Latest News: Read more

How to Organise a Challenge Walk - Chapter Four - Operations On The Day

Although this chapter concerns what happens on the day of the Event, it all needs very careful planning beforehand!

4.1 Walk headquarters organisation and operations


As outlined in Section 2.2, walk Headquarters has to fulfil a variety of roles before, during and at the end of the walk; these functions are now discussed in greater detail.

It is important to use the available space in the HQ building effectively, with separate areas or tables for each operation, and it may be necessary to rearrange furniture. (It is a good idea to make a sketch map of the initial position of furniture, etc. so that it can be put back afterwards.) Check-in, kit checks, etc. should be positioned to allow walkers to flow naturally between them for slick processing. Displays, merchandising, etc. add to the interest of the event but should be away from the operational areas. Space will be needed for walkers to mingle before the start. If possible the areas used by marshals for their operations and storage of their kit should be separate from walkers' facilities. Corridors and exits should be kept clear. Very often the HQ is rearranged shortly after the start to be ready for the 'finish' operation.

Clear and abundant signposting to all facilities will save marshals being plagued with trivial questions. Signs should be above head height and should include 'Registration', 'Entries on the Day', 'Kit Check', 'Left Luggage', 'Toilets', 'Showers', etc. Signs outside the building should indicate parking arrangements and the way in.

Remember that forming a good relationship with the caretaker early on in planning and taking good care of the premises will have many beneficial spin-offs.


One official should have overall responsibility for running the walk headquarters, to ensure that services operate smoothly, that helpers are deployed effectively and that any problems are sorted out quickly.

The number of helpers required at Headquarters depends very much on the nature of the event, but for a large event can be considerable. Tasks that may need to be covered are indicated in Appendix E and are discussed below. Headquarters remains operational longer than any checkpoint, and for longer events it is particularly important to have enough helpers to allow for breaks to eat, rest and sleep. For a long (2 day) event, jobs which have to be done continuously, such as control, the finish desk and kitchen work, should be staffed on a shift basis, with no-one working for more than 6-8 hours at a stretch. A master time sheet with jobs on the left and hourly periods along the top that can be filled in with names of helpers is a great help in planning who will be doing what and when. In general, the staffing level at HQ needs to be high during the registration period before the start and then may be reduced until finishers start coming in when the level of activity increases again. Of course, staff can usefully be deployed elsewhere along the route when HQ is quiet.

HQ operations should be thought out carefully and staffed adequately so that entrants can be processed quickly. Organisers will be unpopular if walkers have to stand in a queue for 20 minutes to register or if the start is delayed because preliminaries have not been completed. The HQ organiser should be prepared to reallocate staff to relieve bottlenecks.

The Chief Organiser should not be assigned any specific task on the day as he or she will have the best overview of the event and will be able to deal with unforeseen problems (e.g. reallocating helpers to cover absences or appeasing a farmer if a gate has been left open). Whilst the Chief Organiser will be based at HQ, he or she might try to visit some of the checkpoints to thank the helpers - a useful public relations exercise. On a long event, even the Chief Organiser will require a deputy to allow time for sleeping.

Car parking

Cars associated with the event must be parked so as not to inconvenience others and not to cause any hazard. Adequate car parking space at or near the HQ is essential; indeed it may be necessary to reject a possible HQ if not enough parking space is available. There will typically be one car for every two walkers. An ideal HQ will have enough parking space in its grounds; otherwise it might be possible to hire a nearby field or perhaps the car park of a local works that is not in use over the weekend. A reasonable sized town might be able to absorb the cars in public car parks and side streets, but cars should be kept off roadside verges. If 'pay and display' car parks are used special arrangements will need to be made with the operators. The police should be consulted about parking and access arrangements, particularly if much street parking is needed. Details of car parking arrangements should be included in the final details, and parking should be well-signed and marshalled. Marshals, wearing brightly-coloured tabards, should be on duty on car park approaches and in designated parking areas from at least 15 minutes before registration opens. They should ensure that the available space is used as efficiently as possible, but also that cars are not blocked in by others. Parking space close to the HQ will be required by organisers and marshals collecting or returning food and equipment, and such space should be reserved and clearly signed. Overlooking the parking requirements could cause aggravation for the walkers and helpers and loss of co-operation from the local community.

Walkers' cars are obviously unattended for a long period, and it is a good idea for a helper to patrol the parking areas from time to time so that any suspicious behaviour can be challenged or reported to the police.


The main purpose of registration is to compile an accurate list of those starting the walk (and if several routes are available, those on each route). Entry marshals should tick the walkers' names on pre-prepared lists of entrants as they present themselves at the registration desk. At the same time they should issue each walker with a checkcard or tally, bearing the walker's number, for clipping at the checkpoints to be visited on the walk. (It is useful to provide a polythene bag to keep the checkcard dry and a piece of string for tying it to a map case or rucksack or around the neck.) Checkcards designed for orienteering events are often used; not only are they waterproof but they also have a stub to tear off on issue which can provide a double check on those starting. An alternative means of double checking is to have a 'bucket drop' soon after the start. As well as a checkcard, each walker is issued with a disc bearing their number, which is literally dropped into a bucket held by a marshal alongside the route.

Sufficient registration points should be set up either on an alphabetical basis or, if walk numbers have been sent to walkers with final details, on a numerical basis (not all walkers will remember their number, though!). Each walker should be able to complete the registration formalities in less than 5 minutes including waiting time, and this can require considerable personnel and space. Staff should be able to cope with bottlenecks; often a high proportion of entrants leave registration until the last minute.

Walkers entering on the day (if this is permitted) also need to register and receive a checkcard. It is essential that they sign an entry form and, of course, pay the appropriate fee.

At registration the walker may be given other information such as the route description and/or corrections to it, etc. If any walker has paid an incorrect fee or has not completed the entry form correctly, this can also be sorted out . After registration, the marshal should direct walkers to any kit check.

Registration should open promptly at the time advertised, typically 1-2 hours before the start, depending on the size of the event. It should close 15-30 minutes before the start, although some latecomers are inevitable. Registration times should be given in the entry details, with a request not to leave registration until the last minute.

Kit check

Organisers have a responsibility to ensure that walkers are fully aware of the clothing and equipment that they must wear or carry given the nature of the walk. This is especially important in mountain or moorland areas. Many events hold a kit check before the start; the items required should be specified in the entry details and a list displayed near the kit check desks. Except for very small events, the kit check should not be at the registration desk itself but should take place immediately before or after registration. The checkers should verify that each walker has every item on the list and mark the walker's checkcard to show that the check has been passed. Alternatively the checkcard can be issued as confirmation that the check has been completed. Kit checks can easily cause bottlenecks if there are not enough checkers.

Inevitably a few walkers will have forgotten to bring certain items. Larger events may have outdoor equipment vendors at the walk HQ who can supply such needs, otherwise it is useful to be able to direct entrants to a local shop where spares can be obtained.

The organisers may consider it appropriate to have one or more kit-checks en route, either at a checkpoint or elsewhere on the route. Kit checks en route (which only require one or two undisclosed items to be checked) have the advantage that it is more difficult for habitual cheaters to borrow an item of equipment to show at the check and then to discard it afterwards. It should be made clear in the event details and at the start that such checks will take place.

Route description and amendments

Route descriptions can be issued at registration, though for longer events they are usually sent out beforehand with the final details. Some events supply waterproof covers for the descriptions. There will often be late amendments to the route description though these should be kept to a minimum. A list of changes should be given to each walker on registration, or several copies of the corrections may be displayed on walls for entrants to note down. A map displayed in the start area with the entire route marked helps walkers mark up their own maps and clarify any uncertainties.


On circular walks space should be set aside at the HQ for entrants to leave their belongings until they return, though in practice many walkers will store their property in their own cars. For larger events it might be necessary for a marshal to store this baggage in a side room in which case bags should be labelled with entrants' walk numbers.

For longer events arrangements might be made to transport entrants' baggage (containing a change of clothing, etc.) to a half-way 'baggage' checkpoint. This should be limited to one small item (the maximum size or weight, or at least 'no framed rucksacks', should be specified) which should be labelled with the walker's name and number. The baggage should be stowed ready for transport under the supervision of a marshal. Space will also be needed at the end of the event for storing baggage that has been returned after use at the half-way point. Note that baggage handling requires very considerable space and manpower - it is heavy and bulky! As far as possible, bags should be stored in walk number order. Careful thought should be given to the mechanism for returning 'half-way' baggage to the finish after it has been used and also to returning the baggage of walkers who retire before reaching the half-way point.

For a linear walk, arrangements will be required to transport walkers' baggage from start to finish.

Mixing space

Walkers like to chat with friends before the start and after finishing, so there should be enough space to allow groups to form without getting in the way of other operations. If fine, walkers will happily go outside, but if wet they will want to stay under cover until just before the start.

The Start

Normally walkers start together at a set time, sometimes with a later start time for faster walkers and runners. The actual start of the event should be as near to the HQ as possible, normally either in the HQ grounds or a few minutes walk away, clearly signed. Ideally the start should face a wide open piece of ground or lead onto a quiet road with a wide path. There should be no bottlenecks such as stiles or narrow gates in the early part of the route.

Every effort should be made to ensure that the walk starts punctually, and walkers should be instructed to proceed to the start point in good time. The walk can be started by one of the walk officials, but asking a local dignitary (e.g. National Park Warden, MP, headteacher, mayor, town crier, etc.) is good for public relations and publicity. Whilst the organiser and/or starter may wish to say a few words, walkers will have little patience for long speeches! A loudhailer or public address system is essential if anything more than the word 'Go!' is to be shouted.

Photographers should be kept away from the path of walkers. If necessary road marshals (preferably wearing brightly coloured tabards) should be posted along the very early part of the route to ensure walkers' safety and a minimum of interference with others. If the start is near a public road the Police will provide advice and, perhaps, help marshal or hold up the traffic for a few moments at the start.

After the start

After the walkers have departed, walk HQ will seem very quiet. Nevertheless, there are a number of tasks that need doing.

A master list of starters should be compiled immediately, by deleting the non-starters from the list of pre-entries and adding the entries on the day. This can be done by hand or on a computer with a printer attached. Depending on the procedures for monitoring the progress of walkers, copies will be needed for HQ, for sweepers and for sending out to checkpoints.

Checkpoint teams will collect equipment and provisions from HQ (see Stores below).

Often HQ needs to be rearranged in readiness for the finish operation, including serving of meals.


The purpose of control is exactly what it says: to make sure that nothing is left to chance or overlooked and to ensure that any problems that crop up are dealt with effectively. Control is particularly concerned with:

  • dealing with any emergencies
  • overview of the progress of walkers and retirements
  • action in the event of missing walkers
  • opening and closing of checkpoints
  • effective use of communications
  • movement of transport
  • location of helpers
  • monitoring checkpoint supplies.

These matters are considered in detail later in this chapter. Obviously, the complexity of control grows rapidly with the scale of the event.

The control area should be separate from the finish desk (which is really only a final checkpoint), away from the hurly-burly of walkers and supporters; for a large event control should be in a separate room. The procedures to be used by control must be carefully planned prior to the event. Control should have copies of all event paperwork and previously prepared progress charts. Control will ensure that lists of non-starters reach checkpoints and will receive completed checklists from checkpoints. Control will decide what action to take in an emergency, for example if a walker is missing. If radio communication is used, the radio network control will be at hand, and any dispatch riders, etc. will report to control. The Chief Organiser or deputy should be available via control throughout the event.

Computers may be used for control purposes (and indeed for event organisation as a whole) but, except for larger events, they probably save little time and can lead to chaos if not in the hands of experts. Any computer usage must be planned carefully, and spreadsheets etc. prepared beforehand. It is important to have a dummy run, using the keyboard operators who will be employed on the day. Someone completely familiar with the machine and software must be at hand throughout the event. Hard copies and disc backups should be kept of all information, and the event should not be completely dependent on the computer (they do sometimes go wrong, even an expert can inadvertently cause a time-consuming error and power cuts in rural areas are not uncommon!)

The finish desk

The route for walkers to follow into the finish building and to the finish desk should be clearly signed. On arriving, walkers should hand in their checkcard to the finish marshal or timekeeper who will record the finishing time and elapsed time taken on their checklist. Chairs should be available close to the finish desk as walkers will often want a rest before doing anything else. Finishers should then be directed to changing area, showers, toilets, meals, sleeping accommodation or first-aid as appropriate - signs are useful, since tired walkers may not remember much that they are told!

Notices should be posted asking walkers to remove outdoor footwear on finishing to avoid treading mud into the floor. It may be necessary for footwear to be removed before walkers enter the building, or for the floor around the finish desk (and perhaps elsewhere) to be protected with plastic sheeting. Plastic bags are sometimes provided for walkers to put muddy footwear in.

Walkers' checkcards should be examined to ensure that all checkpoints have been visited. A separate official should be responsible for completing the certificates, which should be placed on a table for finishers to collect before they leave the HQ. Badges should be available nearby. Sometimes envelopes are provided for self-addressing by walkers who wish to be sent results, with a box for 'stamp money' or a request to put the money in the envelope.

A frequently updated list on display giving finishers and their times is always of interest. This satisfies the curiosity of walkers wishing to compare their times and also stems questions from supporters awaiting the arrival of walkers. For a larger event it may be possible to maintain a progress chart with times at intermediate checkpoints, but this is labour intensive and relies on first rate communications.

Toilet and washing facilities

Toilet facilities should be as good as can be arranged. Demand will be greatest before the start, and walkers will not want to queue. There should be at least simple washing facilities, but showers are always welcomed, particularly at the end of longer walks. Ideally, hot water should be available during the entire period that HQ is open but certainly at times when walkers are finishing. Both male and female facilities must be provided; depending on the sex distribution of entrants some redesignation of existing facilities may be appropriate. It is helpful to indicate the facilities available on the event details.

Sleeping accommodation

For longer walks (in particular overnight walks) finishers will need somewhere to sleep before they return home. The floor of a large hall or room away from noise and other activity is suitable, and walkers should be asked to bring their own sleeping bags, lilos etc. It is dangerous and irresponsible for walkers and helpers who have missed a night's sleep to drive before they have had at least several hours rest, and organisers should do their utmost to ensure that walkers get a reasonable rest before driving.

If the walk starts early in the morning, participants who have to travel a long way may also appreciate floor space for the night before the walk, for which a charge might be made. It might also be possible to allow tents in the HQ grounds. Information on official campsites and bed and breakfast accommodation is useful for entrants and accommodation lists, or at least the phone number of the local Tourist Information Office, might be circulated with event details.

Provision for marshals

If possible, there should be a separate room or space for helpers and marshals to keep their personal belongings, and for long events, sleeping space should be provided for the marshals separate from the walkers.

First aid

For longer walks, a first aid area is recommended, with qualified members of the Red Cross, St John Ambulance or St Andrew's Ambulance Association on duty (see Section 4.11). This area should be easily accessible - those with leg or foot injuries will not want to climb stairs!


A room or area at HQ should be designated as stores. Documentation, marshalling equipment, food, kitchen utensils and bulky supplies such as tents and water containers (see Appendix F) should be divided into clearly labelled piles to go out to each checkpoint. It is helpful for a quartermaster to be present to help checkpoint teams when they collect their supplies. It may be convenient to do some preparation of checkpoint food at HQ e.g. making sandwiches.


The level of catering at HQ will depend on the scale and nature of the event; normally some sort of food and drink is provided at the end of walks.

Even for the smallest event it is nice to finish with a hot drink (tea, coffee or soup) and cake or biscuit over which to chat to other walkers, and this should not be difficult to arrange. If there is reasonable space for dining and a small kitchen it is usually possible to serve a simple cold meal such as quiche or cold pie, salad and roll followed by fruit or rice pudding. It is not usually difficult to produce simple hot snacks, such as beans on toast, and if a microwave is available then it is possible to heat pies etc. on demand. If there is a larger kitchen then a full hot meal may be possible.

Give careful thought to the organisation of cooking, keeping food hot, laying tables, serving (at table or self-service), table clearance, washing up crockery and cutlery (it may be easier to work with disposable plates and cups) and disposal of rubbish. Quite a number of helpers may be needed and they should be briefed on their precise roles. For larger events the organising committee member responsible for catering should have had previous experience of this type of work. Meals may have to be served over an extended period, to provide for early retirements through to the last finishers. It is worthwhile estimating the pattern of meal demands so that staffing levels and cooking rates can be arranged accordingly. Helpers at checkpoints, at HQ and elsewhere will all require meals and this can add significantly to catering requirements.

A system of meal tickets is often used to aid prompt service and ensure that each walker has just one meal. Meal tickets are given to finishers and retirees (or offered for sale if the meal is not included in the entry charge) as well as to helpers.

Tea, coffee or squash is usually available at HQ throughout the event for helpers, early finishers, retirees and perhaps for supporters. Some events provide drinks and maybe toast and marmalade before the start; this is much appreciated by those who have travelled for several hours to get to the event.

General matters concerning food are discussed in Section 4.13.

Information, displays and sales

At the start of a large event it is worth having a well-signed enquiry desk manned by someone with a good overview of the event organisation and preferably with a good local knowledge. This should spare hard pressed check-in marshals from questions ranging from the trivial ('Am I allowed to take photos on the walk?') to the unreasonable ('Would you mind looking after my four year old child whilst I'm out walking?')

Walkers appreciate a notice giving an up to date local weather forecast. Information on local train and bus times, taxi firms, nearby cafes and accommodation is also helpful.

Photographs of the walk or area, historical or geographical information on places en route or information about the club organising the event are sometimes displayed at walk HQ. The LDWA is always pleased to have its publicity material (available from its Publicity Officer) on display. Details and entry forms for other challenge walks are of interest (indeed, some entrants will ask to display entry forms for their own challenge events).

A stall selling merchandise before the start and at the end of the event may interest walkers and bring in extra cash. For example tee-shirts or sweat-shirts depicting the event might be sold (or orders taken), or a local outdoor firm might be happy to have the opportunity to sell goods to walkers. Any merchandise table should be separate from the operational part of HQ, and at least one staff member should keep an eye on the stock and takings all the time.

Clearing up

Clearing up after an event is a major job to be done when helpers are very tired. The marshal in charge of HQ should ensure that enough people remain to do the work necessary. It is quicker, and far less dispiriting, for half a dozen or so to help than leaving it to a couple of the main organisers. All rooms used must be swept, washroom floors mopped, rubbish put in dustbins or plastic sacks, kitchen surfaces cleaned, signs taken down, furniture returned to its original position, etc. Aim to leave the premises at least as clean and tidy as they were found. The marshal in charge should ensure that no event equipment or lost property is left behind, that lights and appliances are switched off and the keys returned to the caretaker.

4.2 Organisation and operation of manned checkpoints

Well-run, welcoming checkpoints are much appreciated by walkers and can make all the difference to the success of an event. Checkpoint location was discussed in Section 2.2; here we turn to the operation of checkpoints on the day of the event.


The number of helpers required at a checkpoint depends on the facilities provided, the number of walkers on the event and the length of time the checkpoint is open. No walker should have to wait for more than a few moments to have his or her number recorded and checkcard clipped, nor to be served with food.

Typically, a checkpoint team comprises a recorder/timekeeper, a checkcard clerk (functions which may need to be duplicated at early checkpoints on high-entry events), sufficient refreshments staff, a person responsible for transportation of retirements and someone in charge of communications with walk headquarters. The minimum requirement on a walk of any size is two marshals to record walkers and two to serve simple refreshments. However, this will leave no-one free to cope with any emergency or unexpected circumstance, so at least 5 or 6 helpers are really needed at any checkpoint serving food. For checkpoints in the first 10 miles of a large event more will be required because of bunching of walkers, and at later checkpoints on long events a rota of helpers will be needed to allow rests to be taken. 'Baggage' or 'breakfast' checkpoints (see Section 4.3) will require considerably more staff.

After finishing duty at an early checkpoint, marshals can be moved on to a later one. Similarly, kitchen staff at the finish often enjoy a few hours at an open air checkpoint before starting work indoors. For long events it is a good idea to assign an existing coherent group (e.g. LDWA local group or scout group) to a checkpoint rather than relying on a number of individual volunteers who may find it hard to settle down to a working relationship. Some helpers at each checkpoint should be familiar with challenge walks and thus understand walkers' needs.

Appoint a marshal in charge of each checkpoint, to act as a contact with the organisers before and during the event, to allocate jobs to checkpoint staff and to take charge of checkpoint documentation. Brief the marshal in charge on all aspects of checkpoint operation prior to the event - several weeks in advance for larger events. He or she should inform the rest of the team of the checkpoint location, exactly when they will be required and other advance information. An informal briefing of checkpoint helpers before the event might be useful. The marshal in charge should ensure that the checkpoint staff understand what is required of them; some will act on their own initiative, but the less experienced may require specific direction.

A long stint helping at a checkpoint is at least as tiring as the walk itself. At checkpoints open for more than 8 hours a duty rota with rest breaks is essential, and for shorter periods there should be enough cover for helpers to 'stretch their legs' from time to time. It can get very cold standing around for any length of time, particularly outdoors or at night, and adequate clothing is as important for marshals as for walkers. At outdoor checkpoints pay particular attention to keeping the feet warm - standing for hours in wet trainers is unpleasant! Indoor checkpoints should be warm enough to be comfortable for marshals; on the other hand checkpoints that are too warm can cause giddiness or nausea to walkers stopping after coming in from the cold.


Organisers should provide checkpoint marshals with written details of all aspects of the checkpoint operation. The checkpoint briefing notes should be sent in advance to the marshal in charge of each checkpoint. The briefing notes should include details of:

  • the exact location of the checkpoint, details of access and car parking
  • operational times of the checkpoint
  • name of caretaker or landowner with address and contact phone number
  • where and when keys are to be collected and returned and any payment requirements
  • any special requirements of the owners
  • location of the nearest telephone
  • location of the nearest water supply (for outdoor checkpoints)
  • location of taps, switches, fuse/tripper boxes, meters (and coins needed) for any gas, electricity and water (for indoor checkpoints)
  • location of filling stations (24 hr for overnight events)
  • arrangements for collection of food and equipment
  • any special requirements of radio operators or first aiders assigned to the checkpoint (e.g. power points or hot water).

Information about the event as a whole should be appended, including the route description (with some spare copies for walkers whose own descriptions disintegrate in the rain!), map, list of opening and closing times of all checkpoints, the distance, ascent and time to the next checkpoint, and a copy of the event rules.

Several weeks before the event an equipment checklist should be produced for each checkpoint, listing the equipment needed and stating whether it is already on site at the checkpoint, to be collected from walk HQ or to be provided by the checkpoint staff themselves (see Appendix F for possible requirements). Similarly a food checklist should be provided, listing menu items and quantities and the arrangements for the purchase and transport of food.

Of crucial importance are the procedure notes which deal with control matters such as:

  • arrangements for communication with HQ and other checkpoints, including telephone numbers etc.
  • emergency arrangements (action to take in the event of an accident or a missing walker, names and location of first aiders, location of the nearest hospital casualty department)
  • procedures for opening and closing the checkpoint, role of sweepers
  • procedure for recording walkers on arrival at checkpoint
  • procedures for checking for missing walkers
  • arrangements for retirements
  • arrangements for returning checkcards of retirees and checklists to HQ
  • transport arrangements
  • grouping procedures (if any)

Checksheets for recording walkers arriving at checkpoints will also be needed (see below).

All this documentation can conveniently be prepared on a word processor to allow basic notes to be tailored to individual checkpoints. Alternatively, duplicated notes can be used with spaces for filling in specific requirements.

Setting up the checkpoint

Each checkpoint should be ready at least 15 minutes before its scheduled opening time. It often takes longer than anticipated to find and set up the checkpoint, particularly if it is some distance from the road and heavy equipment and supplies need to be carried. (Note that full water containers are particularly heavy.) Allow time for putting up signs and tables and for furniture moving at indoor checkpoints. In arranging the checkpoint keep checking and feeding operations separate and bear in mind the convenience and comfort of walkers and helpers.

Equipment required depends considerably on the location and nature of the checkpoint and the scale of walk; possible items are listed in Appendix F. An outdoor checkpoint in the later stages of a longer walk needs adequate overhead cover, lighting (if night time operation is planned), a reasonable amount of seating and perhaps camping-type cooking equipment. All checkpoints must have adequate supplies of drinking water; for an outdoor checkpoint containers may have to be filled from an off-site supply.

Checkpoint food is usually purchased centrally by the organisers, and collected from HQ by checkpoint marshals before setting up the checkpoint (see Section 4.13). Marshalling equipment, such as pens, clipboards and notices, should be collected at the same time. Alternatively, for some events the organisers arrange for everything to be delivered to checkpoints, or sometimes checkpoint teams are required to purchase their own food which needs advanced planning. Arrangements should be detailed in the food and equipment checklists.

Signs on the approach to the checkpoint help clarify which door to use etc. Welcoming signs are a nice touch and can be light-hearted (e.g. 'Beware - Comfortable Checkpoint - 100 yards').

Checkpoint operation

Check walkers in on arrival at the checkpoint (see below) and then tell them about the facilities on offer. Many will wish to sit down, preferring to have food and drink brought to them than having to get up to help themselves. This is where checkpoint marshals can do a great deal to make the event enjoyable and provide encouragement for the walkers. Walkers like to be asked how they are faring, and marshals should be prepared for questions such as 'How far to the next checkpoint/the end?' or 'What is the terrain like on the next section?' Marshals must not give the impression that the checkpoint is being run for their own benefit, for example by chatting amongst themselves and ignoring the walkers, by occupying all the chairs or by eating lavish meals whilst tired walkers are left to stand and help themselves to biscuit crumbs!

When walkers leave, it is helpful if marshals indicate the route out of the checkpoint and also if they cast an eye around for any property that may have been forgotten.

The rest period of walkers at checkpoints can be limited provided this is clearly stated in the rules. This can reduce congestion at checkpoints and also encourages walkers to proceed. Usually on walks over 60 miles a maximum of 2 hours at any checkpoint is allowed after which the walker would be retired. It is usually obvious if a walker has stopped for this length of time though it is possible to record departure times formally or to retain walkers' checkcards during their stays at the checkpoint.

Closing the checkpoint

Ideally a checkpoint should be able to close at the specified closing time. However, at least one marshal must remain until all walkers are accounted for or an appropriate official has given permission to close, though after the closing time the checkpoint might be tidied and some equipment removed. Remember that walkers who arrive after the closing time may still want food and a seat while waiting for transport.

The procedure notes should state who can authorise closure of a checkpoint, perhaps the sweeper (see Section 4.5), or a special closing team visiting the checkpoints by car or a message from HQ. A marshal should remain at the checkpoint so long as there remains any chance of a missing walker arriving; this may be until all walkers are accounted for at the next checkpoint, since a lost, injured or tired walker may turn back to retire (see Section 4.4).

When the checkpoint is dismantled, the hall or area should be left in a clean condition with all litter picked up and, for an indoor checkpoint, tables and chairs returned to their original places. It is worth leaving a good impression - the organisers may wish to use the same checkpoint in future years.

Recording walkers

For successful control of an event it is essential that there is an accurate record of the times of arrival of walkers and of retirements at each checkpoint.

Checksheets, with clip-boards, clippers and pens, are usually collected from HQ by checkpoint marshals after the start, though sometimes they are delivered by the organisers. Checksheets should include a full list of walkers in walk number order with spaces for recording times of arrival at the checkpoint and noting retirements. Many queries are resolved using walkers' names, so these should either appear on the checklists or alphabetical-numerical and numerical-alphabetical lists should be provided. Non-starters and entries on the day can be recorded on the checklists before they are issued to all but the very early checkpoints.

Check walkers in immediately on arrival at the checkpoint by noting the time of arrival against their number on the checksheet and clipping or marking their checkcard or tally. It is a good idea for one marshal to clip each walker's checkcard and at the same time read out the walker's number, whilst a second marshal repeats the number in confirmation and enters the time on the checksheet. The walk number should always be read off the checkcard by a marshal - walkers do not always remember their numbers correctly. Particularly for early checkpoints, when there is bunching, the chance of an error is reduced by recording the time and walk number of each walker in the order of arrival on a 'chronological list' of arrivals and transcribing this carefully to the checksheets when time allows. Extreme care should be taken to record arrivals accurately; the majority of 'missing walkers' turn out to have been misrecorded and a single error can waste hours.

An alternative approach used occasionally is to issue to each walker, at the start, wrist bands or tags marked with the walker's number. These are dropped into a bucket on arriving at each checkpoint, giving a positive indication of the walker's progress and enabling checksheets to be compiled.

Retirees should be recorded as such on the checklist, and their checkcard retained and marked. They should be offered transport back to HQ as soon as possible, their numbers notified to HQ and their checkcards returned to HQ in accordance with the procedures (see Section 4.6).

Any walker arriving at the checkpoint early should not be allowed to leave before the official checkpoint opening time. Similarly, anyone not having left by the closing time should be retired and taken back to HQ. Allowing walkers to leave either early or late causes knock-on problems at later checkpoints.

Sometimes it may also be useful to record the departure time of walkers from certain checkpoints, for example at a 'breakfast' or 'baggage' type checkpoint, where many walkers will stop for some time. If a checkpoint is located at the split of two alternative routes the time of departure and route chosen should be recorded. This is essential if the route need not be decided until the split point.

The marshal in charge of the checkpoint must ensure that the set procedures are followed to check that all walkers are accounted for (see Section 4.4). This includes returning the checksheets to HQ as required (as soon as possible after closing or periodically), notifying HQ of retirees and liaising with HQ, other checkpoints, the sweeper and/or checkpoint closer. Retirees should be transported back to walk HQ as soon as possible and certainly should have to wait no more than two hours for transport on even the longest of events.

Feeding walkers

Whilst some events are 'self-supported', with walkers expected to carry enough food and drink to last them for the walk, most events, and almost all those over 25 miles, provide some sort of food at checkpoints. Indeed, walkers are spurred on by the thought of the food they may be offered at the next checkpoint and appreciate varied and imaginative food. An event is often remembered for its food, and some annual events have gained a high culinary reputation.

Whilst some events offer just a few biscuits at each checkpoint, others provide enough to satisfy any reasonable appetite for the duration of the event. Walkers are very varied in their preferences: sweet or savoury, moist or dry, snacks or feasts, so if possible provide some choice of food with at least one option being vegetarian. Walkers often suffer digestion problems later on in an event so food that is not too rich and which 'slips down easily' will be appreciated.

For shorter routes simple food, such as biscuits, slices of cake, chocolate bars or apples, is adequate. For longer walks it should be more varied and substantial: sandwiches (filled with jam, marmalade, marmite, sandwich spread, etc.), soup, rice pudding, tinned fruit, hot dogs, sausage rolls, individual pies, etc. are often served, with a cooked meal available at the finish. For events over 50 miles there is often a 'breakfast' checkpoint (see Section 4.3).

It should be clear to walkers on arriving at a checkpoint what food is on offer. Sandwiches and other food whose content is not immediately obvious should be labelled (otherwise it will be examined by none-too-clean fingers!) There is an art to displaying food. Too little on show and walkers will think that the checkpoint is running short; they will go away grumbling and yet there will be a surplus left at the end. Too much displayed increases the risk of running out as a result of greedy walkers.

Running out of food or drink at a checkpoint is an unforgivable sin, particularly since it is the slower walkers who will suffer. It is useful to have an emergency backup, for example knowledge of a nearby shop where extra supplies can be obtained. If marshals think that food is going to run out they should get a message back to headquarters immediately rather than wait for the disaster to happen.

Walkers get dehydrated very quickly and drinks (at least water or squash) should be available at all checkpoints. It is important that checkpoints have adequate water supplies nearby. Whilst it is possible to fill large water containers and transport them to checkpoints, remember that water is heavy - a full five gallon container weighs 50 lbs.

Cups or mugs are generally readily available at indoor checkpoints, but paper or plastic cups may be needed at outdoor checkpoints. A cup rack will prevent paper cups getting knocked or blown over. Squash should be ready-diluted and ready-poured into cups, or in jugs or bottles for pouring into walkers' own mugs. It is irritating to walkers and stressful to marshals if a queue develops whilst squash is made up. A pot of tea (if offered) should always be ready. This will almost certainly mean having a double burner so there is always boiling water available no matter how bunched walkers are.

If paper cups are provided, plastic sacks should be provided for walkers to put used cups into. Some runners have an unpleasant habit of picking up a drink and continuing, and dropping the cup when empty, so a sack 50-100 yards along the route may help avoid this. If walkers are required to use their own mugs then bowls of water should be provided for washing and rinsing with tea towels for drying.

If checkpoints are far apart or if the weather is warm, serving water at intermediate points, perhaps from water containers in the back of a car at a road crossing, will be welcomed.

General matters relating to food are detailed in Section 4.13.

4.3 Other types of checkpoints

Breakfast checkpoints

Events over 50 miles often have a 'breakfast checkpoint' or 'meal stop' half way or more along the route at which a substantial meal, such as a cooked supper or breakfast, is served Walkers may take some time over their meals, so peak periods can be very busy, requiring substantial seating and slick service (numbered meal tickets may be useful). Considerably more staff than at a normal manned checkpoint are required.

Baggage checkpoints

On some longer events a small bag belonging to each walker (containing a change of clothing, etc.) is transported to a checkpoint roughly half-way along the route (see Section 4.1). This is placed in an area labelled 'Baggage awaiting walkers' sorted roughly by walker number. Walkers arriving at the checkpoint collect their bag and, after use, return it to a separate pile labelled 'Baggage for transport back to HQ'. For a large event, transport of such baggage is a major operation (see Section 4.10). Arrangements must be made for returning baggage of walkers retiring earlier in the walk to HQ and this requires good communications. A baggage checkpoint is often combined with a breakfast checkpoint

Unmanned checkpoints

An unmanned checkpoint is an effective way of ensuring that walkers go over a specific part of the route. This usually consists of an orienteering type clipper for walkers to clip their own checkcards or tallies. A reliable helper familiar with the checkpoint site should set up the clipper shortly before the first walkers pass (too long in advance risks vandalism). For a long event it is a good idea to check it periodically. The walk description should specify the location of the unmanned checkpoint and how the checkcard should be clipped. The clipper should be very obvious, e.g. attached by a string to a gate or stile on the route and highlighted by red tape. Arrangements must be made to remove the checkpoint after the event, perhaps by the sweeper.

An effortless variation on this is for walkers to answer a simple question given them at the start e.g. 'How many bars on the gate?'

Unannounced checkpoints

One way to ensure that walkers do not take short cuts is to have one or two 'clipper' checkpoints at unannounced locations along the route. It should be made clear in the event details or at the start that there will be such checkpoints. Their location must be given careful thought so that they cannot be missed by walkers doing their best to follow the route. It is strongly recommended that there is a marshal at each such checkpoint to ensure that no walker passes without noticing the checkpoint and as a check against vandalism.

Cut-off points

Some events have a 'cut-off' checkpoint, from where there is a shorter route back to the finish for walkers arriving after a certain time or for anyone else who wishes to shorten the walk. A route description or map to give to those taking the shorter alternative should be prepared in advance and the walk numbers of those 'cutting off' should be noted.

4.4 Keeping track of walkers

A major problem confronting organisers is to ensure that no walker becomes seriously lost or missing for any length of time and that any injury receives prompt attention. The worst scenario is for a walker to go off route and then become immobilised by injury. There must be mechanisms in place to detect and react to such incidents as rapidly as is reasonably possible. There is little point in meticulously recording walkers at checkpoints if this information is not used to check for potential problems. Nevertheless, keeping track of several hundred walkers spread over a wide area, perhaps for a period of 24 hours or more, is extremely difficult.

Problems that occur on the route itself are likely to be detected soon by other walkers or by sweepers. Thus, the chance of serious problems will be much reduced if the event is organised to minimise the chance of walkers going off route, for example by requiring entrants to be suitably experienced at navigation, providing a good route description, waymarking, appropriate grouping, etc.

The key to effective tracking of walkers is planning, communication and accuracy. The mechanism for accounting for walkers will depend on the nature and length of the walk and the number of entrants, but it should always be carefully thought through beforehand using hypothetical incidents as test cases. The following components are needed:

  • procedures for recording information accurately, including
    • lists of starters (allowing for entries on day and no-shows)
    • numbers and times of walkers passing through checkpoints
    • retirements at checkpoints and elsewhere
  • procedures for collating information and detecting possible missing walkers
  • action in the event of a walker believed to be missing.

Procedures for recording information accurately

This has been considered under Registration (see Section 4.1) and Recording Walkers (see Section 4.2).

Procedures for detecting missing walkers

Procedures for alerting the organisers to the possibility that a walker might be missing will depend on the nature of the event but must be planned beforehand and notified to all concerned in the procedure notes. On a 20 mile event, all walkers will pass within 3-4 hours, so little will be lost if a full check at each checkpoint is left until the closing time. On the other hand, on a 48 hour 100 mile event, later checkpoints can be open for up to 24 hours, and intermediate checking for missing walkers is necessary.

Three schemes are suggested below: one for a shorter walk, one for a longer walk and one that may be useful for checking a particularly difficult section. Many variations and alternatives are possible, and the procedures adopted will depend on the nature of the walk.

  1. Possible procedure for a shorter walk

    Here the sweeper has responsibility for the basic checking. After the start of the walk HQ carefully compiles a master list of starters. This can be the pre-prepared entrants list with non-starters deleted and entrants on the day added, and double checked against checkcard stubs if used. The sweeper takes a copy of the master list and sets out along the route, keeping behind or with the last group of walkers. On arrival at a checkpoint, the sweeper and marshal in charge of the checkpoint compare the checkpoint checklist and the sweeper's list to ensure that all starters who have not previously retired have either passed through the checkpoint or retired there. The sweeper records new retirements on his/her master list; information on retirements etc. held by the sweeper may also be transferred to the checkpoint list. If any walker is not accounted for, the procedures for a missing walker should be initiated, see below. Having identified and reported possible problems, the sweeper should not wait too long before continuing on the route, aiming to reach each checkpoint at closing time or with the last walkers, to repeat the checking procedure.

  2. Procedure for a longer walk

    For later checkpoints on a longer event where walkers may be spread out over four hours or more, checking for missing walkers should not be left until the checkpoint closing time. A mechanism is needed to detect walkers who are overdue relative to their time of departure from the previous checkpoint.

    One way of achieving this is to return the times and numbers of those passing through each checkpoint periodically to HQ where they are entered on a pre-prepared spreadsheet (either manually or on a computer). The times of walkers leaving checkpoints are regularly scanned and anyone not recorded as having reached the next checkpoint within a reasonable time can be identified. For a large event this is a labour intensive procedure (but it has the advantage of producing the event results at the same time).

    For this to work, each checkpoint must return pages of their checklists, say every hour, either by sending them back with a marshal or by a roving marshal visiting checkpoints in turn to collect the sheets. The checkpoint should retain a copy of their checksheet, or at least their chronological list of arrivals. For events with relatively few entrants, or for team events, it may be possible to relay walkers' numbers and times to HQ by radio, but for larger events the sheer quantity of information makes this almost impossible.

  3. Regular checks between consecutive checkpoints

    This technique is more awkward to administer but is worth considering for prompt detection of a problem on a particularly hazardous section. An update of the walk numbers of those who have passed a checkpoint is sent by a reliable courier to the next checkpoint every hour or so. The walk numbers on this list are crossed off when walkers arrive at the latter checkpoint. Any numbers remaining after a generous amount of time has been allowed for the section indicate that a walker may be in difficulty.

Many other schemes for detecting missing walkers are possible. Matters may be more complicated if, for example, there are alternative start times for runners or if there are several routes with some common checkpoints. The important thing is to plan the procedures carefully beforehand and to ensure that everyone involved is aware what is required of them.

Action if a walker is suspected missing

If a walker appears to be unaccounted for, carry out a quick check for obvious misrecording. In particular, if data has been transcribed, check the original version, and look for any other inconsistencies; for example if walker number 67 is missing, but walker 61 has been recorded twice, it could be someone's bad writing! Identify the name of the missing walker and see if anyone at the checkpoint remembers that person passing through.

If such checks are to no avail, Control or HQ should be informed that a walker may be missing and they must decide what to do, in consultation with checkpoints involved and sweepers. Each case will need to be treated on its own merits and control should keep a written record of developments noting what action is taken and when. Control should check that the walker has not already retired or returned to HQ. They should contact the previous checkpoint to see if the walker was then giving any cause for concern or if the walker was in a group. They should contact the next checkpoint to see if the walker has reached there, and ask to be notified at once if the walker or the walker's group arrives. Enquiry amongst other walkers whose times were close to the missing walker may be helpful. At least one person should remain at a checkpoint location whilst there remains a possibility of a walker still turning up. This could include the checkpoint before the one at which the problem is detected since a walker may decide to turn back to the previous checkpoint.

A decision needs to be made whether and when to mount a search for the missing walker and/or alert the police or mountain rescue. This will depend on the circumstances: a walker missing in a lowland area is not generally as potentially serious as in a mountainous region. Sending a search party back along the route may succeed if a misplaced walker has regained the correct route. It is important that any search party has good communications with HQ. If in doubt, inform the police early on and they will decide when to take action.

Once a missing walker is located, all those concerned should be informed so that further time and effort is not spent unnecessarily.

4.5 Sweepers

Depending on the size and nature of the event one or more sweepers may walk at the rear of the field. There is usually no shortage of volunteers to act as sweepers: the option of a good walk, albeit at a slow speed, is an attractive alternative to shivering at a checkpoint or sweating in a kitchen. Choose your sweepers with care; after the Chief Organiser their role is probably the most responsible on the day.

Sweepers should be experienced long distance walkers, able to appreciate both marshals' and walkers' problems and difficulties. They must be competent with map and compass, with a good knowledge of the route and capable both of covering the distance and carrying out their duties. The sweeper team may include a radio operator or carry a mobile telephone (though be wary of 'dead spots') to enable rapid contact with HQ and checkpoints.

A main duty of sweepers is to help ensure that all walkers are accounted for. Their exact role will depend on the procedures laid down, but they should be briefed with comprehensive written procedures and should be given authority to make on-the-spot decisions, including that marshals remain at a checkpoint until a problem is resolved. Normally, sweepers carry a list of non-starters and an ongoing list of walkers who have retired at each checkpoint. On reaching a checkpoint a sweeper should follow the checking procedures (see Section 4.4). In doing so, the sweeper must be firm enough to insist that the checking is done fully, no matter how cold and tired the marshals might be, and must be diplomatic when a marshal insists that he or she could not possibly have made a mistake. The sweeper must insist on carrying out the missing walker procedures as long as there is a possibility that someone is missing. On some events the sweeper has the authority to close the checkpoints (see Section 4.2).

Sweepers aim to walk with or behind the last batch of walkers. Care is needed not to overtake walkers inadvertently (it is not unknown for walkers to drop into a wayside pub!), though obviously anyone going off the route may fall behind the sweeper. The sweeper should provide encouragement to the last walkers but be firm enough to insist on retirement for those who are obviously going to be out of time or who are suffering unduly.

Sweepers have several other important duties. They should ensure that all gates on the route are secured and remove any event signs, waymarking and perhaps unmanned checkpoint clippers. They should pick up any litter and note any damage which could possibly be attributed to participants.

4.6 Retirements

On a 20 mile event in fine weather there will be few, if any, retirements. For an overnight walk in bad conditions as many as half of those starting might retire.

The rules or event details must describe the procedure for retirement. An essential rule is that any walker retiring must get word to the organisers, otherwise unnecessary and time consuming searches may be initiated, perhaps with police or mountain rescue involvement. Normally, walkers should retire at a checkpoint by informing a marshal and handing in their checkcard or tally. If, in exceptional circumstances, a walker is unable to reach a checkpoint, they should give another walker their checkcard to be handed in at the next checkpoint, with an account of the circumstances and whether assistance is required. Alternatively they should telephone the emergency telephone number, which should be printed on the route description and/or checkcard.

Unless the event rules specifically say that those retiring must make their own arrangements, anyone who is unable to complete the walk must be offered transport back to the finish or other convenient place. In any case, some form of transport should be available to cater for emergencies. The logistics of ensuring that retirees do not have to wait an undue time for transport can be complicated and require careful planning. For shorter walks, marshals' cars may be adequate, either with enough checkpoint marshals available to make the odd trip back to HQ or a roving marshal visiting checkpoints periodically. For larger events several minibuses may be needed (see Section 4.10).

Exhausted walkers who retire can get cold very quickly, and, especially on longer walks, checkpoints should have blankets or sleeping bags available. Sometimes walkers arrive at a checkpoint in no fit state to continue the walk, for example in obvious distress or shivering violently. Such walkers will usually be more than willing to retire, though some may require diplomatic persuasion (the suggestion that a hot shower or bed is a few minutes drive away usually works!). Very occasionally they may refuse to retire (which in itself may be a sign of a serious condition such as hypothermia) and marshals may need to enforce retirement. If there is mild unease about the fitness of a walker, he or she might be permitted to continue conditional on staying with a specific group of walkers.

Retirements at checkpoints should be recorded on the checklist following the procedures laid down. If a retirement is for exceptional reasons, for example because of a significant injury or an enforced retirement against a walker's will, the circumstances should be written down, including times, names of others involved or witnesses and the action taken.

4.7 Grouping

In mountainous or moorland areas, at night or in bad weather conditions, it may be appropriate for safety reasons to require walkers to travel in groups, usually of at least three, on certain sections of the walk. Conditions for grouping should be specified in the event rules - enforcing grouping unexpectedly will lead to bad feeling. For events for experienced walkers, the organisers often reserve the right to group walkers at night but only enforce grouping in bad conditions, across open country or for walkers who are causing concern. If relatively inexperienced walkers are taking part, grouping overnight or on parts of the route requiring compass work should be mandatory.

If grouping is a possibility, grouping arrangements, including the minimum size of groups, should be specified in the checkpoint procedures. Grouping can be difficult to administer but should be applied fairly. One method is to give checkpoints at which grouping might be enforced a supply of grouping cards. These need only be simple cards with a pre-printed group number and space to enter the individual walk numbers of those in the group. One member of the group should carry the grouping card and present it at each checkpoint until the grouping requirement is lifted. Breaking of groups between checkpoints without good reason should not be permitted. Waiting time spent by walkers when groups are first formed should be recorded at the checkpoint so the final walk time can be adjusted accordingly - this provides some compensation to a frustrated walker keen to complete the walk within a particular time.

4.8 Breaking rules and disqualification

A small number of walkers may try to take short cuts or skimp on equipment, and others will then complain vociferously about cheats. Thus, it is worthwhile to design the event to minimise the temptation to break the rules, for example by selecting reasonably direct routes between checkpoints. Judiciously placed unmanned checkpoints at which walkers must clip their checkcards can eliminate obvious short cuts, as can informing walkers that there will be 'unannounced' checkpoints or spot kit checks en route. However, any such precautions should not make the walk oppressive for the majority.

Possible grounds for disqualification or other sanctions include the following:

  • wilful deviation from a set route (there should be no doubt that the deviation was intended - getting lost inadvertently should not be punished).
  • failure to produce a required item of equipment at a kit check.
  • acceptance of mechanical assistance (this can be difficult to prove).
  • bringing the event into disrepute, for example by flagrant disregard for safety or breaches of the Country Code.
  • impersonation of a no-show entrant on an over-subscribed event (it does happen!)

Disqualifying walkers for breaking rules should not be done lightly - it will lead to bad feeling and can waste an enormous amount of volunteers' time in an unpleasant way. Disqualification should only take place for serious breaches of the rules for which there is incontrovertible evidence. It must be seen to be fair and may have to be justified in case of appeal. At least two marshals should be involved in recommending any disqualification. They should mark the walker's checkcard in a way that will be recognised at subsequent checkpoints and submit a written report of the circumstances to the Chief Organiser. A disqualified walker must be informed that if he or she goes on to complete the route (as is very likely) it will be entirely on the walker's own responsibility and completion will not qualify for a certificate or badge. Sometimes communication difficulties and tiredness of those concerned may make disqualification on the spot impossible, in which case the walker should be told that disqualification is likely and receive written confirmation, with full reasons, no more than a week after the event. In all cases, the walker's own version of the incident must be heard before any irrevocable action is taken.

A lesser sanction than disqualification is sometimes appropriate, for example adding a time penalty to a walker's overall event time so they appear lower down the list of finishers. This can be effective since it is usually those intent on completing the route in a fast time who are tempted to take short cuts or cut down on essential kit.

Organisers and marshals should be aware that anyone disqualified on a walk organised by the LDWA, by one of its local groups or by an affiliated organisation, can appeal against the disqualification through the LDWA's grievance procedures, details of which may be obtained from the LDWA General Secretary.

The names of disqualified walkers should not appear in the event results or report. Organisers may wish to comment on any disqualifications that have been imposed, but the individuals concerned should not be identified.

Enforced retirement of a walker who is judged by marshals to be in no fit condition to continue or who has failed to meet a checkpoint closing time is not a disqualification. Such cases should be recorded in the results in the same way as 'voluntary' retirements and there should be no stigma attached.

4.9 Communications

Information relating to the event will frequently need to be passed between walk HQ, checkpoints, sweepers, minibus drivers, etc. Such information includes

  • emergencies, panics and other important messages
  • control requirements
  • liaison concerning missing walkers
  • confirmation of opening and closing of checkpoints
  • reporting the walk numbers of non-starters and retirees
  • keeping track of and directing transport vehicles
  • requests for additional supplies or equipment or reporting surplus supplies
  • relaying the numbers and times of, say, the first and last ten walkers through each checkpoint (very helpful in monitoring the progress of the event)

Effective communications are a tremendous asset. However, unreliable or undisciplined communications can be a liability: lives may be lost if a message believed to have been sent fails to reach its destination. Plan carefully how and where to provide communication links, what they will be used for and the procedure for their use. Tests should be made to check the feasibility of links and, for a large event, a practice run of the communications network is essential. Some combination of radio or telephone and cars or riders will be needed for passing oral and written information. On longer events some mechanism will be required to get lists of those passing through checkpoints back to HQ periodically.

All checkpoints must be able to summon the emergency services (ambulance, mountain rescue or police) rapidly, using a 999 call (see Section 4.11). Thus a reliable mobile telephone or nearby public telephone is required, or a message might be relayed via HQ using radio (this can be awkward if the emergency services need to check any details).

There should also be some means for checkpoints and walkers to telephone an emergency message to HQ, usually at an emergency number printed on route descriptions and/or checkcards. If HQ does not have a telephone, the caretaker or a neighbour who is available throughout the event may be willing to pass on urgent messages.

For routine communication on small events it may be enough to have cars or riders operating a shuttle service between open checkpoints and HQ, visiting checkpoints each hour, say. Nevertheless, it is useful for checkpoints to be able to telephone HQ and vice-versa for routine matters. If there is no telephone at a checkpoint, a possibility, far from ideal, is to use nearby public telephones.

Mobile telephones are an obvious communications possibility. However, there are several potential problems with their use for events, not least that they can be expensive to use. Coverage is still patchy and unreliable in many rural or hilly areas and must be checked thoroughly beforehand. Problems often result from mobile phones running out of power and requiring unacceptably long recharging times. They are easily left switched off unintentionally or moved from their intended location.

Any telephones that might be needed, public, private or mobile, should be checked a few days before the event. The procedure notes should include the numbers of any telephones that might be used.

For larger events where an almost continuous flow of information is needed, radio communication is often used between HQ and some or all checkpoints, and this can be extremely effective if well planned. Radio has the advantage of being able to relay information or queries to several locations in a single transmission, for example for broadcasting to all checkpoints lists of non-starters early on and details of retirements periodically throughout the event. (Do not be too ambitious, however; sending complete lists of those passing through checkpoints is time consuming and can lead to congestion of the network.)

Radio communication must be provided by licensed operators and there are several possibilities. RAYNET (The Radio Amateurs Emergency Network) have proved useful and enthusiastic on a number of long events; for details of local branches contact the Radio Society of Great Britain (see Appendix H). Alternatively, Scout Troops, Mountain Rescue Teams or Territorial Army Groups might be approached. Whichever is chosen will need to be contacted well in advance and detailed operational arrangements discussed. Costs should be discussed early on, with expenses likely to include travel for radio operators, petrol for generators, etc. Of course, food will have to be provided for the radio operators.

Radio communication may prove difficult in hilly country, requiring relay stations, and a full test of the network prior to the event is essential. The radio may have to be located some distance from the checkpoint depending on power supplies and aerial positions, in which case a marshal will be needed to provide a link. The landowner's permission should be sought to set up a radio station or relay station.

The operation and use of the radio communications links must be worked out between event organisers and radio operators prior to the event. Radio operators will not usually be familiar with events and working relationships between radio operators and marshals must be developed. Radio teams must realise that they are not responsible for the control of the event and that messages passed by radio will be used alongside other information. A radio operator can only send messages he or she is asked to send, and a nominated individual at HQ and at each checkpoint should be responsible for liaison with the operator. To avoid error, messages to be sent should be written down and handed to the operator, who similarly will write down messages that are received over the radio.

Cars or dispatch riders are useful for conveying hard copy or more complicated written information, in particular for sending to HQ periodic updates of walkers passing through checkpoints. Some events have used dispatch riders very effectively to back up other forms of communication. Reputable motorcycle clubs may be keen to help as dispatch riders in return for their expenses and a small donation; such club members are normally responsible and reliable.

4.10 Transport

The main functions requiring transport are:

  • transport of equipment and provisions to and from checkpoints
  • transport of retirees back to HQ
  • (on a longer walk) transport of walkers' baggage to and from a baggage checkpoint

Transport of retirees is awkward to plan for since the retirement pattern is unpredictable. In bad conditions it is very important to transport retirees back to HQ rapidly, but this is just when most retirements are likely. Particularly for large events, an expected 'retirement profile' should be drawn up to estimate when, where and how many retirements might be expected . The pattern becomes clear for regular events, but for new walks organisers of comparable events can provide advice. For long events the greatest number of retirements takes place at dusk and at the main 'half-way' checkpoint. Make transport plans for three weather scenarios (good, bad and hot) taking into account numbers and travelling times in each case.

For smaller events, where relatively few retirements are likely, marshals' cars will probably fulfil the needs. Either each checkpoint should have spare staff who can drive retirees back to HQ as necessary, or special marshals can run a shuttle service between operational checkpoints and HQ.

For large scale events minibuses will be needed (for 48 hour events with 500 walkers 3 minibuses are usually used). Insurance for hired minibuses requires named drivers over 25 years of age allocated to them. For longer events at least two drivers per minibus will be required and they should relieve each other regularly. Hiring minibuses locally can be more economical and makes last minute changes in requirements or drivers easier.

The Transport Organiser should keep a record of departures and arrivals of minibuses at checkpoints and at HQ, identifying each minibus by a number or 'colour'. Control must know where the minibuses are at any time, and a map of the event area with coloured pins to mark minibuses and with travelling times marked is very useful. Given the unpredictability of retirements, good communications are needed to make the best use of minibuses. It is ineffective and costly to have minibuses visiting checkpoints on the off chance that they may be needed. The itineraries of the vehicles need careful planning and will depend on actual retirement patterns and the physical road layout; if necessary journeys may need to be modified at short notice. Depending on the geography of the area, it may be best to have one vehicle out on a short shuttle getting retirements to a central place of shelter, for example the 'half-way' point, where they can wait in relative comfort for further transport back to HQ. Alternatively, it may be worth basing a minibus at a distant point of the route for part of the event to reduce delay. To repeat, good communication is crucial, and radios or mobile phones can be of tremendous help in reporting transport requirements and keeping track of vehicles.

Drivers should ideally be familiar with the roads to be used, but in any case written details and maps of how to get to checkpoints should be provided. Turning minibuses round at checkpoints is not always easy, and turning areas should be identified. Warn drivers of any parts of their routes that coincide with the event route (for example approaches to checkpoints), particularly if there is no pavement or if walkers will be passing after dark.

Checkpoint food and equipment can be heavy and bulky. Whilst checkpoint marshals will often be able to transport equipment and food to their checkpoint in their own cars, the organisers should ensure that this is indeed the case. On some events the organisers arrange 'deliveries' to every checkpoint.

If there is a baggage checkpoint then a large van or several minibus loads will be needed early in the event to take all the baggage over. Returning baggage to HQ after it has been used is less of a problem since it can be conveyed in small batches as and when it is finished with, perhaps with retirees. However, the routine must be sufficiently flexible to enable baggage to be returned rapidly for walkers retiring before or shortly after the baggage checkpoint.

Identify suitable filling stations beforehand: overnight events will need stations open 24 hours for refuelling. It may be possible to negotiate with a garage a method of payment for petrol that avoids the inconvenience of drivers carrying cash or using personal credit cards.

4.11 Emergencies and first aid

Medical emergencies

Few serious injuries have occurred on challenge walks, though occasionally an emergency not directly attributable to the event, such as a heart attack or an epileptic fit, may occur. Clearly, it is not possible to have immediate professional medical help available everywhere along a cross-country route. Nevertheless, walkers on an event can expect emergency support to be at least as good as it would be if they were walking the same paths on their own. In fact, by the very nature of an event, this will generally be the case since there are usually other walkers nearby who can summon assistance.

Organisers must ensure that marshals can react quickly to any serious emergency. In particular, checkpoints, and other key helpers such as sweepers, must have the means and the knowledge to summon the emergency services rapidly. A 999 call contacts the ambulance and mountain rescue services; they will want to know the exact location, including grid references, of both the incident and from where the phone call is made, as well as the nature and seriousness of the emergency.

If an injury or other illness occurs on an event, there should normally be enough walkers around to follow good hill-walking practice, with one or more staying with the casualty (and possibly giving first aid, see below) whilst others summon help. Often, a checkpoint is the easiest place to seek help. If the casualty is able to walk to an access point slowly or with assistance (the casualty is usually the best judge of this) a vehicle should be dispatched to the access point and marshals sent to meet the casualty to provide extra support. Otherwise, the emergency services should be contacted by a 999 call and the informant should remain at hand in case further information is needed. If in any doubt at all contact the emergency services.

Keep a written record of any serious injury or medical emergency, including times, symptoms, actions taken, etc. Inform the Chief Organiser of the incident as soon as possible. He or she will need to discuss with the hospital or police how to contact next of kin. Helpers should avoid discussing incidents with those not directly involved and in particular should not admit or attribute responsibility.

The LDWA monitors accidents and other emergencies that occur on events. Organisers should complete details in the Accident Report Book, a copy of which has been supplied to all groups.

First aid

First aid is the immediate assistance given to someone injured or taken ill, before the arrival of an ambulance, doctor or other expert help.

Whilst most people can give some form of useful first aid, those who have undergone first aid training are much more likely to be able to provide effective help in a serious situation. In any circumstances, it is a matter of chance whether a first aider is to hand when an injury occurs, though legislation now requires adequate provision in the workplace and at large gatherings, such as football matches, where one qualified first aider is required for each 1,000 spectators. Clearly, it is impossible to provide first aiders everywhere along the route of an event, but it is recommended that qualified first aiders are at the finish and, for a long event, at one or two checkpoints, in particular at checkpoints near rugged terrain. Helpers should be aware of the names and locations of first aiders. Increasingly many people have a basic first aid qualification, especially those who work with youngsters, and it is worth establishing which helpers are so qualified.

The Red Cross, St John Ambulance or St Andrew's Ambulance Association often assist at events by providing teams of first aiders and the addresses of local associations are given in the telephone directory. Their services should be booked in writing, and requirements, duty times and likely costs discussed well in advance. Although these services are voluntary, expenses must be covered and a donation should be made to reflect the size and scale of the event and whether an ambulance is used. They will advise on their needs of space and equipment such as bedding and blankets.

In an emergency there may well be other walkers around who have medical or first aid qualifications. (One walking group noticed that they could offer a choice of two doctors, a nurse, a midwife and a vet!) Those who help on walks regularly, or indeed take part in walks, are strongly encouraged to take one of the first aid courses run regularly in all areas by the Red Cross, St John Ambulance or St Andrew's Ambulance Association or by certain outdoor training organisations. The basic qualification involves 16 hours training, usually through weekly evening classes or an intensive two day course.

Walk officials who are not qualified should be very cautious in administering first aid. Assistance which aggravates an injury or condition could lead to disastrous consequences for the injured person, with the possibility of a substantial liability claim. If in any doubt, do the minimum to ensure that things get no worse (such as keeping the casualty warm or stopping serious bleeding) until the emergency services arrive. Talk reassuringly to a casualty even if no response is apparent. Tablets or lotions should not be offered since they might result in a serious allergic reaction. Surgical gloves should be worn when handling any injury involving bleeding.

For an injury which is clearly of limited extent but which requires non-immediate expert attention, it may be appropriate to drive the casualty to the nearest hospital casualty department.

First aid boxes may be provided at checkpoints for use by first aiders and others. These should be put together in consultation with a medically qualified person, but might include a variety of bandages, dressings, etc.

Minor problems

Blisters, sore feet and aching limbs are commonplace amongst walkers. First aiders may be able to provide relief, though that is not their primary role. The event details should advise walkers to carry a small first aid kit to cope with any normal personal requirements, including plasters and any tablets or lotions that might be needed, and this should be obligatory on longer walks.

Remember that equipment also sometimes needs 'first aid'. Checkpoints and walkers will find string and safety pins useful for quick repairs to all manner of things from broken laces to rucksack straps!

4.12 Dealing with complaints

Occasionally a landowner or member of the public complains during or after an event; typically a complaint is made to a marshal at a checkpoint near where the problem arises. It may be possible to rectify the problem, for example by re-routing later walkers. It is important that the Chief Organiser is informed of any complaint as soon as possible, and it is a good idea for the Chief Organiser to visit the complainant immediately to discuss the problem. Often the fact that the organisers are taking a problem seriously and are prepared to listen will go a long way to placating those involved. Above all, any complaint should be heard politely and patiently. If there has been any damage, it should be verified and perhaps photographed and the Organiser and complainant should exchange addresses. If particular walkers are associated with the complaint, an attempt should be made to identify them (though in practice this can be difficult) so that their account can be heard later.

If compensation is demanded, or considered appropriate in the interests of goodwill, the committee should consider this at a meeting after the event. The contingency allowance in the budget would be expected to cover a small sum, but if more substantial compensation is involved it may be necessary to utilise the liability insurance.

4.13 Food matters

This section concerns food provision in general and augments the more specific comments on food at walk HQ and at checkpoints in Sections 4.1 and 4.2.

Food that is sold (directly or through the entry fee) is affected by legislation, in particular the Food Safety Act 1990 and subsequent amendments. This Act requires that premises (such as schools, village halls, etc.) where food is served regularly (basically on any five days in any five consecutive weeks) must be registered with the local authority. An exception is that places run by voluntary organisations, such as some church halls, where no food is stored on the premises (except tea, coffee, biscuits and similar dry products) need not register. Regulations about preparation, storage temperatures of food etc. apply to food served on registered premises. Such premises may be inspected at any time by environmental food officers who can, in principle, halt service of food immediately. The responsibility for Food Act registration is with the owner of the premises, and a one-off event is not in itself likely to make registration necessary. However event organisers are advised to establish before booking checkpoints or an HQ whether they are registered and what consequent restrictions are imposed. For more details see the booklet 'The Food Safety Act 1990 and You' (see Appendix I).

The Food Act does not apply directly to food served in tents, barns, etc. though the Food Hygiene Regulations 1966 (Markets, Stalls and Delivery Vehicles) may be applicable. The obvious hygiene precautions should be followed. Those involved in handling food should wash their hands regularly, with separate hot water washing facilities for cutlery, utensils, tin openers, etc. Food should be kept covered and (where appropriate) cool before serving. There is a four hour rule applicable to meat and protein products and hot food, which must be consumed within four hours of removal after refrigeration or cooking. The local environmental health officer can provide helpful advice on matters of hygiene. Walking events have been described as 'low risk' from this point of view.

Both the purchasing and distribution of event food requires careful pre-planning. (A large event may require several tons of food costing several thousand pounds to be distributed to up to 20 locations.) It is recommended that the organisers buy the food centrally and distribute it between the checkpoints, although it is possible to allocate individual budgets to checkpoints for purchasing their own food. Consider buying food locally. This is good for public relations, can reduce the haulage required, and shops may be willing to deliver to walk HQ on the day of the event.

An area at walk HQ should be designated a food store, with a clearly labelled pile for each checkpoint. Sandwiches, etc. can either be made up at HQ or at checkpoints by the marshals (the latter may be awkward at outdoor checkpoints in bad weather!). Many events give extra food to earlier checkpoints and transport what is left over to augment supplies at later checkpoints.

It is difficult to estimate the quantities of food for each checkpoint and HQ since the amount consumed will depend on weather conditions, the comfort of the checkpoints, etc. One approach is to estimate what an average walker is likely to eat and multiply this by the number of walkers expected to reach the checkpoint, adding a bit more to allow for the helpers' requirements.

Useful facts such as how much jam and margarine is needed for 100 rounds of sandwiches can be ascertained from small scale experiment or by consulting organisers of comparable events. It may be helpful to draw up a grid with checkpoints down the side and different food items along the top. The column totals will give the total requirements of each item (jam, rice pudding, etc.) and the row totals give the packing lists for each checkpoint. For an annual event, keep a record of the food provided at each checkpoint and what is left over, to help ordering in future years.

Remember to allow enough food for marshals, radio operators, first aiders, etc. If a meal is provided at the finish for walkers, then helpers will expect a similar meal.

Walk details must indicate the level of food provision at checkpoints and HQ to enable participants to complement it with their own supplies if necessary. The word 'refreshments' should not be used if only drinks are provided. Walkers should be reminded to carry emergency rations, and in remote areas this should be enforced by a rule.

4.14 Supporters

Inevitably some supporters, that is friends or families of entrants, will accompany walkers to the HQ and wish to meet walkers at points en route. Supporters should not carry walkers' equipment and the rules may state that no support other than that provided by the event is allowed, in which case they should not provide additional food or drink. On larger events it is worthwhile suggesting suitable points en route for supporters to greet walkers, otherwise they may block narrow roads or occupy parking places needed by checkpoint marshals. Usually road crossings away from checkpoints are best. A list of suggested meeting points can be displayed at HQ or circulated with the event details.

Although supporters can be a nuisance, they can add to the sense of occasion of an event and can be very useful if help is suddenly needed, for example as a courier to take something to a checkpoint at a moment's notice. Thus organisers should give supporters some consideration, by allowing them into HQ if there is space and perhaps by providing them with a cup of tea at a slack period.

This website uses cookies

To comply with EU Directives we are informing you that our website uses cookies for services such as memberships and Google Analytics.

Your data is completely safe and we do not record any personally identifiable information.

Please click the button to acknowledge and approve our use of cookies during your visit.

Learn more about the Cookie Law