As it is, it has taken me a year to get around to running a long fell race in grim conditions to properly get a bee in my bonnet again, and chatting to other racers, its an issue which gets on their goat as well, but no-one really seems to do much about it except moan quietly at races while pinning numbers on.
If you are a fell racer, then I am sure that you are aware of the new safety rules that were implemented last year. The one I have most issue with is the number on chest rule - that is, your race number should absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt be worn on your chest. No exceptions. And if you do not, well, various things have been mentioned, up to and including being banned from races.
The reason for having race numbers on your chest is an intelligent one when you wear your vest, and the race is in good (benign) conditions, and the guys at the checkpoints need to know where to look for your number as you zoom past at a rate of knots.
Numbers on shorts in this case can be a little troublesome as the marshals aren't so good at reading numbers on legs that are moving fast - especially if the number could be on a right leg, or a left leg.
So far, so un-controversial.
However, when running a race like the Trigger, where bad/cold weather is likely, or indeed last years Long Mynd, or Sedburgh - where I was wearing a waterproof AND big mitts, (yes, I know, I'm southern), the whole "race number on vest, or you don't run" thing was a bit of a bugger.
Let me illustrate with a photo.
Here is a photo of me, ascending toward Black hill trig during the Trigger a couple of days ago. What number am I?
No, thats right. You can't see. The Pennine runner over my left shoulder (Dave Soles, if you're interested), has his number on his chest as well, and because he is a hard nut, he isn't wearing a waterproof.
I had my waterproof on for the duration of the race, and just about managed to not go hypothermic.
However, when I got to a checkpoint - at the top of Black Hill - nice and exposed, with a vicious wind whipping along, ditto for Higher Shelf trig, and again for the Checkpoints on Kinder, I had to take off my mitts, fumble around with the zip on my jacket, realise it wasn't going to work, hoik my jacket up from under the waistbelt of my bumbag, get cold hands and torso while slowing down enough for the marshals to read my number before having to try and get clothes back to where they were.
So the times when I was closest to getting colder than I needed to were on the most exposed parts of the course, where I had to prove who I was.
Now. Let me illustrate this point with another photo.
This was the Old County Tops 2013. It was pretty damn grim all day. Al and I (in the centre) kept our waterproofs on all day. I challenge you - as a marshal, to tell me what number Al is in the Blue top, and what number Julien is (in the red top- on the left).
Hang on a sec. Another pic.
Had I had my number on my shorts... you'll never guess what, you could probably quite easily tell what number I was.
And a final picture for your delectation and delight:
Its because the number is clearly displayed on my chest.
Hang on, no its not. Its because Al has it pinned to his shorts.
For goodness sake.
FRA people. I know you have your reasons for having a
Numbers on chests might be fine and dandy when the race is short and in nice weather. Its fine when you are a UKA runner and are running around a track, with cover just a short trot away from anywhere on the course. Its fine on a 10k, or a marathon, and its fine when we don't have to faff around exposing ourselves on the top of hills.
However, when the weather is grotty, and hey, we live in the UK and the races we run are fairly often not run in the nicest of conditions, we're probably going to be wearing windproofs or waterproof - and the reason for that is so that we cover ourselves so that we don't get wet or cold. Just like Mr Winterburn suggests in his fantastic Hypothermia article. (and while you're at it, tell me how many of the people on the photo you can identify by race number.... yup - only one of them... and I think I've hammered home the point enough here....)
So stop forcing us to remove that outer layer of protection when we are MOST likely to need it, and let us wear our race numbers on our shorts. Heck, even specify that it has to be on the RIGHT leg or something so that the marshals at least know which side they might have to stand on, but don't make us any colder/wetter/hypothermic than we have to be.