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How to Organise a Challenge Walk - Preface and Introduction




How to Organise a Challenge Walk


Sixth Edition 2007, published by


Copyright © 2007 The Long Distance Walkers Association


ISBN 0 9515843 2 4



The Long Distance Walkers Association is an association of people with the common interest of walking long and ultra-long distances especially in rural, mountainous and moorland areas. The Association is governing body for long distance walking and promotes challenge walks, pioneers new walking routes and receives and publishes information on all aspects of non-competitive walking.

Information about the LDWA is available from the website or the Membership Secretary (see address in Appendix H)

Note on the Sixth Edition

This is the sixth edition of Guidelines for Events. There have been some changes from the fifth (2000) edition as a result of continuing experience gained from events, because of legal developments and because of the increasing responsibilities of event organisers and expectations of participants.


The Long Distance Walkers Association is most grateful to the many members and others who have contributed to the development of this booklet over the years. Particular thanks are due to Ernie Bishop, Ken Falconer, Mac McArthur, Geoff Saunders and Ann Sayer.


Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the advice in this booklet is accurate and expedient, no responsibility whatsoever can be accepted by the Association or its officers or authors for any consequences arising from these Guidelines.


A 'Challenge Walking Event' has come to mean a cross-country walk of a significant distance that is undertaken by many walkers on the same occasion. The 'challenge' is a personal one - the event is not a race, but the aim is to complete the route within a given time limit. Challenge walks vary enormously in style and character, ranging from a 20 mile walk along canal towpaths, to the annual LDWA 'Hundred' with 500 walkers taking up to 48 hours to complete 100 miles over mountain or moorland, with checkpoints serving food every 5 to 8 miles.

Events do not have leaders, but walkers are responsible for their own navigation, usually with the aid of a written route description. However, walkers tend to form groups so that the route-finding is shared and the walk is done in congenial company. It is this 'social' aspect as much as the 'challenge' aspect that has led to the increased popularity of events in recent years. A long event with several checkpoints and many walkers requires considerable organisation and these Guidelines are intended for those organising or helping with such an event.

The Long Distance Walkers Association was founded in 1971, largely with the aim of co-ordinating information on the growing calendar of challenge events. The membership of the LDWA rapidly increased, as did the number of events. Currently, about 200 challenge walks in Britain each year are listed in the LDWA magazine 'Strider'. Many of these are organised by the forty or so LDWA local groups whilst others are put on by a wide variety of other organisations (such as walking clubs, scout troops, companies and mountain rescue teams) and by individuals.

In 1985 the LDWA was granted Governing Body status for Long Distance Walking by the Sports Council, and in 1999 became a company limited by guarantee. As a governing body, the LDWA has a duty to uphold, promote and improve the standard of organisation of events and so increase the enjoyment and safety of participants. These Guidelines have been produced with this in mind, and it is hoped that those involved in staging events, from chief organisers to those who lend a hand in any way, will find the suggestions contained in this booklet useful.

The style, environment and level of support provided varies enormously between events. This variety and individuality is one of the attractions of challenge walking, and the LDWA has no wish to detract from this or attempt to impose any uniformity on events. The main desire is to see that every event, in its own way, is organised efficiently, effectively and with due regard to safety and the environment, so that it can be fully enjoyed by participants and organisers alike.

Obviously the amount of organisation, time and manpower required varies considerably with the scale and nature of the event. There is a world of difference between a 100 mile event over rough moorland with 500 walkers and a 20 mile pastoral walk for 80 people. These Guidelines try to cover all types of event, and many of the suggestions are certainly 'over the top' for shorter, smaller events. Once the scale and nature of the event has been decided it should be fairly clear which parts are relevant. It is up to the event committee to decide which suggestions to follow, but they should remember that safety and walker enjoyment must remain paramount. Organisers have practical and legal responsibilities to walkers and helpers, and the LDWA requires certain basic standards for events that it supports (see Appendix A).

Challenge walks take place in a wide variety of surroundings and situations, each with its own organisational problems. These Guidelines cannot cover all eventualities, but should be applied in a flexible manner to the particular event. Rather than laying down precise procedures the Guidelines try to say 'Have you remembered this?' or 'This might be worth trying'.

There are many annual events that are extremely well-organised, with the routine second nature to those involved. Nevertheless, even 'old hands' may find some of the tips here helpful. Some events have been less successful, with dissatisfied walkers and frustrated helpers, and it is hoped that these Guidelines will reduce the number of such cases in future.

Anyone contemplating organising a large event for the first time may feel the task rather daunting but, like most jobs, it is not so bad once one gets down to it. Perhaps the main requirements for a walk organiser are a willingness for hard work, the ability to involve others, an enthusiasm to share the joy of walking, and common sense. A sense of humour also helps!

Organisers have no control over certain aspects of a walk, notably the weather. However, it is clear from reports that many walkers enjoy well-run events even in bad weather, with the support and camaraderie compensating for the conditions.

These Guidelines concern cross-country challenge events. Those organising walks of other types, for example road walks or charity walks, may find some parts relevant and useful.

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