OMM Original Mountain Marathon

By Mike Parsons, former owner, director and product designer at Karrimor and OMM, and participant in 45 – 2-day events. This is an INTRO which will be followed by 2 further sections, including the GREAT STORM of 2008 in Seathwaite.  

Founded in 1968- the complete story of the 2-day mountain marathon, KIMM Karrimor International Mountain Marathon, later the OMM, Original Mountain Marathon- the forerunner of all adventure racing and multi-skilled hill events. An event which spawned many others and has contributed to the skills and ability of the UK’s hill-going and outdoor community. Navigating and moving safely over rugged terrain in poor weather, being lightly equipped and being self-supporting are vital skills for all hill goers. There has been a sustained influence on the design of lightweight and outdoor equipment.

The story of the inspiration and driving forces behind it are fascinating. Innovation ran through all aspects, from the event concept to computer systems, online registration, internet reporting, and competitor tracking, not forgetting the equipment and clothing rules which needed enhancing as road runners started to enter. This process has repeated itself within Ultra running, where competitors often face situations more akin to mountaineering. So the kit rules have become significantly more prescriptive. Mountain running gear has become a whole new product segment, and the UK has some leading brands.    


Thanks to contributions by Jen Longbottom, KIMM/OMM organiser from 1982 to 2013, Ellie Salisbury, Wendy Dodds and others for the overseas event info and fun event stories. Any errors are mine, and if you spot any or have fun stories to add, please contact me at  


THE OMM, the 2-day Mountain Marathon, Karrimor International Mountain Marathon, was founded in 1968 by Gerry Charnley and Alistair Patton. Lol Clarke became Gerry’s number two for many years until he passed away in the ’70s. It was the world’s first competition for alround mountain, camping, and navigation skills. The first world orienteering championships were held in Finland in 1966, and Gerry possibly attended,  providing the inspiration to blend his ‘O” skills with outdoor, as he was a Police outdoor instructor/trainer.   

Mike “One day in 1968, a man called Gerry Charnley called to see me at my old factory in Haslingden, Lancs, UK and asked if I would provide prizes for a new event he was creating, called a ‘two-day Mountain Marathon’.  I said, “Yes, that sounds like a good event idea”.  I gave prizes in the following 2 years. In 1971, I undertook 2 commitments. The first was to underwrite the total sponsorship costs of the event, and the second was to compete myself.  I teamed up with Don Booth and had a quick night navigation lesson from the local Rossendale MR guys. It was my first ever significant navigational challenge in the mountains, and we surprised ourselves (and Gerry Charnley!)  by being placed 8th, though there were only 9 finishers! However, I recall there were about 70 none finishers in the A class, even though the weather at the end of September was pleasantly warm. This was the first year in which there was an ‘A’ class event to the top level was renamed ‘Elite’. 

Gerry Charnley was killed in 1982 when he fell through a cornice on Helvellyn whilst leading a Police group under training, He has been recognised for having a Lake District Crag named after him. Charnley Crag, location OS 236070, has been a checkpoint on several KIMM/OMM events in Langdale. There is also a ‘Charnley Way’ with three suggested circuits, Eskdale, Borrowdale and Langdale. An example of a complete round is also given. This map is still available from Harvey Maps see

Our Photo gallery has dozens of pictures If you are a former competitor or volunteer and have any pictures you feel would add some authentic flavour, please email them to 

Running on the hills, by any other name, fell running, adventure racing, sky running, and ultra running all have a strong connection with rock climbing, the foot movements and mental commitment being similar. Strong hill walkers also enjoy the challenges and learning the broad outdoor skills involved.  These events have certainly contributed to the navigation, camping, cooking, survival and garment performance layering skills of the whole UK outdoor community to navigate and move safely over difficult terrain, be lightly equipped and be self-supporting. Many returned year after year, the climbers using the event as training for the winter climbing season; for others, it was a great social end-of-season catch-up. 

Jen pays tribute to the amazing team that evolved and matured in skills over the many years she organised the event. They also were the founding skills for other events. 

Over the years, the event could not have been sustained without a dedicated band of officials.  I was overall responsible for the running of the event. The roles were subdivided. An area location team worked 2 years ahead to find new areas, which often took participants to lesser-known non-honey-pot locations, adding to the event attraction. This was also vital when permissions fell through at the last moment for the current year. 

A special mention must be made to these people; without their dedication, the event would not have continued all these years. Peter Knott, Stan and Verena Johnston, Steve Willis. Roger Smith and Dave Chapman controlled a varying band of course planners and course marshalls, too numerous to mention, but thanks must be given to all of them for their dedication. On top of that, the planning team were the team who carried out the administrative duties and has been with the event since the start. Although the team leaders have changed throughout the years, the same commitment is still there from the teams.  

Special mention must be made to those team leaders who took up the baton and then so ably passed it on to their successors at the appropriate time. PFO start and finish Roger Smith, Alan Hiscox, Brian and Carole Pilling,  Angela and Dick Whitworth and John and Maureen Ashton. Raynet volunteers added much to overall safety. Registration; Fred Charnley, Eddy Wane.Overnight Campsite Ken Turner and Mel Wilkinson, later Glossop Venture Scouts Phil Anderson, Geoff Senior Car Parking Geoff Lord, Bob Skeen, Tom Williamson, Ian Whittaker Event maintenance North Yorkshire event support team. Steve Hall.” 

This story continues in several sections as I get opportunities to research and receive contributions from others. There will be information about every year and a special story about the ‘great storm’ of 2008 and the ‘1700 unaccounted for’ story that went around the world. Please subscribe to be messaged when the next section is posted. 

End of the intro story, please subscribe to be advised of the next part, including the story of the 2008n GREAT STORM.