Two competitors make their way across the boggy terrain

Two competitors make their way across the boggy terrain

Mud was the keyword for competitors in this year’s Original Mountain Marathon, with runners tackling the boggy slopes of the Clyde Muirshiel regional park at the weekend.

One participant had to be rescued by fellow OMM-ers after sinking up to his armpits in a bog.

Almost 800 teams of two made the start list for the 52nd running of the event, which this year started from Kelburn Castle overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

A spokesperson for the organisers said: “Across the start, the competitors said goodbye to dry feet with the first ascent ankle deep in mud and littered with invisible knee-deep hazards.

“There’s a few tactics when dealing with hidden boggy holes: one, go slow, test the ground before committing a foot placement or two; the ‘sod it’ tactic to march on in some kind of bog roulette effort. After the first 10km you could see the competitors embrace the second and the inevitable boggy abyss of the terrain.”

The choice of venue had prompted scepticism from competitors, with relatively low-altitude hills rising to about 500m. The mountain marathon is a test of both fitness, speed, endurance and navigation ability.

Organisers said: “The 200 sq km quickly silenced critics as it revealed its challenges.

“Endless ascents and descents over bog, tussock and heathery fells pushed even the hardiest of competitors to their limits. This rarely visited by ‘normal’ outdoor folk area provided sparse, if any, path sightings leaving the relentless terrain to be tackled head on.

“Many will have experienced waist-level submergence; one even described his team-mate flagging down four passing competitors to assist his release from an armpit-deep dunking.

“It was a weekend of ankle and knee obliteration, with so few paths to be found that from ‘plodders’ to ‘elite’, we all faced one hell of a challenge. As Jim McQuaid and Dominic Watts said: ‘You knew it was only a matter of time until you were swallowed by a bog. You just hoped your shoe was still there when you pulled yourself out’.”

The spokesperson said the mountain marathon was created to be a test of mountain ability with the strength and training to see who can run the hardest combining with the experience and navigational skills to pick the best route.

“The undulating nondescript features were expected to favour the orienteers. However, the sun shines on those who deserve it and perfect visibility changed the challenge to focus on route selection and hill observation to find the most forgiving passage.

Runners had to contend with overnight hail showers at the campsite

Runners had to contend with overnight hail showers at the campsite

“Heavy rains and hail fell overnight just to remind the hunkered-down campers that this was the OMM but only short showers flashed through on day two and teams enjoyed great views to ease the navigational challenge.”

Runners are divided into classes for the two-day event: elite, A, B and combined. There are also long, medium and short score categories, in which competitors have to collect as many control scores in a given time. There are also classes for veteran runners. All have to camp overnight at the end of the first day.

Graham Gristwood and Hector Haines won the elite course in 12hrs 48mins after developing a lead of 25 minutes at the end of day one. The race for second was much harder fought, with only minutes splitting second to fifth place. In the end Alistair Masson and Tim Morgan hung on to take second overall pushing Dark Peak Runners Tom Saville and Nathan Lawson into third.

Overall long-score winners Nick Barrable and Jonny Malley scored a massive 1,240 points in an estimated 80 kilometres with 2,500m of ascent. In the military class the Hutton Trophy was won by Calvin Routledge and Max Cole with 1,030 points, coming fourth overall. Female winners were Bodil Oudshoorn and Janie Oates of Helm Hill with 815 points , 18th overall, and the first place mixed team was John and Corinne Watson with 800 points, in 21st place overall.

Organisers said: “The A and B courses pushed their competitors hard too with extended running times forcing most competitors to break out the headtorches as they streamed down the hillsides late into the night.

“It will be interesting to see who will be the next from these groups to step to the Elite challenge.

The marathon took place with a backdrop of the Firth of Clyde and isle of Arran

The marathon took place with a backdrop of the Firth of Clyde and isle of Arran

“There are too many outstanding performances to mention but a couple of note from our younger competitors: an incredible result to 19- and 17-year-old Louis and Jura MacMillan wining medium score and Rachel Duckworth, aged 16, of Derwent Valley Orienteers achieved third overall on short score running with dad John.

“It’s great to see new talent entering the field.

“At the more experienced end of the field, Chris Kelsey joined the 30-year club while partnered by his son Ben after a gruelling 21 hours to complete the elite course, their first elite finish and an impressive demonstration of endurance.”

The spokesperson said the OMM continues to push for a greener approach and thanked all those who car-shared. “This reduced the car count from 700 to 400 which is certainly a huge environmental positive for the event’s carbon footprint, an issue which is deep in all our hearts.

“Given the mud on the car-parking field it was also important for the safety of the car-parking team. We had a mild panic while helplessly watching the tow out tractor gathering pace sideways down a muddy hill towards the marshals’ cars which occurred while it attempted to tow a van with trailer to terra firma.”

Next year the 53rd OMM will be the 24 and 25th October. Stuart Hamilton, event director, said: “It’s important we keep the challenge fresh.

“This year many were sceptical about what Clyde Muirshiel could offer. What they got was some fantastic terrain challenges, enough height to burn the thighs and the huge visual contrast of the sea and Arran in one direction and the industrial scars of Glasgow in the other. “We felt that no area we have ever visited better exemplified why we must protect these landscapes and the OMM will continue to focus on responsibly bringing people to enjoy, use and ultimately become the protectors of this space.

“Next year – well we’ll give you something different. I’m looking to add some of the features we enjoyed on the Alps event this year so we’ve found somewhere that has rocky mountain tops, dense contours but ultimately still the remote open wilderness that we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy in the UK.

“I look forward to being able to reveal more.”

Full results can be found on the OMM website.

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