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How to Organise a Challenge Walk - Chapter One - First Steps

1.1 What is an LDWA style event?

A Challenge Walk has come to mean a cross-country walk of a significant distance, to be completed by walkers within an allotted time. An Event is a challenge walk that is undertaken by many walkers on the same occasion. Over the years, a general 'style' of event has emerged and become increasingly popular with LDWA members; these Guidelines concern such events. In an LDWA style event:

  • there is a set date for attempting the route
  • the route is mainly cross-country with road walking kept to a minimum
  • the event is not a race, and the emphasis is on walking rather than jogging or running, though often runners are allowed
  • sufficient time is allowed for reasonably fit walkers to complete the route without running
  • there may be several routes, but at least one is 20 miles or more in length.
  • there are checkpoints (manned or unmanned) to be visited en route
  • no leader is provided for the walk
  • the main aim is for participants to enjoy a long-distance walk and the challenge and comradeship that it provides.

In addition, an LDWA style event is likely to have some of the following features:

  • a set route, either defined or implied
  • covered accommodation at the start and finish and perhaps at some checkpoints
  • some food or drink provided
  • walkers issued with numbers and checkcards or tallies
  • a certificate and/or badge for finishers
  • a list of finishers and report sent to participants.

Events vary enormously within these broad parameters, from 20 miles to 100 miles or more, from a few dozen to several hundred walkers, from field paths or tow paths to trackless moorland, from a high degree of self-support to checkpoints providing all the food needed, perhaps with a 'breakfast type' meal half way on an overnight event, and so on.

As a governing body, the LDWA has a duty to ensure that the events that it promotes attain certain basic standards; this is to protect organisers as much as participants. Events vary so much that it is impossible to lay down precise requirements. Nevertheless, for an event to be supported and publicised by the LDWA there are a number of conditions that must be fulfilled, in particular concerning safety, the environment and legal obligations. These requirements are listed in Appendix A and are discussed in more detail later in these Guidelines.

1.2 The event committee

The idea of staging a new event usually stems from one or two keen individuals, or perhaps grows amongst the members of a club. They probably have some conception of the area and style of the walk, the rough number of participants and perhaps other features, for example they may want to use a particular school or hall as a base. For all but the smallest event they will need to enlist several helpers for the planning stages as well as considerable further assistance on the day of the event. Often it is the enthusiasm of those conceiving the event, and their ability to infect others with that enthusiasm, that determines whether the event will be a success or, indeed, whether it will become a reality at all.

As soon as it has been decided to organise an event, an Event Committee should be set up to decide on policy matters and to make plans thorough enough to ensure a successful event. Putting on a successful challenge walk will involve far more work and time than anticipated, and it is essential that there is enough commitment to form a good working committee without too much work falling on any one individual. Several committee members should be capable of taking the initiative and responsibility for different major aspects of the event. Attempting to put on an event without a strong core of organisers will be highly stressful for those involved and lead to a poor event.

The size of the committee will depend on the scale of the event, in particular its length, duration and the number of entrants anticipated. For a very small and informal event a Chief Organiser and a few others to assist generally might be adequate. For a major walk there should be a named Chief Organiser or Chairman/woman responsible for overall planning and co-ordination. Officers with the following responsibilities should be considered for the committee:

  • Chief Organiser
  • Checkpoints
  • Transport
  • Treasurer
  • Walk HQ
  • Communications
  • Publicity
  • Catering
  • Safety and medical
  • Entries
  • Equipment
  • Results
  • Route planning

The main officers should not participate in the walk on the day, but should be actively involved with their duties. Some of the committee should have taken part in an event or helped to organise one previously. Otherwise, people with such experience should be invited to join the committee in an advisory capacity; for example an LDWA Local Group might be approached for help.

The committee should meet as often as necessary before the event, and it is useful to have a meeting soon afterwards to discuss any problems and improvements that might be made if the event is repeated. Whilst there is no need to produce formal minutes of committee meetings, a brief record of decisions taken and a check list of who has to do what and by when, should be produced - the Walk Planning Timetable in Appendix D gives some idea of when decisions need to be made and actions taken.

Many events are organised annually by a group, and planning and policy require little new discussion. Nevertheless, care still needs to be taken to ensure that everything gets done, and inevitably some changes occur. Complacency can creep in after a few years, to the detriment of the event.

1.3 Early planning and policy

Many problems that occur on events are the direct result of shortcomings at the planning stage. Early decisions need to be made on matters of policy which will determine the scale and nature of the event, including:

  • the date of the event
  • a rough outline of the route, its length, whether circular or linear and the provisional start and finish
  • start time(s)
  • the number and nature of checkpoints
  • how the route is to be specified (e.g. route description)
  • the target number of starters
  • level of food and drink to be provided at checkpoints and at the finish
  • the level of help required for what is envisaged.

Once these basic decisions have been taken, there are many matters that will require detailed planning. Depending on the scale and nature of the event, these will include many of the following:

  • location and booking of HQ and checkpoints
  • planning the route, production of route description, etc.
  • overall safety of the walk
  • any restrictions on entrants
  • financial details and budget, sponsorship
  • entry fees, whether to take entries on the day if under subscribed and whether to operate a reserve list if oversubscribed
  • insurance
  • publicity for the event
  • public relations, liaison with police, landowners, etc.
  • rules for the event
  • minimum kit requirements, arrangements for kit checks
  • compilation and printing of entry forms and details sheets, final details, etc. (suitable printing or photocopying facilities need to be found early on)
  • administration of entries
  • design and production of badge, certificate, checkcards, etc.
  • design and production of other souvenirs such as tee-shirts, etc.
  • merchandising
  • recruitment of and liaison with helpers and marshals
  • catering arrangements and source of provisions
  • organisation and operation of HQ and checkpoints
  • car parking arrangements
  • effective procedures for control of the walk including a written risk assessment
  • communications
  • transport
  • retirements
  • emergency and first aid provision
  • production of results.

These inter-related matters are discussed in detail in the chapters that follow.

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