A competitor leaps across one of the event's bogs. Photo: OMM

A competitor leaps across one of the event's bogs. Photo: OMM

Hardy racers faced conditions described as a minefield of shoe-swallowing bogs and ankle-turning tussocks in a tough mountain marathon.

The field of 1,600 competitors tackled the hills of Galloway for the 49th running of the Original Mountain Marathon.

The two-day event proved a stern test of route-finding and endurance as low visibility cloaked the hills for the first day of the race, held on the last weekend of October.

Organisers’ spokesman Alistaire MacGregor said: “Saturday was all about navigation and knowing where you are.

“Those of an orienteering background welcomed the 20ft visibility and minimal features while others prayed for a break in the mist or ideally a grid reference of their location.

“Competitors had to be focused from the start. Any loss of location meant they joined the crowds on Bennan walking in circles in search of their checkpoint and coming to terms with relocating with little reference points to work with.

“Saturday’s course took the competitors north up on to the picturesque fells around Merrick although competitors will have to take my word for that.”

The elite category was dominated by 2011 Winners Shane Ohly and Duncan Archer representing Team GB Orienteering, challenged by 2012 winners Bjorn Rydvall and Sebastian Ljungdahl of Swedish Team Silva and seven-times time elite winner Steve Birkinshaw.

Women’s race competitors Jessica Tullie and Kerstin Leslie represented Team Scotland Orienteering while the pairings of Nikki Spinks and Jean Brown and Kerstin Rosenqvist and Pernilla Berg were out to chase them down.

Team members plan their route at the run's start. Photo: OMM

Team members plan their route at the run's start. Photo: OMM

At the end of racing on Saturday, Ohly and Archer had a 17minute lead over Jim Mann and Nicholas Barber with Bjorn Rydvall & Sebastian Ljungdahl in third 10 minutes behind them. In the women’s race Tullie and Leslie completed the 21 miles and 8,500ft of ascent in 7hrs 28mins 38secs, giving them a comfortable lead heading into day two.

Mr MacGregor said: “The terrain was brutal. Everyone knew it was going to be tough but the relentlessness of the bogs, tussocks and clear-cut forest tested everyone.

“Competitors’ mental strength was definitely put to the test and highlighted why the OMM is so tough. The OMM sets out to test the teams’ capabilities in the mountain. Each element of the OMM course on its own is manageable: distance, navigation, terrain, overnight camp, weather, route selection, but combine all these elements together and you have a beast of a race.

“At the overnight camp everyone tucked into the various dehydrated concoctions.

“It was good to see competitors’ different approaches to kit selection; some happy to carry the extra weight for a comfortable night while the leaders opted to carry less than most would take on a summer walk.

“Elite winners Shane and Duncan reported to carry 3.8kg and 4kg packs respectively. Upon kit inspection they each produced 60g of bubble wrap as a mat and an 8g stove although they did have a frivolous pair of thin socks as a luxury item.

“The bagpipes of elite competitor Jonathan Whilock ushered Sunday in before everyone headed south into the Minnigaff Hills.

Piper Jonathan Whilock wakes runners for day two. Photo: OMM

Piper Jonathan Whilock wakes runners for day two. Photo: OMM

“The start line teams’ infectious enthusiasm got the day with a high five from an OMM marshal riding a polar bear. The dreich cleared through Sunday leaving the tops clear and an opportunity for the runners to make up lost time from Saturday.”

Ohly and Archer managed to increase their lead on the second day by two minutes over Mann and Barker. They completed the 36 miles and 15,158ft of ascent in 10hrs 51mins 8secs to give them their second OMM elite class win. Tullie and Leslie extended their lead further, finishing in 13hrs 47mins 54secs to take the women’s title with Spinks and Brown coming in second.

Mr MacGregor said: “In the main field every team had their own goal they were working towards. Team 768, Colin Harding and Ian Hudson celebrated completing their 30th OMM event together.

“Some well earned cake and champagne awaited them on the finish line and cemented their place in the OMM 30-year club. Teams 329 and 330 comprised of three generations of one family. Alan Hart ran with his son while Alan’s grandson ran with his teammate on the D course.

“It’s very encouraging to see nearly 250 under 21s competing in this year’s event and that generations are passing their skills on to the next.

“Watching the finish line on day two you could see the effort and sense of accomplishment that each team had put in to reaching the finish line. There are so many great achievements from the teams it’s difficult to mention them all.

Two happy competitors near the finish on the final day. Photo: OMM

Two happy competitors near the finish on the final day. Photo: OMM

“Those completing their first of hopefully many OMM events, to the OMM year club members heading for their next milestone. It’s an inspiring sight standing on the finish line watching people push themselves that hard and succeed.

“The 100 volunteers involved in the OMM event take great pride in the event and would like to thank the competitors for making the weekend so special. Well done everyone. Bring on the 50th Anniversary next October.”

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