What is a Mountain Marathon?

“A mountain marathon is a test of your navigation (how efficiently you find the checkpoints), your fitness (how quickly you travel between the checkpoints) and your mountain craft (being self-sufficient in the mountains for the weekend, typically involving a remote overnight camp).” – Mountain Marathon.com


All mountain marathons offer a combination of linear and score format courses:

  • Linear – Think ‘time trial’ – you navigate between a set number of checkpoints as quickly as possible.
  • Score – Acquire as many points as possible within a set amount of time by visiting checkpoints in any order.


Planning your route is only the beginning ©Steve Ashworth 


The checkpoints are clearly marked on the race map (almost always provided by the organisers), and clearly indicated on the ground with an orange and white orienteering kite. Checkpoints are not manned, and competitors must prove they have visited the correct checkpoint by ‘punching’ a digital timing box at each location. On some events, you can ‘play back’ your movements and compare them side-by-side with other teams, by tapping into the GPS Tracking replay functions (e.g. at Marmot Dark Mountains and ROC Mountain Marathon).


Remote camps are typical, and you are self-sufficient carrying everything you need for the whole event bar topping up water. How light is your tent? ©Steve Ashworth


Most mountain marathons follow a similar format and are held over two days for teams of two, typically with a remote overnight camp after the first day of racing.

On the first morning, participants will be allocated a precise start time or start window depending on the event. After completing the first day, everyone camps at a remote overnight camp and facilities are often very basic. On the second day, the participants race back to the finish and often the leaders are set off in a ‘Chasing Start’ which means that the first-person back is the winner. It can be very exciting to be involved in the chasing start on your course!


Above all, it’s simply all rather good fun! ©Steve Ashworth


The ROC Mountain Marathon™ and Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon allow solo competitors on some courses. Marmot Dark Mountains™ is unusual in that the event is held overnight and non-stop without an overnight camp, but the overall winning times are similar to the traditional two-day mountain marathon events.

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