This weekend saw the 48th running of the Original Mountain Marathon held in the Scottish Borders. The iconic event saw over 1500 competitors take on the challenging hills around Tweedsmuir whilst experiencing the unpredictable Scottish weather!
At the traditional Friday evening pre-event meet competitors took the opportunity to catch up & & exchange tales of previous OMM’s, whilst enjoying the evenings presentations, music & pasta party. The OMM event centre atmosphere was electric with a real sense of anticipation of the task ahead.
The arrival of the thundering rain in the early hours of Saturday morning signified it was time for the OMM to begin. With the 800m Broadlaw summit standing directly in front of them, competitors collected their maps and scattered into the hills following their chosen routes.
The location of the overnight camp at Manor Head was one of the best yet, completely enclosed by 600m peaks and giving a real sense of solitude. Course planner Mike Stuart commented; “one of the best overnight camp locations for a long time”.
As competing pairs squeezed into the smallest tents they could carry, the weather cleared to leave a crisp enough evening to see remaining runners dotted amongst the hillside. A calm atmosphere descended over the camp as teams recovered from a tough first day – an outstanding performance to make it to the overnight camp! Notable mentions include Kim Collison & Adam Perry leading the elite class by seven minutes over Nicolas Barber & Jim Mann. Also, David Bufton & George Chilcott leading a tough C course.
A lone piper making his way through the camp heralded dawns’ arrival and, as the pipes echoed, stoves boiled and runners began dismantling the tented village in the mountains.
The event continued as maps were collected at the start line and they headed off into 400 sqkm of course area. Day 2 brought with it blue skies and made for an ideal day to be in the Scottish hills.
With so many outstanding performances across the whole field, from Kim Collison & Adam Perry winning the elite class to welcoming 19 new members of the exclusive 20 Year OMM Club and 5 new members of the 30 Year OMM Club , this years is one to remember. OMM would like to thank all competitors and the 100 plus volunteers that make this such a special event.
“Our first OMM event and, to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We have been blown away by all the friendly people, the amazing marshals, and the way the event was run. To top it off, we came 61st overall in the medium score and came in 26th today. Can’t wait for the next one!”
“Thanks to everyone involved for a great weekend; OMM at it’s best with excellent maps, amazing location and tough terrain”
Next year OMM will be heading south and entries are open now on the OMM website. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
From everyone at OMM
Thanks to all competitors for your patient anticipation of the Planner’s report being posted. Now that the Saturday gales and rains have abated into memory I can sit down over a cup of coffee and cobble together a summary of the past 15 months works.
A general observation from me is that the line courses were generally overegged as the winning times would indicate. Generally they were between 10% and 20% too long. I have excluded the C courses from this which I shall return to later. An analysis of previous events show that there is actually little difference in km/hr between the various courses in terms of running rates. That is a reflection of distance, terrain visited and technical difficulty which makes these something of a leveller. The courses were based on 6km/hr for the elites, A and long score courses in terms of the winners and 5.5 km/hr for the otherclasses. On the day these proved to be over optimistic and one could have taken 0.5 to 1 km/hr off these lengths. Why was this? The weather was a factor on day one and a very wet July and August led to heavy, late summer growth on the hills.
So apologies for the Planner getting that wrong and I hope it didn’t affect competitors enjoyment of what was a great area to plan and compete in.
The score courses were to a certain extent less compromised by these factors as they have fixed times for competitors. The overnight camp was selected by myself as a location that was both iconic in keeping with the event and would also allow fair return times to the Event Centre on day 2 for short score and D course competitors. The limited peoples I had the opportunity to talk with chose strategies that may not have been my first call as the Planner. Many chose the route to the overnight camp over Broad Law. I have not had the chance yet to analyse what the leading lights of the score classes did but as their scores reflect my pre-event assessment then the likelihood is that many of them did adopt my expected strategy.
You will all probably either have been affected by, or been aware of, the updated permissions to the neighbouring Estate. These affected the C course on day 1 and to a lesser extent, the score classes on both days. The decision was taken to route the C class over Broad Law rather than completely wreck the original plans, leaving just a track run to the Manor Valley. That led to a long day 1 for competitors which was given back to them by the shortened course on day 2.
We were hit with these changes on the Thursday afternoon prior to the event leaving us just 48 hours to modify 2500 maps! I will spare you all the detail but it ensured a couple of graveyard shifts and diverted labour to deliver these changes. Apart from the Planner missing out on much of what is normally the enjoyable period of the event, I was not alone in that many others stepped in to the breech to assist and compromised their own event experiences. Many thanks from me to them.
All of these efforts I hope ensured that this iconic event delivered the unique challenges and experiences one has come to expect from the OMM over the years.
Special thanks must be made to the Botanic gardens for the loan of heather and tussock, the assistance of the local keepers in digging bear pits and traps, my climbing buddies for advice on scrambling routes and last, but not least, Mikey (The Hurricane) Trout for metrological assistance in providing typical OMM weather.
Interestingly, one of the youngest competitors who had entered the B Class had a particularly eventful weekend. A fit and very competitive orienteer, he and his partner set off in the worst of the weather on Day 1 on his first MM to show the older hands how it should be done. His kit was woefully inadequate to deal with either the weather or the overnight camp. Mostly begged and borrowed from friends and sympathisers. Arriving wet and bedraggled at the overnight camp, albeit finishing well up the field, he had lost key bits of his tent. The sodden matches, wet sleeping bag and absence of a mat ensured a miserable overnight camp. Fortunately he was rescued by a kindly film team who whisked him off to a warm hotel for a feed and recuperation.
That person was me in 1976 at the Galloway KIMM on my inaugural MM. Since then I have done over 40 more and have had plenty of success since then. So do come back for more as getting through these events and the enjoyment of them increases with participation. I’ll be back for my 40 year anniversary next year as a competitor. I’ll see you all there.
Event Director’s Report
I am back home now and have had a little time to recover and reflect on the 48th OMM. Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to give us some feedback on the event, it makes all of the work worthwhile when we hear your stories.
Mike Stewart (Planner) and Dave Chapman (Controller) have spent the last 15 months or so exploring every crook and cranny on the area, negotiating with land owners and tenants alike, and working very closely with Scottish Natural Heritage to allow the event to go ahead. Both of their reports are attached but I would like to thank both Mike and Dave for the long hours, sore legs and sleepless nights they have both endured to provide another challenging and memorable event.
For those of you who joined us last year in the Cheviot, there are not many locations like Clennell Hall and this year the event HQ reverted to more usual settings. Mr Glatt and the guys on Hearthstanes Estate could not have been more helpful during the build-up for the event especially when one of the local landowners rescinded their access permissions. North Yorkshire Scouts once again excelled themselves, ensuring we had power lighting and water where we needed it turning a lambing shed into a brightly lit space from which we could all work. Matt and Fi from the Old Post Office in Ingleton have spent the last 8 months planning for the catering over the weekend. Whilst there are always ways to improve I think they did a sterling job, especially as this was the first event of this type they had catered for. I am hoping that they can become the new Wilfs and thus part of the extended OMM Family over the next few years! Based on the feedback from the event last year we made sure that there was a cup of tea for everyone and a slice of cake to go with the meal. I know that not everyone got a cup of tea that was piping hot so we will work on the logistics of this for next year.
Nestled at the top end of a 10 mile long valley, surrounded on 3 sides by steep sided hills, Mike Stewart selected the overnight campsite. One of the constraints that Mike and Dave have is that the overnight campsite should never be more than 10 – 12 km away from the HQ in a straight line. This often limits the choices but the location this year was truly spectacular and the fields available almost billiard like when compared to last year! Mr Campbell who owns the land we used there was extremely helpful and still has his copy of the map from the last time we were in the same valley. The overnight site was knee deep in water at times back in 1994 which was located further down the valley. I am very pleased to say that we did not have any serious incidents to deal with and I would like to thank the team that ran the overnight campsite and the start on day 2 for doing this with their usual cheer. Special mention must go the Jonathan Whilock who not only ran the Elite course and finished as the first Veteran Team but also gave a spine tingling wake-up call on his bagpipes just as dawn was breaking on Sunday morning. Love or loathe the pipes, it is certainly a memorable moment of the event and you are hard pushed not to think back to the days when the pipes would lead the men of Scotland into battle, prior to dragging sore tired bodies out of your tents and prepping for another day of challenging movement in the hills.
The OMM is run on a not for profit basis which means that the only focus during the planning and organisation is ‘what would I want as a competitor?’ This is why feedback is so important to me and I am pleased with the response to the maps this year and the absence of the usual long queues for the facilities at the overnight. Mike and Dave will discuss in their report why we chose not to show heights on the maps.
The OMM is supported by a team in excess of 100 volunteers, some of whom have been helping on the event for over 30 years. It is a real privilege (and adventure) to be the custodian of the OMM and I could not have done it without the continued willing support of the small army of volunteers who support the event year in and year out without fail. I will avoid too long a list of thanking people. However, I cannot skip mentioning:
Dave Chapman and Mike Stewart
Both competed in their first events during the 1970’s and are a constant source of advice and support and are responsible for the courses that you all faced, I would like to publicly thank both of them for the huge amount of work they both put into making the event possible.
The Landowners, tenants and governing bodies
For giving us so much support throughout the process to allow us to enjoy such a spectacular event area.
Mr and Mrs Glatt, Jake, Davy and Kevin
For providing us with all the support we needed to provide parking, camping and the event centre. There were tractors on standby for the parking field on Sunday if we had needed them, trailers on loan to us to help recover the rubbish from the overnight when the skips didn’t arrive, forklifts to help shit pallets and the list goes on. There are a number of self-catering cottages on the estate which provide a perfect launch pad for exploring what is a spectacular place and, when OMM’s not there, it a beautiful spot to stay and relax. I encourage you all to go again
There are 8 teams of people that support the event: Parking (Dave and Tom), Registration (Sharon), Communications (Eddy), Saturday Start and Sunday Finish (John), Overnight Campsite (Laura, Nathan and Stephen), Infrastructure (Simon), Headquarters (Emma) and the Hill Team. The jobs that these guys do is too long to list but without their unwavering support and cheerfulness in tough conditions our weekend would not be as enjoyable as it was.
This was the first time in several years that we have not been able to accommodate everyone who wanted compete over the weekend so entry will remain on a first come first served basis for the time being. The final thank you goes to you. Seeing the smiles on Sunday makes the whole event worthwhile and I look forward to welcoming you to one of the OMM events next year.
I want to start with the map. After the issues of last year it was wonderful to return to the quality of a Harveys map about which I heard many positive comments. One of the good points about working with Harveys is the fact that we can make map changes when necessary. For example, we arranged for some names to be moved or removed to avoid obscuring detail around a control. We also chose to remove all height markings from the map in order to minimise the benefit of using an altimeter.
Those of you who ventured south of the Megget and Talla Reservoirs will have noted the fences marked as uncrossable. Much of the length of these may have been easy to cross, but it was a stipulation of the landowner that we use identified crossing points; I trust that you all did so. All of the small Out of Bounds areas in the hills were identified as sensitive by Scottish Natural Heritage to who we are grateful for allowing us to use the SSSI which is the Tweedsmuir hills. Elsewhere our Ecologist, David Broom, has written a detailed report on the nature of the terrain.
Thanks to Mike for planning a great set of courses with plenty of route choice for everyone. As Mike notes in his comments, the linear courses did turn out to be too long judging by the winning times. It’s really difficult to get the length right as performances are impacted by the weather.
Mike has spent many days walking the hills considering route options as well as control locations and I and my hill team have also spent considerable time in the hills. We have all concluded that most of the area was pretty runnable so the only risk to times that we envisaged were if rivers were swollen and had to be crossed much further upstream than would otherwise have been necessary. Many of you reported very difficult running conditions so I can only assume that the wonderful weather that has been experienced by the region has resulted in very significant growth in the heather.
Having mentioned my Hill Team I would like to commend them for their efforts. Every June five of us spend 4 days checking and validating the control locations and the map, and then the same team assist the Planner and I in getting all the controls out and in the right place in the 4 days leading up to the event. This year they took an even greater load as I damaged my leg on Tuesday and was unable to go out afterwards,
Similarly, I want to thank the Hill Marshals who spent the weekend at a control point for your safety; some of them return every year. I heard a few positive comments about the friendly reception competitors received, and at least 2 marshals were involved in assisting retiring competitors.
Mike has made mention of the late notification of a part of the area being made out of bounds. Clearly this was very unfortunate and led to some restrictions on courses and to the excessive length of C day 1. Permissions are always a critical issue, and somehow we got this bit wrong. As a further example, a slightly irate Scottish Water employee visited us on Monday to question our use of the crossing of Megget Dam, but was mollified when I showed him the permission I had received; he departed with the intention of ascertaining why this high up manager had not informed him J
I decided to set the course closing time at 16.00 this year to get teams off the hills in time to ensure the safety of all. This closure time allows Marshals to get off the hills in the light whilst bringing in other controls. This is important for 2 reasons:
- Getting the Marshals in safely – even with the 16.00 closure it was nearly 18:00 before the last marshal got back and I could relax.
- Getting as many SI boxes back on Sunday is vital if we do have to initiate a search. This was a lesson from last year when we had one team way overdue, but were unable to commence search until dark was approaching as we had no information to narrow the search area; once SI boxes started to come in we knew where to look.
Recognising that having an hour less to compete would be a challenge for the slower teams we agreed to modify the start timings on Sunday, with the result that anyone who finished after 18:00 on Saturday went off on Sunday 30 minutes earlier then they would have done under last year’s system. The changes also meant that last starts on most courses were about 30 minutes earlier than last year, although this didn’t quite work out for A and Elite which are the courses that need this the most!
I am aware that some teams took the decision to retire once they had failed to reach a control by the advertised closing time, and for this reason it would not be fair to record those finishing after course closing time with a position; it maybe that others could have posted a faster time if they had continued. However, we have ensured that all who completed have been ranked by time.
We’ll be reviewing this whole area at the Organisational de-brief that we hold every year.
Finally, thanks to you, the competitors, for entering and making all of the hard work worthwhile. From the feedback I’ve seen most people enjoyed it.
I hope to see you all next year when we move south.
Every year, OMM events are located in upland areas of great scenic beauty that often contain features of considerable biodiversity value and importance. Occasionally, the features that provide this interest can be vulnerable to the wear and tear that may result from the passage of several thousand OMM competitors. The risk of ecological damage is given careful consideration during early stages in the planning process for OMM events and every effort is made to avoid areas of particular ecological sensitivity. For competitors who would like to extend this consideration of ecological risk to their personal route selection choices this note outlines the general nature conservation interest of the 2015 event area, and provides advice on how competitors’ route choices could help to further avoid the risk of local ecological disturbance.
The 2015 OMM event area is located within the Tweedsmuir Hills region of the Scottish Borders, consisting almost entirely of strongly folded sandstones, mudstones and shales from the Ordovician and Silurian geological period, 395-500 million years ago. These are sediments which accumulated on the floor of an ocean that separated Scotland from England for many millions of years. The sediments were baked hard and folded into a range of high mountains when the ocean closed and the land masses of Scotland and England collided around 425 million years ago. Periods of glacial action have produced a present-day landscape of rounded hills and smooth slopes, dissected by steep- sided river valleys.
The Tweedsmuir Hills contain the largest area of montane plateau landscape outside the Scottish Highlands, an environment typified by low temperatures, high exposure and late snow lie. These conditions are reflected in the presence of many specialised upland plant and animal communities. The significant nature conservation interest provided by many of these features is recognised by their designation at national and international levels. Careful event planning has ensured that the majority of these special interest areas are avoided by the majority of OMM 2015 courses. However, some courses pass through areas of special nature conservation interest, including various types of upland grassland, heather moorland, blanket bog, woodland, streams and rivers.
- Dry acid grassland is a widespread vegetation type within the Tweedsmuir Hills, formed where centuries of livestock grazing has converted heather moorland to open grassland. These areas provide a relatively robust vegetation type that can generally withstand the trampling effects of fell running. Dry acid grassland areas can include mosaics of other upland vegetation types such as blanket bog, heather-dominated heath vegetation and wet acid grassland creating areas of local vulnerability to a concentration of trampling on routes used by large numbers of OMM competitors.
- Heather Moor vegetation is present across large areas of the Tweedsmuir Hills, particularly on more freely draining substrates. Heather moor on the highest level land includes alpine and subalpine dry dwarf shrub heath, upland vegetation types of very high nature conservation importance. At the highest level locations alpine heath is often present as vegetation tussocks with patches of bare ground and scattered rocks. As these locations often contain some of the most important upland vegetation types within the Tweedsmuir Hills runners should take great care not to fragment the vegetation within these areas.
- Heather moor often occurs in combination with blanket bog vegetation that is especially vulnerable to potentially harmful effects of trampling by OMM competitors (see below).
- Blanket bog is an important and widespread feature of the high dissected plateau of the event area. These areas also contain degraded blanket bog with peat hags (erosion gulleys) that have formed where bog vegetation has been lost and the underlying peat is being eroded. Disturbance of eroded blanket bog by runners churning through peat hags has the potential to accelerate peat erosion by de-stabilising the peat surface. Wherever possible, route choices in these areas should try to link strips and patches of surviving moorland vegetation between the peat hags.
Tweedsmuir Hills, 2015
- If crossing peat hags is unavoidable, routes should try to link cushions of remnant moorland vegetation as ‘stepping stones’ across the bare peat surfaces. In some situations, the extent of peat erosion has been sufficient to expose the bedrock and glacial material underlying the peat. Running on this material is unlikely to cause significant harm to recovering peat surfaces. Runners should take special care at the edge of deep peat hags as intact vegetation often overhangs undercut peat gulleys and is extremely vulnerable to being broken off.
- In contrast to areas of degraded blanket bog, some locations on plateau landforms within the event area contain patches of high quality blanket bog with an intact vegetation surface that lack eroding peat hags. These are typified by areas of wet heath vegetation interspersed with shallow pools, often associated with Sphagnum moss carpets. These areas often comprise a mosaic of vegetation types that will include slightly raised areas of better drained peat with drier heather moorland vegetation. These will be far less vulnerable to disturbance through vegetation damage by trampling and should ideally be selected when making route choices for running through these intact blanket bog areas.
- Areas of wet acid grassland will be encountered on courses where impeded drainage occurs within relatively level hill grassland areas or where groundwater emerges at the surface as seepages across more steeply sloping ground. These vegetation types can be vulnerable to persistent disturbance effects of trampling and should ideally be avoided wherever possible by selecting routes that keep to dry acid grassland to by-pass wet grassland patches.
- Groundwater seepages are a widespread feature of the Tweedsmuir Hills sedimentary geology, and these can maintain distinctive and ecologically important communities of mosses, liverworts and other specialised plants. Groundwater seepages on steep ground can be difficult to avoid when running where they cross valuable contouring lines. Avoidance of these areas could involve a significant route change and deviation from the desired contour level. Despite this, it would be ideal if damage to seepage zone vegetation could be minimised, often located within shallow gulleys, re-entrant features or associated with ground level rock outcrops that cross steep slopes.
- On hillsides, soil movements within dry and wet acid grassland areas can develop well-defined micro-terrace systems, often referred to as sheep walks. These typically follow contours and can provide extremely useful running lines. Grassland vegetation at the edge of these micro-terraces is often friable and easily broken off. Care should be taken when using these features for contouring to avoid running on the edge of these terraces to minimise grassland damage.
- Distinctive semi-natural woodland of high conservation interest is extremely scarce within the event area, often confined to broadleaved woodland within steep-sloping ravine landforms associated with upland streams and rivers. The microclimate of these ravine woodlands typically maintains vegetation comprising highly specialised mosses, liverworts and other plants. These are fragile plant communities that would be easily disturbed by OMM competitors choosing routes that negotiate these steep-sided, wooded ravines. Where OMM courses involve stream crossings, competitors should avoid wooded ravine sections wherever possible to help avoid the disturbance of these valuable wildlife habitats.
- The event area contains a complex network of streams and rivers, some of which are potentially vulnerable to ecological disturbance from repeated crossing by runners. Some of the rivers within and surrounding the event area are covered by very high level nature conservation designations, including watercourses that support internationally and nationally threatened animal species such as otter and water vole. In many cases, the nature conservation interest of these rivers and streams concerns use of the banksides by these animals. As a consequence, great care should be taken by OMM competitors at stream crossings, minimising bank disturbance when entering and climbing out of stream channels.
RandR Photos were out and about on the course all weekend. Most noticeably at the starts and finishes on both days. You can view their images by following the link below. www.randrphotos.co.uk/event-photos.php
Described as a „Web utility for drawing and comparing orienteering routes“. It enables competitors to draw and compare their routes. RouteGadget not only shows the routes, but when linked with e-punch results, it allows the race to be replayed, even simulating a mass start. You will actually see little squares move across the map. It really adds another dimension to post-race analysis.
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- Nicky Spinks – OMM 2015
Musings from my first OMM – Rozzi’s Blog
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- 48TH OMM SEES OVER 1500 TAKE PART ON TWEEDSMUIR HILLS – myoutdoors.co.uk
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- OMM 2015 – Anton’s Blog