15 Tips For 2-Day Mountain Marathons

Competitors walking near Blue Lough

With the 45th Mourne Mountain Marathon just around the corner, we are sure you are busy squeezing in last-minute training sessions, planning your kit and starting to think about packing your kit. 

There’s nothing easy about mountain marathons, so we’ve put together some top tips from the Mourne Mountain Marathon committee, to help you be that little bit more successful at this year’s event. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned mountain marathoner, we’re sure you’ll pick up something useful.

1. Navigation – the key to success

Navigation, not speed, is the key to all round success at mountain marathons. Spend time before you set off to look at the map and plan your route. Don’t be afraid to change your plan as the day goes on. Double check your control card to make sure you haven’t missed out any checkpoints.

Make sure you know where you are on the map at all times and don’t follow other people – they may be lost, or in a different class.

2. If it’s windy pack one of your maps

When the winds pick up, have one person pack their map safely in a jacket pocket or rucksack and navigate using the other one. There’s nothing worse than losing a map!

3. Read the rules and follow them

The rules are there for your own safety and fairness. Things like dumping equipment at the overnight campsite or both team members not visiting all checkpoints are forbidden.  It can be really annoying or lead to disqualification if you get these wrong.

4. Pay attention to your feet

Shoes need to be worn in and make sure you have practised in the socks you will be wearing, to avoid blisters. Toenails should be clipped in advance. Pour foot powder into your dry socks before you pack them. At the campsite your feet will feel like royalty!

5. The lighter the pack, the easier it is to run

Don’t carry too much and question anything that is not on the mandatory equipment list. Be prepared to “rough it” for the weekend. Hairbrushes, deodorant etc are out! Buy the lightest equipment you can afford or borrow i.e. tents, sleeping bags. Do you really need to bring the pole bag for your walking poles?


6. Carrying too much water is dead weight

Don’t carry 2 litres of water, just bring enough to get you started for the day. You can bring a plastic cup that hooks onto your rucksack or a reusable bottle for drinking out of streams, high up.

Mourne stream water is commonly drunk directly, but the quality is very dependent on location and weather. We recommend that you use appropriate purification equipment.

7. Things to think about packing

They’ll add to your weight, but some things competitors wished they had taken, but didn’t include:

  • Sun cream
  • Blister plasters
  • Sunglasses, glasses for reading
  • Vaseline
  • Spare running top and socks
  • Buff – to wet and put around neck for cooling or dry to keep wind out
  • Inflatable pillow
  • A plastic cup for scooping water out of streams whilst on the move
  • Earplugs
  • Duct tape
  • Ultralight walking poles
  • Tissues
  • Flipflops
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tea bags / coffee
  • Swiss army knife
  • Insect repellent

8. Eat little and often

Eat regularly (at least every 5 kms), even if you don’t feel hungry, to keep your concentration and energy levels up. Have food accessible so you don’t have to stop to get it out.

Choose high density food such as energy bars, nuts, bananas and ones with low water content, to avoid adding extra weight to your rucksack. Eating on the move can save you time.

9. Pitch your tent quickly

Aim to get your tent up as soon as you arrive at the campsite, change into warm dry clothes and put the stove on for a warm drink. Make sure you have practised pitching your tent so you don’t look like an idiot in front of other competitors!

10. Pack a lightweight insulated jacket

Depending on the forecast, a lightweight down or synthetic insulation jacket can give you much needed warmth at the campsite and even be worn inside your sleeping bag. Most can pack down into a small space.


11. Plastic bags for feet

Bring two plastic bags to keep your feet warm and dry at the overnight campsite. You can wear them inside your wet trainers/boots and walk around the campsite in dry comfort!

12. Keep your kit dry

A good night’s sleep is key to good form on day 2 and nothing stops this more than a wet sleeping bag. Make sure it is packed in a lightweight dry bag or something similar and how about using freezer bags for clothes?

13. Bring a treat

Have something as a reward for the end of day 1 and to keep you motivated. Wine or whisky decanted into a plastic water bottle which can be reused as a water bottle on day 2 is a popular choice.

14. Chafing

Chafing or rubbing of clothing or rucksack against your skin can turn a great weekend into a painful one!  Train in the kit you are going to use and carry a small tin of Vaseline or other lubricant to prevent rubbing. You can always transfer the Vaseline into a small pot to reduce weight. 

15. Keep a sense of humour

You are going to be spending at least 36 hours in very close proximity to your partner, so keeping a sense of humour and not taking it too seriously will help you get through it. This is especially important if your partner is your wife / husband / boyfriend / girlfriend!

Look after each other. Check how your partner is feeling. Encourage them to eat and drink. Take a few seconds to look around. As long as it’s not misty, the views are amazing!

Like minded people do similar things. At the overnight campsite make friends and learn from them. And above all smile and have fun! See you on the 17th September!

45rd Mourne Mountain Marathon 21st & 22nd September 2024 (Entries open until 13th September).