Thursday, 25 October 2012

The OMM 2012: A Preview

It's that time of year. As the nights draw in and we get used to waking and getting home in the dark, a sub-set of the population are busy removing the last vestige of label from their warm(ish) clothing, weighing, trimming then re-weighing their crepe bandage, making flapjack so sugary it would give a diabetic nightmares and explaining to their colleagues why they might be a bit useless on Monday. It's the last weekend of October, the clocks go back, and 3000-or so people will descend on the east-Cumbrian town of Sedbergh,  nestled amongst the Howgill hills, for the 44th Original Mountain Marathon, or OMM.

 Whilst not as tall or rough as their Lakeland cousins, the Howgill hills make up for their short (relatively, of course!) stature in steepness. Route-choice will play a big part in the 5 linear (OK, so C isn't entirely Linear) and 3 score classes. Generally runnable, there are areas of rougher grass, bog and slippery traverse - shoe choice could also be a factor in how people perform after the weather we've had recently!

Anyway, onto a preview of the racing, focussing on the Elite category. Of course, partner changes and withdrawals through injuries or illness make picking favourites somewhat of an inexact science, but here goes my slightly irreverent two-penneth and conjecture!

Elite: Bumper Competition on Open and Mixed.

2011's top three pairings return, hoping for less of the controversy that saw Birkenshaw and Lennox (not in attendance this year) deducted 30 mins for an incorrect control on day 1. There's fierce competition for both the Overall and Mixed titles.

The Reigning Champions.
Duncan Archer and Shane Ohly were not complete surprise winners in Perthshire last year, but other pairings were more fancied. They came through a tense finish on day 2 to win by just 13 seconds after 11 hours of racing! This year Duncan retained his elite LAMM title (with Jim Mann) by over an hour, whilst Shane oversaw the return of the Legendary Dragon's Back Race.
2011 winners Duncan (left) and Shane. picture from MudSweatTears

The Runners Up.
Chris Near and Tim Higginbotham ran the fastest time of Day 1 in 2011 from an earlyish start (therefore without the aid of pack running those starting later had), and were chasing Archer and Ohly right into the finish on day 2. This year they again have a fairly early start on Day 1, and should set the early pace.

The Young Upstarts.
Last year's third place team, GB Orienteers Doug Tullie and John Rocke combine the superpowers of British Orienteering - Sheffield and Edinburgh Universities. Both 24, this pairing have many years left of elite MMing, but last year's 3rd place at the first attempt on Elite shows the hunger they have. Of course, performance could depend on whether John's been on night-shift this week (he recently started as a Junior Doctor in Aberdeen)! Earlier in the year John set the world record for fastest half-marathon in a camel (1:40:14 at Sheffield on a hot May day).
John's in the back! (Photo Martin Ward)

The Swedes.
Their names may not ring any bells, but Bjorn Rydvall (4th Elite OMM 2007) and Aaron Price (former Kiwi Orienteering international), represent Team Silva and, according to their resumes, are well-regarded adventure race competitors and organisers. It'll be interesting to see how they cope in the Howgills, although with living in Sweden, this weekend's predicted chilly conditions should make them feel right at home!

The Vets.
The Dark Peak pairing of Steve Pyke and Jon Morgan may have many years on their competitors, but also have stamina and experience. Spyke is well known for his long days out in the hills, setting a new record for a solo/unsupported Tranter Round in early June. How he got on with his planned 24-hour Munro Record in late June (mentioned in this summer's FellRunner) I don't know. Jon is well known in long races and was runner-up on Elite in the Elan Valley tussock-fest 2009 OMM. (However, I did cruise past him in the clag at Great Lakes Race this year, just before slight-side!)

Other Pairings.
CompassSport editor and former GB Orienteer Nick Barrable pairs up with Darrell High.North Wales's Iain Ridgeway pairs up with Sam Smith, whilst (who I pressume to be) Leeds City's Adam Osbourne pairs up with Andy Thompson - although comments out of the FRA relays were about how good Osbourne was uphill, but that he can't descend for toffee.

The Mixed Competition.

Last year's mixed champion Jasmin Paris returns, although rumour has it that her 2011 partner Konrad Rawlick is replaced with Jon Ashcroft. Having been imperious in long fell races this year, winning Wasdale, Borrowdale, 3 Shires and Pentland Skyline (to name but a few), Jasmin seems to be in excellent knick, and I for one can testify to her strngth over the long distances, having watched her head off into the distance at the 3-hour mark at both Borrowdale and Wasdale.

Jasmin's Carnethy team-mates Andrew Fallas (2nd at Pentland Skyline) and Helen Bonsor (2nd at Borrowdale) will probably provide the main competition, having won the A-class at the LAMM outright - again I have personal experience of Helen's strength as she went straight through me heading up Dale Head at Borrowdale!

Steep-sided valleys await (picture from visit cumbria)

Mixed runners-up in 2011, Jo Inge Fjellstad and Wendy Fjellsted again make their annual trip from Norway and are competition not to be taken lightly.

The main curve-ball in the Mixed category is Dragon's Back completer and reigning LAMM elite winner Jim Mann teaming up, I'm lead to believe by those in the know (...), with Helen Skelton of Blue Peter/Kayaking the amazon/Cycling Antartica fame. However, her Wiki age and the age on the entry list don't match up, so it could be this Helen Skelton, who seems to have some long distance pedigree. What I do know is that a Helen Skelton is currently leading the UK ultrarunning championships outright, winning 4 of the 6 races entered (note - out of those entered in the ultrarunning series, not outright). On thing to say - there will be a lot of jealous men wishing they were in Jim's position on Saturday night!

With these 4 pairings and the experienced Bingley Pairing of Aly Raw and Ali Welsh, it really is a shame only the first mixed team get a prize!

Top of The Calf, north of Sedbergh, the highest point in the Howgills (picture from mypennines)

The Other Classes.

Naturally there's fewer obvious names in the classes A-D so it's harder to pick out challengers, but here's a few people to look out for on the lesser classes (I'm not going near the score class, as, having run LS in 2010, I know that anything can happen!)


The big names here start a minute apart, with GB Orienteer Rich Robinson and his partner Andy 'SLUDO' Llewellyn (LAMM B winner 2011) being chased down by Tom 'Kanye' Beasant (OMM B winner 2011) and Ali 'Spongey' McLeod (GB Orienteer). However, Rich and Andy have been suffering with Illness and Injury respectively, and I've yet to recieve confirmation that they are in fact toeing the startline.
2010 Dartmoor A - winner Ed Catmur teams up with David Hellard, but I'm reliably informed (if I've remembered the correct tip-off!) that the latter is a road runner who may not know what he's getting in to!
The evergreen Fell Legend Wendy Dodds also competes on A with former GB mountain runner Sarah Rowell.
Cautley Spout,England's Highest above-ground waterfall (according to Wikipedia), near The Calf. 


This is where I get to wrote my own name. I'm paired up with Andy Blackett and we're looking for a good competitive 2 days on the hills. Big competition will come from GB junior Orienteers Jonny Crickmore (C-class winner 2010, Short Score winner 2009 - both with Nick Barrable and both very comfortably) and Peter Bray. My 2010 LS partner and Plas-y-Brennin instructor Tom Hecht is paired with Tom Livingstone, whilst Britain's premier V55 orienteer, John 'Jethro' Tullie will be keeping us honest - starting 1 min after myself and Andy.
Unfortunately GB Junior Orienteer Tom Fellbaum has had to pull out due to a viral infection. Whether his partner Lewis Taylor (1st Bowfell 2012 in a 'sprint' with yours truly) has found a replacement I don't know.


ShUOC Captain Robert 'Treb' Gardner pairs up with his brother Willy in what could be the most entertaining/most likely to result in a murder partnership of the weekend. Jonny 'The Ent' Malley (1st Bowfell, SLMM 2012) is paired with orienteer Chris Owens, whilst former A or B-class winner (I think) Harold 'Warwick' Wyber is teamed up with Josh Jenner.

Anyway, that's enough for now - I need to go and pack my bag! Good luck to all competing and sorry if I've missed any obvious contenders, been rushing this a bit!