation). You'll receive your map at the start and you will need to spend some time planning your route before sprinting off. Ten minutes of planning at the start could save you hours of running.
Choose your overnight camping gear wisely. You will be carrying it both days so weight is a critical factor. Your duvet might seem like a good idea until you have to carry it up and over mountains! I’ll be using the Nordisk Oscar sleeping bag Nordisk Oscar - 2 Sleeping Bag which weighs 900gr and keeps me comfortably warm to around freezing point. You can go lighter, but you’ll sacrifice warmth. I like my beauty sleep.
Talking of sleep, you’ll be sharing a tent. Again, lightweight and packable is key. I’ll be using the Nordisk Telemark 2 Light Weight Tent. Don’t expect anything palatial in terms of size! You’ll most likely be spooning with your race partner to squeeze in. Again, it’s a question of compromise - small and light makes for easier running.
The final things to consider as a team are a stove and food. You’ll be very hungry after running for 7 hours so a decent hot meal is a necessity. There are some great freeze-dried meals available now that just need boiling water. I’ll be using the Jetboil Zip. The fully integrated system is light and compact and heats water efficiently.
Waterproof clothing is mandatory and you'll need to invest in good quality kit. It's almost certain that you'll encounter bad weather and good waterproof clothing makes a world of difference. I’ll be using the OMM Kamleika Jacket and trousers. The fit is perfect for running (not too flappy), the fabric is stretchy (good for running off-road), there’s a great hood on the jacket to protect you and most importantly, the fabric breathes well so you don’t risk the boil-in-a-bag effect.
This covers the main bits of kit but make sure you check the mandatory kit list on the OMM website in advance as there's plenty more kit to consider like first aid kit, additional clothing, and a compass.
If you're looking for your next off-road running experience, sign up for the OMM. You'd better be quick though, the event sells out quickly and there’s a huge waiting list each year. It’s a true, authentic, British event which is now celebrating 50 years in existence. See you on the trails!