OMM 24th/25th October Mid Wales

2009 Original Mountain Marathon, Mid Wales 24/25th October

By dusk on Saturday night, the camping field was a sea of mud, but it was worth wading through it to see the Day 1 results and find Douglas Tullie and John Rocke leading the A class by 29 minutes. Chris and I had had the usual bad bargain of arriving at the B & B late Friday night, breakfast at 6.30am and away by 7.15 – the Welsh landlady being a professional singer and choir mistress offered a free singing lesson to guests, which fortunately for her, we had to decline. So not very good value for money, but a lot more civilised than the overnight camp. After last year’s floods in Borrowdale, the organisers were taking no chances with car parking and used the hard standing of the Welsh National Showground at Builth Wells, although this involved bussing competitors 15 miles to the start. Low clouds and an October drizzle made the navigation interesting on hills far from high – around 500-600m tops – but little trod, being catchments for a series of reservoirs. Peat hags were marked, but tussocks not, and these made the going slow in places – very difficult to predict from the map where they were likely to be worst. On a score class, this makes estimating the distance that can be covered a bit difficult, but good course planning allowed lots of decision points to readjust the controls visited, but we had had to allow an hour once off the hills to reach the campsite, away down a valley below the lowest dam. After 6 hours on the hill, we made it in with 180 points total and 100 seconds to spare – and having dried out late in the day, not unexpectedly finished in a downpour.

With a late start on Sunday – a long night as the clocks had gone back overnight – the 1500 or so tents were almost all gone by the time we packed up. Doug and John had started nearly three hours earlier, leading off the chasing start at 7.00 in good conditions. Medium Score allowed 5 hours, and we found again plenty of options and what looked like a lot of points available in the general direction of the finish. However, we found with 2 hours to go that we were running out of controls, probably because the going was much better than on Saturday, and being late starters, there were elephant trails to follow. The long descent off the hills was fast, so we ended up crossing the line with 43 minutes to spare but still with 45 more points than on Saturday. A better score on Sunday was common for everyone in the class, and a bit unusual to find such a discrepancy between points collected in an hour’s less time. We should have used our time better on Sunday, but had burned our boats after the first control before tuning into the faster going.

Meanwhile, the young turks on A were holding off everyone else, finishing again with the fastest time and winning the class by 44 minutes. Doug and John had been second two years ago on the B class (last year’s race was abandoned) – being beaten only by a certain James Tullie and Duncan Coombs – but covering the 74K of this year’s A class in 9 hours must be alarming to the current Elite runners. Class winners are ineligible to win a prize in that class the following year, so the Elite may be challenged very soon!

The logistics of having a remote start and finish required finishers to wait for bus transport back to Builth Wells. Our finish time around 2pm was like arriving at rush hour, and even with a fleet of shuttle buses meant a wait of around an hour, fortunately in dry, reasonable weather. There might well have been a few cases of hypothermia amongst tired runners waiting in the rain, had the weather been less benign, the red kites circling above the queue looked like vultures just waiting….   However, back at the event centre, too late to give Doug a cheer at the prize giving, we found Jen Longbottom the organiser, and Roger Smith the controller looking pretty pleased with the way the event had gone, and relieved to have avoided the media attention of last year. We should be satisfied with being well in the top third of our class – but hard to avoid the feeling “could have done better”, though consoled by being beaten by only one team with a higher combined age.  One other local was mentioned in the event stats – Colwyn Jones originally from St Boswells and now Consultant in Dental Public Health, achieved the distinction of the best improvement on Long Score, rising from 183th to 58th on Day 2 – doesn’t seem long since he was running Elite.

Final memory of the event is an RSI of the left thumb, caused by a very stiff and unyielding laminate on the map. Thumbing the map for two days without creasing it – likely to crack and let moisture in – produced more aches than 11 hours of the legs negotiating Welsh tussocks. But next year the tussocks won’t be Welsh……….

Robin Sloan

see photo 091027092425     HERE