Planner’s Insights 2020

20th Jan 2020

Course Planner Graham Gristwood and Course Controller Gary Tompsett share some thoughts and information about Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2020.


Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2020 is almost certainly the last ever Ourea Events edition of this iconic event, and we think it will also be a memorable one. The long-term forecast doesn’t suggest that the weather will be too extreme (checked Monday 20th), but this is Wales in January, so expect anything!



Expect wild and remote terrain for the 2020 event!


Terrain advice

This is going to be a tough one! The terrain is notoriously rough and trackless over large areas, and although you might not believe this when you are traversing the ground, the courses have been planned to avoid the worst areas. There is one area with waist deep heather which has been marked on the map as ‘Here Be Dragons!’ (we are in Wales after all) and we highly recommend that you avoid this area. Otherwise there is a real mix of terrain - some parts are just short grass, and there are areas of peat hags, but most of it is fairly standard open fell.

We highly recommend that you don’t run in shorts or with bare legs – most vegetation, and particularly some of the heather, is quite mature (tall and tough-stemmed).

The Map

  • Power lines will not be marked on the event map.
  • Height information will not be shown on the map.
  • Most place names have been removed from the map.



This is going to be a tough one!


Course Distances

NOTE – These distances are not straight-line distances – they are measured along a sensible route choice.

Elite – 47km

A – 40km

B – 36km

C – 29km


Rivers: In the event of heavy rainfall the rivers in the area could become hazardous. In general, you should be able to use bridges to avoid crossing the deepest rivers.

Weather: We plan the courses in such a way that it would take extremely bad weather to cause us to use Bad Weather Courses, and obviously there is a mandatory kit list for a reason.

Marsh/peat hags: These are marked on the map, and generally the courses are planned to avoid the worst of these areas – you should read our Ecological Briefing Notes. If it is marked as a large area of low-lying marsh on the map then you really don’t want to go there! 

Roads: If you decide to retire from the event, it is likely that you may wish to use public roads to make your way back to the Event Centre. Please be aware that traffic may be moving fast on these roads, and won’t be expecting event participants.

Manned Location

There are no Manned Checkpoints on the courses, but there is one Manned Location which will be nearby (but not at) one of the checkpoints (not all the courses will go to this checkpoint). There will not be any Support available at this point, but if you are in need of assistance or wish to retire, you will be able to do so here. This will be marked on the map.


We expect all participants to be familiar with, and follow, our Event Rules. As this event takes place during the hours of darkness, please be especially courteous to residents.


It is a condition of use of the area that participants must not enter areas marked on the map as Out of Bounds (in purple), and must not cross boundaries (walls and fences) which are marked on the map as uncrossable (see the map samples and legend below for symbols and examples). Crossing points are marked on the map, and these are the only points at which these boundaries may be crossed.

Some of the crossing points will be temporary in nature – i.e. we have constructed them and will remove them after the event.

Participants breaking this rule will jeopardise future use of not only this area, but also other areas of the country that may be owned by the same land-owners. There will be severe penalties for anybody found to be doing so.

Out of Bounds areas with distinct boundaries (such as a fence or wall) are shown with a surrounding uncrossable boundary symbol (purple line around purple fill). If there is no boundary marked on the map, then there may not be a visible boundary on the ground.

Course information

Picture 1



Picture 2


Public Right of Way Information

Picture 3


Bad Weather Courses

In the event of extreme bad weather, the Race Director might authorise the use of Bad Weather courses. These are very similar to the standard courses, but usually avoid the highest, or most exposed ground.

Below is a map extract from Marmot Dark Mountains 2019 which gives an idea of how the Bad Weather course will be depicted on your race map. Any extra checkpoints that you would need to visit will be marked on the map (e.g. Checkpoint 224).

Picture 4


There will also be instructions over-printed on your race map specifying any Bad Weather route information. This is an actual example:

Picture 5