How to race The OMM

1. Who are you? Robert Alp, Learning Consultant, a young 50! and from Worcester Park Surrey
2. What was the event or challenge and when did you do it? Did my first OMM, or KIMM as it was then, back in 2002, as a challenge to try something new. I think the idea was conceived on a belay ledge on a route up in North Wales!
3. How fit and/or experienced do I need to be? You need a good level of stamina and a mental toughness to keep going when your body says enough, even if it’s a slow walk! Training down south for the OMM is never easy given the comparative lack of hills and bogs, but I’ve found some good 1-3hr routes round the North Downs. You need a good training plan to gradually increase distance/time and running with a rucsac. Having the right partner for the event is crucial; if one is too competitive then its a receipt for trouble on t’hill! The one corner you can’t cut is map and compass work – you need to know how to read both on the run in bad weather when you are tired and can make mistakes!
4. What training methods would you recommend? Running off road in the hills and bogs is ideal but for many like me it can’t be done easily unless I travel to the hillier parts fo the country. Practise locally but try and do at least 1 weekend where you find a 2-day route and go for it, full kit, wild camping and try out the food you’re going to use. Something freeze dried that tastes nice at home may not be so nice at the overnight camp when you are cold, wet, and you’re body is crying our for something good.
5. What kit would you recommend? Go as light as possible but consider the cost v wear & tear v how often you’ll use it. I have OMM kit that I rarely use at any other time unless I’m doing a training weekend. Be careful with your sleeping bag choice, go too light and you’ll be cold at the overnight camp. You’ll almost certainly be wet at the end of day 1 so have a set of dry clothing for the camp. The OMM kit lists sets out the minimum requirements but old hands always take extra items like plastic bags to keep your 2nd pair of socks dry when you’re walking round the campsite, and a decent thermal mat is a must. There are plenty of fell running shoes available nowadays so you have plenty of choice but make sure you run them in as blisters can be a pain! At the end of the day you’ll make choices depending on how much you feel the cold, the weight of everything and how much you want to spend. For a first timer, beg & borrow as much of the decent light stuff as you can. If you get the bug you can then start buying you own for the next event.
6. What were the highs and lows for you during the event? Highs – scenary, joy of being in the hills, getting to the end of day one and checking the OMM results board, peanut M&M’s with the first mug of hot sweet tea in the tent, being warm in my sleeping bag, end of day 2 changing into dry gear and getting a warm meal. Lows – stumbling through the nth bog of the day feeling you’re getting no where, getting out of a warm sleeping bag during the night having drunk some iffy water and paying the price(!), morning of day 2 before the muscles have warmed up.
7. All in, how much would it cost me to do this, and how should I organise it? OMM entry fee is 55 per head. You the have to factor in travel and accommodation pre/post race. Gear and food are the biggest costs – how long is a piece of string? The newest super lightweight super nova tent comes in at 600 if you mad enough to pay the price! To enter, contact the OMM team.
8. What charity did you support and why? I’ve always treid to raise funds for good causes. The biggest was 8,500 for Help for Heroes a couple of years back. Usually I go for smaller local charities that don’t have the advertising/financial muscle of the bigger ones – it’s a very personal choice.
9. The acid test: Are you keeping the health and fitness up, and do you plan to do anything like this again?! Keeping fit and avoiding injury gets harder every year. 2011 will be my 9th OMM and I’d like to reach 20 by the time I say ‘never again’!

The OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) is an offroad running event, spanning 2 days where participants have to be totally self reliant, carrying all the kit they need to be safely out in the mountains in all conditions. Robert Alp, a Learning Consultancy from Surrey tells us how to complete the race…

When did you first enter the OMM?

Did my first OMM, or KIMM as it was then, back in 2002, as a challenge to try something new. I think the idea was conceived on a belay ledge on a route up in North Wales!

How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?

You need a good level of stamina and a mental toughness to keep going when your body says enough, even if it’s a slow walk! Training down south for the OMM is never easy given the comparative lack of hills and bogs, but I’ve found some good 1-3hr routes round the North Downs. You need a good training plan to gradually increase distance/time and running with a rucsac. Having the right partner for the event is crucial; if one is too competitive then its a recipe for trouble on t’hill! The one corner you can’t cut is map and compass work – you need to know how to read both on the run in bad weather when you are tired and can make mistakes!

What training methods would you recommend?

Running off road in the hills and bogs is ideal but for many like me it can’t be done easily unless I travel to the hillier parts of the country. Practise locally but try and do at least 1 weekend where you find a 2-day route and go for it, full kit, wild camping and try out the food you’re going to use. Something freeze dried that tastes nice at home may not be so nice at the overnight camp when you are cold, wet, and you’re body is crying our for something good.

What kit would you recommend?

Go as light as possible but consider the cost Vs wear & tear Vs how often you’ll use it. I have OMM kit that I rarely use at any other time unless I’m doing a training weekend. Be careful with your sleeping bag choice, go too light and you’ll be cold at the overnight camp. You’ll almost certainly be wet at the end of day 1 so have a set of dry clothing for the camp. The OMM kit lists sets out the minimum requirements but old hands always take extra items like plastic bags to keep your 2nd pair of socks dry when you’re walking round the campsite, and a decent thermal mat is a must. There are plenty of fell running shoes available nowadays so you have plenty of choice but make sure you run them in as blisters can be a pain! At the end of the day you’ll make choices depending on how much you feel the cold, the weight of everything and how much you want to spend. For a first timer, beg & borrow as much of the decent light stuff as you can. If you get the bug you can then start buying you own for the next event.

What were the highs and lows for you during the OMM?

Highs – scenary, joy of being in the hills, getting to the end of day one and checking the OMM results board, peanut M&M’s with the first mug of hot sweet tea in the tent, being warm in my sleeping bag, end of day 2 changing into dry gear and getting a warm meal. Lows – stumbling through the nth bog of the day feeling you’re getting no where, getting out of a warm sleeping bag during the night having drunk some iffy water and paying the price(!), morning of day 2 before the muscles have warmed up.

All in, how much would it cost me to do the OMM, and how should I organise it?

OMM entry fee is 55 per head. You the have to factor in travel and accommodation pre/post race. Gear and food are the biggest costs – how long is a piece of string? The newest super lightweight super nova tent comes in at 600 if you mad enough to pay the price! To enter, contact the OMM team.

What charity did you support and why?

I’ve always treid to raise funds for good causes. The biggest was 8,500 for Help for Heroes a couple of years back. Usually I go for smaller local charities that don’t have the advertising/financial muscle of the bigger ones – it’s a very personal choice.

The acid test: Are you keeping the health and fitness up, and do you plan to do anything like this again?!

Keeping fit and avoiding injury gets harder every year. 2011 will be my 9th OMM and I’d like to reach 20 by the time I say ‘never again’!

The 2011 OMM is being held in Central Scotland, and you can find out details of how to enter here.

OMM run a range of other events throughout the year, including a mountain bike race and an OMM in France. You can find links to them on the OMM homepage.

If you’re heading up to Scotland for the OMM or to get some practice in, check out out range of accommodations in Scotland.