You are all keyed up at the start of a race and the organiser starts wittering on about retirements and the need to report in at the end if you drop out. Later you are injured or timed out, you’re possibly cold and probably for the first time. The checkpoint marshal knows you are out of the race and you make your way back to the finish.
You forget to tell the organiser you have retired as you want to get changed and get warm.
The organiser is rushing round getting increasingly worried that the number of runners back doesn't add up and knowing that his/her responsibility is to account for all runners at the finish.
Where are you? Sat in your car having a coffee or the pub with your club mates.
Recently the FRA has investigated a similar situation after the 3 Shires race where, unusually 38, runners retired or were timed out in bad weather with 4 runners failing to report to the race organiser.
Selwyn Wright and his team had enough to do without trying to find the whereabouts of the missing runners.
In this case 3 of the runners were very contrite; holding their hands up. They messed up. The race organiser and the FRA committee members investigating the issue have decided not to take any further action in relation to them; this time.
However Selwyn and the committee members involved do want all runners to know that the requirement to report to the race organiser if you drop out is mandatory; no if’s and but’s.
Missing runners can lead to mountain rescue being called out; marshal’s unable to stand down and frantic race organisers.
So please, if you drop out of a race, let the organiser know; if your club mate drops out make sure that they report in at the finish. You know it makes sense. You could be injured on the fells whilst Mountain rescue is out looking for a runner who is driving down the M6.
Further to the recent Inquest into the death of Brian Belfield the FRA has now received a letter which expresses the opinion that there is a risk of future deaths in fell running unless action is taken.
The Coroner has therefore complied with his statutory duty to report seven Matters of Concern to the FRA.
These Matters are mainly concerned with runner counting procedures and communications with race marshals.
The FRA has already taken action to address the general areas of these concerns with its current revisions to the Safety Requirements. These will continue to be refined to address the concerns of the Coroner and to ensure the future wellbeing of the sport.
The FRA is required to respond to the report by 17th December 2013.
Matters of Concern (Regulation 28)
1. No system was in place to ensure that an accurate record was kept, and referred to, of the participants in the race and those who had retired so that at the conclusion of the race it could be easily ascertained if anyone was missing.
2. The emphasis was on counting the total numbers of participants and retirees, rather than checking off the race numbers against an accurate record of the race numbers of those who had started. Thus, as happened in Mr Belfield's case an inaccurate count meant that there was no recognition that one runner was missing.
3. There did not appear to be any one single person, either the race organiser, or a nominated official in the race organisation, who had the responsibility to check the race numbers of those starting with the race numbers of those finishing, taking into account the race numbers of those who have retired. A single person should have had that responsibility.
4. There was no reliable means of communication between the race control and the marshals out on the fells so that each of them were aware of the number of participants in the race, those who had retired, and where they had retired.
5. Thus it was not possible to "monitor" the runners around the course as required by the FRA Safety Requirement number 13. The higher the "risk" to participants in the race, because of terrain, weather conditions, length of the race etc, the higher the need for an effective means of communication, which should be planned into the preparations for the race.
6. When the marshal at checkpoint 3 notified race control of an inaccurate number of runners who passed through checkpoint 3 there was no consideration or investigation as to the reasons for the inaccuracies.
7. There is potential for an element of "number confusion" if left over race numbers are used or reused. There should be an emphasis for allocated race numbers to start with the figure 1 rather than figure 0.
The FRA Committee has revised its Safety Requirements and the current draft (1st September) underpinned documentation sent to potential 2014 Race Organisers to enable work to start to ensure the 2014 FRA Handbook/Calendar appears on time.
The draft document was well received at the recent Inquest but the FRA cannot issue the final version until it addresses the broader views of the Coroner, which are still awaited. The final version will be included in the 2014 Handbook/Calendar (and here).
The FRA Committee believes that the Safety Requirements should continue to be written in everyday language and not become overly legalised. However, the finalversion will be subjected to legal scrutiny to ensure that the new Safety Requirements protect runners, Race Organisers and the FRA within a sport which, by its nature, is recognised as hazardous and which will always involve accidents.
Fell runners have primary responsibility for their own safety.
Race Organisers have broader responsibilities-a “duty of care” for competitors; and the benefit of insurance via their FRA Registration (although liability for causing death or personal injury by negligence cannot be excluded).
Safety Requirements first appeared in the 1992 Calendar when, eg, there was no mandatory kit requirement. The 2014 draft includes changes in standards, clarifications…but nothing that changes the essence of the sport.
By placing greater emphasis on the competitor to recognise their responsibilities in fell races the new document may be welcomed by Race Organisers on whom the sport depends; as it has since 1970 when the FRA was created, based on the good will of the race organisers of that time.
The Rab Dark and White Mini-MMs scheduled for Sunday 3rd November and Sunday 15th December have been posponed. It is now likely that they'll take place early in 2014.
Karl McKenzie, Unattached, ran at Holme Moss without the required kit. The FRA disciplinary committee have imposed a 6 month ban on this runner taking part in any FRA sanctioned races, expiring on 31 Jan. 2014. Race organisers are asked to note this decision.