OMM lite. When you use the abbreviation it sounds like a cream cheese, and when you use the full name people look at you like you are crazy. Original Mountain Marathon (lite) does see, like somewhat of a paradox, and people always assume you run a Marathon in one go. Which, to be fair, some people did. But adding myself into that category would be attributing myself with more fitness than I deserve.
The OMM lite is a unique, partner race, run over two days and scored on time as well as points. It serves as an introductory and training event for the actual OMM, which is in hard core mountain territory. As a ‘lite’ the event has less steep terrain, easier map reading (there were a lot of paths and roads to aid orientation), and a more flexible course distance. Goal of the race is to collect as many points as possible within a time limit. These points are collected by “checking in” at different stations, scattered across the map.
It is a challenge, but like obstacle course races, it is only as much of a challenge as you make it. Yes, some people run a marathon each day and collect all of the points. However, especially at the lite event, most won’t. And many, like Luke and I, will pass the marathon marke only when you add the milage of the two days together- respectable distance, but with plenty of rest.
This brings me to what I particularly like: OMM does not have a route as such. Although the checkpoints on the map are arranged with a certain course in mind, there are no barriers, no arrows, no marshals waving you in a certain direction. You read the map, look at the wide area the course covers, where they checkpoints lie, and decide where and how far you want to go based on your own fitness and your navigational skills. It is a orienteering test as much as a run- competitors are intended to use their navigational skills in order to locate the checkpoints, which are not always easy to find.
The point/checkpoint collection system makes the race incredibly strategic. Yes, you are rewarded for long routes, collecting more checkpoints, but not all points are weighted equally, so you can do very well by finding the balance between your physical ability and the checkpoints worth the largest number of points.
Once you start, the slow rhythm of your feet and the bump of your pack on your back becomes a steady pattern. You are obliged to carry a minimum kit, and advised to carry plenty of water especially on such warm summer days as our lite competition. Luke and I had signed up for the race in the Chilterns, country which I knew fairly well because it is right around the corner of Reading University, where I did my undergraduate degree, and organised weekly walks. It was good terrain in the sense that there were plenty of tracks and paths, fields and only gentle rolling hills.
That’s not to say we did not push ourselves. We ran/walked 33 km on Saturday, getting back within seconds of our time limit and narrowly missing being penalised. We finished the day (18th out of 57). The second day was less demanding. Luke’s IT band was causing serious pain, and I was happy with a countryside bimble.
Instead of pushing our limits, we extended our list of crazy things we had seen over the weekend. This included a telephone box turned into a library, a woman toplessly strolling through the countryside, and a person who had assembled a whole drum kit out in a field, practicing without a care in the world.