By Nic Barber
2017 OMM Elite course: 85km + 4000m of ascent (direct line distance)
For it’s 50th anniversary race the OMM returns to the Lake District for the first time since the infamous ‘unaccounted for’ Borrowdale 2008. This year Langdale will act as a base from which all the major valleys of the central and western lakes can be reached. 45 teams out of the 1000 make up this years Elite class. The top 3 from Glentrool 2016 will return to compete, along with 42 other teams, for one of the most prestigious titles in off-road running. There will be many stories and challenges overcome by the 2000 OMM competitors across the 7 courses. Here’s a short preview (by no means exhaustive so don’t be offended if I’ve missed anyone!) of teams likely to be troubling the podium come Sunday afternoon. There isn’t really any stand out team this year which should lead to some tough, close, tactical racing.
OMM 2016 – 1st, 2015 – 3rd.
Duncan and Shane return to defend their Elite OMM crown and add further to their 2011 win. During the year Shane has performed well in long fell races as part of a strong Helm Hill team and was part of the winning High Peak Marathon team in March. Duncan has done more orienteering than fell racing, with a 2nd in the V40 category at the Scottish 6 days in the summer highlighting good form – and more importantly navigation! – but has been seen running strongly at Lakeland classics and with a 2nd place at the (curtailed) Mountain Trail in September under his belt.
OMM 2016 – 2nd. 2015 – 2nd.
Both Nicholas and Jim teamed up (with Shane and 2015 OMM winner Adam Perry) to win March’s High Peak Marathon in boggy conditions. Jim managed this off the back of bagging winter records for both the Paddy Buckley and Ramsey rounds in the space of 3 weeks in January and February. He then added on a winter Bob Graham (for which he already holds the record) to complete the set inside a month. He has since gone on to finish 2nd at the Dragon’s back before breaking the 30-year-old Munro 24h record with a new route in Lochnagar and the Cairngorms. Nic started the year with a win in the classic Marsden to Edale race (Trigger variation) in inhospitable conditions, has top-20 results in long English Championship races and last month, in ‘character building’ weather, was leading the Mountain Trial before it was cancelled.
OMM 2016 – 3rd
Last year’s 3rd place belies a few navigational issues the Swedes had in Galloway, a strong run on the second day showing how they could have reached the top of the podium. Bjorn has history at the OMM, winning in the Howgills in 2012. With an OMM together under their belt they will know each other better than last year and will be serious challengers, although with not racing frequently in the UK their form is somewhat unknown.
2016 saw 3 all-female teams and one mixed team compete on the Elite course. This year there is only 1 all-female team and 3 mixed teams
Nicky & Kirsty are the only all female team in the Elite Class this year. Nicky who last year completed her double Bob Graham finished the 2016 event 16th overall and 2nd ladies team with teammate Jean Brown. Kirsty Hewitson, twice UTMB and Lakeland 100 finisher joins Nicky this year. Both are good navigators and are a team to watch.
Former Team GB Orienteer Kim Baxter teams up with Dave Sykes, both Dark Peak runners. They will be competing against Simon Caldwell and Carmen Elphik from York, and the Swedes Kerstin Rosenqvist and Cristoffer Stockman completing the mixed category teams.
7-time OMM Elite winner Steve Birkinshaw returns for his 20th Elite OMM. Whilst Steve has laid out in his book recounting his 2014 Wainwright round record, ‘There is no map in hell’, that he has struggled with recovery from this epic undertaking, he can still race at a high level in long Lakeland races, as his 4th place in this year’s Mountain Trial shows. One thing’s for sure, Steve is the most experienced OMM competitor on the elite start list! He is paired up with Andy Berry, who performs well in ultra races, winning the Lakes Sky Ultra and 10-peaks races this year. In January he also troubled Jim Mann’s winter Bob Graham record, running sub-19 hours.
This strong pairing of local runners will know the ground they are covering well. Neil finished 3rd at the Dragon’s Back in May, backed this up with a win at the ROC mountain marathon in September and is a recent Mountain Trial and Wasdale Fell Race winner (both 2016). Tom is well known as one of the better navigators in fell running and has buckets of experience in Lakeland fell races and adventure races around the world, with a top-20 in the English Champs fell race at Wasdale in July.
These two youngsters (both 19/20 and originally from the south of England but now living in Edinburgh) won the (old) B class last year, and have taken 2 steps up the ladder this year. Both are good orienteers, with Ali representing GB at the Junior World Orienteering champs this year and being part of the 2nd pace Edinburgh Uni team at the recent British fell relays. Tim was 3rd at the Mountain Trial after a summer in the Alps, though he did injure himself at the Ring of Steall race so current form is unknown.
Last year’s A-class winners take a step up to the Big race. Both in their mid-20s, they have previously represented Great Britain at Junior World Orienteering Championships. This year Peter has broken onto the fell scene with a top 10 and top 20 result in English Championship fell races and a close second at the Kentmere Horseshoe. Tom ran March’s High Peak Marathon and had good recent runs at Langdale Horseshoe and British Fell Relays showing a few weeks training in Scotland has stood him in good stead.