OMM Dartmoor 2010

Article by Dave MacFarlane
Wednesday 3rd November 2010

Now in its 42nd year, having run without interruption, the Original Mountain Marathon for 2010 has just experienced the wind-swept landscape of Dartmoor, with 3000 competitors landing on the military training base at Okehampton, on the northern side of the moor. Running since 1963 the race has only visited Dartmoor once before in 1982, following a ‘turnaround decision' by landowners that allowed the event to happen. The 2010 OMM saw the introduction of a new class, the C Course is now ‘Intended as a transition between linear courses and score courses' and the D course now is ‘equivalent to [the] C course in previous years.'

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

An early start on Saturday morning.

Dartmoor has a long history of use as a training ground for the military's light Armed Forces, with significant parts of the moor being closed for live and dry tactical training at designated times of the month. However the public enjoy extensive use of the moor at all other times outside of these restrictions, when considering that the MOD own only 14% of Dartmoor, there's plenty to go around. Okehampton Camp is also home to the Ten Tors challenge, organised by the British Army which takes place in May every year for around 2,400 14 to 19 year olds, seen as a ‘rite of passage' for many locals, but which encountered strong media attention after the 2007 event was abandoned.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Competitors take time out to study the map after starting the course on day 1.

With such a long-standing history of terrain ‘designed to challenge', some entrants for the 2010 OMM were perhaps rightly a little wary, but despite all weather forecasts the sky for day one of the race was unusually clear, quite a lot of water had fallen during the previous few weeks and due to the nature of the peat-land, conditions were to remain wet and boggy underfoot. Day 1 saw the Long score, B and C class competitors bussed out to Brisworthy on the south-west side of Dartmoor south of Tavistock - about an hour away-  while the Elite, A, D, Short and Medium score classes started from the military base at Okehampton. The first to leave the line started at 07.51 on a very brisk but mostly clear morning and saw short score competitors beginning their race anything up to 12.00.


Being trialled this year at the 2010 OMM was the use of GPS personal trackers given out to select teams on the course as they started, with the organisers of such a high profile event trialling this technology the move could change the face of mountain marathon and adventure racing for the future. The units receive gps signals from satellites and transmit this position information via mobile phone network to a central server, where the position of the unit and therefore hopefully the team, can be tracked. The units also feature a ‘panic button' which can be depressed in the event of an emergency and it is perhaps this technology that could light up the forums with discussion in the coming months. The same technology was used in the adidas Terrex World Series adventure race earlier in the year and can be used to bring more of a spectator presence to the event should it be used in the future, however the race has always been centred on self-sufficiency in a mountain environment and the move to bring online and race headquarters spectators to the event will bring mixed response.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Presumably supporting Movember as best they can?

With the 2010 event underway competitors headed out in to Dartmoor where gusting winds met them as they raced across tors and moorland, High Willhays was the highest point on the course at 621m and for the majority of day 1 stayed clear of the cloud-base. Navigation therefore remained relatively straightforward for most teams and speeded up the day's racing.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Windy conditions prevailed throughout the day.

With Dartmoor being relatively ‘low level' in terms of height gain, the course layout reflected this and after a day of longer than anticipated routes, distances covered were perhaps more than some had initially expected. Course planning takes in to account the terrain covered and with Dartmoor being less challenging than say the Scottish Highlands in terms of height gained, the course is therefore extended in distance to account for this. Some teams remarked that they expected the second day of racing to be considerably shorter than first, but were surprised when they found out they still had a long second day ahead of them.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Racers took in the full drama of the landscape.

After a blustery day out on the moors teams were set to arrive at overnight camp which was this year split in to two camps, the elite, A and Long Score courses were based south-west of Princetown and the B, C, D and Short Score classes were stationed next to the firing ranges of Tavy Cleave Plains on the western side of the moor.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Arriving at camp around dusk on day 1.

After a dry Saturday on the hill, the weather took a turn and the rain and winds that had been forecast arrived. The northerly overnight camp with its exposed nature, was the larger of the two with most competitors here and high winds and rained ripped through the camp for most of the night. Tents were pitched on uneven ground and where had been relatively dry in the day, competitors woke up in puddles and waterlogged hollows, all adding to the atmosphere of the event and the fact that this is a serious mountain race.


OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

The effects of the first long day clear in this competitor. 



The dream-team that is Jethro Lennox and Steve Birkinshaw were back at the 2010 OMM, with Steve going for his 8th Elite class OMM win, chasing the record 10 wins of Mark Seddon. At the end of day 1 Birkinshaw and Lennox were leading the field with a finishing time of 05:52:39, while Andy & Joe Symonds were placed second with a time of 06:04:03 and sitting in third were Jon Morgan & Al Powell with a time of  06:37:49. All being no strangers to the OMM, we usually expect to have all three teams on the elite podium every year, just perhaps in different orders.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

The military firing ranges create a stark backdrop to the beginning of day 2.

The wind and rain carried on through the night and through the morning, however after a long first day most competitors seemed unaware of the conditions through the night and slept ‘like babies'. Chasing starts had been announced the previous evening and those who were fast enough on the first day found themselves leaving between 7 and 8am on Sunday morning with the rest of the field staggered after.

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

Racing towards Mistor Marsh in the centre of the course on day 2.

Day 2 of the race took on a more challenging nature than the first, despite the course being slightly shorter. Navigation was much harder as the tops of the tors were above the cloud-base. Competitors found it necessary to use back-bearings, pacing and techniques such as aiming off for a lot of the day, those less skilled at fine navigation found themselves getting lost in a landscape tricky to navigate at best of times. All Competitors found themselves finishing day 2 at Okehampton Camp, with the first arriving back at base at around 11.30am, racer's kept arriving until after 4pm, where all were accounted for after a challenging two days of racing.


At the end of day 2 the three teams chasing from day 1 were still in the top three however it was Andy & Joe Symonds who took the lead finishing 1st with a total time of 10:35:03, Steve Birkinshaw & Jethro Lennox chased hard to finish only 4 minutes later with a time of 10:39:20 and Jon Morgan & Al Powell finished 3rd with the time of 11:36:42. 1st female team in the elite class was Heather Dawe & Andrea Priestley with a finishing time of 16:19:50.  

OMM Dartmoor 2010 - Dave MacFarlane planetFear

With the end in sight the weather didn't give an inch.

Special mention goes to planetFear athletes Tim Austin & Natalie White - Tim has recently joined the planetFear team at the 'bricks and mortar' shop at Keswick in the Lake District - they finished a hugely respectable 2nd place in the mixed  pairs elite category. We look forward to supporting Tim and Natalie in future races and will keep you posted with their results. 

With Dartmoor the most southerly area in the UK used for the event,  newly appointed OMM Race Director Andrew Denton promised the 2011 race will certainly be ‘more northerly', with Andrew's home-turf being the Peak District we'll keep our ears to the ground for the announcement of the 2011 location! The total purse for this year's race reached nearly £8000 worth of vouchers for OMM kit to the winners of each category, with prizes being given in varying value for 1st through to 6th of each class then 1st in ladies, mixed, vets, family and military classes.

Jamie Hutton Trophy OMM 2010

The Jamie Hutton Trophy.

New for the 2010 event was the military awarded Jamie Hutton Trophy for the long score class. Jamie tragically lost his life while on Royal Marine exercises in 2008, his father Colonel Jim Hutton has dedicated the award to the 1st military team on the long score course. Jamie and his father competed together at the 2006 OMM in the Brecon Beacons, the award is mounted on Brecon granite with the commando dagger presented on top. The award will be presented each year from now and this year went to Tom Shimell & James Cackett.


The planetFear podium results and photos can be found here>>>

Full results can be found by going to the OMM website and were collected with SPORTident timing.


Leave your comments on the 2010 OMM on the planetFear Facebook page here - and let us know what you thought of the 2010 event.


All images and video - Dave MacFarlane, planetFear





OMM Kit can be purchased in the planetFear shop here>>>

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