Race Organisers Report
Thank you to all of you who have been in touch with messages of appreciation for the team as well as the constructive criticisms, without which we would not know where to improve, and there is always space for this.
It takes over 18 months of work to deliver an OMM, the majority of this time is taken planning the courses and gaining land access permissions. I attach the race controller reposts that discuss the challenges that were faced while creating these courses which I am sure you all enjoyed. You can also read about the decision to shorten courses on day 2 which was a purely safety driven decision.
As race director it is my responsibility to provide an experience for the competitors from arrival to departure. This work includes extensive logistic arrangements and The OMM is constantly looking at ways to improve. This year an indoor Event Centre at Clennell Hall was a huge benefit and provided a comfort level that I cannot guarantee you in the future. While you may not have noticed it, it also provided challenges such as a single track lane and quite a spread out site. This didn’t seem to phase many though and we were pleased to make use of the space to improve flow of competitors into the event centre on crossing the finish line. I hope you all enjoyed your locally made soup and pies and, as requested, we will be sure to add copious amounts of hot tea for next year. A big thank you to Clennell Hall.
We were also blessed with a stunning, if a bit blustery, spot for the mid camp. Rob, the farmer, was a huge help to us ensuring that we had a fantastic warming area for any casualties plus his less warm barn for viewing of overnight positions. Camping is always an area of great risk in events and unfortunately we had a couple of incidents of burns during the event. We put out water points in the camping field for safety and we are arranging to put a short video together to educate in good safe practices for stove use in lightweight scenarios. We also need to apologise for the queues for the toilets. It is an annual challenge for us to convince portaloo providers that we need a much higher loos per head count that your average festival but as we all know in mountain marathons there are certain times when everyone would like to go. We also had to be considerate of the ½ mile rough track for delivery. The number provided exceeded professional guidance but was clearly not enough so we will increase for next year.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the quality and clarity of the maps at the event. They simply were not of the required standard hence the provision of the waterproof bags. Thank you for working with them. We run the event on a not for profit basis and want to keep the entry fees as low as possible. Our map bill for the OMM is normally in the region of £12,000 so we will always exploring ways to improve this. Finances however were not the driving factor behind wanting to try something new. Whilst the format of Harveys and Stirling mapping is well recognised in orienteering and MM circles, they are at times confusing for newcomers to the sport. The aim was to produce a clear, informative map that was more accessible for all users. Through poor production we failed on every level. But, before we scrap the idea, we would like to ask our experienced MM community to help in reviewing an experiment; We are going to be producing a number of types of map for a previous OMM location. We will publish these on our website for comment with a view to using the winning method for maps at the OMM 2015. The whole focus of the event is enjoying being on the hill competing and we want to encourage more people to join our community.
The safety of teams is my highest priority over the weekend, that does not mean being overly prescriptive regarding kit or route choices for example, it does mean however that we need a very robust medical plan. Not only do we have paramedics and doctors on site, we were very fortunate to have the support of both North of Tyne and Northumberland National Parks Mountain Rescue Teams who willingly volunteered their support to the event with 32 team members in the area over the weekend.
‘To the victor go the spoils’
Prizes are not what we are here for and anyone completing an OMM course has excelled in mind and body. We adjusted the prizes this year to award just to the top place while increasing values so that a similar total pot size was offered. This generally has been accepted however, after researching a number of scientific reports that suggest that performance between genders narrows as endurance requirements increase, we also moved the female and mixed teams into the same prize category. Further study of actual OMM results suggest that MM racing does not agree with this research and as such we are very pleased to respond to feedback and award prizes to the first placed female team in each course. Our team will contact the winners shortly. OMM is completely committed to promoting female participation and we have been proud to support the Free to Run charity by providing equipment for a group of ladies in Afghanistan to resist oppression and run in the stunning Afghan mountains.
Moving a bit further away from the event itself we have also had a tough year on communications. We didn’t start well with a late release of the start programme and caused needless concerns for families and friends at home by not managing to get results posted up on Saturday night. These were all teething problems of a new team with ambitions to achieve. We won’t have these issues next year.
It is a real privilege (and adventure) to take on the custodianship 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 thank yous however I cannot skip mentioning
Dave Chapman and Steve Willis
(both competed in their first events during the 70’s). 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.
For providing us with an amazing venue, feeding us and keeping us warm. Rocky moved everything they could to welcome us in including even putting off the birth of name child (should have been by caesarean on the Friday before the event). Clennall Hall is a spectacular place and, when we are not there, a beautiful spot to stay and relax. I encourage you all to go again
I have been working alongside Jen Longbottom for the last three years, trying to soak up as much of her experience as possible prior to her retirement last year. The event in the Brecons saw Jen completing 31 years of organising the OMM, a huge achievement. It is fair to say that the size of the shoes left for me to fill was daunting to say the least. It was great to have a very relaxed Jen join us again at the event this year, I hope some of you managed to say hello at registration and I appreciate her continued support.
Finally, thank you to you. Seeing the smiles on Sunday makes the whole event worthwhile and I look forward to welcoming you to one of the events next year.
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 course setting 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 2014 competition area, and provides advice on how competitors’ route choices could help to further avoid the risk of local ecological disturbance.
The 2014 OMM event area is located within the Cheviot region of the Northumberland National Park, an area of predominately igneous geology comprising extensive andesite and basalt lava flows intruded by an extensive granite pluton within the Cheviot and surrounding hills, and by networks of basic dykes elsewhere. The character of the event area landscape is strongly influenced by glacial action, creating a distinctive dissected plateau of extensive rolling hills with steep-sided, ice scoured valley systems. Glacial sands, gravels and boulder clays are deposited over much of the event area.
A variety of distinctive upland wildlife habitats and vegetation types characterise the 2014 OMM event area, and 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 2014 courses. However, some courses pass through areas that contain features 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 Cheviot, 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.
- Extensive areas of dry acid grassland 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 and Grass Moor vegetation typically covers a large area of the Cheviot uplands, particularly on more freely draining substrates. Heather and grass moorland make up a significant area of hill grazing land, and within plateau areas where heather is usually managed by rotational burning for grouse shooting. These vegetation types often occur in combination with the blanket mire and bogs that are included within many areas designated for their nature conservation interest. Patches of blanket mire and bog are especially vulnerable to potentially harmful effects of trampling by OMM competitors (see below).
- Blanket bog is an important and widespread feature of many part of the high dissected plateau of the event area. Many of these areas comprise degraded blanket bog where peat hags (erosion gulleys) have formed where bog vegetation has been lost and the underlying peat is being eroded. In many cases within the event area, the bare peat exposed in hags has become stabilised by reinstatement of a vegetation cover, allowing the slow recovery of blanket bog vegetation that will help to eventually halt the loss of peat through erosion.
- Disturbance of recovering blanket bog by runners churning through peat hags has the potential to trigger further 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. These are often quite well-drained, providing areas of relatively robust vegetation and resistant to the trampling effects of running.
The Cheviots, 2014
- 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. However, most of these areas are covered by ‘Out of Bounds’ sections of the event maps and as such are unlikely to be encountered by 2014 OMM competitors.
- 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 luxuriant Sphagnum mosses. 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. Wet acid grassland can be of special nature conservation interest, in particular where groundwater seepages provide conditions for communities of specialised mosses, liverworts and other specialised plants. 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.
- Wet acid grassland at groundwater seepages on steep ground can be difficult to avoid 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 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 often 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, water vole, and freshwater pearl mussel. 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.