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

International 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

Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

View Comments (46)

  • 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.

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    • 3 min at KJ's overall average pace would equal around 1/3 of a mile.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Thank God for Karl.....when did a committee ever keep anything simple!

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  • Seems fair and well thought out. Congrats to both Kilian and Ricky. Bottom line is both ran a great race.

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  • I think the situation was unfortunate and avoidable, but the solution seemed reasonable and fair.

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    • It was. Except for the money thing, in my opinion. The winner should receive his award.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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    • Some reported that they saw Rickey cutting too.

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  • 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.

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    • yeah, like when the rules are not clear at the start of the event.

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  • when Anna Frost is on the committee together with Joe Grant, Ian Sharman and Fabio Menino!!! :-)

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    • Well thats put me in my place....then again I'd tend to agree with anything Anna says.....oops,I can hear the shouts of 'sexist' coming down the line :)

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    • Folks, Jack (^) is ISF President, Marino Giacometti. :-)

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  • 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).

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    • That is helpful. Thanks!

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  • 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...

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  • 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...

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    • Trail Clown - I appreciate the gadfly role you play on the MUT blogosphere but let's move on.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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    • boom shaka lacka!

      +1

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      • 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,
        Bryon

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

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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    • 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.

      Morgan

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    • Morgan - Thanks so much for this perspective and information. You have cleared up many outstanding questions.

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    • 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.

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  • 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.

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