It's been announced that the venue for the inaugural Marmot Dark Mountains race will be Muncaster Castle in the southwest Lake District. This historic and reputedly haunted castle should provide a fitting backdrop to this unique overnight winter mountain marathon.
Rather than the usual format of two days of running with an overnight camp in between, Marmot Dark Mountains packs two days worth of running into one long winter night.
The event area has been carefully selected for its remote and mountainous moorland nature, says race director Shane Ohly. It is generally below 500m, and should avoid the worst of the winter weather that can be experienced on the higher Lakeland fells, but more than compensates for this with some technical terrain with complex contours, crags and areas of featureless moorland. Indeed the 2012 British Orienteering Championships used some of this area to test some of the best navigators in the country. Excellent navigation, careful use of the terrain features and a cautious approach are likely to be a rewarding strategy for competitors, reckons Shane.
Planning the courses has proved tricky, he explains.
'We work to a set winning time, rather than a set distance for each course. However, compensating for the added difficulty of running and navigating at night has proven difficult, as the differences between people's ability to navigate accurately and run with confidence seem to be magnified by the darkness.'
'The organising team have carried out a significant amount of testing themselves and had experienced mountain marathon competitors who are independent of the planning team run the courses to check our assumptions.'
Despite the careful planning process, differences in the weather conditions have resulted in very different experiences for the test team.
Ohly continues: 'Obviously, it is also impossible to account for the variations in the weather; a clear moonlit night produces a completely different winning time to a foggy wet night. As such, we have erred on the side of caution when determining the length and climb for each course... it is meant to be fun after all!'
The planner's optimum distance and height gain for each course have been confirmed as:
- C Course: 30.7km / 1,400m
- B Course: 35.3km / 1,600m
- A Course: 41.1km / 1,900m
- Elite Course: 51.4km / 2,200m
There is also a score class with a time limit of 8 hours.
There are still a few entries available on all the courses and despite the lure of a £500 cash prize for the elite winners, the competition remains wide open, says Shane Ohly, with just two entries so far.
In this short video Shane gets out into the clag to offer his thoughts on footwear, altimeters and of course food for the event:
Marmot Dark Mountains takes place Saturday 26th January. Entry is £90 for a team of two.
For more info see the event website.