Dear Fairfield Horseshoe entrant,
Following recent discussions, it has been decided to impose a total ban on the use of GPS-enabled devices for navigation in fell races organised by Ambleside AC, starting with the Fairfield Horseshoe on12th May 2018. Our full rationale for this decision is outlined below. We hope that you will share our thinking on this matter and remain eager to race. Any comments on this subject would be very welcome, preferably by email. We look forward to welcoming you on Saturday.
Yours in fell-running,
Rationale for GPS ban
In recent years the quality of GPS-enabled devices, especially watches, has improved to such an extent that it is now possible to navigate a route ‘on sight’ without ever deviating more than a few metres and, crucially, without any ability to read a map or compass. This inevitably has consequences for outdoor sports, notably fell-running, in which navigation is an essential component.
Ambleside AC believe that the ability to navigate using a map and compass is a central part of the sport of fell-running. There are many other types of racing (e.g. trail running or sky-running) in which GPS-enabled devices are permitted and no navigational skill is required (indeed, the route may be fully flagged) but the ethos of fell-running is that each runner is responsible for his or her own navigation. We feel strongly that this element of fell racing must be retained and that fell runners should possess not only a map and compass but the ability to use them.
For this reason, it has been decided that all Ambleside AC races will now impose a total ban on the use of GPS-enabled devices for navigation. This applies to all devices including handheld GPS devices, GPS watches and mobile phones.
The FRA’s current policy is that this matter falls under the responsibility of the race organiser (RO), who is therefore free to permit or forbid use of GPS-enabled devices (and could similarly require runners to carry additional equipment such as an emergency survival bag, mobile phone etc). Prior to the FRA further debating this issue, we are therefore imposing this rule with the full backing of the current FRA chairman.
We would like to make it clear that we are not seeking to ban the _carrying_ of GPS-enabled devices. We recognise that many runners use, for example, mobile phones to take photographs during races; provided that no GPS features are used, this remains acceptable. Additionally, a GPS-enabled device could clearly be useful in an emergency situation. However, we would like to emphasise the following:
1) We understand that an increasing number of runners wish to ‘log’ their runs using watches. Whilst we do not wish to discourage this, we want to make it very clear that _any_ use of a GPS-enabled watch for navigational assistance is not permitted. This includes the display of _any_ navigational information including distance travelled. It also applies to audio warnings: in particular, not only must your watch not warn you if you have gone off track but additionally it _must not beep_ every kilometre (or mile, etc).
2) This rule applies _regardless of your position in the race_ – in other words, it applies equally to the runner in last place as to the leader. This is for two primary reasons: firstly, everyone is competing against those runners around them, whether with the goal of finishing in the top 5, 50 or 500; secondly, for many people the simple act of completing a fell race (especially a long or ‘super-long’) represents an outstanding personal achievement, and we do not wish to see this devalued by removing the navigational component
3) This rule does not apply to barometric altimeters; this is a separate topic which might be considered further, but for now purely barometric altimeters are permitted (as in most mountain marathons).
4) The phrase ‘in an emergency’ means exactly that. Being lost is not in itself an emergency! If you use a GPS-enabled device to get back on track, you must retire from the race or declare yourself to be non-competitive to the next marshal and at the finish of the race.
We recognise that this is a difficult rule to ‘police’; however, this is also true of many other rules. Fell-running, like many amateur sports, relies heavily on the integrity of its participants, and we therefore trust entrants in our races not to breach this rule. Nonetheless, anyone identified as having used a GPS device for navigation will be disqualified. We anticipate further modifications and clarifications to the rule and reserve the right to tighten its requirements in the future (e.g. requiring GPS-enabled watches to be stored away rather than worn on the wrist).
This decision has not been taken lightly; many clubs and runners (at a variety of ability levels) have been consulted and we believe that the consensus is very much in favour of a ban. We hope that you agree with our decision but we would welcome your thoughts, whether for or against. Regardless of your personal opinion, we hope that you will support our decision and the ethos of fell-running by abiding by the spirit of the rule in our future races, starting with the 2018 Fairfield Horseshoe.
Fairfield Horseshoe 2018