Rationale for the race distances in the LUCA XC League



The ‘Run Equal’ campaign, more commonly known as #RunEqual, has gained traction in recent years. It addresses the difference between men’s and women’s racing distance at Cross Country (XC) fixtures, in particular. Equalising race distance has been raised on a number of different occasions within LUCA.


LUCA’s rationale for differential race distances:

The question of equal race distance has been debated by the LUCA Council (the decision-making body that represents the affiliated colleges) since early 2017. This is a matter that was revisited at each Council meeting held since to ensure that the XC League is reflective of the affiliated members’ wishes. It has been acknowledged by both affiliated clubs and the LUCA Executive Committee that this is an important matter.


The Council meeting held 18 January 2017 first discussed equalising distance. However, Council voted against equalisation and instead in favour of standardising distances for all fixtures where possible on a 2 lap/3 lap system for women/men. Positive feedback was reported regarding this decision at Council on 8 November 2017.


Following feedback from a small number of athletes during the 2017/18 season, this issue was discussed in significant detail at the Council meeting conducted on 28 February 2017. As with all meetings, all students at a LUCA affiliated college were able to attend to voice their opinions. Similarly, the agenda was shared in advance and available for all to see. The Council was attended by representatives from eight of the colleges and also the LUCA Executive Committee. The college representatives were aware in advance that this matter would be raised and had discussed and balloted their respective members. The LUCA President at that time brought forward a debate regarding the equalisation of race distance. This was debated for over an hour and the result was 12 votes to remain with the status quo, 1 vote to equalise distance and 1 abstention.


This matter has been open for further debate and discussion at the Council meeting on 7 November 2018 and at all summer AGMs. However, since the vote on 28 February 2017, the affiliated colleges have not requested equalisation of distance. Indeed, of the women who completed the members’ feedback survey (open to all LUCA members to complete) for the 2018/19 season recorded that:

  • 89% voted Parliament Hill distance (3.5 miles) was ‘just right’, 11% voted ‘a bit long’
  • 88% voted Mitcham Common distance (3.7 miles) was ‘just right’, 12% voted ‘a bit long’
  • 100% voted Wimbledon Common distance (2.9 miles) was ‘just right’
  • 88% voted Alexandra Palace distance (2.75 miles) was ‘just right’, 12% voted ‘a bit short’
  • 63% voted Wormwood Scrubs distance (4 miles) was ‘just right’, 25% voted ‘a bit long’, 12% voted ‘a bit long’


On this basis, LUCA will continue with the status quo regarding race distances. 


However, LUCA remains aware of the arguments on both sides of the debate. There were various points made for and against the alteration of the competitive distances at LUCA XC fixtures. The key points and rationale of which are outlined below.


Key Points:

As an organisation we aim to be as inclusive, responsive and open as we possibly can to our members. This means accepting the views expressed by the Council. 

  • Currently, the Council is of the view that to ensure maximum female participation and to avoid disincentivising female runners new to the sport, the status quo should be maintained with regard to race distance.


LUCA XC League key priority is to be open to all runners.

  • LUCA wants to ensure there are no barriers to participation be runners new to the sport. Following comprehensive discussion with Council and within affiliated colleges, it was agreed that increasing the length of races beyond the current distances would risk creating a barrier for those new to the sport. 


Due to the seasonality of XC fixtures, the timekeeping and safety had to be considered.

  • Races start at 3:15 pm. Sunset in October – February ranges from 3:59pm – 4:56pm. Currently some participants do finish the course just before darkness. Therefore, extending the race length would create a safety hazard with races continuing after darkness, especially as courses are often mixed terrain. Dismantling the course in complete darkness also poses a risk to hosts, officials and volunteers.


Member feedback.

  • A survey is conducted at the end of each season, asking all existing members for their feedback on the league (including specific questions on race distances). The general consensus was that the current race distances were preferable and there was no desire for an increase to the distances. 


Collation of results.

  • One option raised was having the option of both ‘short’ and ‘long’ courses. However, LUCA is a student run organisation with only a very small number of volunteers. Therefore, increasing the number of subsections within genders would place an additional burden so great on the volunteers that maintaining the quality of service going forwards would be in doubt.



Due to impracticalities, safety, decreased engagement and overstretching the service, the motion to equalise XC racing distances within the LUCA XC League has been raised, debated and voted against for a number of years now. LUCA will remain alert to the affiliated college’s views and wishes, and LUCA remains willing to make changes if there is a clear mandate to do so. As a student run organisation providing a service to students, LUCA is willing to consider and discuss any proposed changes or recommendations from individuals. However, at the present, the majority of members are not in favour of these changes.