On the 24th and 25th of October, Mackman’s own Communications Manager (and all-round superhuman), Natasha Clarke, took on The Original Mountain Marathon.
The OMM, which was held in the Tweedsmuir Hills in Scotland, is a gruelling two day, two man team event that tests fitness, equipment, navigational skill and ability to traverse mountainous terrain in safety. From the start to the finish, including an overnight camp, the team is a self-sufficient unit, responsible for its own safety and well-being, with no outside assistance (except in the case of an emergency).
Before she went, we asked Natasha to tell us more…
Tell us a bit more about how The OMM works…
On your first day, you receive a map at the start line and have to navigate yourself through the mountains to the finish point where you over-night camp. In between those two points you have to visit as many checkpoints and accumulate as many points as you can and get to the finish point within 6 hours. Checkpoints that are harder to reach are worth more points, and easier to reach checkpoints (or points directly on the main route) are worth less. If you get to the finish point after the time limit, you get points deducted, so there is quite a lot to think about! The members of each team also have to carry food and supplies for two days, a tent, cooking equipment, a sleeping bag, warm clothing, first aid kit, compass, head torch etc, so it’s a fully self-sufficient challenge.
Having worked your way from the start point to the finish point on day one, you then camp overnight and prepare to make your way from the finishing point back to the start point on day two. Again, trying to accumulate as many points as possible on the way back.
In order to compete you have to have taken part in a certain number of mountain days where you spend time on a mountain and navigate your way through a specific area. I’ve spent a number of long weekends hiking and climbing in Wales, the Lake District and earlier this year the Cairngorms in Scotland, although it’s never been a race!
How did you end up being involved in competing?
Outside of Mackman, I’m also a personal trainer and bootcamp instructor. I enjoy being active, always up for trying news things and try encourage others to do the same. The OMM is something that’s completely different. The idea that you’ve got to try somehow navigate your own race and there’s no track or specific course, it just sounded exciting. Actually, talking about it now has made me realise I’m definitely a little bit scared but, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I mean what can go wrong… right?
Who are you doing the event with?
My partner for the event is Ryan Lateward, who competed in The OMM last year and invited me to take part this year. So yeah, he’s the one to blame I guess.
Are you looking forward to a particular aspect of the event?
I’m looking forward to doing something completely new that I have never done before. There is something exciting about being “against the elements” in the Scottish mountains. I am fully expecting it to be cold, raining and windy, so it’s very daunting but also quite exciting! Expect the worst, hope for the best.
What do you think the toughest part of The OMM will be?
The toughest part is going to be once the excitement of starting is over and you get into the challenge. I imagine that once I am a few hours in and I’m wet and cold, and I know that I am going to be camping in low temperatures and have another whole day to go still, things will start getting tough, both physically and mentally.
I’m probably going to get ‘hangry’ (Definition: When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both). Especially if I’m wet, cold and tired too. So, I do feel for Ryan. Hopefully we’ll still be friends at the end of it!
When she got back, we asked Natasha how it went…
“Well, I survived… Just! When we started on Saturday morning, it was exactly as I expected it to be: windy, cold, dark and muddy. To make matters worse, the event organisers had to make last minute amendments to the course map to make sure that OMM competitors didn’t end up in the same area as game shooters, so the worst case scenario was already a reality!
There was quite a lot of pressure at the beginning of the event because of the different approaches to starting. Some teams found some shelter and took their time to plan their route, when others just started running off in all directions straight away. There was a slight panic when we initially struggled to find the small pink triangle on the map that represented where we were. But then we set off. In hindsight we probably should have taken more time planning our route rather than just picking an educated guess of a direction, as we ended up spending a lot longer than we hoped finding our first checkpoint. But, once we started to find a few more check points, our confidence grew and we started to really get into the map reading.
The rest of the day was spent fighting against the elements and an unfortunate hip injury that slowed me down a bit, so at one point we genuinely weren’t sure if we were going to be able to complete the course or even take on the second day. However, through a combination of eating lots of flapjacks and singing some traditional Scottish nursery rhymes, we were able to keep our spirits up and complete the first day.
We had accumulated 80 points during the first day, but were half an hour late getting to the finish line, so were stripped of 60 points and ended up at the bottom of our group for the day. As we hit our tent for the night we were a little bit down, but still determined to get a good night’s sleep and get back on track on Sunday. An unhealthy amount of Jamaica Ginger Cake and Oreo cookies also improved our spirits.
On Sunday morning we were woken up at 6am by bagpipes, had some porridge for breakfast, and then set off for day two. Our saving grace was the beautiful weather. It’s amazing what some blue skys and sunshine can do. We got to every checkpoint that we had planned to without any diversions. Sunday morning involved a significant amount of quite steep climbing, but that also meant the home straight was predominantly down hill. Excited to finish the race, we managed to run a large chuck of the journey back and when we could see the finish line in the distance we were more determined than ever. It felt really nice to end the race running to the finish line.
We got to the finish line 2 minutes before the cut off time, which meant we had no points deducted and we made up for the slow start on Saturday. The whole weekend was then made all the more adventurous by the fact that Ryan’s car broke down on the way home from Scotland, but we eventually made it back to Suffolk in one piece.”
Would you do it again?
“If you had asked me that on Saturday, I would have said “HELL NO!”, but by the Sunday I was loving it! It was awesome and I would definitely do it again. I would highly recommend it to others looking for a new challenge. What’s great about the OMM is that its nature’s very own obstacle race. It’s just you and your team mate against different terrain and the unpredictable weather. It’s not easy, and it’ll certainly test you but it’s absolutely worth it.”