Marmot Dark Mountains 2015 - Race Directors Report

27th Jan 2015

Thumbs up to another successful Marmot Dark Mountains™ in 2015. © Ian Corless


Rapidly becoming the right of passage for experienced mountain runners, Marmot Dark Mountains™ took place in the Howgills on the night of Saturday 24th January. The extremely challenging event, which vets all competitors before accepting an entry, has once again received widespread acclaim from the competitors.

Greg Weatherhead, who alongside partner Kevin Drew, finished first on the C Course said, "My partner and I have done over a dozen mountain marathons between us and we both thought that this was one of the best organised events we have ever done." Alongside his running partner Andy Bell, Darryl Watton, who finished 3rd on the Short Score Course commented that "...Marmot Dark Mountains was absolutely superb and we enjoyed it immensely."

Albeit there was a slight problem with control 203, which fortunately affect very few competitors (see comments below), praise has been universally excellent for the 3rd Marmot Dark Mountains™ from the competitors. We have had some wonderful feedback in the last 48 hours, which you can read HERE. Any observations about the event – good or bad – are very welcome. Please don’t shy… get in touch!

Race Director Shane Ohly, provided an insight to the organisation of the event, "As a race organiser you know when things are running smoothly when you can casually take time to chat with competitors and friends whilst surrounded by a smoothly running operation. I particularly wanted to thank Charlie Sproson from Mountain Run for all his hard work on landowner permissions and course planning. Supporting Charlie and I this weekend were a superb team of volunteer marshals. They make it all happen, and they are a committed, knowledgeable and motivated team that are a credit to the wider mountain running community." 


Above: The Marmot Dark Mountains™ volunteer team with representative from Marmot and Petzl. © Ian Corless


With just 136 entries in 2015, Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a micro event and the organisers explained that putting on a race of that complexity would be impossible without the generous support of sponsors Marmot and Petzl. Indeed, there was a large round of applause for the two leading outdoor brands at the prize giving ceremony from competitors, organisers and volunteers a like. Ohly commented succinctly, "Thanks for putting something back into the outdoor community". 

One the consistent themes of race over the past three years has been the excellent attitude and experience of the competitors. “It’s a rare individual who has the experience and nerve to take on the challenge of an overnight winter mountain marathon and everyone who takes part in the event genuinely impresses me”, explained Ohly. He continued, “It doesn’t matter it it’s the Elite runners or a team retiring early on the C Course, everyone participating in Marmot Dark Mountains™ to date has shown consistently sound mountain judgment and made good decisions about how far, and how long to push themselves in some very challenging weather and terrain”.

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Above: Adam and Kim zoom past the 238 checkpoint on thier way to victory at Marmot Dark Mountains™... honestly they weren't running backwards all night! © Ian Corless


Highlighted as favourites before the event, local mountain runners Kim Collison and Adam Perry did not disappoint and stormed round the 53km / 3,000m height gain course in just 8h:34m to win the elite race by a huge margin. Kim and Adam now have one of the most prestigious - certainly heaviest - mountain running trophies to keep until the race returns in January 2016. Tim Higginbottom and Alex Pilkington finished 2nd in 9h:17m and Steve Birkinshaw and Jim Mann came in 3rd in 9h:48m. Kim Collison and Adam Perry describe their route on video HERE.


Above: Kirsty Hewitson leading Digby Harris to second place overall on the Long Score. © Ian Corless

The results have now been finalised and are available HERE.

Photo Galleries
Ian Corless from Talk Ultra has once again delivered the goods with a superb selection of images that really capture the essence of the event. His galleries are now online here:

This photos are also available via the Marmot Dark Mountains Facebook page HERE. Please tag yourself and share the images freely


Above: There were two manned support points in the Howgills during Marmot Dark Mountains™. These were  places of refuge and where help can be sought in an emergency. Some courses also visit these locations as checkpoints and they were popular pit stops for competitors less worried about their final time! © Ian Corless

Amended Elite Results – Control 203
We invest a huge amount of time and energy to ensure that each checkpoint is carefully selected, fair and appropriate for the difficulty of the course and accurately displayed on the map. Control 203 – the third control on the Elite course and an option for the Score Courses – was deliberately designed to be very challenging, and we expected some teams to struggle with this technical checkpoint with only distant attackpoints to approach from. During the planning and controlling process Charlie Sproson (Course Planner) and I spent at lot of time at this control site and decided that whilst it would be an excellent checkpoint that it was not marked accurately enough on the existing map. We asked that Harvey maps move the checkpoint to a new location, twenty meters further up the slope. We had tagged this location using a GPS. The first draft of the event maps had 203 in the new, correct location. 

Whilst the maps are being fine-tuned there is a fairly exhaustive process of minor amendments flying between Harvey and us. To give you an impression, we asked for 50+ amendments at the various stages of proofing the maps. At some point, control 203 reverted back to its original location and I – as the controller – did not notice this. Let’s be clear, I am not blaming Harvey for the error. 

As expected a number of teams had great difficulty finding 203 but as the control was not marked correctly I believe that it was unfair. As a result I have voided the time from the previous and next checkpoint from the Elite team results. This means that any time lost as a direct result of the 203 saga has been deducted from each teams overall time… of course this makes Adam and Kim’s winning time look even more impressive!

Only one Score Course team visited this control and this was David Alcock and Ben Turner who won by large margin.

203 Mapping

Above: The Control 203 Saga. The map from the 2015 event is shown above and 203 is not marked correctly. Race Director Shane Ohly explains, "After some concerns were raised by a few competitors about the accuracy of 203 I went out to double check first thing on Monday morning after the event. I calibrated my altimeter on the 427m summit near 201 (the 2nd Elite control - not shown above), went to the col at 408m and then carefully contoured in at walking pace at 408m height. The control is shown just below the 405m contour on the map. Therefore if you contoured accurately from the col you would expect the feature to be down the slope from your traverse line. In fact it is 19m higher at 427m. If it was shown accurately on the map it would have been above the next contour line up the slope". 


Lost Property
We have found the following items whilst clearing out the hall (the waterproof hat was found near a control):

  • One pair of inov-8 shoes – now claimed
  • One waterproof hat
  • One beanie hat
  • One rucksack
  • One sleeping bag – now claimed
  • One blue t-shirt

If you think any of these items are yours please contact us with a description and we’ll arrange to return them… if no one has claimed them within two weeks they’ll go to the local charity shop!

Prize Winners
Prize winners (1st Team, 1st Female Team, 1st Vet Team and 1st Mixed Team) will receive an engraved trophy in the next 3-4 weeks.

Final Thoughts
Andy Thompson, who with running partner Rob Brown completed the A courses said that Marmot Dark Mountains, "... was the best mountain marathon he'd done", whilst Tim Martland, competing with Jim Allen on the B Course exclaimed that the race was, "...something all mountain marathoners should do!"