Blinking hard, I looked up again from my map and compass somehow hoping it would magically clear the dense fog surrounding me. Unsurprisingly it didn’t! Only an hour and a half into the OMM (B course) and Tom and I were already ‘temporarily misplaced’ yet to find our first checkpoint!
Until about 12 hours previous to this I had been living in blissful ignorance of what the weekend would exactly contain… Having entered a fair few months in advance, the OMM had always seemed like a far off target. Don’t get me wrong I had heard the rumours and read the stories – I knew I was in for a real challenge – but having not done an event quite like this before I just couldn’t picture it. Aside from training, my mental preparation had consisted of constantly reminding myself I was most likely underestimating it!
Arriving at the event base in Glentrool on Friday night I was nervous and excited. The tent was buzzing with runners exchanging tales of previous years, panic buying those forgotten items and loading up on carbs. Registration was well organised so didn’t take long, and I was soon wrapped up in my sleeping bag managing to resist the temptation of buying new waterproof trousers (mine are like a bin bag)!
Before I knew it, the alarm was going off, and it was time to get up. The weather was a mixed bag – despite being warm there was pretty poor visibility and intermittent rain – I suspected navigation would be particularly tricky. There was a flurry of last minute packing panics (in which I seemed to add an extra two days of food to my bag – I do not do well with hanger!) before hot footing it to the start line – only a mere three miles away from the event’s base! The organisers claim this is to ensure a good start location, and while I believe them, I am also inclined to think this is to give you the chance to fully contemplate what you are getting yourself into.
Crossing the start line Tom and I quickly formulated a plan to reach the first checkpoint and scampered off into the bleak surroundings, which brings me back to where I started, ‘temporarily misplaced’ in the clag..!
Our mistake had been a typical one – having been swept along with other runners, all on different courses, going in different directions, we had questioned our original plan and kept changing tact. Resisting the urge to completely doubt our ability to read a map we decided to relocate ourselves from a nearby craggy area – and as it happened managed to actually stumble upon the checkpoint in the process. It was an utter stroke of luck! In my head, I scolded myself for not being more switched on from the start and we made an agreement to be more careful with our route planning – after all, there were still 12 more checkpoints today alone.
Lesson learnt it was time to try and recover some time (or at least not lose anymore)! The terrain was tough – a combination of deep bogs and rutted tufted grass with hidden streams and holes it was ankle snapping territory. I had naively envisioned stunning Scottish mountainside however it looked like it was just going to be a view of my compass and a white wall of cloud!
By midday, we had located checkpoints 2,3 and 4 without issue however I was beginning to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew… The ‘B Course’ with 25km and 1500m of ascent each day (as the crow flies – so really it’s a lot more!) was turning out to look a little bit ambitious! But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and at that moment the only thing we could do was give it our best shot. I’ll also admit, I slightly thrive on being thrown in at the deep end and always find it pushes me more.
So we continued onwards! After the early mistake navigation was actually going really well – I think our main issue had been confidence and sticking to one plan. I was also pretty pleased with my decision to take real food over just bars and gels. I find it amazing how much a good snack can pick you up in these races. At one point in the afternoon I went from thinking I may actually be better taking up a more ‘normal’ sedate pastime like a watching Netflix series or something, to springing up the hillside like a mountain goat – all triggered by munching on a salted potato (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)!
Shortly after this ‘spud high’, I had another great moment when the murk lifted to reveal a herd of deer crossing the valley below – it was beautiful. All in all despite not being the quickest or the fittest (and ignoring the pain in my legs) I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
After 9 hours and 56 minutes of bog trogging and heather bashing, we made it to the mid-camp. Greeted by fairy lights and clapping marshals we were the 40th pair out of 92 on the B course according to our ticket, I was chuffed to have made it this far nice and clear of the cut-off time. All we had to do now was survive the night and get round tomorrow course – no problem!? I’ll be honest the thought of repeating the day’s performance was pretty daunting.
Pushing this to one side I pitched the tent and changed into dry clothes eager to start cooking dinner. I had opted for a pesto and pasta boil in the bag meal as I figured this was pretty hard to mess up… How wrong I was – it was disgusting! Luckily the advantage of lugging half of Tesco’s around with me was there was a backup option. After a very mixed meal at the grand time of 8:00 pm it was time for bed. Snuggling up in my sleeping bag on my plush Thermarest NeoAir I was pretty content and comfy. Tom, in contrast, was having a few problems with his sleeping arrangements…
Having opted for the very light but not so very practical balloon bed there seemed to be a few issues with its assembly. The first three balloons had burst as they were being pumped up and now the surrounding tents and I were waiting gleefully with bated breath to see how the remaining attempts went! In short, it did not go well – the end result was one meagre half filled balloon that simply wouldn’t fit in the soggy outer ‘mattress’. Luckily it was still suitable for amateur balloon modelling, and Tom had his thick sleeping bag, sense of humour and a hip flask of whisky to see him through the night!
The next day we were up early woken by the dulcet tones of the bagpipes for our 7:00 am start. Despite being a bit stiff and sore I felt up for the challenge – the visibility had improved hugely, and I was keen to get going. Out of the start gate, map in hand, I was not going to have a repeat of Saturday morning. Our planning was far better this time, and I was surprised how quickly we found the first control – it felt excellent to tick this off in good time.
I am not sure if this is the case every year (as this is my first OMM) but day 2 seemed to have a different feel to it. Day 1 had felt very remote and until we started to approach the finish we hardly saw anyone. Day two, however, felt like all the competitors were closer together – mind you this may well have been due to the visibility! It was brilliant to be surrounded by so many like-minded and equally mad individuals however I was more aware of the fact we were all racing. Especially when approaching a control I found myself pushing the pace a little more and making more of an effort to work out the fastest route to each checkpoint.
With so much to concentrate on I can’t believe how quickly the day went. Given the aching legs and blistered feet I was very much expecting it to be a long slog, but while I was tired, I was having a great time. One of the biggest things I think the OMM has taught me is how to refocus and keep going when I am tired. Yes, you feel fairly crap and broken but somehow you turn off the part of your brain that tells you to stop and just keep going, knowing it will be worth it in the end. I can’t really explain what I mean – but coming to terms with this feeling and accepting it was a big thing for me.
Before I knew it, we were approaching the final checkpoint and the finish. Not content with the vast amounts of bog and mud that we had already had to contend with the event organisers seemed to have orchestrated the last mile or so to represent a mini tough mudder! Slipping and sliding towards the finish, I couldn’t quite believe this would soon be over. On the one hand, I was a bit sad it was all over but on the other (much larger) hand I couldn’t wait for a cup of tea and a sit-down!
Tom and I crossed the finish line in 6 hours and 42 minutes after starting, giving us an overall time of 16 hours 38 minutes and placing us 39th over the two days – at this point, position meant very little to me I can genuinely say I was just delighted to finish.
The OMM 100% lived up to its reputation as a brutal challenge both mentally and physically. There are moments I truly contemplated what on earth I was doing thigh deep in bog in the Scottish hills. My feet may take a while to recover, and my kit my permanently be covered in Glentrool mud but if you asked me if I would like to do it all again the answer would be a wholehearted yes!
Thanks again to all involved in organising a great weekend – everything was well planned, and the little touches really made it.
So if you have read my ramblings and want to give it a go all the information on when entries are open for and details on all OMM’s events can be found here.