The OEM is a tough race, probably the toughest marathon in the world.
We want you to have fun and enjoy your journey, so we need to check that you have sufficient experience to cope with the demands of the terrain and to look after yourself.
There are only 50 places for international runners in 2019. Selection will be made on a first-come-first-served basis, subject to you having the necessary experience.
It's lovely to be able to share the whole experience with your partner, even if they're not going to run the marathon, so we have places available for non-runners who would be willing to be a marshal on race day. If you want to come on the trek you still need to be fit and healthy, although not to the same extent as those taking part in the marathon.
What sort of background do I need to run the OEM?
Off-road running experience is essential because of the nature of the terrain, which becomes rougher the further up the valley we travel.
As applicants come from all over the world, it would be too long a list if we recommend particular races. As a guide, if you have completed any of the Category A Long races in the FRA calendar, mountain marathons, Sky Races, Kepler, UTMR, you'll love the OEM.
If you have experience of mountaineering, trekking or running at altitude, this is an obvious advantage as you'll have a good understanding of the effect another 100m makes. The odd thing is that you may have coped well, or poorly, at alitude in the past, but that's not a predictor of how you'll be in the future. This is why we put so much emphasis on taking time to trek up to the start very gradually, so the body acclimatises naturally.
There is inevitably the thought that physical fitness will somehow reduce the effects of altitude. In reality it is usually the exact opposite.
We want everyone who is accepted on the marathon to feel confident in their ability to stay healthy and enjoy the process of getting to the start of the race, which is why we don't offer runners the option of joinging the race just before the start - with the exception of the local runners and invited elite athletes.
How fit do I need to be?
The fitter you are, then, (all other things being equal), the easier and faster the race will be. However, lack of fitness isn’t necessarily the issue that could cause a problem. If you develop an injury, or fall over on rough terrain, then that could mean you’re unable to finish the event. So while fitness-based preparation is important, it’s at least as important to be able to move well over uneven surfaces, up and down hills, so as to develop proprioception, co-ordination, and confidence.
Even though the race is mostly downhill on good trails, there are sections of steep up and down, so it’s important to be able to flow downhill in a smooth and controlled manner.
Understanding how to pace yourself and manage your body in unfamiliar conditions is as important as having the stamina to trek, whilst carrying a light sack, at a moderate pace for 15 days in a row.
Staying healthy by sleeping well and staving off any bronchial infections is just as important in your ability to get to the start line in a condition to participate.
The trekking itinerary is designed to give everyone the best chance of completing both the trek and the race, but that also comes down to individuals taking responsibility for looking after themselves on the way up the valley.