Developing Sport Walking in the UK
Sport Walk’s purpose and goal is to significantly develop Sport Walking, to strongly promote it and to grow participation. We believe that Sport Walking can become the most accessible endurance foot sport there is and, as such, it has the potential to grow way beyond trail and ultra running in terms of overall participation.
This plan deals with four key areas of development, in order to bring growth and achieve this ambition:
Build Engagement, Understanding and Participation
Sport Walk will promote Sport Walking to the media, to interest groups, representative bodies, sport and activity development providers, charities and local authorities, so that awareness and understanding of what Sport Walking is and what it can offer grows, bringing greater participation.
In promoting Sport Walking, we will focus both on the scope of achievement that awaits walkers who take on Sport Walking challenges while, at the same time, highlighting how the very act of walking faster can help those seeking simply to get fit.
Female walkers will be a particular target because, we believe, that they will be less influenced than men by perceptions that walking is, in some way, easier or less of a challenge than running. Of course it’s not easier than running if you do it right but it is more accessible and this will be a key message in our promotional literature.
We will continue to publish information and guidance to help people better understand what Sport Walking is and what if offers, as well as employing a range of promotional tools ranging from taster sessions for journalists and interest groups, to video and social media content.
Our key channels will be our blog (this site), YouTube channel and Instagram feed but we will also be active on Twitter and Facebook, ready to interact with walkers and build a community wherever the audience is. We also have a Strava Club and will focus on this platform in encouraging those new to Sport Walking to get digital and log their walks.
Create Challenge Resources
Challenge is everything in Sport Walking and so providing resources to help Sport Walkers of all abilities take on a challenge will be an essential part of our development plan.
Sport Walk will create a definitive list of all the way marked trails in the UK and then plot challenge routes of various lengths based on these trails, to create a huge resource of challenges for Sport Walkers to take on.
Some trails will themselves offer a complete challenge – those trails of up to 100km in length. Trails which exceed this distance will form the basis of circular routes that we will design, linking them up with other footpaths and trails nearby.
The key objective in creating these routes is to present Sport Walkers and those interested in trying Sport Walking with a large number of ready made challenges, all of which are achievable roughly within a twenty four hour period.
While many walkers will want to take on multi-day challenges, we will focus on developing challenge routes that are achievable as single non-stop efforts because these kind of challenges are the most achievable and attainable, so Sport Walkers can take on more.
We will plot all routes on ‘OS Maps’ and publish them on the platform, branded as ‘Sport Walk’ routes, so anyone can subscribe and download them. We will also then place all these route links on our blog and promote them via our social media channels.
Trail Centres & Country Parks
In addition to creating a mapped trail route resource, we will also reach out and develop relationships with trail centres and country parks, many of whom already have existing walking or running trails within their boundaries. Many also have longer way marked or National Trails running through them, which offers the potential to develop these centres as Sport Walking Hubs.
By working collaboratively with these centres and parks, we can both promote Sport Walking to their user base, while providing the centres with a resource to encourage greater use of their facilities for Sport Walking. This will then give us the opportunity to encourage new Sport Walkers to use these centres to develop their Sport Walking in a safe, predictable environment.
The last challenge resource we will create is a database of Sport Walking Trail Records. ‘Fastest Known Times’ form a key part of ultra running culture and we believe that ‘Trail Records’ can act as a strong incentive for personal achievement in Sport Walking. Being able to measure your performance against someone else or a ratified time for a challenge route is a powerful motivator, even if you’re not actually trying to break a record. We will create a record database, encourage record attempts and establish a processes for ratification that will gradually enable Sport Walking Trail Records to be established and celebrated.
Hold Participation Events
We will work to host public participation events at partnering trail centres or country parks, initially as free taster sessions, perhaps in alliance with local sports development bodies or interest groups. Then, as participation builds, we will transform these into fully fledged paid for challenge events.
Our ultimate goal is to create a series of major challenge events, marathons and short ultras, that will give walkers the opportunity to take on a Sport Walking test, in an event that is designed specifically for them (as opposed to taking part in mixed running and walking events).
We also plan to create some longer iconic challenges that are on a par with events such as the Montane Spine Race (famously won by Jasmin Paris in 2019) or the Tour des Geants in Italy. These events will feature extreme distances undertaken non-stop with a format that will be tailored to Sport Walkers. The objective with these ‘ultra ultras’ is to show what people are truly capable of and to inspire others to reach beyond their fears or limits.
Establish a Challenge Route Network
The last element of our plan, which will be a longer term objective, will be to work to build relationships with local authorities and other bodies, so that we can create a number of permanent way marked Sport Walking Challenge Routes.
We will identify key routes that have a lower profile than National Trails and which could be improved and upgraded to create these Sport Walking Challenge Routes. Sport Walk will offer to repair and replace existing worn out or missing signage, in exchange for permission to place our own signs alongside them, making the route a clearly designated Sport Walking Challenge Route. People would be able to walk the route in its entirety, without the need for navigation or being able to read a map, simply by following the Sport Walk signs, which would be clearly numbered.
The way marked trail network in the UK is an irreplaceable resource but it’s one that we believe is significantly under exploited. By clearly marking some of these routes as ‘Sport Walking Challenge Routes’, we can provide people of all abilities with a fantastic opportunity to take on a challenge walk and this could also make a valuable contribution in the fight against inactivity.
The implementation of this plan will not follow a linear course, where the four elements are actioned one after the other. Instead, we will take action across the first three elements of the plan together, focussing on different aspects of each as required.
The first step will be to promote Sport Walking widely to build awareness. During this process, we will create the challenge resources and seek to develop connections with trail centres and country parks which will, in tern, enable the hosting of initial taster sessions.
We will be starting to publish regular video content once promotion has commenced, explaining what Sport Walking is, profiling equipment or trail locations and giving valuable advice to help people taking on challenges or simply taking up Sport Walking.
We haven’t given this plan a fixed timescale, it will be a fluid and ongoing process. We will though prioritise progress in building participation and creating challenge resources, as these two aspects will be key to growing Sport Walking. We aim to make significant progress in building awareness in 2019 and hope to start running public participation events in 2020 if not before.
For more information, to discuss how your organisation might benefit from this plan or how you can get involved and help build Sport Walking participation, please initially contact Roger Burlinson at Maximus Media via firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on one of our social channels.