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Reasons to be cheerful – looking forward to 2022

After a couple of bumpy years in the running events world, things are on the up. Andy Palmer has some New Year musings…

A look back

There should be a saying in the race organising world: “Don’t try a new race after a global pandemic.”

2021 could be described as a bit ‘meh’. We started off by cancelling Dark Moors, then Larmer and then the Giants Head weekend because of lockdowns.

We did, however, bounce back with the Ox Races. We finally managed to put on the Ox of Two Halfs on the Friday, a great one-off race that included dressing up and drawing, obviously. (If you didn’t see the ‘amazing’ drawings, check out the gallery here in our Facebook Group.) Then there was the usual Ox malarky; the Dark, 50, Frolic, Light and Half all brought together by a happy band of crew and volunteers. It felt great to be back.

We then returned to Moreton for some Unicorn races – always popular. Followed by a pop-up Frolic race when Nicola and I got married; I had an amazing hangover. Cider Frolic was boiling as ever, and then we had our first new race at Summer Larmer. Lovely routes and beautiful places to run. We will return one day for another summer race in Cranborne – a new race and new venue. One of the most beautiful we have found… hot hot and wet in places. LOL.

In June I went to the National Running Show South. I was speaking on the Ultra Zone stand. I then realised all was not well in the running world. It was pretty much empty.

Race numbers were down. We expected 1,400 for Summer Larmer, but we got 650. We expected 1,200 for Cranborne, but we got 600 or so. We took the decision at that point to stop putting races on, as the current entry level was unsustainable.

There are a lot of reasons why entries were so low.

For the previous 14 months most races were cancelled. Those races were then rescheduled for 2021.

All those cancelled race meant some people were double or even triple booked. Meaning at one stage in September, on one Sunday alone, there were 28 marathons. Yes, on one day, 28 marathons! There are not enough runners to go around. This was combined with other pressures. People going on well-earned holidays, denied for so long, and taking the time to catch up with loved ones.

Also, there was a little trepidation. For the last year we had been told ‘don’t mix, don’t touch, don’t go out’ so when things did open up some people were, understandably, a bit unsure about mass event. Now with Omicron, we could be back to square one.

My biggest fear was creating a race and it becoming a super-spreader event. However, no one seemed to worry in government about this as one football match in the Euros purportedly produced 60,000 infections.

Through all this we learnt a lot about ourselves. We implemented strict but fair Covid protocols at races. Some of these implementations we will keep for good. Sanitisers outside loos, deep cleaning kit post event and so on.

I would like to thank everyone for the support. As race organisers we sell you a promise. That promise is, when you turn up, there will be all the things we said there would be. We had been running races on 40% full after a year of no income. If we didn’t stop when we did, we would have hit financial trouble. We have reorganised and will be bouncing back next year.

Looking forwards

After 2021 we are hoping 2022 will be somewhere near normal. We kick off the year with Larmer, so popular that the marathon is sold out already (waiting list is in operation). Find out more about Larmer and book races here. The Imperial Series returns as well (entries here), three different, local 10-mile races in one series with a bonus medal for running all three.

Then we return to the Ox Races (entries open) and on to Moreton where we will have an extra race, a half marathon (Moreton entries open end of January).

Giants Head weekend is back, with a new half-marathon route on the Sunday morning (the marathon and hill race are sold out with waiting lists in operation; half-marathon will open mid-January). The Cranborne races will return. As will the Cider Frolic and Piggy Plod, Run Jurassic, Dark Moors and Dark Valley.

We also might have adult and kids’ races at Moors Valley on Halloween – more to follow on that soon. We have new half-marathon and 10K at the beautiful Mapperton House in December. That will be wet and hilly. You will love it. We are also helping Sussex Trail Events put on a race in a museum… because why not? We are still trying to create a 24-hour style event. Who knows, we might get the right venue one day.

Couple of other things for 2022. We have moved to a new online race platform; it’s still going through a few issues, so bear with us. We have also got some great software that means we can upload all our race photos to our website (rather than just having them on Facebook, as we know some of you don’t use it). This will take time and is expensive, but will mean you can find race pics in one place. There’s a really cool option to turn a race pic into a t shirt or mug or an actual print as well. More news on that later.

In the meantime, have a happy and safe new year. See you at Larmer!

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