Road Running Leadership Group

Road Running Leadership Group

Progress report June 2007

Athletics in all its disparate guises has – and, to some extent,continues – to seek to modernise itself in order to meet the demandsof its “customers”.

The need to undertake reviews with a view to improving currentarrangements is not lost on that section of the sport concerned withroad running. Indeed, over the years there have been and still aresome within the road running community who have sought to changeexisting arrangements and have presented proposals for consideration.

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When considering the management and administration of road runningit is worth reiterating that more people take part in road races/runsthan in any other single category within the portfolio of athleticdisciplines. These participants come from a wide range of athleticbackgrounds:

  • Track runners from 800m – 10,000m inc. steeplechase

  • Cross country specialists

  • Road running specialists

  • Fun runners (who are members of clubs)

  • Fun runners (who are not members of clubs inc. “once per year” runners)

The road races in Britain which these people enter are almost asdiverse as the participants they attract:

  • Mega events with huge numbers of participants (15,000 – 45,000) which attract extensive TV/media coverage and have an international and national profile – and, incidentally raise millions of pounds for good causes.

  • Large events (3,000 – 15,000) some of which enjoy a national profile principally within the sport and have significance on a regional basis.

  • Medium sized events (1000 – 3000) which, generally, have a local profile but which can attract quality runners based on prize structure, expenses offered etc.

  • Local events (up to 1000) typically organised by athletic clubs.

  • Championship events such as (for example) the AAA 10km road championships, 12 stage road relays (and their regional equivalents) – which annually have age group categories or versions.

  • Fun runs and charity events.

The categories of runners and events set out above are bynecessity a little all encompassing but serve to illustrate a centralpoint when considering how best to manage and administer the sport ofroad running in the UK. Namely, to meet the requirements of allparticipants and the organisers of the events they take part in isextremely difficult – developing a “one size fits all” solutionwill not be easy.

UK Athletics are very aware of this and, when considering the bestway to effectively examine current arrangements with a view todeveloping feasible alternatives, chose not to do so within theexisting structures of UK Athletics but to bring together via apublic appointments process a group of people who make up the RoadRunning Leadership Group. These individuals represent the crosssection of participants and road running events summarised above.

Needless to say, any such groupassembled will attract praise and criticism in equal measure as thesubject matter under consideration is one on which almost everybodyhas a view!

Nevertheless, the group drawn together and those charged withsupporting it have past and current experience across all of thecategories of road running events outlined above.

To assemble a group who genuinely have detailed knowledge of theorganisational requirements of events such as the London Marathon andGreat North Run, but at the same time are actively involved with allother size and type of road based event down to the smaller,charitable fun runs has been a real achievement.

The group has now met on two occasions. At the first meeting avery important principle was established. All members of the groupwere given assurance that they sat on the group as individuals,bringing their own, very varied, experiences to the table. They arethere to try to improve matters for organisers of road races andthose who take part in those events.

Notwithstanding the independent nature of the individuals on theRRLG, the proposals they develop would, if adopted after consultationacross the sport, form the basis for the future conduct of roadrunning in the UK.

The first meeting of the group addressed protocols and procedureswhich will direct the way in which the group conducts its business.It also attempted to identify its headline purpose which wasencapsulated in the following statement:-

“The purpose of the RRLG is to:-

1. Improve the standard and participation of road running in theUK on behalf of UK Athletics.

2. The values of the group are to demonstrate in all theirdeliberations:-

Quality

Teamwork

Inclusiveness

Success

3. Improve the health & safety of competitors, staff,officials and organisers.

4. Provide excellent customer service (to races andparticipants).”

It may be argued that such noble objectives are easy to developbut harder to deliver. This is clearly the case but the group spentsome time articulating the need to adhere to all of these objectives,which will be used as the benchmark against proposals developed willbe judged.

It was further agreed that these objectives and the achievement ofthem would have to apply across the range of road-based events fromthe biggest to the smallest. It is recognised that all events arevital to the future viability and growth of the sport. The “shopwindow” events attract new people into the sport in huge numbers.

One of the objectives of thegroup is to convert many of these, who are once per yearparticipants, into regular runners hopefully and continuing theirparticipation by taking part in their local events.

What must be avoided is a fragmentation of the sport of roadrunning. That will weaken the whole to the detriment of all.

In order to further direct the work of the RRLG four work streamshave been developed:-

Workstream 1

Develop arrangements which will enable an effective transitionfrom current arrangements to any new model which may be adopted.

Workstream 2

The administration of road running: Permit Schemes, unattachedlevies, increasing participation, improving standards oforganisation, health and safety etc.

Workstream 3

Marketing of road running: Particularly to key target audiencese.g. young people, women, inactive etc (i.e. incorporate the “health”agenda in any proposals)

Workstream 4

Performance: What can be done to improve standards of performanceat the elite level in the UK?

The two meetings of the RRLG have clearly determined thatWorkstream 2 will initially take priority.

A timetable for the work of the group setting out target dates forthe completion of elements of the developing agenda has beenprepared. However, it is early days and already, after two meetingsit is clear that much concentrated work has to be applied todeveloping agreed proposals. Interim arrangements for 2007-8 willensure that the group has time to fully consult on proposals whilstthe sport continues on course and that has been openly stated andagreed with all permitting agencies.

The group is committed to putting in the work required.

As previously announced, the members of the group are:

Dave Bedford Race Director of the London Marathon
Hugh Brasher CEO Sweatshop, organiser of Grand Prix series ofraces
Max Coleby Co-founder of the Great North Run
Zara Hyde-Peters Director of Athlete Development at UK Athletics
Nigel Rowe Chair of South West region, England Athletics
Geoff Wightman Chief Executive of Scottish Athletics
If you have any questions or comments on the work of the group,please contact enquiries@roadrunninguk.com.