OMM Lite Festival, Grasmere, June 2023

The OMM Festival is a relatively new event and seems to be developing each year. The event centre is based in Grasmere, Lake District and the options are incredibly flexible with it advertising itself as being inclusive and family friendly. You can visit for the day; stay locally and come onto site or for the runs or talks; or you can camp (in tents or vans) on site all weekend. 

The event centre:

This was well organised with fields for vans and tents and ample portaloos! The main marquee had a well-stocked bar and a decent food provider. All registration for events took place here but it never felt busy and I don’t think I queued for anything all weekend. There were a whole range of talks happening across the weekend and although I did not attend any of these there were some that sounded interesting and had we not had the children with us we certainly would have gone along. 

The running: 

There seemed to be a running event to suit everyone’s tastes. This year the following running events were available: 

  • 5km 
  • 10km 
  • 17km 
  • Marathon 
  • OMM Lite short (9 hours total) and long score (12 hours total)

I believe that next year they will be adding an evening fell race into the mix. 

Our weekend:

This was the first year that either Andy or I had been and I can confirm that the whole event was incredibly family friendly (I emailed prior to the event to request an early start time to help accommodate childcare and this was happily sorted out by the organisers which felt welcoming and inclusive). We arrived on the Friday evening. We were camping on site all weekend and were efficiently shown to a camping spot. It felt slightly discombobulating to be seeing the OMM banners in hot, summer sunshine and without the feeling of impending doom that normally comes with seeing them in late October. Andy and I had decided to run solo at this event and had both entered the short score (which was 5 hours on the Saturday and 4 hours on the Sunday). We had our boys with us and Andy’s parents had kindly jumped on board with a plan whereby they stayed at the YHA in Grasmere and came down to the event centre each day to look after Joss and Kenny while Andy and I ran. Huge thanks to them for this! It felt great to have the boys with us. For years they have been going off to Granny’s house or Grandma and Grandad have been coming to look after them at home while we disappear to ‘race in the mountains all weekend’ without them really having a grasp of what we are doing. The boys were so excited to come to registration with us and were fascinated by the dibbers being attached to our wrists and seeing the start and finish gates really helped them start to understand what we were doing. 

There were plenty of events taking place during the day on Saturday to keep them entertained and feeling involved. They had great fun taking part in the Teddy Dash (it was only 200m but all children got a race number). There was also an orienteering course around the fields of the event centre as well as an orienteering maze which was complete with dibbers and download so that they could see their times. This appealed particularly to our eldest who seems to have a strong competitive streak. Can’t think where that comes from. 

A little note on what a short/long score navigation event is: 

For these events you are given a set amount of time to be out which begins when you dib at the start. As you cross the line you are given a map. On this map are many controls spread across the event area. The controls each have a number of points ranging from 10 to 50 depending on how challenging they are to get to. The game is to collect as many points, by visiting the controls and dibbing there, as you can within the time limit for your event. If you are late back then you begin to lose points. If you are more than half an hour late back then you lose all the points you collected. The winner is the person with the most points. 

Fran’s Saturday: 

As I mentioned earlier, to help stagger the times that Andy and I were out on the fells, I had negotiated an early start time of 8am. This meant I was starting with those completing the long score event (they would be out for 7 hours, I would be out for 5). This didn’t really make much difference to anyone competing but it did mean I had a trophy on my dot which Andy’s dad was tracking all morning. I was sorry to disappoint him when I finished that this was only the case as all others on the short score just hadn’t been running for as long so didn’t have as many points! The weather was clear and it was obviously going to be another hot day. It was pleasant starting at 8am but this wasn’t going to last. The organisers are working hard to make this an inclusive event and accessible to those who are not familiar with navigation events. This included a race briefing at the start where the organiser went through the usuals of tell us if you retire, make sure you have your kit with you etc and then he dropped the bombshell that you had to remain on footpaths and rights of way for the duration of the event, even when on the open fell. Normally, once on the open fell then anything goes and I spend very little time on paths as I contour and find optimal routes (well, most of the time!). This seemingly small rule change was going to take up a lot more thinking time for me. 

Briefing complete, it was time to dib the start, get my map and make a day plan! I have done countless events like this. In the beginning, Andy and I would always do the score courses. There is no set distance, you get as far as you can within the time, if you can’t find a control it doesn’t matter you can just move on and look for another one with no penalty so they are really great for those that are less confident on their navigation skills. However, they are stressful in that you have a lot of decisions to make about which way you are going to go and which controls you are going to visit, how long that will take you and will you be back on time. I have moved towards preferring to enter linear courses where you have to visit every control on your course in order (if you can’t find one you DNF which is the main downside!). 

So when I dibbed the start last Saturday, took the map and looked at it I was filled with a familiar panic! Which way was I going to go?! Normally a clockwise or anticlockwise loop jumps out at me but nothing did. I decided to head out on a loop that would take me up and above the event centre before looping back down to Loughrigg (CO, CM, BC, BG). 

The navigation looked straightforward and I reasoned that I would be able to get a good look at the map while I completed this loop. This worked well. I made decent progress and came up with a plan. From BG I decided I would head up Loughrigg (BB) and then down to DF to the east of Elter Water. When I got there I would look at the time and come up with a plan. I could either start heading back towards the Event Centre or head up the Langdale valley. I was toing and froing with a female pair who passed me on the ascent of Loughrigg then I caught them on the descent then together we made our way onto the road. Then I lost sight of them. Pleasingly as I arrived at checkpoint DF, they approached shortly afterwards from the opposite direction. They had gone the long way round on the road whilst I had taken a shorter if more fiddly way navigation wise. This pleased me as it is why I can perform much better in these events than a straightforward race to the gun. A little wily route choice can keep me in pace! 

The time was looking pretty good so I headed up Langdale valley. This meant a long stretch on the Cumbria Way, tarmac road and hard track. I was wearing Inov8 mudclaws. Not the best footwear choice it turned out (I trashed them, losing about 4 studs by the end of the day). I also got really hot. Really, really hot. By the time I reached checkpoint AE I was cooked. My heart was racing and my legs were jelly. I was now looking at the clock and wondering if 2 hours was going to be enough time to get back to the event centre. Score course anxiety kicking in! I had a steep 400m climb ahead. Normally, I reckon on doing 100m of elevation gain every 8mins or so which would have given plenty of time. But I knew I was no longer moving that well. On my way along the road I spotted a river. I topped up my soft flasks and decided to dunk my cap. This was joyous! Why hadn’t I done this earlier? On I plodded. I didn’t feel stressed. I had decided that it wasn’t worth giving myself heat stroke for. If I was feeling that rubbish, then my body was telling me something. So I just took my time. One step in front of the other and grovelled my way up the steep climb. 

I was aiming for checkpoint CC at the top and then I was on my way back. However, the checkpoint wasn’t exactly where I expected it to be (later, Andy would tell me that he had also struggled to find it as there were two parallel paths). My head was so fried by this point – I had been concentrating on my own for 4 hours – that I did not have the problem solving capabilities to fix it. I am full of regret now. I must have been so close to it! I enjoy running solo, it is challenging – and I can go where I like – but in moments like these a partner would be able to pick up the slack and help me out or tell me to get a grip and solve it! 

Checkpoint abandoned, I headed back to the Event Centre without any other real problems. 8 minutes inside the time. I definitely should have spent that 8 minutes looking for checkpoint CC! 

Andy’s Sunday:

After day one, I was in 2nd place on the short score course, having matched the points gained by Charles Levitt and being 2 minutes late back, so being 2 points behind.  Picking up the map there was an obvious horseshoe of Great Rigg for 140 points, but it would have been hard work picking up more than that, so I looked at the rest of the map.  It was clear heading West towards High Raise (CH) then Pike of Stickle (DH) would give good points, and lots of options on the way back in.  I saw 3 routes to High Raise, Easdale Tarn (BN) via (BO) followed by Far Easdale (BH) gave 70 points, Helm Crag (AH) gave 40 points or Greenburn (AM) gave 40 points.  I went with Easdale Tarn/Far Easdale to get some points in the bag, recognising this would mean I would probably not be able to take all the options I saw for the 2nd half of the route.

Things went smoothly to High Raise, then I lost concentration on the way over Thunacar Knott, it is ground I know well, and I thought, “Thunacar Knott, I’m not on the BG, I can bypass the summit of this one to the East” I didn’t look at the map and realise the path I was on would lead me towards Pavey Ark and I had to go round past Harrison Stickle then descend before climbing towards Pike of Stickle. This error probably cost me 15 minutes, and I made it to save a few seconds by not considering the map.

Long story short.  As I was descending to Pike Howe (CB) the sole of my right shoe started to peel off, I put my glove over the toe of my shoe, but that kept coming off, tried some first aid tape, which wasn’t strong enough, then took off my left sock and put it over my right shoe.  Scott Collier did this for 1.5 days at the Saunders MM once, so I figured I would be ok for the next 2 hours.  It worked well, but faffing around probably cost another 5 minutes.  I was now much later than I planned, binned off most of my options for the way home, and headed for (DO) for another 20 points.  I misread the map in my panic incorrectly identified the correct wall corner, ended up in a jumble of drystone walls, abandoned the last planned control, and ran back to Grasmere, got lost looking for the bridge over the river and came in 12 minutes late to loose 25 points.

If I’d found the right wall corner it would have given me 20 more points and led me to a shorter run in which would have probably got me in on time to avoid the 25 point penalty and I’d have won by 8 points.  However at the end of 9 hours running there will always be some errors or sub-optimal choices and I’m pleased with how it all went.

If, after reading all this you think you might fancy coming along next year, the dates are 1st-2nd June 2024. It would be great to have a larger DFR crowd there. Ideal if you fancy a two day navigation event but don’t much fancy a cosy night spooning with your partner in a 1 man tent. However, remember, you don’t have to spend hours chasing points round the hills; enter the 5km and spend the rest of the time enjoying what the beer tent and ice cream van have to offer! 

Click here for more information here is a link to the event website