Marmot Dark Mountains

A stormy winter night out

This photo (© Steve Ashworth) sums up Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2016 better than most. Race Director Shane Ohly’s report about this year’s version of the Marmot Dark Mountains™ marathon only gives us a hint about how cold and stormy the race was in real life. “The 4th edition of Marmot Dark Mountains took place this weekend and the competitors have once again proved that experienced mountain runners can safely participate in an overnight mountain running event, even in the dead of winter.”

The hail is hammering on the village hall roof. It’s loud. Loud enough to make me give up on any pretence of sleep. It has just gone 0200 and I’ve decided to try and snooze on the floor. Twenty minutes pass, but after a coffee-fuelled build up to Marmot Dark Mountains™, I am wide awake.

“Race Control, Race Control, this is Skiddaw House over”! The radio chatters into life, and despite having total confidence in the team still up, before I know it, I’m striding across the village hall to respond, “Skiddaw House, this is Race Control, go ahead over”. 

The 4th edition of Marmot Dark Mountains took place this weekend and the competitors have once again proved that experienced mountain runners can safely participate in an overnight mountain running event, even in the dead of winter. Whilst the competitors’ experience is the principle reason that they remain safe, there are many layers of safety management mitigation that go into the preparation and planning of the event. Our own VHF radio network set up for the event in the Northern Fells is a good example; it is not essential, but it does allow me to communicate with the entire event team deployed to the hills and to our two managed refuge points at Skiddaw House YHA and Lingy Hut bothy.

The weather forecast for the event was looking challenging long before competitors starting arriving in Mungrisdale. For the event team placing the checkpoints on Friday this promised a fairly tough day in the hills. However, there was a reasonable weather window and with a large and experienced team on the job, all the checkpoints were in place well before dark.

 

The Event Team – Thank You
As I said in the prize giving ceremony, small events like Marmot Dark Mountains™ are reliant on the goodwill and support from the volunteer event team. There was a truly excellent team at this year’s event. The ‘advanced’ team were busy placing checkpoints on Friday and the ‘core’ team arrived on Saturday to help with the huge number of pre-event tasks; from re-organising the village hall, placing traffic warning signs, erecting the start/finish gantry, catering prep… the list just goes on and on. Of course, all this needed to be reversed on Sunday afternoon!

Whilst we have a brilliant team of regular volunteers, this year the professional team supporting all our events has grown with Sue Dowker and Helen Samson now working part time in our Kendal office, and Kate Worthington also working part time from home in North Wales. With the addition of Sue, Helen and Kate we will be able to have greater continuity at the events and the processes like registration (whilst not exciting but obviously crucial to the management of the event) can be streamlined and managed more efficiently so that minor problems and questions don’t always come back to me… I’m often the decision making bottleneck in the system!

It is a pleasure to work alongside this team of professionals and volunteers, and I want to reiterate my thanks to them for their excellent job, and extend the thanks of all the participants to them.

 

Marmot and Petzl – Thank You Too
Marmot have supported the event since the first race in 2013. Both Marmot and I have wanted the participation to grow, but we have not wanted to compromise the nature of the challenge. For the first three years the event has hovered around the 100 participant mark, and it simply would not have been financially viable without the support of Marmot. The participation has doubled for 2016 with 200 entries, which is fantastic and means the event is in a much better position to continue into the future. Petzl have also been a fantastic brand to work with and all the event team receive a free Marmot jacket and Petzl headtorch in return for their time. As the Race Director, I can be confident that the team will be able to see what they are doing, and be warm and dry during the event. Many thanks to both Marmot and Petzl.

Read more at www.marmot-dark-mountains.com

© Steve Ashworth