A Farewell to Road Running

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The number of roads races being organised by running clubs has steadily decreased and in the current climate this decrease will continue. The latest race to face an uncertain future is the iconic ‘Dark Hedges’ Half Marathon which is part of the Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival of Running organised by the Dervock District Community Association (DDCA).

The problems started on the 25th January 2017 when the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly enacted an Order, commencing the special events provisions of the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010. These provisions became effective on the 4th September 2017.

This legislation had been sought by the Constabulary for events such as switching on of Christmas tree lights, when town centres were effectively closed to traffic for a number of hours. For years there had been no specific legislation to do this and the need for such was long overdue.

That’s fair enough but what has become apparent is that our MLA’s did not fully consider the impact of their actions or the financial burden that they have placed on a whole range of community events. How do we know this? We’ve had to explain it to a number of them.

Running clubs who organise races do not do so to make a profit. If they break even, then that’s a good night’s work, but the current legislation has meant that the financial burden of staging a race is too much.

The legislation means that to apply for a roads closure order the organiser has to provide their local council with an events management plan and a traffic management plan. That is not an issue and there is no argument from race organisers that there shouldn’t be any regulation whatsoever. The issue arises around the traffic management plan which initially needs to be signed off by a Traffic Management Company, which can cost several hundred pounds. If the plan is then to be implemented it has to be done so by such a company and that can cost several thousand pounds.

The cost of the Traffic Management Plan for the Kennedy Kane Festival of Running is in the region of £5000 and that is money that the DDCA do not have and, in the current financial climate it is unlikely that sponsorship will be secured to cover the costs.

The Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival has been held every year since 1984 but, at the moment it seems that 2019 may well have been its final race. The backlog of problems that has built up in the three years that our politicians did not turn up for work means that this particular problem is a long way down the list of things that need to be sorted out but ill advised advice such as, “just add the cost onto the entry fee” doesn’t help. The suggestion of charging entrants £30 or £40 for the event just displays a lack of understanding of the running community.

Just to be clear, “Public Processions” and “Cycle Races” are exempt from this legislation which, when you actually read into the legal requirements imposed on an organiser does seem to discriminate against road runners.

Failure to comply with the legislation has the potential to render public liability insurance null and void and, unfortunately at least one organiser has found themselves personally financially liable for an incident in recent years. Just a cautionary note to consider when you enter a race – if the race organiser hasn’t complied with the legislation then you don’t have insurance cover – and don’t be fooled by explanations that they are exempt because it’s a charity event or they are affiliated to a particular organisation – it doesn’t work that way. Springwell RC fully recognises its responsibilities and has shown over many years and numerous events the ability to safely and successfully manage races but, under the current legislation we find that our experience counts for nothing.

The PSNI have done everything they can to assist race organisers, but they are also limited by the legislation and their operational requirements as to what they can do to assist.

2020 is going to see the respective statutory bodies adhering closely to this misjudged piece of legislation and, unfortunately the Kennedy Kane McArthur Festival is unlikely to be the final casualty in this elimination of road running.

D.

Springwell Running Club