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John Laughlin: 'It was possibly the worst sustained weather I've been out in'

Monday 27 October 2008 01:00 GMT

My Danish race partner, Thure Kjaer, had joked beforehand that it has rained every time he has been to our green island but this time the weather forecast indicated we were in for some truly exceptional weather.

We were, in effect, running a marathon distance, as the crow flies, over the mountains, before camping and completing a similar length of course the next day. We have competed in long adventure races like this for a few years and knew preparation would be essential. There's a saying in the outdoors community – "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing", so being well equipped and prepared is vital.

When we started, conditions were breezy but dry, though we knew things would soon change.

By afternoon, the rain was falling more heavily, the wind increased and streams became torrents.

On the highest hills, it became difficult to continue running and gusts would occasionally blow runners around us off their feet but we helped each other out and checked on every team we met to make sure they were looking after each other.

Thankfully visibility was still good and, as every competitor had a map and compass, we were able to navigate ourselves back to the overnight camp, though as we descended, the volume of water in the flooded valleys became ever greater and the waterfalls took on a Himalayan nature. It was possibly the worst sustained weather I had ever been out in but we were well trained and well equipped, despite carrying lightweight gear. We knew those with less experience would carry even more rations and equipment to survive most eventualities.

We arrived at the overnight camp after six hours of running, to be told that the event had been cancelled. Unfortunately, communications were poor and conditions were ever worsening, meaning that a decision was made by the police to close Honister Pass, leaving some participants stuck without transport in the Buttermere Valley, while others had already returned to their cars at the HQ.

We managed to get a lift with one of the last cars out of Buttermere before a landslide closed the road and learnt later that others had been taken out to Cockermouth by emergency services. The dispersal of people around the area caused the difficulties in accounting for everyone and we were confident everyone would be safe and dining out on adventure stories for some time to come. The OMM is a fantastic event with a proud history and I for one will be back in 2009, though my partner would like some sunshine for once!

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