The OMM (previously the KIMM) is a long-established event on the fell running calendar. It’s a ‘mountain marathon – essentially a combination of orienteering and fell running over rough and high terrain (I think of it as fell hurrying). There are a range of courses: the linear course sees competitors make their way round a series of checkpoints in a particular order. Points course competitors get as many points as possible by choosing which checkpoints to visit (with deductions made for late returns). The OMM is on the last weekend of October and known for challenging weather and visibility (read tricky nav and a bit of suffering).
Becca and I had booked it earlier in the year, when the chances of being fell fit and well-prepared had seemed far higher. I’m not a newbie to mountain marathons, but it’s been a while and this was my first OMM. As it was I was fairly fit, averagely organised and a bit unwell – not a perfect combination for an efficient and fast weekend in the mountains.
Generally we were happy with the nav element (although we did have some trouble getting from our van to the events tent for a pint on the first night) and our hill fitness could have been better, but it was a weekend of learning and refining. Whilst they are fresh in my mind, here are a few tips for first time OMMers (and for future me) for OMM 2024.
Hill admin: get your systems in place beforehand
By hill admin I mean layers, refuelling, hydrating etc. Hill admin is one of the three factors that will impact your speed on the day (the others being navigation and fitness). Every moment spent stopping to get food out of your bag, layering and delayering adds more time than you’d think.
Everything you need whilst moving should be within reach, be that poles, food, drink, gloves and – essentially – your navigation equipment. Ideally your layers will allow venting as necessary so that you’re not constantly needing to whip them off, and your waterproofs will be stuffed somewhere super accessible so that you can get them out quickly. Sort your system ahead of time so that you’re not working it out on the race.
This means that your backpack matters. It is hard to find something that suits both the OMM and all your other needs, but I would recommend looking for something in the region of 25 – 30 litres with strap pouches and pockets for water bottles, food etc.
The OMM race organisers provide a list of essential kit that you must have with you on the race, but ultimately the forecast dictates what you take.
I was pretty happy with my clothing, although my waterproof was builkier and heavier than I’d have liked and I took an extra pair of socks for sleeping in which was a little luxurious. Ultimately it depends on how warm you run and sleep, but my kit list for next year will look a little like this:
For camp/sleeping: dry thermal tights and base layer, synthetic insulated jacket (Rab Xenair Alpine), dry running socks (also for day 2 of the event). All packed in a drybag.
We slept in all our layers, which meant we could save weight on sleeping bags. It was a fairly mild night so this paid off. I also took my handknitted multicoloured balaclava for camp/sleeping, not the most technical piece of kit but really made a difference to warmth (and moral)
Actually plan your food
I always overpack and take ridiculous food when backpacking and fastpacking. This meant I made a vegetable wrap on the Friday, took it for a weekend in the mountains, only to eat it at work on Monday (not recommended).
In hindsight, I want accessible, packable and energy dense stuff for on the move, a big dehydrated meal in the evening and a quick big breakfast.
Next year’s food will look a little more like this…
Breakfast: big porridge and banana at basecamp
On the move: boiled eggs and flapjack/veloforte bars (packable, energy dense and easy to eat on the move).
At overnight camp: dried fruit, nuts and chocolate; high calorie dehydrated meal, a sachet of custard (more on this later).
Breakfast: porridge with fruit/nuts and coffee (in coffee bags)
On the move: more veloforte bars and flapjack
Emergency food: bag of fizzy vegan sweets and/or nakd bars
For receptacles, I took a mug for porridge and washed it with a strong coffee.
Hot water bottles
I took a 500ml Nalgene which I could refill at streams on the way around the course. The benefit of Nalgenes is that you can fill them with boiling water to use as a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag. The downside is that they’re harder to access on the go and bulkier than soft bottles. My Ultimate Direction soft Body Bottle can take up to 60’C water, so I’ll be experimenting with that ahead of next year with the view to swapping it in.
Hydration bladders that sit in your bag are also an option of course, but I prefer to take something I can easily access to fill up along the way.
Custard in a sachet
An absolute GAME CHANGER! Thanks to Nikki for this tip (and Becca for bringing the custard). Birds instant custard sachets can be made in the bag (no need for a bowl, but long spoon advised) – an ideal lightweight pudding where you just pour in water. It’s also 99p, rather than the £10 you’d pay for an outdoor specific dehydrated pudding.
Put plastic bags on your feet
An old tip that I had forgotten, but if you want to put clean socks on at camp you can add plastic bags over the top to stop them from getting wet in your shoes. It is all the rage at the OMM, very few people are without them
Looking forward to next year…
Bad weather, long runs off path and lots of hills all form part of the training plan for next year, and maybe I can make some sort of excuse to buy a new backpack…
Sign up here! https://theomm.com/the-omm/
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