The Original, Original Mountain Marathon

Two weekends ago I was filming in Galloway at The Original Mountain Marathon for an episode of The Adventure Show to be shown early next year.

(The EXCELLENT Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon is on The Adventure Show this Sunday and on the iPlayer from Monday - video here).

It was exactly ten years since I last ran the same mountain marathon and wrote about it for TGO-The Great Outdoors Magazine.  Then it was the first OMM, having previously been called the KIMM (which I also ran).

I'll dig out the article and try to run it just before the OMM edition of The Adventure Show, probably in February.  In the meantime, here's a superb article about this year's OMM by the winner Shane Ohly and below isa quick history of this event which will be 50 next year.  Read the original TGO page (hopefully!) by clicking the photo of it below.


From KIMM to OMM in 38 years

The inspiration for Mountain Marathons came from an outdoor instructor called Gerry Charnley, who saw them as a mix of orienteering, fell running and mountaineering.  The Scandinavian sport of orienteering had come to Scotland in 1962.  The following year, Gerry organised the first English open event, but at this stage they were relatively short courses.  He’d read of a back-woodsman’s event, held in Sweden before world war two, which started him thinking – why not combine the navigation techniques of orienteering with the physical challenge of the Lake District sport of fell-running, and throw in the camping, self-reliance discipline from mountaineering?  In September 1968 thirty competitors arrived at Muker in Swaledale for the first mountain marathon. 

Each year the sport grew.  Competitors came from overseas in 1973, a Swiss version of the event began three years later, and the people who were to become essential to the event were already competing; Chris Brasher, the co-founder of the London Marathon; Jen Longbottom, today’s organiser; and Mike Parsons the owner of Karrimor.  “I’d been originally asked to provide the prizes”, explained Mike, but he ended up sponsoring the event.  The Karrimor International Mountain Marathon, the KIMM, was born. 

It was a tough kid.  The idea was, and for elite competitors remains, two marathons run on consecutive days, over mountainous terrain, carrying all the camping gear and food required.  Specialist equipment was being designed for the event as early as 1973.  Mike Parsons and Ken Ledward developed a total ultra-light system of tent (900g) sleeping bags (450g), packs, jackets pants and stove which brought their weight to just 2400g for ken, 2600g for Mike.  These would be impressive weights nowadays. 

The 1976 event in Galloway was exceptionally arduous, made all the harder by out of date maps, but the following year saw a record increase in entries.  In 2006 the event changed its name from the KIMM to the OMM, the Original Mountain Marathon, and now has seven different courses to offer challenging competition to three thousand entrants.

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