Our committed athlete Oli Johnson has been running over summits wearing a pack loaded down with rocks in preparation for the tough-as-hell Original Mountain Marathon (OMM).
By pushing his body to the limit in training, Oli – pictured above winning the 2013 Ennerdale fell race – hopes to be stronger than ever this weekend when he attempts to win the OMM’s prestigious elite class for the first time.
The 34-year-old international orienteer – a top-10 finisher at the 2013 Mont Blanc Marathon – will be partnered in the Brecon Beacons (South Wales) by inov-8 teammate Ben Abdelnoor, who earlier this year obliterated Lakeland 50 ultra-marathon course record.
Here is Oli’s latest blog as he looks ahead to the gruelling two-day race:
The OMM is the toughest mountain marathon on the calendar. Two full days running on wild, open fells in what are likely to be grim weather conditions. We will cover around 45km in total and tackle between 6,000-10,000ft of ascent. It WILL be brutal and come Sunday night we WILL be completely knackered. But, if we can win the elite class it will all be worth it.
Having won every other OMM class, I am determined to push it even harder this year in a bid to claim victory in the elite class, which is the longest and toughest of them all.
The competition will, of course, be fierce. The OMM always attracts the best mountain runners and orienteers and this year will be no different.
Training has gone really well. I’ve run a lot of Peak District miles wearing a bulked-out inov-8 Race Elite 16 pack weighed down with rocks. I will use the same 16-litre pack for the race, along with the inov-8 chest pouch, which attaches securely to the pack, and will sit on the front of my body.
The navigation shouldn’t be a problem (Oli, pictured above by Ian Corless at the Mont Blanc Marathon is a former Great Britain international orienteer and multiple-time national champion) but you never know. That’s the beauty of a mountain marathon -its unpredictability. Smart decisions over route choice are an absolute must over both days of the competition.
The hardest part, however, could be hanging on to Ben! He has had a fantastic 2013 with wins at the Lakeland 50, Wasdale (34km, 9022ft ascent) and Old County Tops (59km, 9800ft) among others. He is running super-strong.
I will also be using the inov-8 Race Elite 150 Stormshell this weekend. This jacket is a brilliant athletic-fitting waterproof that weighs only 150g and packs really small. The close-fitting hood and wired peak mean it is ready to tame all the wild elements likely to be thrown in my direction this weekend.
The inov-8 Race Elite 140 Trail Short is my favoured short, while on my feet I will wear either the inov-8 X-Talon 212 or inov-8 X-Talon 190. Both models are insanely lightweight and fast and, of course, deliver unrivalled grip.
My final race in preparation for the OMM was last weekend’s British Fell Running Relays Championships held in the shadow of Snowdon (North Wales).
Running as part of the Dark Peak team, I was put on the navigation leg, alongside teammate Lloyd Taggart (the pair are pictured below in photo taken by Accelerate).
Storming runs by Rob Little (leg 1) and then Rhys Findlay-Robinson and Stuart Bond (leg 2) put the team in second place ahead of our navigation leg.
We set off with real purpose and attacked the course. We passed the leaders from Hunters Bog Trotters soon after the start and pushed on hard to open up a gap.
I chose a strategy of avoiding the steepest climbs so that we could keep the speed up, which worked well, in spite of some steep traversing around the slopes of Moel Ellio.
On crossing over to the foot of Moel Crynghorian we could see that our lead was substantial.
With the rain and hail pelting down on us, we reached the furthest point, turned round and, with the ferocious wind now at our backs, sped along a fast track towards the final descent.
That descent was a real treat for my inov-8 X-Talon 190 shoes -a steep, technical slalom-style drop through the slate mines before a mud plunge back to the arena. As always, the grip delivered by the aggressive outsole of the X-Talon 190 was outstanding.
Our strong run was confirmed by the results, which showed we ran leg three almost five minutes quicker than anyone else.
We handed over to teammate Kris Jones with a big lead. Kris then ran leg four’s second fastest time of the day to bring the team home in first place.