Monday, December 01, 2008


Competitive events in the UK

Please note that the context of this particular item is UK orientated. However, readers from other countries might find the content of interest and may wish to make similar representations to their own official national sport administrations.

Earlier this year, one of the members of the Nordic Walking eCommunity (Brian Rulten) made enquiries to the governing body “UK Athletics” (UKA) about the inclusion of Nordic Walking within existing events. Brian has an interest in seeing NW being an acceptable and commonplace feature of various organised running/walking events. He has kindly sent me a copy of his correspondence for publication in this emagazine in the hope that other enthusiastic individuals might take up the issue with event promoters in their area.

Brian sent me a copy of two letters that he had received from the UKA. I have not reproduced the first as this is, by and large, an early response and asserts that broader consultation is required before any conclusive guidance can be given. The second reply from the UKA contains the outcomes of consultation and I am delighted to reproduce it in full (for privacy reasons I have not shown Brian’s home address).

Any reader who wishes to see published the first UKA letter should let me know via a comment to this article or by a posting on the forum at:

Finally, can I thank Brian for getting this issue underway and I hope that interested Nordic Walking enthusiasts will pursue the matter. Apart from providing an opportunity for participation, such events can also give Nordic Walking a boost. It is my plan to get in contact with the organisers of the Lakeland Trails events with a view to seeing if they would be interested in using our “off road” version of the “Portland Protocol”. More on that in a future article.

The following is the facsimile of the UKA letter:-

(recipient’s address withheld)

30 April 2008

Dear Brian,

Nordic Walking in UK Athletic Events

I am pleased to confirm that I have received replies from colleagues which I can now share with you. These include:

Insurance: Our Brokers have commented “insurers are aware of this and have agreed that if competitors use Nordic Walking equipment (in events promoted by affiliated organisations) that’s ok……Nordic Walking events are not covered as they fall outside the UKA discipline” (road running, cross country, etc.).

Road Running: This is an issue to be discussed within the road running technical/rules group that meets infrequently. I have discussed the subject with the Chair of the group and her first thought is that it would be necessary to disqualify anyone in an awkward winning situation but there would be no real concerns about the use of Nordic equipment as a participation activity.

Fell and Hill Running: Comment received from the chair of the UKA Fell & Hill Committee – “I am aware of the use of poles in fell events but only rarely and only in the mountain marathon type events. We see no need to legislate for these or other technical innovations ie GPS and leave it to individual race organisers to decide what is suitable for their event using the catch all equipment rule if needed. However we would not wish to encourage the use of poles especially in fell races where they could prove a danger to other competitors and of course to the environment due to additional erosion.” (see my comment on this latter issue below - Malcolm)

Cross Country and Trail Running: I have not received any feed back from either of these disciplines. However I can speak with a strong background in cross country administration and competition and I would be surprised if use of Nordic equipment were to be accepted in cross country races.

Race Walking: I have not pursued an enquiry with race walking colleagues as my interpretation of their rules for competition – straight leg, continuous contact with the ground, etc. – would automatically exclude any variations.

In summary I would suggest that the use of Nordic equipment would be broadly accepted and would create no issues with our insurers – as long as the usual requirements in respect of health and safety and risk assessment are fulfilled, but instances will arise where local issues will arise. These issues may take the form of a promoter deciding that he will not accept entries or a race referee choosing to disqualify a competitor.

I would recommend a common sense approach in respect of acceptance of entries to races; entrants planning to use Nordic equipment should advise the promoter of their intentions and give the opportunity for objections. Rules for competition are often open to interpretation and each promoter and referee may view issues differently. I would be interested to hear of any examples that you are aware of.

Please let me know if you have any comments or if there are any issues that I have missed.

Yours sincerely,

John Temperton
Athletics Services Manager

(Letter ends.)

Personal comment: Whilst I respect the views of the Chair of the Fell & Hill Committee can I mention that I have previously been in contact with officers from two of our National Parks about erosion caused by poles (trekking or Nordic). Footpath officers from both parks I approached (Yorkshire Dales and Lake District) informed me that they have not seen, nor been alerted to any problems caused by walkers using poles. The biggest cause of footpath erosion has been from the pressure of numbers and the fact that most walkers wear boots with deep cleated soles. Walkers “cutting corners” is another source of problems. Also, concerns about poles constituting a “hazard” can be overcome by common sense, plus some “guiding principles” for the activity.

Article posted by: Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

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