The International Skyrunning Federation’s Response to the Speedgoat 50k Ruling

International Skyrunning FederationInternational Skyrunning Federation president Marino Giacometti has just issued the following statement in response to events that transpired at this year’s Speedgoat 50k. The statement includes input from the newly formed Skyrunning athletes committee and largely affirms Karl Meltzer’s race day decision not to disqualify Kilian Jornet for not cutting switchbacks as the rule was not written, but to make him ineligible the course record. In addition, the ISF issued a 3-minute penalty to Kilian per its rule on the subject.

[You can find much more information regarding the race in our Speedgoat 50k results article.]

Official International Skyrunning Federation Statement Regarding the 2012 Speedgoat 50k

“It’s taken a while for us to get all the feedback together but here goes:

The ISF board  conferred with the new Athletes Commission, ATRA and the organiser, Karl Meltzer and we came to the following decision:

Everyone concurs that runners must stay on the course.  However, as things stand, only guidelines exist in America. In this case there was no written regulation at Speedgoat – something Karl says he will include in the future.

On Kilian’s own admission he cut the course and ran by skyrunning rules. It seems that possibly some of the other runners did the same.

As a race on the World Series calendar, ISF rules state that organisers’ rules must be adhered to and in the case of a dispute ISF rules will prevail.

We respect the organiser’s difficult decision and will apply a 3 minute penalty* to Kilian which means he maintains first place in the race and consequently 100 points for the UltraSeries ranking. *Penalty (6.15 COMPETITOR’S RACE CONDUCT – a) Competitors must follow the course markings on sight, go through all the checkpoints…..) and (6.16.1 A penalty from three minutes to disqualification will be applied for: c) Not following the race course signage, voluntarily or otherwise…

We believe that it’s correct to assign the record to the second runner (Rickey) who ran the designated course. Whether Kilian gets the prize or not is exclusively up to the organiser and we already know that decision.

I’d like to add that the majority of skyrunning races worldwide (not just in Europe) take place in parks or protected areas and generally are capped for this reason – as well as for safety reasons of course.  (The ISF rules (4.22)  and (3.13) address  these environmental issues).

Regarding the Pikes Peak precedent in 2004, the situation was different. The rules there state clearly no switchback cutting. The winner, Agustì Roc, was disqualified and given a 20 minute penalty which meant he dropped some places and received the relevant points for his final position.

Everyone we consulted agreed that there’s a need in the future for race organizers to publish clear, simple and written regulations and, with the new Athletes Commission, we’ll be reviewing ours as well!! A pre-race briefing should also be held to illustrate the regulations and the course to all the competitors. We’re actually working on standardizing this for all organizers, so it should be easier for everyone all round. Certainly, it’s not easy to find a compromise but “rules are rules” and, as Anna Frost says “let’s keep it simple”!

– Marino

There are 46 comments

  1. David T

    The 3 min penalty might be perfectly appropriate however I'm interested knowing what factors were considered in assessing it. Was it that they felt like he had gained a 3 min advantage by cutting? Did they know how much he cut? Was this instance compared to past instances? Did they go with the minimum because the no cutting rule was not included in the race rules? As it stand the penalty seems arbitrary.

  2. Ron

    Admitting that there are ecological, administrative, and safety reasons against cross-cutting switchbacks, why doesn't the ISF just bite the bullet and outright ban such behavior worldwide? Run the course on the designated trail, as marked. Period. It seems silly, at least to those of us in the US, for race director's to have to specifically enumerate improper behavior, especially intuitive directions like "stay on the d*mn course." Karl, next year don't forget to explicitly outlaw pogo shoes, hang gliders, and rappelling rope.

  3. Happy Tails

    Great! Case Closed! We can move on now. If you still have a gripe with this you need to allocate any energies obtained from anger and disgust towards your running rather than the message boards. Lets set a positive vibe like the one the sport was designed on.

  4. Martin

    Man, those lawyers are definitely into trail running;)

    And actually, I find it incredibly amusing, that under Skyrunning rules, if you get lost on the course, you will be punished by at least a three minute penalty.

  5. Graham

    Interesting that in the ISF response it states the following…

    "It seems that possibly some of the other runners did the same."

    The focus is on Kilian as he is the one who got caught cutting switchbacks and a lot of attention was drawn to him by the stewards as a result. How many others were missed cutting switchbacks whilst the focus was on Kilian?

    Anyway, probably time to put this one to bed and move on.

  6. Bartman

    Karl obviously kept a cool head, consulted for input from others and then made the right decision, as now confirmed. The kind of guy you want on your team when the do-do hits the rotary oscillator; as it does occasionally in life.

  7. Erwan Japon

    The 3 min is not purely arbitrary. It is the minimum penalty a runner can receive in the ISF rules.

    Here, since the cutting switchbacks rule was not a written rule but a guideline standard in place in the US, they have considered that a penalty must be applied, but could only be the minimum one. They are not trying to compensate for the time gain Kilian might have received in cutting those switchbacks.

    It would have be a written rule, of course the penalty would have been different (i.e. DQ).

  8. Trail Clown

    What I can't fathom is how Killian doesn't know the rules already, especially after running Western States and also running casually with elites in Boulder, etc. It just seems fishy to me, and yes, Karl is as cool as they come, but his decision seems fishy too. I am a lover of the sport, pretty much an irunFar groupie, and a lover of running my own races too, and I'm sorry if people think I'm a jerk, but the whole decision was just wrong, plain wrong. DQ all the way. And I agree all SkyRunning races should make 'em stay on the trail. I say that even though I love bombing down (illegally) mountains off the beaten path. I guess I've messed up my own karma or something…

  9. Trail Clown

    And I know people are going to say, "well WS isn't Skyrunning, so he didn't know the rules"…but what I'm referring to is the jovial banter that must go on at the front during races and on America-based training runs, and even with Americans running beside him in Europe (Dakota?)….didn't any of them joke with him about course cutting. And with Karl making such a big stink about switchback cutting at Mont Blanc a few years back, I just can't believe that now he is a softy about it. It just seems fishy…

  10. Josh White

    I suspect that the presumption is that if you get lost, you will return to the spot where you lost the course and continue, therefore not cutting any of the course.

  11. mtnrunner2

    Gee, I look forward to the Olympic 400 meters, where we'll apparently get to see runners cutting across the infield to the finish line. ??

    Seriously people. Run the actual course or stay home. If not, you are cheating, and I don't care how they do it in the Old World.

      1. Bryon Powell

        Hey Anonymous,
        As a number of factors suggest you are a regular commenter on iRunFar, I'd encourage you to publish with a (consistent) name even if it's a pseudonym. It'd make following conversions (multiple anonymous commenters) easier and make your presence on iRunFar more tangible.

        Thanks for your consideration,

        Ps. Nothing wrong here… I'll be generally encouraging this going forward.

  12. Bill Ahlers

    I think it was the most diplomatic thing they could do under the circumstances. Its ashame it has to come to more rules though. This will be talked about for awhile because it IS a pretty big deal now that ultras are starting to get large cash purses. The more competitive it becomes the more rules needed. Nobody in the middle or the back would get DQ'd if they cut switchbacks. Its an ethical thing though. Would I be pissed if joe runner beat me because he cut? Maybe but we'd both know too. Regardless, in the US we stay in trails so we can enjoy future races thanks in part to the Forest Service and our self policing i.e. leave no trace.

    1. Dave Klein

      If you were in the middle of the pack at Wasatch and you cut the trail you would have to go back and retrace the course or you would be DQ'd and probably not invited back. been there, done that.

  13. Peter Andersson

    Let me give you some Scandinavian input on the enviro aspect, as you might know we're really big on that over here and percentwise of our total wildlife landmass we probably have more protected areas than any other part of the world. In short: nature will find a way – it's not as fragile as city folks think. We have this sport here called orienteering where running off track basically IS the thing. My town hosted the "O-Ringen" three years ago, it's a five days gathering of 15000 runners. Just imagine what 75000 starts and runs within an approx 10 x 10 km big area did to the local fauna! It wasn't a pretty sight in the days afterwards. Then again, if you go there now everything looks exactly like it did before the competition, total recovery!

  14. Jess

    The environmental take on this is interesting. I largely agree with it except I also see the hypocrisy of piling on KJ. In the video I saw KJ is seen cutting some switchbacks but this is done over rocks. Perhaps some very minor enviro impact but not much. Also in the video we see the route go over tundra with no trail. Runner after runner following the exact same route over pristine tundra with no trail. Essentially pounding out a trail where no such trail existed before. Talk about enrivo impact! You want to be upset be upset about that!

    At least in an open course race the runners would be spread out taking slightly different routes.

    The hypocrisy is staggering. Just like everyone piling on KJ about cutting when Rickey Gates cut early in the race too, just like I'm sure others did.

  15. Morgan

    I don't think this is possible, at least as regards the current clear desire of the ISF to widen the type and location of races that form part of their series.

    The Ben Nevis Race in Scotland has been a Skyrunning event at least twice. This is a classic British mountain race and is raced in accordance with local rules but, at least as importantly, local traditions and ethics. That means any route up and down subject to checking in at the summit.

    And as it is an out and back course, with runners descending at speed into the ascending runners, there would be multiple bad injuries if runners could not run off trail. (There are plenty of bad bumps, scrapes and often breaks even with full route choice.)

    I know that the ISF wanted to include the Bens of Jura Fell Race on the Isle of Jura in Scotland as an ISF event (which the race organiser declined) but the bulk of that route in the mountain sections doesn't follow any trails or paths, because there aren't any!

    With a series that covers different types of race, different types of terrain and different local rules and ethics, I fear clear rules or guidance for racers is the only current way forward.

    Morgan Williams
    General Secretary
    The Fell Runners Association, England

    1. Morgan

      And I perceive that this is why, currently, ISF rules say that in the event of a conflict between RD or RO rules and their rules, their rules take precedence.


    2. Ally

      Having run Jura twice I've often wondered how runners who're used to closed courses would deal with that kind of race. It'd be amazing to get some international runners over there but with a start limit of 250 I doubt it could handle the increase in numbers Skyrunning inclusion would bring.

  16. Anonymous

    It's understandable that if there aren't trails, you can't run on them. I would also think that if there were trails, you would run on them without having to be required. It's like comparing NASCAR and Baja. A car is much less likely to bump into other racers if he cuts across the middle of an oval track, but it's shorter and obviously cheating. If you cut a course to make it shorter than what everyone else is running, it doesn't matter what you say the reason is, it's cheating. I don't understand why folks are tiptoeing around this. Sure, this is a very polite sport, and that's one of my favorite things about it, but cheating is easy to spot and poisonous to over look.

  17. Martin from Italy

    I would like to explain to Americans why it is perfectly normal to cut switchbacks in Europe and it is not because we don't give a hoot about the environment. Whereas in the States you are in the most part running on specially groomed trail paths, here in Europe the trail path system has been in use for hundreds and hundreds of years – they have been used by merchants, smugglers, shepherds and travelers. In a normal race a few hundred runners (in the case of UTMB a few thousand) use these trails over a weekend, but during virtually every weekend during the summer months (and in many cases to a lesser extent also in Spring and Fall) they are also used by walkers, trekkers, other runners training etc. etc. All these other people quite likely cut across the switchbacks and they number far more than the runners of any particular race – virtually all mountainous areas within Europe have unlimited access. On top of these we have to factor in a very large number of animals – cows, goat and sheep mainly who graze on these mountains and, quite frankly don't care about where the paths are or what rules may exist. They just go up and down the mountain wherever they feel like it. Cutting across switchbacks in European races is simply not an environmental question. Nor, in Europe, is it considered "cheating" unless the race rules specifically declare that it is not allowed.

    My view of trail markers in Europe is that they are there more to make sure people don't lose their way than as a "join the dots" race course, and I'm pretty sure most European runners would agree. However with the growing trend towards race money then it is clear that there have to be more rules and that everybody has to be in agreement on these rules.

  18. Dave Klein

    last year there was a hand rope on the snowfield I believe. If you are doing a point to point course I can see allowing switchback cutting especialy if the course involves route finding or minor mountaineering skills, otherwise when the course is obviousley marked ie flagging and landing strip style flour arrows just stay on the d*mn trail. This was obvious to 99% of the runner even most of us handicapped ones, dude probably should have been DQ'd even if he was obviously the fasted

  19. Graham

    Has Kilian actually spoken about the issue at all post race?

    Seems every man and his dog has had something to say on the subject but it would be pretty interesting to hear from the horses mouth his version of events and why cuts were made to switchbacks.

  20. OOJ

    Apparently, everyone wants this topic to die, but it still has breath to me.

    It's NOT about:

    – North American versus "Old World" (really?) "style"

    – A nice guy being confused and not knowing

    – The local rules not being "clear"

    – Protecting wilderness

    It's about *following the rules*. Both Speedgoat (local) and ISF rules specify you must follow course markings. Even if the runner was not aware of rules, or if the pre-race rules were not specific, the runner was *informed mid-race* to not cut course, yet (according to reports) continued to do so.

    It's a clear DQ. This is not a difficult decision. Painful: for the runner, for the race, for the race-series relationship? Yes. But an *extremely easy decision*.


    What transpired seemed to be a face-saving, brand-preserving act by both the Speedgoat 50K and ISF. The former: preserving its big-name, international field (who, heaven forbid, might feel miffed by being punished for ignoring rules and warnings); the latter, preserving it's fledgling brand and legitimacy in the trail running world. A 3-minute penalty? Completely useless!

    As far as I'm concerned, the Skyrunning World Ultra Series for 2012 is completely illegitimate because of this decision.

    Maybe at Waldo 100K, I'll try to be sneaky and cut from Skyline Trail straight to Maiden Peak (a slight trim of 40 miles), and win the Montrail Cup points…which would be cool, as long as the RD gives my $$ to second place…

  21. Peter Andersson

    And how does the rules define "informed mid-race"?

    Unless you have a standard rule about how that's supposed to work we're back to square one, because it was probably mostly (if not all) spectators just shouting at him, or – since his English is not very good even in off-race situations where he's focused on it – he probably thought they were cheering spectators. Have you ever ran by cheering people at Kilians speed? Even if you do listen you don't get to hear more than three-four syllables anyway…

    1. Andrew

      Yup, it isn't obvious to me how someone would know if a person yelling at you is an official or just some random person. Do they wear black and white stripes?

    2. OOJ

      According to my understand, Killian was informed race officials twice, and again by another competitor running with him.

      I don't believe Killian would want you to make excuses for him – he's the best mountain runner in the world, and this is his *profession*. What comes with that is the obligation to know the rules/regs of any competition you enter.

      In reality, neither race officials or competitors had any obligation to warn him. Even with zero warning, his course-cutting was a clear cause for DQ.

      He's a professional, he should know. He didn't. Now he does.

      At issue here is not what he did, but the decision thereafter.

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