Mountain Etiquette – look after your fellow runners

While running the inaugural Scafell Skyrace recently I had a strange and rather disappointing experience.

On the slopes ascending Scafell Pike I was aware that a up ahead of me on the trail was a runner who’d slowed to a walk. Let’s call him No.59. He wasn’t limping or showing any signs of being in difficulty, but he had the clothing and look of someone who should be reasonably fast. For this reason my senses were alerted that something might not be right, so I resolved to make sure everything was okay when I caught up with him.

We’re heading over there…

Being in the mountains, however busy it might be, it is vital that runners, walkers and general mountain users should be aware of those around them and be willing and able to offer assistance where necessary. Up in the hills and fells the warmth, safety and security of shelter and medical professionals is a long way off and so being alert to early warning signs that a fellow hill user may be going downhill (pun intended) is a crucial part of any hill user’s ‘equipment’ list.

As I approached No.59 he showed no sign of physical injury and was moving freely, albeit walking. “You okay mate?” I asked.

“Yeah, fine thanks” he replied tersely.

“Are you okay for food and water?”

“I’m fine thanks” he replied with a sense of agitation. What struck me was the manner of his reply. He seemed annoyed that I’d engaged with him.

I carried on running, replaying our interaction in my mind. ‘Was he okay?’ I kept asking myself. My mind was racing with possible scenarios. ‘Perhaps he’s diabetic or has a ‘hidden’ medical condition and may be in need of medication or specialist help? Maybe there’s some other reason. Was I right to run on?’ I alerted the next marshall I passed to look our for No.59 in case he deteriorated.

I carried on with my race and on my descent from Scafell Pike I could see No.59 in the distance, still walking. Knowing there was no way he could have passed me, I concluded that he had officially withdrawn from the race and had missed out Scafell Pike summit.

After our first interaction I was reluctant to engage with him again, but my better judgement and responsibility to fellow runners and hill users made me call out “You okay mate?”

“Yeah” he replied, just as sharply as before.

“Are you out?” I asked

“AM I WHAT?!” he replied aggressively. His body language and tone was one of open aggression which really took me by surprise. I thought he was trying to square up to me.

“Are you out the race?” I repeated.

“Yeah, I’ve quit” as his eyes went back to the path.

“Do you need any food or water?” I enquired again. I wanted to make sure he was provisioned for what would be a long walk back out.

“I’m fine!” He sounded really annoyed.

“Okay, well if you need anything, give me a shout” I said before running off.

I was cross and felt put out. Here I’d paused for a second time to offer help, support and encouragement to someone who was clearly having a bad day on the hill. Yet it was met with a level of aggression I’ve never experienced on a mountain. ‘Does he think I’m mocking him? Can’t he see that I’m offering assistance as any fellow hill user should?’. These questions were racing through my head as I made my way down the trail.

I was left wondering after the race whether he was actually angry with everything and everyone, or was it just me? Either way, it was crap!

For anyone running and racing in the mountains, having a sense of awareness for fellow runners (and other hill users in general) is vital. Manners cost nothing and while mountain etiquette may not cost anything, it may well just save someone.

I had my own bad day on the hill at Scafell Skyrace, but I still kept alert to those around me.
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