2018 Race Director's Report

6th Feb 2018

What a unique challenge Marmot Dark Mountains™ is! I'd like to congratulate everyone who participated in the event this year: Well done! The combination of darkness and winter weather and conditions is one of the toughest environments to operate in. Now add the need to navigate effectively and move at speed through the rough terrain, and it is no wonder Marmot Dark Mountains™ is widely considered the ultimate test of mountain-craft for runners. Once again the event has lived up to its formidable reputation.

Marmot Dark Mountains 2018

The first event in the British Mountain Marathon Championship was a wild night in the Forest of Bowland. Thank you to all our competitors, event team, and landowners involved in enabling the 6th edition of #DarkMountains to be a great success. Please share this video with your friends and fellow competitors! Results are online. Photos and reports due next week! We hope to see you at the LAMM - Scottish Mountain Marathon & ROC Mountain Marathon

Posted by Marmot Dark Mountains on Monday, 29 January 2018


Marmot Dark Mountains™ Comes of Age?

The sixth edition of Marmot Dark Mountains™ has finished, and the event attracted approximately 300 entries this year. This is the biggest field yet and was a huge step forward for the event, representing a 50% increase on the previous two editions. I am delighted. Not because I have a slightly unhinged desire to see people getting cold and wet, but because this really puts the event on a sustainable footing for the first time.

What has led to this jump in participation is an interesting question. For sure, the great reputation the event has for being tough and unique counts for a lot, but I am also certain that the British Mountain Marathon Championship has stimulated some additional entries, and from chatting with many participants over the weekend, it is clear many of you intend to get a ranking in the 2018 Championship. There is lots more information on the British Mountain Marathon Championship on its own dedicated website. 


Smiles on the start line

Smiles on the start line. It's important to enjoy it after all! ©Steve Ashworth


Event Team - Thank You

Whilst the support of our two key sponsors - Marmot and Petzl - is important, the most important thank you is always to the event team. Almost entirely volunteers, the Event Team are responsible for the vast majority of interactions between the event and the participants, and therefore they really set the tone of the event. This year, the 'Advanced Team' had a superb day on the hill on Friday placing all the checkpoints in great weather. We had a larger Advanced Team than in previous years, the weather was super and therefore everything was ready to go by Friday evening (we like to have spare capacity in the plan in case the weather is poor), which meant an evening spent relaxing and drinking in the Hark to Bounty Inn.


Kit check with a smile at Marmot Dark Mountains

Kit check at registration - a volunteer intensive time, all helping out to a professional standard ©Steve Ashworth


This year the event team had a lovely mix of seasoned veterans and some new faces, but we all gelled together quickly. The majority of the Event Team may be volunteers but as a team we operate to professional standards on all the elements of the event such as placing and collecting checkpoints, providing medical support, organising registration, catering, administration, communications and so much more. They do all this with a smile. 

I would especially like to thank James Thurlow from Open Tracking who stepped in at the last minute to help with the management of the GPS Tracking. 

For the record the 2018 Marmot Dark Mountains™ team was:

  • Andy Jackson
  • Becky Tate
  • Ben Abdelnoor
  • Ben Holmes
  • Carmine De Grandis
  • Colin Harding
  • Duncan Anderson
  • Duncan Kendrick
  • Gareth Clarke
  • Gary Tompsett
  • Geoff Cox
  • Graham Gristwood
  • Heather Ohly
  • Helen Samson
  • Ian Brandreth
  • Ian Cowie
  • Ian Stevens
  • James Thurlow
  • Jonni Suckling
  • Karen Kemish
  • Keith Montgomery
  • LittleDave
  • Matt Gemmell
  • Michelle Beeson
  • Michelle Creed
  • Paul Beeson
  • Paul Imrie
  • Sandra Williams
  • Scott Mathers
  • Shane Ohly
  • Stuart Smith
  • Sue Dowker
  • Tim Glasby
  • Tom Booth
  • Tom Hecht


Rules - Disqualification - Being a Race Director

The use of GPS tracking is a game changer. There is no doubt that it improves safety management considerably, ensures compliance with the event rules and helps reassure landowners that the event will be well run and stick to the access agreements made. In fact, one of the landowners this year was swayed to grant access only because they were so impressed by the use of GPS for safety management, and as a tool for ensuring that participants avoided the areas that they requested.

GPS tracking levels the playing field with any infringement of the rules indisputably; typically, these are crossing through an area marked Out of Bounds or crossing over an Uncrossabale Boundary.



GPS Tracking projected onto the wall of the event centre for keen viewing by participants and event team alike ©Steve Ashworth


When we introduced GPS tracking in 2016, I took a deliberately light touch to enforcing our event rules as participants got used to the very detailed scrutiny we could now apply to their route choices. Often a polite 'telling off' at the finish with a screen shot of their infringement was sufficient to make the point. Two years later, I feel that our regular participants understand that their every move is recorded and public, and it is clear that even as participation is growing, the number of Out of Bounds / Uncrossable Boundary infringements is reducing. Thank you.

I am now taking a more robust approach to enforcing the rules and I am doing this for a number of reasons, which include: Fairness, safety management, supporting agreements with landowners and to ensure credibility for the British Mountain Marathon Championship. With the development of the British Mountain Marathon Championship there is more at stake than just the one event, and a result at Marmot Dark Mountains™ has the potential to influence the Championship rankings. For all these reasons it is essential that the rules are applied transparently and fairly.



No hiding! Participants avoiding the purple out of bounds sections


At Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2018 I disqualified two teams for rule infringements: 

The first disqualification was the leading elite team for crossing an uncrossable boundary and then passing through a substantial out of bounds area. Whilst I do not think there was any attempt to gain an unfair advantage, and this was an example of an exhausted team losing concentration in the final minutes of a long race, the infringement was significant enough that I had little choice in my action to ensure that fairness was demonstrated to the other teams competing on the Elite Course. 

The second disqualification was for two minor Out of Bounds / Uncrossable Boundary infringements followed by a failure to complete the course as a team. The Out of Bounds / Uncrossable Boundary infringements were clearly navigation errors and I do not believe that the team was seeking an unfair advantage. Considered alone these are forgivable. However, the team also failed to finish together and unless there is a genuine emergency that requires the team to separate, this is unacceptable. 


Bespoke Harvey mapping

A bespoke high-quality Harvey map is issued to each team member so you can't blame your mate alone ©Steve Ashworth 


Technically, I did disqualify a few more teams but this was for finishing after the Course Closure Time of 11am. I was unable to 'DNF' them because they had punched the finish timing box, which we should have removed after 11am. We will manage this better in the future. 

Quite rightly, the elite team wanted to understand precisely when as a Race Director I will disqualify, issue a time penalty or just ignore an infringement of the rules. Over the years I have wanted to avoid a detailed description of rule infringements and a mandatory punishment, and I have also wanted to retain the discretion to judge each instance on its merits. However, on reflection I think I owe all the participants (at all my events) a much clearer definition of the infringements and the mandatory punishment, and it is now my turn to up my game as a race organiser so that this information is crystal clear and objectively fair. Please watch this space for a considered update before our sister event the ROC Mountain Marathon this September. 


2013-2018 Stats

There is no doubt that Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a difficult event to finish. The two score courses don't reflect the true difficultly as teams have complete discretion with regards to how many checkpoints they visit and then return to base within the time limit. The participants on the linear courses simply don't have this choice; either they finish the whole course or they DNF. 

We have gathered the following statistics on the percentage finish rate over the years, and it clearly shows that the Linear Courses are more difficult to complete. The standout difficult years were 2013 (21% completion - storm conditions on the hill) and 2017 (35% completion - extremely poor visibility). Whilst the weather and conditions were far from 'good' for the 2018 Marmot Dark Mountains™, on balance it was an easier year.


Map reading by headlamp

Taking stock of the next route choice ©Steve Ashworth


Overall the average completion for the linear courses since 2013 is 49%, and for the Score Courses it is 97%.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 16.47.43

Reflecting on these statistics, and from talking with the participants, one thing is clear. Marmot Dark Mountains™ is not the event to 'step up' to a new course. By this I mean if you're a regular B Course participant, stepping up to the A Course at Marmot Dark Mountains™ will feel like a significant increase in difficulty. This is because we plan the course as though this was a daylight mountain marathon. My recommendation for novice participants, is to make conservative choices when you enter the event in 2019!


Race Planning

Race Planner Graham Gristwood has done a clearly excellent job with the event this year. His experience as a Great Britain orienteer has certainly added to the capability of Ourea Events to plan excellent events, and the feedback about the courses at Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2018 has been universally excellent. Well done Graham! 


2018 British Mountain Marathon Championship

In the next few weeks we will update MountainMarathon.com with the 2018 British Mountain Marathon Championship rankings after the first event of the year. The next event is the LAMM, which is heading to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides this year. I will be racing with regular Mountain Marathon partner Duncan Archer, and hope to see many of you there.


2018 British-championship-white-text badge



Feedback is very important to us. Please let us 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 for what were clearly 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. We hope to finalise the results by the end of the week.


GPS Tracking Replay and GPX Download

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 (event photos and video) and Tim Glasby (portraits) were on hand to document the event. Their photo galleries and videos are online:


Tag your friends, family, and fellow competitors to delight them with a potential new profile picture ;) Photos courtesy of Tim Glasby

Posted by Marmot Dark Mountains on Sunday, 28 January 2018


Please tag your fellow competitors and friends in the photos so they may see them too. Photos ©Steve Ashworth

Posted by Marmot Dark Mountains on Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Please tag yourself in these photos and let your friends know you took part in the 2018 event. Our participant portraits have become something of a badge of honour as a facebook profile picture!


Lost Property

Amazing! For the first time ever (I mean at any of our events, since the beginning of time), we have no unclaimed lost property. 


Thank Yous

  • Marmot - Hugh Harris, Malcolm Rudge and Steph Jones
  • Petzl - Martin Bergerud and Ben Alderson
  • Slaidburn Village Hall - Jackie Howard
  • Slaidburn Public Car Park - Neil Yates
  • Brennands School - Sarah Healey
  • Slaidburn Public Toilets - Jim Murphy
  • Poorsland Barn Units - Harvey Robinson and Tenants 
  • 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
  • Film and Photography: Tim Glasby and Steve Ashworth
  • Landowners United Utilities - Nick Kelly
  • Ralph and Thomas Assheton
  • Brian Ryecroft 
  • Natural England - Graham Walsh
  • Area of Natural Beauty - Elliott Lorimer 
  • Abbeystead Estate - Douglas Williams
  • Whitendale shooting - Alan Peet
  • Croasdale shooting - Phil Gunning
  • Mr and Mrs Walker
  • Mr and Mrs T Robinson
  • Mrs Christine Scott
  • Mr and Mrs Handley

Smile, it'll soon be 2019

Smile, it'll soon be time to enter the 2019 event! ©Steve Ashworth


Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2019 - Far Eastern Fells, Lake District

We are excited to confirm that the next edition of Marmot Dark Mountains™ will be held in the Far Eastern Fells of the Lake District National Park on the night of Saturday 26th January 2019. The event area contrasts greatly from the Forest of Bowland because it is significantly more mountainous, at a higher elevation and therefore prone to more wintery weather and conditions. However, the terrain is generally more runnable than the infamous tussocks and heather of Bowland, which many of you are now familiar with! We hope that you had an memorable weekend this year, and look forward to welcoming you back in 2019.



Entries open March 2018

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