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Permits for Trail Races and Covid Restrictions


In normal times the TRA is authorised by UK Athletics to issue permits for trail races held in England held under UKA Rules of Competition.  The race permit demonstrates to competitors, insurers, and other interested parties that the race is promoted to governing body standards and that UKA Rules of Competition will apply.  Race promotors that are affiliated to UKA are covered under the UKA insurance arrangements for races that hold an approved TRA permit.

Athletics competition in England was suspended in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 emergency, and permits for trail races held under UKA rules were cancelled.  England Athletics have recognised that, as they are the link to Sport England and DCMS, they should prepare and publish guidance for the trail discipline, as well as for the cross country and fell disciplines.  The TRA remains unable to issue permits for trail races held under the full UKA  rules until such guidance has been published and a start date agreed.

As an interim measure, in order to encourage some trail competition in England, albeit not fully compliant with UKA rules, the TRA sought agreement from UKA to approve permits for virtual trail races in England.  UKA and their insurers have agreed that doing so will provide public liability insurance cover for race promotors under the UKA insurance arrangements. 

The TRA's original suggestion was for "virtual" trail races to mean those where runners undertake solo timed runs over predominantly off-road courses of their choice,   However, UKA have agreed that this definition can be broadened significantly to include  races that are more like time trials along planned physical routes, with groups of a limited number of socially-distanced runners starting at timed intervals.  The maximum number of runners in a group is set according to current government and England Athletics guidance,  As of 17th July 2020 the maximum number of runners in any group was set at six.  The time intervals between groups setting off should be set to minimise interaction on the course between runners in different groups, and arrangements for any overtaking should ensure that social distancing requirements are maintained.

The TRA now has agreement from UKA to approve permits for such "virtual" trail races in England, as from 1st August 2020 until UKA agrees that the TRA may resume issuing full permits. Issuing permits for "virtual" trail races will mean that where the arrangements for a race can fit the broader interpretation of a "virtual" race, a race promotor that is UKA affiliated may still be covered under the UKA public liability insurance arrangements. 

"Virtual" Trail Races

The TRA will continue to use the term "virtual" trail race for all trail races in England that fall into the broad description outlined above.

In order for a permit for such a trail race to be approved, the race must be held as far as practicable under UKA Rules for Competition for trail. For example, the course should be predominantly off-road private land, only with the permission of the landowner, and public rights of way,   The maximum permissible distances permissible for younger runners must be complied with.  Running with dogs is not allowed.  The Countryside Code must be obeyed.  Mass starts will not be allowed, hence full compliance with the rules is not possible.

The TRA have agreed to waive all permit fees for "virtual" trail races with TRA permits.  Race promotors of "virtual" trail races do not need to charge the £2 additional unattached levy to unaffiliated athletes.  Race promotors are still obliged to report, within 4 weeks of the event, the numbers of runners and any accidents or incidents.

Covid-19 Guidance

Race promotors must follow the latest guidance from England Athletics and government.  This can be found on the England Athletics website and in links from that site.

A named Covid-19 Co-ordinator (who may be the Race Director) must be appointed for each race in accordance with the EA and government guidance.  Their responsibilities include producing Covid-19 risk assessments and safety plans in accordance with the guidance, ensuring that such risk assessments and plans are updated as any guidance evolves, ensuring that all identified risk mitigation measures are in place, and liaising with third parties in relation to all matters involving Covid-19.   

The England Athletics website includes a link to the guidance that has been published by Runbritain for road race and multi-terrain race organisers.  Although some of the content is strictly applicable only to road races, the general Covid-19 safety principles set out in the document should be followed by "virtual" trail races.  

Application for a "Virtual" Trail Race Permit

Until such time that the TRA Permit System has been updated with specific changes to allow "virtual" permit applications, the current permit application system will continue to be used.

So that applications for "virtual" permits can be identified, applicants are asked to append the word VIRTUAL to the title of the race.  It is not necessary to include the word VIRTUAL in the race title in promotional material for the race.

In addition to usual race risk assessments, applicants will need to upload  their specific Covid-19 risk assessments and safety plans, a statement that the Covid-19 risk assessment and safety plan follows current England Athletics guidance, and provide the name of the Covid-19 Co-ordinator.  If the race involves starting runners in groups at intervals, the Covid-19 risk assessment and safety plan must state and justify the minimum interval at the start between groups of runners. 

Until such time as the TRA on-line permit application system is changed to cover "virtual" race permits, applicants will still be asked to undertake to pay permits fees within four weeks of the event, and automatic emails requesting such payment will be generated.  However, as long as the word VIRTUAL appears in the race title in the permit system, all such fees will be waived.