Posted by: Bruce Duncan | October 26, 2009


This past weekend saw the biggest and oldest Mountain Marathon. The Original Mountain Marathon has been running every year since 1968, and is the forerunner to all other mountain marathons and adventure racing, as such it draws competitors from all over the world.The OMM

Gareth Craft, a friend of mine had called me up a few months ago asking if I fancied racing the Elite class at the OMM, he caught me at a weak moment and I said yes!  So finally when Gareth had got round to sending off the entry form I got the details in the post, it was happening, no getting out of it now.

I had done some good long runs and plenty of shorter runs, but didn’t feel that I had prepared especially well for the rigours of an OMM elite course.  So arriving at the race on Friday night I felt unprepared, but on seeing lots of friends milling around I started to feel a bit better about the whole weekend.

Gareth arrived soon after me, and we registered, popped the tent up and grabbed some pre race food.  We looked over the map briefly, and then headed to the tent to sort all our kit out, and to prep the lightweight tent for the next night, this involved almost pitching it inside our bigger tent, which was far from massive, so gives you an idea of how small the tent is!

All set we got a pretty good nights sleep, and woke at 6am to get food in before an early bus to the start.  Arriving in good time for our start time we chatted to other friends and got set for a tough day out in the hills, and how we would work as a team.  We had never run together, not even round a park, so it remained to be seen how we worked as a team in the thick of a tough potentially 8 hour day of running.

It was uphill to the first control, and soon we found ourselves passing many competitors on the other courses, I was concentrating hard on hitting the first control cleanly as there was nothing to lead us into it.  We nailed the control but sadly pulled about 6 other teams in behind us.  Pushing on we dropped anyone behind us and settled into a pace and style that would suit us for the rest of the day, hitting the controls neatly and economising our effort.

We had some big names starting not too far behind us, and we were very happy with our progress that it took them almost 2hrs to pass us, they did so at a heck of a pace, and there was no way we could keep with them.
Race pictures available to view here : OMM Pictures
Leg 4 to 5 was a tough one, across some horrific tussocky boggy terrain with very vague contour features.  I spent most of the leg unsure where we were, but on a bearing and having major catching features to rescue us if needed.  Luckily just as I was getting very confused I heard a team ahead shout that they had got it, so we nipped up and bingo, there it was, relief!

The weather was pretty miserable at this point, drizzly rain and head wind, and at the far reaches of the map I was pretty low, some food and a nice road to run along got me going again, and soon the sun returned, well for a bit at least.

Heading back towards the finish we made a route choice error, what looked like the best option turned out to be awful due to the tussocks on the valley side we were on, but looking across to the other side a lovely path ran almost all the way to the control.  Nothing we could do about it but push on and limit our losses.

Soon after this we were caught by the eventual winners.  Steve Birkinshaw and Jethro Lennox and Jon Morgan and Al Powel were running fast, and James Logue was sticking with them too.  We did the same, with Gareth struggling with the pace, but it got us across the awful ground fast.  At one point, Steve, James and myself all turned to each other expecting someone to be on the nav, it turned out all of us had presumed the other was on it, oops, cue a wee error and sadly Gareth and myself had just dropped too much height and couldn’t get back to the group.  The wind dropped out of our sails and we slowed right down over the last few controls.

Running into the finish we were very relived to have run well, pretty cleanly and were happy with our position.  The weather had been kind, we had been soaked, but the wind had dried all our kit, meaning a much more pleasant night.  We got the tent pitched, but managed to choose a pretty wet spot, we were too tired to move it, and most other places were bad too!

Finishing at about 3pm we had loads of time to sit around and not do much.  The weather took a turn for the worse, so we had to cosy up in the tent.  When the rain cleared we got some lovely supernoodles on the go, and soon had polished them all off, and still wanting more.  Such is the balance of racing, you carry as little as possible, and know you will more than likely be hungry.

We wondered about the camp and chatted to number of friends, catching up on stories from the first days racing.  Checking the results we saw we were in 9th place, and just in the chasing start, both of us were very happy with this and knew we could push hard the next day and catch some places as there were 4 teams within about 10minutes.

It got dark and we squeezed into the tent after blowing up our balloons for out balloon bed, it’s a bit of a faff (but when you have hours to waste, its a good time filler!) Balloon Beds, but is very comfy and really keeps you warm.  The tent really was tight, and if one moved the other had too.  10hours of fitful sleep were finally ended when the siren went off at 6am to wake us all up.  We had a leisurely time as were not off till almost 8am.

On the start line it was dry but very windy, and the first leg took us straight into this wind.  We went for a high route worried that the valley could be very tussocky, but failed to take into account the wind issue.  Spiking the control we caught the team that had started ahead of us, we were off to a good start.  We then chose different route, opting for the easier going, but slightly longer path route, arriving at control 2 together there had been no advantage, other than maybe some easier running.

We ran for most of the rest of the course with Bruce and Alan, often taking slightly different routes, but seeming to always meet at the control again, we couldn’t shake them.  We caught and then dropped another team, and we were feeling good about the day.  The nav was going well and on the whole the running was much nicer.  There were a few stings in the tail, control 8 was a viscous decent down almost 10 contour lines just to then head back up again!  It was here however that we dropped our tough Scottish counter parts.  We pressed this advantage to ensure that there was no need for a sprint finish.  The last few controls went smoothly and were almost all downhill, which at this point was very painful on my knees.

Running to the line I was very relived to be finishing, but I was also really happy to have not only completed the Elite OMM, but to have finished in 5th place as well, this far and away exceeded our expectations.

Racing with Gareth had been great, we worked well together, gelling almost immediately and working to our strengths, who knows maybe we will be back!

It had been a great weekend, pretty good weather, a top result even getting us some prize money!  Catching up with so many friends was brilliant too, some folks I hadn’t seen for a long time, sitting chatting in the sun was lovely.

After such an epic OMM last year I think the organisers did a superb job this time to ensure nothing could go wrong, the courses were good and tough, the weather was kind and it was almost fun!

As I sit here writing this, my legs are elevated, I have ice on my ankles and right knee, but I can walk pretty well and my feet feel ok, maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough.  Next year????

View our routes and all other courses here: OMM Maps and Routes
a wee podcast interview of me shortly after finishing. OMM Podcast



  1. Bruce, Good write up and well done from someone on the C course.

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