The Original Mountain Marathon: flood, gales and stranded runners…

Headlines over the weekend have been highlighting what has been some of the worst storms to face ‘The Original Mountain marathon’, causing it to be called off for the first time in it’s 40 year history.

The Original Mountain Marathon, near Keswisk, Cumbria

Each year several hundred people take part in the Original Mountain Marathon, a fell run over very challenging terrain in the Lake District.

It involves teams of two, carrying all their running gear, clothing, equipment, ultralight tent, sleeping bag, and their food for 36 hours, during the run. They must also navigate their own route and camp out overnight.

This year the race course follows the route along one of England’s steepest passes in the Borrowdale Valley, rising to some 2,000ft in height (610m).  The longest route of the 7 available is for the Elite class which is literally 2 consecutive marathon lengths and c2,500m of ascent over 2 days.

The race is typically for experienced mountain runners and most of whom were prepared to cope with adverse conditions.  Many though were without the right gear and could not find the adequate shelter, and suffered  with hypothermia from the severe conditions.

Horrific Weather

The race saw the worst weather it has ever seen.  Since Thursday, more than 1ft (40cm) of rain has fallen there, according to the Environment Agency.   The best way to gauge the weather is via footage, here’s a snippet along the Honister Pass, courtesy of Paul Dodd:

Overnight Stays

Because of the intensity of the storm, many runners opted in to hole-up for the night, taking refuge in barns and other building along the course of the race.

Missing Runners and Mountain Rescue

“Race director Jen Longbottom made the decision just before midday after several hours of torrential rain had resulted in extreme conditions on the mountain and severe flooding,” it stated.  Actually canceling it was harder said than done, having experienced a huge amount of torrential rain and winds across the hills where runners were scattered.

Although weekend reports were claiming that up to 1,000 runners were lost, reported that there was more likely to be fewer:

Despite media reports of over 1000 competitors being ‘unaccounted for’ the true facts as of 02.00 in the morning were that 44 competitors had not been located, and by 12.00 this was down to just 8 pairs.

(At any normal OMM there are usually this number not checked in after the race has finished at around 17.00 and more often than not they have set off home without checking in.)

About 12 people have been taking to hospital with hypothermia and minor injuries, Northwest Ambulance Service have said.


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