Sport is a fickle thing and many curve balls can be thrown at us. As someone who attends countless races, I have always said, and will continue to say, ‘I wouldn’t want to be a race director!’
So it is with a sense of balance that I provide some clarification on the recent 3 x 3000 80km race that took place on the weekend of 24th/ 25th September in the English Lakes.
The 3 x 3000 80km is a Skyrunning UK race and as such follows rules as outlined by the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation). Rules can often be boring, I understand that, but if one rule is important in Skyrunning it is the ‘marked course’ rule.
A Skyrunning race is unique because of the terrain where the race takes place, the distance of the event (VK, SKY, ULTRA or Extreme), elevation gain and loss, altitude and a marked course. Of course, I simply the essence of Skyrunning to its purest form.
Having worked on and covered Skyrunning races for 5-years, I am well aware that one of the key attractions of a Skyrunning race is the ability to race in challenging terrain, challenging locations and challenging weather, safe in the knowledge that you have markers to follow with aid stations and support at key points. Skyrunning allows a sense of freedom and although challenging, a marked course allows one to switch off and run for fun without the worries or concerns of where to go.
Skyrunning is not about navigation!
However, in the UK we have a strong history of fell running and orienteering races. For many, to run with a map and compass in-hand is a pure joy. More importantly, the ability to use the map and compass is an even greater joy.
All of the Skyrunning UK races require participants to have similar mandatory kit and this is far greater than our European counterparts. This list is at the race director’s discretion and as long as the ‘minimum’ complies with ISF rules, then the Skyrunning box is ticked. For example, no Skyrunning race outside of the UK requires a map, compass, GPS or any similar device. However, in the UK Skyrunning RDs do require this.
As a runner in a Skyrunning race you may well ask, ‘Why do I need this for a ‘marked’ course?’
Often, a UK race will need the runner to carry such items so that they (the race) can get insurance to run the event. But more importantly, despite a marked course, anything can happen! This is where an understanding of the nature of the challenge is required.
To clarify, on the 3 x 3000 80km website, it clearly states:
“Approx. 99% of the route is off road on singlet-rack trails and mountain terrain. One of the unique aspects of this route is that from each main 3000′ summit you can see the other two summits…..on a clear day! In the low cloud and mist it’s completely different. All participants will need to be suitably experienced and equipped, self-reliant and have good navigational skills.”
I understand the dichotomy of the above statement and the contrast of a fully marked route where one can follow flags. However, as participants at the 2016 3 x 3000 80km event can confirm, once clag comes in, visibility can be minimal or zero. A GPS, map and compass can provide an opportunity to navigate to safety or re-navigate back on to the race route. However, a GPS, map and compass should not be required to run and complete a Skyrunning race!
Ian Mulvey, the RD of the 3 x 3000 80km did provide waterproof maps for all runners and via the race website, a GPS route was available for download that could be uploaded to a hand-held device or watch such as Garmin/ Suunto.
As you will see, Ian (RD) did endeavor to cover the bases and warn participants of the nature of the challenge and the potential difficulty one may encounter whilst on the trail.
As runners, I think one can appreciate that sometimes sabotage can take place on a race route and this is without doubt annoying. This certainly has happened at the 2016 3 x 3000 race but it would appear that whole sections of the course were not marked.
Ian Mulvey has provided the following information:
We had marked the course out, as we normally do, but unfortunately some sections had been removed. This had happened last year but we managed to rectify most of this in time. The course marshal at Stake Pass discovered this had happened whilst travelling to that location via Esk Hause prior to the lead runners arriving. They managed to mark the major junctions to Stake Pass before the lead runners overtook them.
All the major junctions on the corridor route were marked, we also had a mobile marshal running with the lead runners up to Scafell Pike summit. We had 6 marshals out on the section from Seathwaite to Stake Pass alone, who made sure the major junctions were either marked or marshalled. This was not an easy task in 60mph wind and white out (mist) conditions.
There were 12 directional signs in Keswick from Spooney Green Lane to the finish.
We have always put a great deal of time & effort in marking out courses.
After collecting in the markers it appears that some were removed from between Angle Tarn to Greenup Edge pass & from Helvellyn summit to Calfhow Pike. All other sections of the course were marked as we normally do.
Yes, we did have front runners checking the course. Some sections we mark out as the marshals move to their various locations.
The section from Angle Tarn to Wythburn was marked out on Thursday. The marshal was checking this prior to the race coming through, but as I mentioned previously the runners reached them at Stake Pass.
We did not have a lead runner on the Helvellyn section. We marked this out on Friday & have not had any previous problems on this section.
Skyrunning UK has received a great deal of information from runners who participated in the 3 x 3000 80km and they have gone to great lengths to inform us where course marking was missing. The consistency of the information does show Skyrunning UK that many aspects of the course lacked any signage for runners to follow and this does not meet the expectations of a Skyrunning race. What transpired on race day was a semi-marked course that no longer became a Skyrunning race but a partially marked course where navigation was required.
When a race has ‘missing markers’ or when ‘sections of the course are missing markers’ the race in the opinion of Skyrunning UK and the ISF is no longer a Skyrunning race.
If markers don’t exist, it’s not possible to follow a race route and should a runner go off course, it is not possible to back track. Navigation in clag (without visibility) is advanced navigation and it is beyond many competent navigators. More importantly (with no disrespect) many Skyrunners are unable to navigate; hence the reason for entering a Skyrunning race in the first place!
Therefore, results from the 3 x 3000 80km and prize money awarded will stand, congratulations to the top 3 men and women who fought adversity to complete a very tough race and demanding day.
However, points which would have been awarded for the Skyrunning UK Series will not be awarded as ultimately, the 3 x 3000 80km was no longer a Skyrunning race but a navigation/ orienteering race.
Many thanks for the continued support.
For those runners who were looking for the 3 x 3000 80km for valuable Skyrunning UK Series points, will you please contact me directly using the contact page on this website.
To qualify for the Skyrunning UK Series overall in 2016, 4 results as a minimum are required. If you race more than 4 races within the calendar year, your 4 best results/ points qualify.
You can download this statement in PDF here