High winds severely damaged the event's Langdale base. Photo: OMM

High winds severely damaged the event's Langdale base. Photo: OMM

The Original Mountain Marathon has been called off for only the third time in its 54-year history.

Flooded roads in the Lake District made safety teams’ travel impossible and high winds have flattened tents at the headquarters in Great Langdale.

The extreme weather in Cumbria also meant support teams were unable to set up checkpoints and radio beacons, and catering arrangements were also hit by roads blocked with floodwater.

Although conditions were forecast to improve by Friday, the floods meant organisers were not able to put in place the necessary facilities for the anticipated 2,000 competitors in the two-day event.

The organisers said the OMM event has, throughout its history, promoted safe and responsible use of the mountains. The ethos of sound mountain judgement includes what routes to take, what equipment to carry and most importantly when to turn back, they added.

But at 4am on Thursday morning organisers were forced to call the event off for only the third time since its creation.

An OMM representative said “Cumbria is currently experiencing some extreme weather, even by OMM standards.

“The roads are flooded following 143mm of rain in one day, with significantly more forecast; the ground is sodden, with water lifting the road surfaces and winds gusting to over 40mph-plus at valley level.”

Competitors are used to dealing with mountain weather. Photo: OMM

Competitors are used to dealing with mountain weather. Photo: OMM

The spokesperson said: “Hardy OMM competitors, who are familiar with these types of conditions were ready for the two-day race to start on Saturday. But impassable roads have made setting up the safety networks impossible and extremely high winds have caused significant damage to the event centre.

“Challenging weather is why the event takes place at the end of October and something the hardy OMM runner embraces as a chance to hone their skills and test their character. However, to enable them to test their endurance and mountaincraft, an army of volunteers need to build a safety net to allow for limits to be pushed which has not been possible.

“It’s an important skill to know when to turn back in the mountains. The mountains will be there tomorrow, and we’ll be ready.”

The 2021 event was initially due to take place in the Arrochar Alps in the southern Highlands, but the venue was switched to Langdale. The races didn’t take place in 2020 because of the pandemic, and the 2008 OMM was abandoned midway through the event, for the first time in the race’s history, as heavy rain and 100mph winds swept the Lakeland fells and flooded its Borrowdale base.

The OMM began life in 1968 as the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon and changed its name following the outdoor brand’s ending of its sponsorship. It attracts top mountain athletes, both UK and international, for its two-day tests of navigation, mountaincraft and athleticism. The venue changes each year.

Organisers said they will communicate with runners who had places in the abandoned races in the near future.

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