Marmot Dark Mountains™ Howgills 2015 – Race Preview

Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)

Marmot Dark Mountains™ is the only overnight winter mountain marathon and the 3rd edition of the race will take place on Saturday 24th January in the Howgills.

The Howgill Fells are hills in Northern England between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. The fells are bounded by the River Lune to the north by upper reaches of the River Lune and to the east by the River Rawthey. The Howgill Fells include two Marilyns: The Calf – 2,218 ft (676 m) and Yarlside – 2,096 ft (639 m) and a number of smaller peaks, including five Hewitts. Parts of the southern Howgill Fells lie within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, though they have been within the modern county of Cumbria since the county boundary changes in 1974. They were originally shared by the West Riding of Yorkshire and WestmorlandThe name Howgill derives from the Old Norse word haugr meaning a hill or barrow, plus gil meaning a narrow valley. – wikepedia

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This year’s elite course is a tough one, with a potential 3000m of elevation gain and an optimum distance of 53km. Famous for their steep rounded hills, the Howgills will be a tough challenge. Having viewed weather forecasts the organisers have issued a stern warning to all the competitors about the challenging nature of the terrain and event.

Needless to say, mandatory kit will be checked prior to the event.

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Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a true test of mountain craft for experienced mountain runners. Challenging terrain, night navigation and a wintery environment will test each runner over the variety of courses available: Elite, A, B, C, Short Score and Long Score.

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“Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and gives it a new… darker twist.” said Race Director, Shane Ohly. “Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, Marmot Dark Mountains™ packs everything into one winter’s night!”

Steve Birkinshaw

Three of the UK’s leading teams are of particular interest in the 2015 event: Steve Birkinshaw and Jim Mann, Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom and Kim Collison and Adam Perry.

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Runners will start to race at 1900-hours and  Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom will be first off! The dynamic duo have won practically every elite mountain marathon and they have held various long distance mountain running records. In 2014, Near and Higginbottom missed the race due to last minute illness, they will be looking for victory in 2015.

Steve Birkinshaw needs no introduction. His incredible Wainwrights record in 2014 was a highlight of the year for many a trail, mountain, fell and ultra runner. Steve’s partnership with Jim Mann is fitting as Mann holds the record for the winter Bob Graham Round. Birkinshaw won the 2014 event when partnered with Tom Gibbs, so the pressure will be on! Birkinshaw and Mann start at 2000-hours chasing the other runners down.

Kim Collison and Adam Perry will be a tough pair to beat and setting off at 1940-hours. Collison won the first Marmot Dark Mountains in 2013 (running with Alex Pilkington) and finished the 98km Fellsman with Perry in first place last year. The duo are evenly matched and are considered favourites by many!

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Offering a range courses to suit a range of abilities, every year there has been a small but steady increase in the number of participants.

“The event kicks-off on the Saturday evening with the longest classes setting off first for dusk-to-dawn racing. The shorter classes will set off later in the evening with the aim of most competitors finishing within an hour or so of each other the following Sunday morning. This makes for an exciting finale as all the courses and most of the competitors converge on the finish as dawn breaks.”

There are four linear courses that follow the standard Elite, A, B and C format of ordinary mountain marathons and two score format courses.

This year there will be two manned checkpoints in the Howgills that competitors on the various courses may visit and the organisers intend to post updates to the event website as the night of racing unfolds.

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Follow the race at Ourea Events HERE

Marmot Dark Mountains HERE

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Marmot Dark Mountains™ – Peak District National Park in January 2014

Image ©benwinston

Image ©benwinston

The second Marmot Dark Mountains™ mountain marathon will take place in the Peak District National Park in January 2014. Race organiser, Shane Ohly from Ourea Events, elaborated on the special allure of this area.
“The Peak District has the perfect blend of high moorland areas, challenging terrain and a wonderful sense of wilderness… especially at night. Precisely because of the superb nature of the area, we have had to negotiate over a two year period with the National Trust, National Park and other agencies to secure permission for this event. We have six different courses on offer and they all take advantage of some of the best parts of Bleaklow and Kinder Scout. It promises to a superb test of competitors’ mountain running skills.
Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)
Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes place on the last weekend of January each year, and the inaugural event took place in what can only be described as diabolical weather (just have a look at the videos on the event website) but Shane Ohly knows this is all part of the attraction.
“Obviously, we would all like to have a still, cloud free and moonlit night but competitors don’t enter this event unless they are up for an epic mountain running experience and it is our job to deliver this safely without compromising on the nature of the challenge. The knowledge gained from the first event shows that with experienced and vetted competitors, you can run an event in atrocious weather and allow the competitors to make decisions about their own safety. Kenny Leitch, a competitor at the 2013 event summed it up nicely.
“What an extraordinary event! I did my first mountain marathon 24 years ago and Marmot Dark Mountains™ definitely had the worst conditions ever.”
Image ©benwinston Marmot Dark Mountains - iancorless.com

Image ©benwinston Marmot Dark Mountains – iancorless.com 

As a night mountain marathon, the event presents some unique challenges to both the competitors and the organisers. This year Ourea Events has been working in collaboration with Harvey Maps to produce a bespoke ‘high contrast’ map of the event area, which shows the contours and other map detail with greater clarity than a standard map.
With the announcement of the event area, the organisers have also released details of the planner’s optimum routes. The 2014 planner, Dave Taylor, is a very experienced fell runner and Peak District local so the competitors can expect that his optimum routes really are the quickest way to complete each of the courses.
C Course = Distance 36.3km / Height Gain 1,547m
B Course = Distance 41.1km / Height Gain 1,785m
A Course = Distance 44.4km / Height Gain 1,940m
Elite Course = Distance 55.5km / Height Gain 2,635m
Short Score = 8 hours
Long Score = 10 hours
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With the support of sponsorship from Marmot® and Silva® there is a £500 cash prize for the winning elite team at the event. This year the competition is really hotting up, with top elite runners Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near from Team Hagloffs already entered.
Tim said, “Elite mountain marathons are hard to finish let alone win; the courses are long, navigation tricky and route choices crucial. So if you take this concept, remove the half-way rest, run it overnight to make the navigation nearly impossible – and then stage it in deepest winter for good measure you have something that will stretch the best to their limit! There’s a certain type of person that enjoys a challenge this hard. See you out there!”
LINKS:
Date: 25th & 26th January 2014
Venue: Peak District National Park
Entry: £45 per person
Courses: Elite, A, B, C, Short Score and Long Score