HIGHLAND CROSS - the unique coast to coast midsummer charity duathlon





These notes are for the guidance of all participants and they contain essential safety advice.


Highland Cross is intended to be a really worthwhile personal challenge that you can undertake safely.  We provide a “Safety Net” consisting of Medical and First Aid resources, Water points, vehicles and a helicopter that is designed to support you right across the route and to provide reassurance that if something goes wrong for you aid will be on hand as soon as possible.  However the most important person in the safety net is YOU. How you prepare for the Cross will largely decide if you have a memorable or miserable experience. When we have had incidents they have been centred on slips, trips, dehydration, hypothermia, lack of fitness, carrying injuries or illness into the event and problems on the bike section.


Slips and Trips

Slips and trips tend to be down to choice of footwear, not being used to travelling over uneven ground at a fast pace and route conditions.  Flat-soled tarmac running shoes are not what you need for the Cross, the route demands grip and a good supportive fit.  If in doubt take advice on the best type of footwear for the tactics you intend to adopt.  Get used to wearing them to make sure that they will be comfortable for 20 miles and perhaps the bike section as well.  Make some of your training runs or walks over rough tracks and practice picking your way across uneven ground.


On the day if you’re faced with difficult route conditions – walk where you are not sure of your footing.  Remember a dry path can become a boggy stream with a little rain and the passage of 1,584 feet can churn up the hardest of ground into a gripping bog capable of pulling off any training shoe.


Be aware of your surroundings
On the foot and cycle sections you need to be aware of your surroundings and this includes being able to hear requests from other participants and instructions from event marshals. If you intend to use music to get you across the route keep one ear clear at all times!

Clothing and safety equipment

Each year we undertake a thorough review of how we organise the event and we have once again benefitted from the guidance of the Scottish Hill Runners committee (SHR) who have reviewed our safety processes.  They strongly recommend that every participant carry a minimum of safety gear and we are repeating this advice to you all.


As a minimum Highland Cross Organisers expect every participant to carry with them at all times during the event the following:

  • A whistle to summon help – 6 blasts of the whistle repeated at one minute intervals.

  • A weather protective suit.

  • A small amount of high energy food.

The SHR guidance notes state:  “Adequate  whole  body  cover  to  protect  you  against  hypothermia  or  heat  exhaustion/dehydration  in  the  severest  conditions  likely  on  the  day.”  and  “Hypothermia is dangerous.  Competitors should be aware that if circumstances cause a runner to stop or slow to a walking pace then body heat is lost quickly. In cold, wet or windy weather the onset of hypothermia can be very rapid unless sufficient warm clothing is worn.”


In the interests of your own safety we expect that all participants will carry this recommended safety equipment on the day.


Hypothermia is not simply an illness of “cold” years.  We had a case on a “hot” year where the casualty had tried to take a short cut through a stream, fallen in, got soaked and then ran on into a strong, cooling easterly breeze.  The combination knocked down a very fit athlete.  However, these incidents are normally associated with windy drizzly days when competitors get soaked and are out in the weather for a long time.


Even on a good weather day if you sprain an ankle and have to sit and wait for the helicopter to lift you out, you will quickly chill and a simple sprain becomes more serious.  A shell jacket can make a huge difference.  If the weather is poor then you will chill very quickly without one.  Give serious consideration to what you wear on the day.  A cotton tee shirt will offer no protection once it is soaked with sweat or rain.  Cotton is actually a very poor fabric for long-term events.  Consider using one of the modern sports fabrics that wick away sweat and do not chill quite as badly as cotton when wet.  Many male participants end up in the medical centre at the changeover being treated for bleeding nipples – and other parts – from the rubbing of sweat encrusted cotton clothing on their delicate tissues!  On a sunny day sunburn can be a serious possibility.



The foot section is 20 miles of hard ground.  Please ensure that you know that you are fit enough to cover the distance in the time that you have allotted to yourself.  If you are a regular runner, have you run over rough paths?  It is a very different experience from pavement running, ensure that you train over similar ground to the Cross.


If you are a jogger and intend to start with the runners, are you fit enough to complete the entire 50 mile course in the 7 hours from 11:00 to 18:00?  Have you jogged for 20 miles over rough terrain? How long will it take you?  If you cannot complete the course in 7 hours, why not enter as a walker – walk the route and enjoy the experience.  But do not jog if you have entered as a walker!  If you intend to walk the course then the key factor will be getting used to walking over that distance and keeping up a good pace over very mixed ground.


Fitness also includes having the energy to complete the course.  Many people simply “burn out” having completely emptied their energy reserves. 


Fuel and Drink

Every individual has different needs in this respect – we will provide water and Isostar rehydration fluid along the route. Use these as you know your body needs.  Sensible eating and hydration in the days before the event, at breakfast and during the day should see you across the route.  Know what your body needs through training and carry this knowledge into your plan on the day.  Sending some easily digested food as fuel to the changeover with your bike may make a difference between finishing and fading on the bike section.  Many of the walking participants carry a normal summer day sac with a “piece and a flask” which is very sensible.   We have had a number of incidents where cyclists simply fall off their bikes or cycle off the road in the area after Fasnakyle Brae. Having spoken to a few of the folk concerned they characterise their incident as one of two experiences:


Cramp - through not having hydrated properly – understand your own hydration needs and take on fluids appropriately. Having cataclysmic cramp whilst descending Fasnakyle Brae at speed could have catastrophic results.  Or, having run out of energy, lost concentration and then lost control. In one case a participant was seen to simply stop pedalling, balance for a moment and fall over onto the road. We believe that they were hydrating well on the way across but perhaps they had not eaten enough.


Please think about what you are going to eat – energy gels etc give a quick boost but for the long haul your body may need something more substantial with more complex carbohydrates. Bananas, cheese sandwiches, heavy duty cereal bars all seem to feature on the menu in the Quarry! Know the fuel that you will need and take it with you or send it to the Quarry in your change-over bag.


The Cycle Section - Your bicycle

Please ensure that you have a fully functioning cycle and have the spares and tools that you can use to make necessary repairs or to deal with a puncture at any point on the cycle section.


The Cycle Route - Fasnakyle Brae

The first section includes descending Fasnakyle Brae.  This is a steep, rough, single-track public road with very big drops into a gorge alongside it in places.  It must be treated with respect.  Do not simply put your head down and hammer downhill as fast as you can.  Police observers have been appalled at the speeds and evident lack of control of some participants at the final bends before Fasnakyle junction.  Over the years a number of people have lost control at various points and injured themselves and or damaged their bikes.  It is vital that you keep your speed to one at which you can maintain control at all times.


We arrange for a road closure order to prevent ordinary motorists driving on Fasnakyle Brae between 11:00 and 17:00.  Please advise any friends, supporters etc on this necessary restriction.


However, as there is not a practical alternative, event transport and medical teams have to use the Brae.  All bag vans and evacuation vehicles will be descending with you at various times but if we have an accident on the Brae then a medical team or marshal may have to ascend the Brae whilst you are on it to get to the casualty.  Therefore you must descend the Brae as though two-way traffic is in operation in the interests of your own safety.


Public Roads – Fasnakyle to Beauly

Once you are on the public road beyond Fasnakyle junction the road is open to public traffic.  You have no special rights on the road, the Highway Code applies and you must cycle with due care.  At watering stations pull in and stop to take drinks – do not expect helpers to run alongside you.  It creates additional hazards to both parties.


The Police have strongly advised against support vehicles acting as “shields” behind cyclists.  In their experience this causes additional hazards. Please do not encourage family or friends to drive along Strathglass to support you – it only adds to the volume of traffic and therefore the risk of accidents.


The event Sweep Van will slowly proceed down Strathglass a safe distance behind the last participant.  If competitors need to be picked up they will be collected from the side of the road but it is better to wait at a Watering Station for collection.  If you have a bike failure or want to withdraw before the sweep reaches you there will be motorcycle marshals on the route who will arrange a pick up by one of our Support Vans as soon as operations allow.  None of the marshals or sweep vehicles will have the tools or skills to make bike repairs, which are your responsibility.  On the final approach to Beauly do not let your enthusiasm get the better of you.  Be very aware of the traffic and take all directions from Police officers or event marshals.

Tick borne diseases
Ticks are common across the Highlands and the incidence of ticks as carriers of Lymes Disease appear to be on the increase. Participants will wish to make themselves aware of the precautions that they can take against ticks and the signs and symptoms of having been bitten by an infected tick. We have been advised that the most useful website currently available is: www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk

Highland Cross has the potential to be a life changing challenge – prepare for it and you will enjoy it!