I'm not a natural blogger and I'm no techie. I'm an ultra trail runner by passion, and a journalist by profession - in that order of priority.
In this blog I use the one to talk about the other - my trail thoughts, musings and meanderings about running mountains and trails.
I call it rockhoppin', just because... well... that's what we trail runners love to do!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To regulate, or not to regulate - that is the trail running question

SA team at IAU World Trail Championships 2011

From left to right: Jeannie Bomford, Katya Soggot, Bruce Arnett, Su Don-Wauchope, 
William Robinson, Iain Don-Wauchope

Now that the IAU World Trail Championships is long done and dusted, it’s time to digest, dissect and then encourage discussion as to how to from here for trail running in South Africa.

Most trail runners out there have heard mutterings about the event and its build-up (or lack thereof), but few know the details – and many, being the carefree trail runners they are, don’t really care either way.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are 1) you’re a trail runner, 2) you live in SA or have some link to or passion for running in SA. Whether 1, 2 or both, you’re a valuable spoke in the wheel of SA trail running, and you need to read on.

Without going into unnecessary detail, here’s some background:

-       on June 5, ASA announces that SA will be competing in the IAU Trail World Championships 2011 in Connemara, Ireland on July 9, and announces the team of 3 men and 3 women.
-       The trail community is taken by surprise by 1) the short notice; 2) the team selection (all the men in the team were ultra runners, but at least 2 of the 3 women selected had never run an ultra distance; and 3) why ASA is involved in a trail running event at all.

Less known, the facts:

-       Way back in Feb, the event was brought to the attention of ASA by one of SA’s top ultra runners. Any team participating in an IAU event needs to be represented by some sort of federation or governing body, and as trail running in SA is footloose and fancy-free, in order to send a team to the event, it would have to fall under ASA.
-       The months passed...    the event came closer...
-       Suddenly in May there was a flurry of emails from ASA to a small number of trail race organisers (mostly middle to long distance races, not ultras), requesting suggestions of team members to represent SA.
-       BAM! The SA ultra trail team is announced, all of FIVE weeks before the event.

The outcome:

With just five weeks to train, and don’t forget taper, for a 70km event, the six team members had limited time. All are as surprised by the announcement as everyone else in the trail running community, but of course are excited by the privilege of representing their country. They squeeze in a quick month’s worth of training, and off they jet to Ireland in early June.
As could be expected, the performance of the SA team was disappointing. This bears no reflection, it must be emphasised, on the runners themselves, for they are all superb athletes in their respective distances. Instead, it’s more a result of the reality that they were given insufficient time to prepare for the event. That’s hardly a fair deal, particularly as at least one of the athletes had never run further than 42km before, never mind raced an ultra.

The conclusion:

Big events, particularly international ones that involve national representation, require much time and planning – for organisers AND participants. Five weeks is simply selling SA trail running short.
Had team selection taken place several months in advance, as it should have, then
1)    more of SA’s ultra-distance trail runners would have been able to make themselves available for the event;
2)    team members would have had the appropriate time to prepare themselves for the race.

This rather unfortunate mess up has left many in the trail running community even more determined not to be governed by any form of association or federation, or body of any sort. After all, they say, (and I quote) “isn’t trail running about freedom, running free without limitations of rules and regulations, about not having to belong to a club, be licensed, be told what to wear, etc etc?" and "Isn’t the very essence of trail running a breath of fresh air from the regulation that is road running?" and then "Aren’t trail runners like wild animals, who don’t do authority and can’t stand cages?”

Perhaps, but without some form of governing body to represent us, SA trail runners can never qualify for opportunities like the World Trail Championships. Instead, we’ll all simply potter on, always loving our sport and the exhilaration it brings, but never stretching ourselves beyond that.

Personally I think SA trail running has reached a point of maturity where it needs to decide on its future. As the great bard surely would've said, "To regulate, or not to regulate, that is the question."

Do we need regulation? Do we want regulation?
My personal view is I don’t want it, but we might need it, if we’re to prevent poor organisation like that for the IAU event from happening again.

Perhaps regulation need not be a swear word, and maybe there’s a way of having a governing body that represents the trail running fraternity without subduing the vibrant energy we all love about our sport.

Let’s throw open the chat floor to discussion – let’s hear your thoughts and get the ball rolling on where-to-from-here for trail running in SA. 
Please comment with your thoughts and get the debate going.


  1. 1. What organisations around the world look after their respective countries trail running ‘people’? Can we not just follow the majority? Why do us South Africans have to try and re-invent what is already (apparently) working?
    2. If the ASA does not take Trail Running under its 'wing' who will, or better asked, who can? (Not withstanding their ongoing inefficiencies, corruption allegations etc)
    3. Personal view:
    a. I think trail running does need regulation by some sort of controlling body. That way, Trail Runners will have a proper recourse method when/ if they feel ripped off by race prices, route options, overcrowding and so forth.
    b. I think the was this team was put together at the last minute was very unfortunate – the first time I see the ASA try and arrange anything when it comes to Trail Running in SA, they mess it up. (Qualification: I have not been Trail Running for long do don’t know any history that might have happened in the past). By ‘mess up’, refer point 2 above and the inefficiencies comment.
    c. ASA should have been told (in fact they should have known about it first if they are to represent the sport) about it a long time in advance and then done a proper search of all the best Trail Runners in the country. Some notable names were left out (I am sure because of injury, their own professional career and so forth) but if the process had been open for scrutiny, then this would have come out and persons would not have been upset. Proper trials could have been done, proper training methods could have been employed and persons could have peaked at the right time. Even I know, one cannot train properly for such an event in +/-5 weeks.

    Thank you

    Jonathan Beattie

  2. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for a great blog expressing concerns that so many of us have.
    It seems as though ASA sent athletes to this world champs without having being defined as the "controlling federation" of trail running in South Africa. If that is acceptable internationally, could trail running not set up a separate group of people (preferably a group of trail runners who are respected people in the trail running community-possibly a mix of race organizers and top runners) that can come up with suggestions for teams, qualifying races, kit, etc. They could then put forward their suggestions to the ASA and then ASA can just be a (preferably) silent federation for us?

    Trail runners get to make the decisions and piggy back on ASA as our federation?

    There were so many mistakes in this, our first attempt at the world champs! We need to start preparing now for next year. We need to choose appropriate qualifying races for the course to be used next year (terrain and distance) and we need to let all our top athletes know so they can prepare themselves appropriately for those events and for the World Champs and put themselves forward for possible selection.

    Thanks again for a great blog,

  3. 1. If there is to be national representation in the form of "Team South Africa", a formal governing body is required. Of those in SA, ASA is the best... unless trailer runners would like to try get "Trail Running Association of South Africa" going, but that'd probably fall under ASA in any case.

    2. I'd like to know who made the noise vs who is on the team. And how the team was 'selected'. Was it friends? Quick contacts? An e-mail to a few folks asking 'who is keen to join?' Non-sponsored athletes who had the funds available to go and no other sponsor commitments? Ie: Ryan Sandes maybe should've been on the team, but had sponsorship commitments elsewhere in the world and this would've prevented him from earning a living. You look at the UK football scene - the club 'releases' the player to play an international. They don't have to do it, but they can if they're in a good mood.

    3. I mention funds available & no commitments because in the 90's SA hockey was effectively funded by the players themselves. They covered all personal expenses: to/at/from selection/training camps, their Springbok blazers, to/at/from THE WORLD CUP itself. All gear, etc. In that case, the team was not our number 1 squad, but rather those who had the flexibility with work to take weeks and weeks off, and the financial freedom to do that.

    4. Getting back to the 'body'... if it is to be formalised, and I believe it should be for races, SA team, etc... where do the funds go? who manages it? license fees for each runner in every race? We don't complain if we have to pay a temporary license to run Two Oceans Half or ride the Argus - it's part of the deal and always has been. But now, being a new addition to the race entry requirements, what will the response be? Will the body pump money back into trail maintenance and management? Public liability insurance cover as part of the package? Rules guidelines & environmental impact requirements for race organisers? Who gets to run the body? Public vote of who is the most popular, who is most influencial, key brands, top 5 race organisers, or 5 businessmen/women who have no interest in the sport but will run it like a proper business?

    5. When we started the "Make Table Mountain Safe" campaign early 2007, it was we who made the most noise so got to choose the direction. While others argued great points, we stuck to what we the 5 person strong committee believed would work and had the most knowledge about. As the months rolled by, many blamed us for failure or lack of action on several fronts... which is very easy to do once someone else has made the effort and gone the yards getting the ball rolling to provide a platform and forum for it.

    In short: YES, get trail running into a formal body. Those who don't like the formal body, FIFO. What's done is done, move on

  4. I have to post this in parts... can't fit.

    PART 1

    With this specific issue in mind - IAU World Trail Champs - trail running in SA requires representation by a collective of trail runners. Note that I said representative, not regulatory.
    As IAU is associated with IAAF, of which ASA is a member, it is only logical that this whole thing would have gone through ASA. In any event, ASA was made aware of IAU World Trail Champs by Ryan Sandes so in essence 'we' approached them... And it was only because ASA dragged their feet on deciding to send a SA team that runners were only notified five-weeks before the event.
    Yes, I too can name a handful of runners who could have been in that team but ASA did consult a number of runners and organisers to get their opinion and this is the team that was selected. For sure, they’re all good runners so it wasn’t a bad team. It wasn’t necessarily an ultra-distance team, but they’re all very capable runners who would have benefitted greatly from this experience.
    The issue of team selection can go around and around but the positive that came out of it is that a team went over, our feet are through the door and it is now likely that we will have another team at IAU World Trail Champs in 2013.

  5. PART 2

    Returning to the issue of a trail running association... Man, I’ve played this game in the adventure racing realm for many years and even in trail running an association reared its head a few years ago. These initiatives are usually bossy and created out of commercial/self interest.
    First, I do see representation of athletes for an event like IAU World Trail Champs, where there is National representation/entry, to be important. I see this representative body as one made up by some experienced trail runners (not necessarily the best runners, but people who have been on the scene for years). To this I would add some event organisers; again those with events that have been around for more than five or six years (or more). Their position on the body determined by what they can do for the sport (interest in trail runners; fair, knowledgeable etc) rather what a body could do for them...
    This body would assess and vote on a number of events to make up a ‘qualifiying’ Series of sorts. Kinda like what the Trail Cup did a few years ago. Let’s say there are 8 appropriate events (I say appropriate because a 30km trail run is not appropriate when we’re talking about selection for a 70km event) selected for the 12-months prior to the 2013 IAU event. An athlete’s best results from four or five of these events count. They don’t have to do all of them. This is a system we have in orienteering. And then we do a points allocation according to results and finishing time after winner (paddling does something similar). It isn’t set points allocation for 1, 2 and 3rd but percentage allocation according to time from winner’s time. Those with top points rankings make the team. That’s a basic guideline.

  6. PART 3
    It is important that this representative body develops a relationship with ASA. Not for them to tell trail runners or organisers what to do or to administer anything, but purely with relation to IAU World Trail Champs, which is linked to IAAF and, by association, to national athletics organisations. ASA has the ability to financially support an SA team, which a representative body doesn’t.
    And following on from this... Jonathan mentions above about a regulatory body: “That way, Trail Runners will have a proper recourse method when/ if they feel ripped off by race prices, route options, overcrowding and so forth.” On this point...
    I have always maintained, as in adventure racing, that the road running club-based structure works really well. Runners are represented by their clubs on Provincial and National level. But, there’s the whole road running license thing, club colours, regulations, rules etc. This is what we don’t want in trail running, which is why I’ve been very specific about using the word REPRESENTATIVE.
    Back to Jonathan’s point... trail runners need to speak with their feet. I don’t enter 30km races that charge R800. You don’t like, don’t go. Easy. If I was a race organiser I certainly wouldn’t appreciate being told what to do with my event, how much to charge, how to plan the route or what to change.
    Runners need to use forums like Go Trail, the new trail running mag from Go Multi, Trail, as well as Facebook and other avenues to speak about events and their experiences. You have to remember that we’re in a period where trail running is the next best thing since mountain biking and we’re seeing a lot of new event organising coming through; some with little to no experience themselves. So, runners, speak out. We’re a community and word of mouth is way more powerful than a watch dog.

  7. PART 4

    As a participant in ANY event, not just trail, you expect a certain level of organisation; suitable trail markings, emergency medical support, toilets etc. If you don’t see this at an event, bring it up with the organiser, speak out in the community and don’t go back.
    Also on the regulatory body front... If you have a regulatory body, then you need members – either trail events or runners. Easier to get trail events on board. But, what is a regulatory body able to contribute to an organiser? A stamp of approval for my event? Let’s say I’ve had an event on annually for 1 or 20 years, what does their stamp of approval mean to me? Nothing. And I must financially contribute towards the regulatory body to support it? And then some trail runner on the body, who has only run events and never organised one, planned routes or recruited sponsors, tells me what to do with my event... No thanks, I was fine without the regulatory body for a decade.
    My final point is on funding of the team for IAU World Trail Champs... ASA funded this team. Thank you for this ASA. Ideally we would like ASA to fund the team, selected by the representative body, for the next event in 2013. If they don’t the options are: 1) runners go over self-funded or 2) money has to come from the trail community/sponsors.
    Could the representative body urge ‘qualifying’ events to contribute R5 from each entry towards the team fund? This could cover a portion of the runners’ expenses. But why should the organiser lose out on R5 per runner of money that contributes to their race expenses/profits? Sponsors specifically for the SA team may want in; and they may be more likely to buy into covering some team expenses in return for media exposure and association with the team (but how does this then affect individual sponsors that the athletes have already?). I also think it is important that the runners contribute a little towards their participation; not get a completely free ride. Money is a big issue and a factor in whether chosen runners are financially able to compete.

  8. PART 5 (final one)

    As you would have seen from the online polls, trail runners are against regulation. But we do need representation if we’re going to do into the next IAU World Trail Champs with a team chosen to represent the South African trail running community.
    Where to from here? Linda, you can count on my support to recruit people to form a representative body. These people will be publically named so that the trail running community knows who they are. These people will look at and assess events to feature as qualifying events. These can even be voted on by the trail running community at large, to contribute to the body’s final decision. This will be loudly publicised by representatives and selected events so that people can’t say later, “I didn’t know”. Representatives will need to meet with ASA regarding IAU in 2013. And, representatives will need to run the points allocation for results, which will also be published.
    I think this is a simple and easy starting point. Thereafter changes and improvements to the system can be made.

  9. For sure. I tend to agree with Linda, we may not want it, but we probably need it. As much to ensure that we aren't getting ripped off by race organizers, to minimize clashes, ensure that selection of any team is fair and sends the best athletes. As for this selection, it was all a bit last minute and didn't seem to have anyone driving the process, so hopefully that will change next year. I wouldn't be too hard on the selection this year, it was the first and sure to be better in 2012.

    What i will say, is that sitting in my seat i receive dozens of requests from athletes who have been selected to represent SA in a world champs and do not get a bean from anyone to go overseas, so to send a team for a trail champs, paid for, is either great, or a big kick in the face for triathlon, duathlon, cycling (?), hockey (?) and many other sports, who have been around a lot longer than organized trail running.

    So lets not get to negative on what was, as lisa says, not a bad team for a pick, sure it might have missed out 1 or 2 (and from reading between the lines i can only see that it concerns 1 or 2 maybe disgruntled runners) athletes. But given sufficient time to train i would change the make up v much (taking into account those injured too).

  10. Sorry, should read would NOT change the make up

  11. Ian - agreed. Most sports don't get paid ride to Champs events (add orienteering, adventure racing to your list). Thing is, runners were very fortunate to have ASA's support but I don't see any reason for ASA to continue to do so unless they get something out of trail running (fees from events, runners, licensing etc).

  12. I'm one of the hundreds of trailR's out there who when i found trailrunning, i fell in love and have never looked back. I agree there should be some sort of representative body for trailrunning but please no regulatory stuff like road running has!
    What i want to ask is why Ryan Sands, you and Tatum Prins not picked for the team?

  13. Hi Lisa - I meant to say Representative body... I do not want anyone telling what to do on the mountain! But there needs to be somewhere that looks after the general interest of Trail runners...

    Steph: I think you will find that Ryan Sandes is doing his professional running, same with Tatum and Linda is/ was injured?


    Jonathan Beattie

  14. Hi Steph,
    Ryan would've been available (and very keen to represent his country) but as the months passed he had to make other plans - he ran the North Face 100km in Australia (mid-May) and soon after he left for the US, where he'll be til end Aug (Leadville 100 Miler).
    Tatum too was already committed - she spent June/July doing the Freedom Challenge (80k trail + 2300km MTB + Berg River canoe race) - being contacted 2 weeks before she was about to start was way too short notice!
    I've been off running for +3 months, healing a stress fracture I picked up during the Namib Desert Challenge in end-March :-((

    It's an interesting point though, as there're other ultra runners out there that should've been considered. Last year's ladies winner of the Puffer, Karoline Hanks, for instance.

    But let's not try mop up spilt milk (sic) and move on - better to look at how we can learn from the situation and turn it into a positive by ensuring that by the time 2012 comes along, the trail running community is geared up, ready and, most importantly, all talking with a single united voice.

  15. Well said Ian, Lisa, Linda and Jonathan. Herewith my thoughts as well, also in instalments:

    I believe that ASA should stay well away from our sport - not because they are currently organised by "bad" people, but because we do not want to be regulated by anybody.

    I believe the answer can be that we have a Trail Running Association representing us, with no money involved to attract maggots. Trail runners won’t pay any licence fees, event organisers don’t have to fork over a cut of their profits, and the sport is represented by people who want to keep it as it is or make the bits that we like better. This organisation doesn’t have to have anything to do with ASA either, I think it was Lisa who mentioned elsewhere that the US and Canadian teams are not linked to their internationally associated national athletic bodies?

    To be continued - Douglas Rossouw

  16. So what should this representative body do?

    Obviously, given the current debate, select national teams. This can be done as previously mentioned by Lisa. Costs will unfortunately be born by athletes, or sponsors. The Association won’t have any bucks, see?

    Negotiate with the people who run our national parks. It appears that there are serious communication gaps heading our way. I understand that TMNP want to discuss limiting training groups to 5 runners (gasp!) and that the “under 30 participants = under the radar” rule of thumb never existed for events. A representative body needs to sit down and explain that CRAG (f’r instance) has 2400 email addresses on their data base in the Western Cape, so we can assume that there are maybe that many trail runners in the Cape. If you think that the average race is only allowed 250 (or less) entrants, you can see that there is serious pressure building up which needs an outlet before things get nasty and we get treated like the muggers should be treated. As we all know, trail runners are free spirits and they will go where they want to go and you will need barbed wire and machine gun nests to stop them. Maybe.

    Regulate the calendar of events: Let’s face it, anybody can put any race up at any time at the moment, with or without TMNP approval. Let’s all pull in the same direction.

    To be continued - Douglas Rossouw

  17. And now for the sticky question: How does this representative body get a mandate? Suppose you have a web based poll to elect a body, and you only get 50 votes from the Western Cape, and equally small numbers from other areas, does that mean the body has a mandate? How do you pass the word around about the poll: how are trail runners organised elsewhere in the country – do they have a CRAG or MATES or VOB or CELTIC who passes emails around with news and events? Who gets to vote? Somebody who runs 3 times a week on the mountain but can’t be bothered to enter a race, or somebody who ran a 10 km race last year?

    Finished (at last) Douglas Rossouw

  18. I have seen a lot of good comments so far so heres my 2 cents worth. The ultra race is over so now we must look forward and focus on the future, here is my opinion. I think the persons to be involved should be the people that orginise the likes of the bat run, 3 peaks, tripple trouble and the VWS ect... because these people are not really worried about profit. They do it for the love of the sport. Now i know people will say if the race is to expensive dont do it. Thats not the point. We must make trail running accesible to everyone not only the elite. Remember without us pleb runners[back of the pack runners]there wont be much of an atmosphere at a race. Without the pleb road runners there wont be an ASA. We must also remember that not everyone wants to run an ultra, some of us just want to do short races so we must cater for everyone. You know i like trail running just to be in the mountain and i think a lot of people are like me. So how do we go foward from here? No one really knows. I think maybe orginise about 3 or 4 ultras in 2012 then pick a team out of that and see what happens in the ultra in 2013 and just build from there. The team that represented SA are good trail runners but didnt have enough time to prepare.

    ASA can stay in the back ground maybe.

    I orginise runs every Sunday anyone welcome. The more runners the safer it is.

    I do it for the love of the sport thats all.

    CEO Mike[1st trail running club in SA] MATES.

    Lida great topic.

  19. Sean Falconer here, from Modern Athlete mag...

    I think some of the responses here have hit the nail on the head, and this is what I said in a recent blog as well. Having a national trail running mother body does not necessarily mean a regulatory body, i.e. a Big 'Brother' who will pick you out for the wrong colour shorts or not wearing two licence numbers, but can be a representative body that looks after the interests of trail runners.

    Thanks, Linda, for adding more details about the process of the team selection for the recent World Champs. Given what I have heard in person from James Evans before, and seen in ASA Council Meeting minutes, I am sure he would be the first to admit that the current ASA Board is not perfect and does make mistakes, but what most runners don't know is that the Board is (mostly) a small group of volunteers doing the best they can with one hand tied behind their backs most of the time, in their spare time and often at their own expense. They are (mostly) not fat-cat political beurocrats sitting there smoking cigars and riding the proverbial gravy train.

    (I have interjected the word mostly there twice, because we all know that there are currently some allegations of corruption taking place in some provincial running structures, but I still believe that people like James Evans are genuinely concerned about the sport and the athletes, not their own personal gain, or power trip.)

    So I reckon James would be the first to admit that the process followed this year was not perfect and can be improved upon for the next World Champs - but at least a team went, and was funded. Personally, I doubt if this would have happened under the previous ASA regime, unless 'somebody' stood to gain personally from our team going... but that is just my opinion.

    Therefore, my suggested route would be for Trail Running to become a commission under the auspices of ASA, much like cross-country is, whereby it has its own elected representative structure to look after the interests of trail runners and trail running events. Not to play policeman checking minor things, but promote and look after the sport.

    In my opinion, there are big plus points to having an umbrella organisation, such as ensuring quality control and safety in events. I think this is essential given that there are more and more trail race organisers coming to the fore each year, sometimes with little or no experience, and for now they are not answerable to anybody should they get it wrong.

    Apparently (before my time), a similar debate occurred between track and road running in the late 70s and early 80s, when road runners were still very much in the minority just as the Running Boom was hitting SA. Track and field dominated the sport then, and the road runners wanted to break away, form their own federation and ignore the rules and regulations of the national parent body. They also basically wanted to do their own thing. Back then there were far less road races, far less clubs, and pretty much no structure to the sport. Fast forward to present day and we have structures in place, rules and regs, order. Not always to everybody’s liking, but overall I believe the system works – if only to make sure races are properly organised and safely presented.

    I believe that trail runners will initially dig their heels in at any semblance of control, as road running did 30-odd years ago, but eventually it will see that having some form of order and structure will benefit the sport in the long run. I know that not everybody will agree with me on that, but hey, if we all had the same opinions we’d have nothing to talk about.

  20. The primary purpose for a representative body is with regards to the IAU Trail World Champs. This is why this whole discussion has started. We now have a need created by this event.

    I am very against any representative body being either a commission under ASA or anything else. But, I am into developing a relationship.

    Personally, I work in a 'Lego' fashion. Start with one block and then add more. You need that one block to start.

    The first step is to create a representative body. For now, forget about regulating calendars and such. K.I.S.S. Initial task for this representative body is to look towards IAU Trail World Champs in 2013. Look at events to make up a Series leading up to the 12 months prior to IAU. Work out a point-score structure. Publicise this to the community. Simple.

    This is the first block.

    I've been administrating sports clubs, teams, website and mailing lists since 1995! I created a multidiscipline club affiliated to four Provincial unions nine years ago. As a result of all of this I have dealt with committees in abundance and guaranteed loads of people have good intentions but like the farmyard animals with the Little Red Hen, not many contribute.

    I'd prefer a small, community-nominated representative group whose dealings are made public to the community. Let this run for the next two years and let it develop in response to happenings in the sport and community over this time. But, defined objective is a selection system for IAU in 2013 and to develop relationships (as the contact representative for trail running in SA) with ASA and IAU.

    Mike - trail running is accessible to everyone, just as road running is. There are loads of inexpensive events and you can run in parks and reserves on your own time. A body doesn't make the sport any more or less accessible.

    Ray - cross-country type events up to 12km fall under cross country, which is under ASA. Events over this are trail running and are under no jurisdiction of either ASA or IAAF. IAU has an association with IAAF; they are not members or a subsection.

  21. I come from a road- running background and have fallen in love with trail running when I am past my best, but I also love the freedom from club colours, licence numbers etc. Here is my 2c worth anyway. I think everyone agrees that if our best runners want to compete at World events, we need organisation. I agree with Jonathan that we should not try to re=invent the wheel. When Ryan gets back, he will have spoken to a lot of athletes from Europe and the US and should have a good idea of what structures they have for trail running. They've been at it for much longer than we have. If their trail running falls under an umbrella organisation like ASA, then that is probably the way to go. I think Lisa has made some valid comments about how to approach that and obviously has a huge amount of experience.

  22. Thanks Linda for the post and the interesting debate. And thanks Sean for shedding a very different perspective on what we all perceive to be an absolutely incompetent and useless ASA.
    If memory serves correct a while back TRASA started getting off the ground, with a number of intentions in mind – from my limited understanding one of those objectives was to prevent this exact kind of situation that has happened.
    There is an understandably big anti-association / regulation sentiment amongst the trail circles, a lot of us get out in the mountains and onto the trails to get away from just that, and have no desire to see what we do being constantly governed by an organization and rules.
    A lot of valid points have been raised here, mostly pointing to the fact that we do not want to be regulated, but that there is a place for some kind of body to represent trail running, primarily (or only) for the international scene – if for no other reason than to avoid a repeat of what has happened.
    If a body, that has the genuine interests of trail running in mind, can exist without their focus being in regulating & dictating to the local races and trail runners, but rather adding to the value of our obvious pool of talent by providing a channel through which they can be exposed to international events and training / coaching, and supporting them wherever possible, then it sounds like a positive way forward.
    If it is to the detriment of local events, organizers, and runners, by having our pastime held hostage by ASA and its provincial bodies, then shelve it. A question - can TRASA (if it still exists?) deal directly with IAU or would it have to go via ASA?

  23. Excellently put, Eric, I wholeheartedly second your points and concerns.

  24. A quick response to Eric's question:

    Of the 50 IAU members, 42 are IAAF members (including ASA). The others are national ultra-running associations. For example, two countries which have gone this route are Australia (www.aura.asn.au) and Canada (www.acu100k.com). Both associations charge their runners an annual membership fee: $90 (R650) in Australia and $30 (R210) in Canada. Neither association contributed to the air fares of the athletes they selected to represent them at the World Trail Championships.

    Here is a nice article explaining things from a Canadian perspective, as well as a good report on the Ireland race.

    Here is another post about how the IAU fits in with the IAAF, from a US perspective, which also gives a good description of the race.

    It was not an event for the faint-hearted!

  25. Thanks to Will for getting in some international best-practice. We certainly aren't the first country to go through the birthing pains of giving structure to an inherently unstructured bunch of sportsmen/women (the more times I get "lost" on a training run-the better!). I'd hate to see administrative overhead hit our sport, but it has obviously reached the critical mass needed to WANT to send representatives to international competitions...so looks like we'll have to agree on some kind of system for how to do this and how to interact with ASA. Suggest we read up on all these ways we could be organized, and look forward to discussing more at upcoming meeting.

  26. Great stuff, I love running and it was really a nice hobby that helps to your mind and body.

  27. In short I agree with most of the comments above and agree fully with Sean Falconer comments about James Evans and the new ASA. I say new cos ASA has undergone some major changes.
    I feel the most important thing to remember is the athlete and whatever happens it is the athlete that needs to drive this debate not the trail organizers. Forming an association must NOT be about money it is about the athlete wanting to better themselves in a sport they love and if trail running needs to fall under the ASA umbrella to allow our athletes to compete for their country internationally so be it.

    Claire Ashworth

  28. Okay, I have just briefly read the comments so hopefully not repeating what others have said, whats got me a little confused is why no one has mentioned the possible role of Mountain Club of South Africa - in many ways they are more intimately connected to trail running than ASA. Specifically, they are the main (if not the only) representatives of recreational mountain users in SA, hold sway with most of the management bodies (aka TMNP, CapeNature, etc), and lets not forget that should any one of us become lost and injured its MCSA's mountain rescue we would call. Shouldn't any conversation re formalising trail running involve them as a key partner?

  29. My view is simple: Yes, the time has come for trail running in SA to form its own representative body, which is just that, REPRESENTATIVE of trail runners' needs and ideas. Once this is established, maybe in a few years time, a dialogue could be started with ASA to see what possible synergies exist and to look at the future. It would be premature to do so at this stage.

    Mike Chisin

  30. Stuart come to the meeting on saturday and give your opinion.

    Mike {CEO}

  31. Hey, Really great work, I would like to join your blog anyway so please continue sharing with us,