FELL running race organisers have signed a letter to the sport's governing body calling on it to introduce a ban on using GPS (global positioning system) as a navigational aid.

Signatories to the letter claim using technology to plot courses 'threatens something at the heart of the sport' and have urged the Fell Runners Association to stop athletes using screen maps and pre-loaded GPS tracks.

A meeting of the FRA's safety equipment and rules sub-committee took place on Sunday and agreed a proposal, which has not been revealed. It will be put to the executive committee ahead of the FRA's AGM on August 18.

The letter, signed by organisers of many Lake District fell races, individual runners including Joss Naylor and Graham Breeze, a former chairman of the FRA, says: "As a fell runner, you may or may not own a GPS watch. You may or may not realise what they can do.

"You might be surprised to discover that you can upload a file of a route that another runner has run to your watch and follow that track with an arrow on your wrist correcting your line every few metres alerting you that you are too far left/right. This technology exists, is very accurate and been used to great effect in races, affecting the outcome of some.

"The use of this technology is no different than flagging the whole route of any race for someone using it. Using a GPS track takes away a fundamental element of the sport – that of route choice and finding your own way."

The letter says their use is not yet 'widespread' but added: "It is foreseeable that in years to come, to be competitive, owning, and knowing how to use this ‘bread crumb’ GPS function will become an essential part of fell running."

The letter ends: "None of us want to stop people enjoying fell running. We do not want to discourage people from having a go. And of course it goes without saying that in an emergency anything goes, including the use of GPS to relocate yourself or help inform others of your position.

"We are fell runners just like you. We want what is best for the sport and implore the FRA to act now before the sport changes for the worse."

The FRA's current policy is to let race organisers decide whether to ban GPS tracking.

In May this year The Westmorland Gazette reported how Ambleside AC, which organises the Fairfield Horseshoe, Great Lakes and Three Shires races among others, banned the use of GPS as a navigational aid.