This page illustrates the common course standards for events in the British Mountain Marathon Championship.
Levels of technical difficulty, physical difficulty, and fairness, and what we mean by each of these, are described lower down this page. They relate typically to the individual event’s course planner’s targets – specifically columns 6 and 7 in the examples from the Scottish Mountain Marathon™ and ROC Mountain Marathon™ immediately below:
Marmot Dark Mountains™ course planner’s targets.
Scottish Mountain Marathon™ course planner’s targets.
ROC Mountain Marathon™ course planner’s targets
Please note that one year to the next, as each mountain marathon moves to different areas of the UK, the nature of the area the event is to be held in will cause the levels to be flexed. For example, in 2019 the Scottish Mountain Marathon™ held in the Highlands will generally have more severe and consequential terrain compared to the ROC Mountain Marathon™ held in the Lowther Hills.
Referred to as TD in orienteering, Technical Difficulty, refers to how difficult it is to locate the checkpoint, or more precisely, to locate the geographical feature (as shown on the map) that the checkpoint is positioned on. Increasing difficulty requires an increasing variety of navigational skills, and precise execution of those skills, to be used to locate the checkpoint. Examples include: following a bearing, pacing, aiming off, use of attack points, contour interpretation, estimating distance, use of catching features, and/or any combination of these skills and many others not mentioned here.
TD1 – These are the easiest features to locate and a novice event participant with some navigation experience would be expected to be able locate these features even in very poor weather. Examples of TD1 Checkpoints include:
- Linear features such river junctions and fence corners, which lend themselves to drawing competitors into the checkpoint by following the linear feature.
- Significant topographical features such mountain summits, large lakes and cols.
- Prominent point features such as large ruins and sheepfolds
The courses are designed so that the route choices between checkpoints are reasonably obvious, utilising logical routes through the mountains such as ridges, valleys and some footpaths and tracks. TD1 checkpoints should always have distinctive and logical attackpoints within 500m of the checkpoint that can be used to approach the checkpoint.
TD2 – These checkpoints are more challenging to find than TD1 standard checkpoints, especially in poor weather and/or if the navigator does not use the optimal technique. Examples of TD2 checkpoints include:
- Linear features such stream junctions and forest boundaries.
- Topographical features such as distinctive knolls, small lochs and large reentrants.
- Point features such as ruins, sheepfolds and prominent cairns
The courses are designed so that identifying the Course Planner’s optimum routes choice between checkpoints will require some thought. TD2 checkpoints should always have an attackpoint within 500m that can be used to approach the checkpoint, but unlike TD1 checkpoints, the attackpoint may not be so obvious.
TD3 – These are the most challenging checkpoint locations, and poor navigation will result in significant loss of time if checkpoints are searched rather than navigated precisely to. Examples of TD3 checkpoints include:
- Linear features such stream bends or stream source and marsh boundaries,
- Topographical features such as subtle knolls, reentrants and mine workings, and small ponds
- Point features such as isolated cairns and indistinct ruins and sheepfolds.
The courses are designed so that identifying the Course Planner’s optimum routes choice between checkpoints will require considerable experience. TD3 checkpoints will have an attackpoint within 1,000m that can be used to approach the checkpoint, but these attackpoints may not be obvious.
TD3+ – As for TD3 but sustained in terms of the technical difficultly of the checkpoints and the requirement to continually reconsider what the optimum route between checkpoints may be.
Special Mention – Score Course
Because of the special nature of the Score Courses – namely that participants choose their sequence of checkpoints – it is possible for participants to encounter TD1, TD2 and TD3 checkpoints within one course. It is the participants responsibility to choose their sequence of checkpoints that is consistent with their skill level and appetite for challenge!
Physical Difficulty refers to how physically arduous it is travel between the checkpoints. Generally, the more difficult the linear courses is, the more challenging and sustained the terrain will become. However, consequential ground i.e. a fall on a steep slope that could lead to serious injury can be encountered on any of the courses especially if close attention is not paid to navigation. Consequential ground is a hallmark of running in the mountains and all participants must recognise and accept this risk when participating in a mountain marathon. It is important to note for novice participants that ‘off trail’ running is the norm for mountain marathon events at all standard of courses. All courses are likely to include river crossings.
- Level 1 – Whilst steep slopes, rock, scree, bog, marsh and tussocks are likely to be encountered these terrain features will be the exception rather than the norm. The courses are planned so that easier angled slopes, options to follow natural lines through the mountain, such as ridges and valleys, and so that occasional path and track options present themselves.
- Level 2 – The optimum routes are likely to incorporate steep slopes, rock, scree, bog, marsh and tussocks. However, Level 2 routes will be planned so that the optimum route avoids the most serious and consequential terrain hazards that are likely to encounter at Level 3. That said, poor navigation or poor route choice may land participants in some wild mountain terrain.
- Level 3 – It is likely that Level 3 courses will journey through some of the roughest and toughest terrain that the mountains have to offer. The optimum route will mean tackling consequential terrain and energy sapping such as scree shoots, steep gullies, steep slopes, craggy slopes, significant river crossings and large expanses of bog/marsh/tussock. These steeper slopes may need to be traversed by long periods of contouring.
- Level 3+ – As for Level 3 but the physical difficultly is continuously sustained for long periods; checkpoint after checkpoint after checkpoint…
Special Mention – Score Course
Because of the special nature of the Score Courses – namely that participants choose their sequence of checkpoint – it is possible for the participants to encounter Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 Physical Difficulty within their course. It is the participants’ responsibility to choose their sequence of checkpoints that is consistent with their skill level and appetite for challenge!
Regardless of the Technical Difficult of the course every checkpoint must conform with the following criteria:
- The checkpoint feature must be clearly depicted on the map.
- The checkpoint feature must be clearly visible on the ground.
- The kite marking the location of the checkpoint must be clearly visible when the participant has navigated to the feature.
- The kite must never be located so that it is hidden on the feature.
Let’s look at two examples so the principle of fairness is clearly understood:
The checkpoint is located at the junction of a river (wider blue line) and a stream (thiner blue line). The Control Description would say “Southern Stream Junction” and it will not matter which direction the checkpoint is approached from, the kite marking this stream junction would be obvious.
The checkpoint is located inside a sink hole, which is surrounded by other sink holes. The Control Description would say “Western Sink Hole”. It is crucial to understand this Control Description if you are to navigate to the precise location of the checkpoint. First, the Control Description says, “Western”, which means within the control circle the checkpoint is located inside the western most of multiple sink holes. The second element is visualising that the sink hole is a negative feature (literally a hole in the ground), which means that the checkpoint kite will not be visible until you are stood on the edge of the sink hole.
These two examples illustrate how the technical difficulty of the navigation increases from TD1 to TD3, but that the location of the checkpoint remains fair assuming that the navigator has correctly understood the Control Description and executed the appropriate navigation skills.
Overall Technical Difficulty
The single most technical checkpoint defines the overall Technical Difficulty of the course. For example, just one TD2 checkpoint makes an entire course TD2 level even if every other checkpoint is TD1.
Proximity to other Checkpoints
Checkpoints are generally kilometres apart, and adjacent checkpoints will never be nearer than 250m proximity, regardless of whether they are on your course or not.