2017 Race Director's Report

31st Jan 2017

Marmot Dark Mountain 2017 copyright Steve Ashworth-1 10

A world apart. Before the weather closed in for the night, the lights of participants were captured by event photographer Steve Ashworth in stark contrast to the 'real' world in the far distance. © Steve Ashworth

What a tremendous adventure you have had! Marmot Dark Mountains™ has once again lived up to its formidable reputation as the test of mountain craft and I’d like to congratulate everyone who participated in the event this year, especially given the very challenging conditions for night navigation. Well done! 

My Race Director reports often follow a similar structure. First I thank the Event Team, then sponsors and of course the participants. Whilst I would obviously like to extend a huge ‘Thank You’ to all these people and organisations who come together to make Marmot Dark Mountains™ happen (and I did so at the prize giving ceremony on Sunday morning), I had a strong sense that there was something far greater than the sum of the individual components taking place this weekend. 

When I reflect on the conversations, the glances between friends, the anxious stares, the excited banter and the obvious nerves I observed at the weekend, I believe that something special was happening this year. By this I mean not just that the event, which is now in its 5th year, feels familiar and understood by a critical mass of the participants, but that the event team and regular participants also feel comfortable and relaxed in the company of each other and the event. I suspect that I am not making myself very clear, so I’ll try and explain my thoughts by giving the following examples from both the event team and the participants' side of the event.

Marmot Dark Mountain 2017 copyright Steve Ashworth-4

The Event Team had over 30 members. Most of the team are regulars at my events. They are an experienced team working to high, professional standards (despite mostly being volunteers) across a range of disciplines from placing checkpoints, to providing medical cover, to feeding everyone, to organising registration, loading and unloading equipment and managing the start (and so many other tasks – the list is very long indeed). They do all this and remain happy and enthusiastic and their attitude sets the tone for the entire event. Yet they all have another gear, and when we dealt with the first incident of the night we managed to deploy a safety team to meet an injured participant, arrange transport back to the Murton Village Hall location, and relocate our event doctors to meet the returning injured participant within 6 minutes of receiving the emergency call. Nice work team! For the record the 2017 Marmot Dark Mountains™ team was:

  • Alex Chesters
  • Alexis Dole
  • Andy Jackson
  • Becky Tate
  • Ben Abdelnoor
  • Carwyn "Caz' Phillips
  • Charlotte Hattersley
  • Colin Harding
  • LittleDave Cumins
  • Duncan Kendrick
  • Gary Tompsett
  • Geoff Cox
  • Hannah Phelan
  • Heather Ohly
  • Helen Samson
  • Ian Cowie
  • Jim Imber
  • Kate Worthington
  • Keith “Monty” Montgomery
  • Lawrie Jones
  • Malcolm Rudge 
  • Matt Gemmell
  • Michelle Beeson
  • Nick Stafford
  • Paul Beeson
  • Paul Imrie
  • Philip Wilkinson
  • Rachel Platt
  • Simon Dixon
  • Sue Dowker
  • Tom Hecht


Eleanor Johnstone and Jack Redvers Harris – B Course - 4th overall © Ian Corless

Eleanor Johnstone and Jack Redvers Harris – B Course - 4th overall 
Eleanor Johnstone (pictured with her race partner Jack Redvers Harris) greeted me at download with this wonderful infectious smile and burst of enthusiasm as she described her night out in the hills. As I listened to her adventures I was reminded at just how compelling and engrained a quality event experience can be, and it makes me proud to know all the hard work of delivering the event can have such positive impact on someone, and I sincerely hope Eleanor wasn’t the only one to leave the event on Sunday a little tired, but ultimately enriched by the whole experience. 



Adrian Moir and Ellie Salisbury – Short Score – 4th Overall © Ian Corless

Adrian Moir and Ellie Salisbury – Short Score – 4th Overall
Adrian and Ellie are regular participants at Marmot Dark Mountains™ and have decades of experience across many events. Their opinion matters to me because they have so much context to apply to their comments, and when they tell me the event was superb, I know they mean it. They are both genuine grassroots enthusiasts and Ellie even raced at the North Wales Cross Country Championships on her way to Marmot Dark Mountains™! Seeing the picture of them in an exhausted, dreamy sleep on the floor of Murton Village Institute says something that is hard to capture in words, but reassures me that many special things have occurred to make this moment a reality.



Chris Barnes and David ‘Muir’ Morton - Elite Course – 2nd Overall © Ian Corless

Chris Barnes and David ‘Muir’ Morton - Elite Course – 2nd Overall
Chris and Muir achieved one of the standout performances at this year’s Marmot Dark Mountains™ finishing 2nd on the Elite Course. I have known them both for many years through the extended Sheffield climbing family, and I have watched in recent years as Chris in particular has steadily improved as a mountain runner with solid results across a range of events including the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™, whilst also quietly completing adventures like a solo and unsupported Bob Graham Round. We all know how hard the navigation and terrain was at this year’s Marmot Dark Mountains™ and one description that sticks with me was, “that was like trying to navigate inside a ping-pong ball… in the dark”. Chris and Muir’s result shows me that incremental improvements in experience and competency mean that a great result in the Elite course is a possibility for many participants. Nice work boys! 



John Worth and Julie Ferris – Long Score 19th Overall © Ian Corless

John Worth and Julie Ferris – Long Score 19th Overall
John and Julie are regular participants at a whole range of my events and I love the fact that they represent that rock solid, experienced team, who take great pleasure from participating in the event. When I chatted with them briefly on Sunday morning, I sensed that weary but entirely satisfied feeling that I know so well myself. I’ll take a liberty when I say they are unlikely to ever win the Elite, but they are friendly, a pleasure to chat with and totally competent on the hill, they are an asset to the event, and I know that people like John and Julie are the core of the participants at my events. 



Bo Johansson and Kerstin Rosenqvist – Elite Course – 4th overall © Ian Corless

Bo Johansson and Kerstin Rosenqvist – Elite Course – 4th overall
Bo and Kerstin from Sweden represent the international clientele! Let’s face it, an overnight winter mountain marathon is not everyone’s cup of tea, but Marmot Dark Mountains™ has been steadily increasing the number of international participants and both Bo and Kerstin have been regulars at many of my events over the years, with Kerstin distinguishing herself with some winning performances. Despite this, I regret the fact that we only had a few minutes to chat at the event. As is so often the case, I strode across the Event Centre to speak with them, only to be called back to the radio, then an SI enquiry and then... well you get the picture. This story is often repeated with many of the participants I try and chat with whilst the event is in full swing around me. I hope we have more time to chat at the next event.

I could continue… In fact, so many of the interactions with the participants stick in my mind it feels a little awkward to single out the runners above. Ultimately, I feel that Marmot Dark Mountains™ as an event is coming of age and this is only possible because of the fantastic people that volunteer to help, and volunteer to participate! 

2013-2017 Stats


There have been a few mutterings to the effect that the courses were over planned (i.e. too difficult) and that it was impossible to 'navigate' to some of the checkpoints without relying on an element of luck. Gary and I will reflect on this feedback carefully, but my instinct is that the ‘over-planned’ comments are unjustified. Marmot Dark Mountains™ is just a very challenging event, and the poor visibility experienced in the low cloud during the 2017 edition simply amplified the challenge. Certainly, I have ZERO intention to compromise the nature of the challenge, and I think it is important for participants to accept that occasionally unusual weather - which won’t be that unusual for an overnight winter mountain marathon - will make an event much more difficult to complete. Let’s be honest, surely the challenging conditions is the biggest element of Marmot Dark Mountains™ that makes it so satisfying to complete?

Regarding luck. Yes, occasionally luck does play a part. However, having spent a lot of time in serious Scottish mountain terrain in total whiteouts and darkness, I also know that there are very distinct navigational techniques that need to be used in exceptional circumstances, which are not usually used/known/practiced by mountain marathon participants and orienteers. To be consistently successful at Marmot Dark Mountains™ participants need a tool box of skills and experience to draw upon, and as I said in my introduction, that is why I believe the event is THE test of mountain craft for runners in the UK.


2017 Event In 39 Seconds

The first video evidence of the tough challenge participants undertook this weekend is revealed! Bucket list event? More Marmot #DarkMountains video, photos, and news to follow..

Posted by Marmot Dark Mountains on Monday, 30 January 2017

Planner's Report

Race Planner Gary Tompsett has written an excellent Planner's Report from his perspective. 


British Mountain Marathon 2017 Championship

In the next few days we will update MountainMarathon.com with the British Mountain Marathon 2017 Championship rankings after the first event of the year. Watch this space, because we hope to be able to announce some additional EXCITING developments shortly...



Feedback is very important to me. Please let me know your thoughts (good or bad) and these will all be discussed and reviewed carefully.


The provisional results are available online. We have reviewed these and carefully looked at the GPS Tracking for most of the prize position teams now. We have dished out a few time penalties (typically 10 minutes) for what were honest mistakes to the teams infringing our Uncrossable Boundaries / Out of Bounds Areas. Fortunately, these penalties have not had an impact on the overall standings.


GPX Download and Replay

We used the GPS Tracking for the first time in 2016 at Marmot Dark Mountains™, and it worked very well, adding real value to the event experience, helping to ensure fairness and improving safety management considerably. In 2016 we took a light touch approach to enforcing our event rules as participants got used to the very detailed scrutiny we can now apply to their route choices. Now, we are taking a more robust approach and have given some time penalties for what we see as honest mistakes. Any deliberate attempt to gain an advantage will still warrant our ultimate sanction… disqualification, but we feel this is very unlikely because why would anyone take an illegal short cut when they are being tracked?! All the GPX files for all the participants are available to download, and you are also able to recreate the event using the ‘Replay’ function on the tracking interface. Please enjoy watching the dots!

Photo Galleries and Video

Both Steve Ashworth and Ian Corless were on hand to document the event. Their photo galleries and videos are online.

Lost Property

We have the following items of lost property:

  • x1 One Purse
  • x1 Survival Bag
  • x1 Water bottle
  • x2 waterproof trousers
  • x1 walking trousers
  • x2 mitts/gloves
  • x1 balaclava

Please get in touch with a full description to claim your missing items. Any unclaimed items will be binned or given to our favourite local charity shop after 2 weeks, as it is impossible for us to keep wet and dirty items indefinitely. 


Thank Yous


  • Marmot - Hugh Harris and Malcolm Rudge
  • Petzl – Martin Bergerud and Ben Alderson
  • Warcop Training Area; MOD and Landmarc
  • Murton Village Institute Hall Committee
  • Villages, Parish Councils and Farmers of Hilton, Murton, Dufton and Knock
  • Raby Castle Estate, Manager and Gamekeeper
  • Dufton Fell Gamekeeper for use of Great Rundale Hut
  • Natural England and our ecologist David Broom
  • Harvey Maps: Pete Child and Lewis Taylor
  • SPORTident: Martin Stone and Jeff Powell Davies
  • Open Tracking: James Thurlow and Rob Marriott
  • Transport: Reays Buses
  • Film and Photography: Ian Corless and Steve Ashworth


We hope that you had an memorable weekend, and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2018.


2017 Event Film

Formidable reputation? Bucket list event? Will you join us in 2018? Entries open March. Part of the 2017 British Mountain Marathon Series.

Posted by Marmot Dark Mountains on Friday, 3 February 2017