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Review of the year 2023

Happy new year! As we welcome in a new year, we thought we’d take a look back over the last year and round up everything in one place. But before we do that, we want to say a huge thank you to you, our runners; without you, our races just wouldn’t be what they are. Your support and loyalty are what keeps us going and why we always want to put on the best races we can.

January to March – signs of hope

It’s no secret that the events industry has struggled to spring back after the impact of Covid-19 in 2020. From when racing returned in 2021, race numbers have been lower than 2019, when we reached peak numbers across many of our races. In anticipation of this, and to help ensure that the business was sustainable, we reviewed our race capacities for 2023, setting realistic limits.

The year started well with a sell-out duo of races in the dark at Moors Valley Country Park for the Dark Moors races. Always a great way to start the year. We also launched our brand-new Loyalty Scheme for returning runners (read more about that here), so don’t forget to check out your current points total via your Clubtrac account.

In March we headed over to Larmer Tree Gardens and the Rushmore Estate for the Spring Larmer races. We introduced new medals for 2023, going back to our peacock roots. These medals will be around for 2024 so you can continue to collect the set.

We also launched our Gift Cards, giving a great option for runners to purchase race entries as a present, which you can see here.

April to June – all change please  

This was probably the most significant period of time for us this year. In April 2023, Andy Palmer announced his intention to retire from White Star Running (which you can read more about here). We announced that Gemma Wilton would be taking the helm, after being second in command (even if we all know she was really running the show).

At the same time, we were also very lucky to be able to move into a brand-new storage and office unit for the business. James from Motorhome Retrofits, gave us the opportunity to use office space above his business premises, which gives us somewhere to work from as well as store all the race essentials and White Star Clothing kit. We’re very grateful for this and want to extend a huge thank you to the whole team.

We barely had time to move everything in before the Ox Races came around. We had a different date for these, running over the May Bank holiday weekend. This came with slight shift in days and timings for the different races, which had some pros and cons, but we are returning to normal in 2024. We are carrying forward the brand-new kids’ race that was introduced in 2023, the Ox Calf, giving the whole family a chance to earn a medal. We also had entertainment from the amazing Dr Beatroot, who will be joining us again for the Cider Races in 2024.

In June we headed back to Sydling St Nicholas for the Giants Head weekend, 10 years after our first-ever race in the village. We even recreated the original t-shirt for a nostalgic twist. But this weekend was most memorable for being when Andy formally stood down from White Star Running, with a speech and presentation at the evening barn dance. Andy is helping with the transition of the company to its new ownership, so he is still out there doing race recces, checking courses and giving race briefings for now as a consultant, and we’re grateful for his help in this.

July to September – summer fun

The Cider & Piggy Plod weekend rolled around quick, with a very late opening due to a lot of behind-the-scenes admin happening at the same time. Still, we had plenty of runners coming to enjoy the cider, running and camping. A last-minute change in entertainment meant that runner Richard Pearce stepped in with his DJ kit and kept us entertained – even after running 44 miles at the Cider Frolic himself! Thank you Richard! The Cider weekend is back for 2024, with the addition of a brand-new 24-hour race.

In August we had the Cranborne Races to finish off the summer season, and it was great to have this event up and running. September saw a break in races, which was very much needed for the team to take some holiday time, as well as a chance to work hard on company business, gearing up to finalise the details of the transition.

October to December – rounding off the year 

In October we made the big announcement that White Star Running would be changing name – you can read about that here! We know this was unexpected in some ways, but we’re really excited about what this means for the company. While much is staying the same, certainly from a running perspective, it also means that we can start fresh, bring positive changes where needed and give it a new stamp to reflect its new ownership. Keep Running Rural is a female-led company, which aims to deliver fun, inclusive, supportive and challenging trail-running events for all runners. Watch this space as we begin to switch over the branding in the coming months.

In November we headed back to Moors Valley Country Park once again for another dark race, Dark Valley. This race saw a big swell in numbers for the 10K, hopefully signalling a return towards pre-Covid racing. Or maybe it was the gin we gave out as a race goodie? We’re getting ready for Dark Moors 2024, which will see a return of the gin minis, as well as a choice of two distances to race in the dark.

December didn’t quite go to plan, with the Mapperton Muddle being rescheduled at the last minute due to the fact that half the course was underwater. Heavy rain and intense flooding meant it wasn’t safe for runners, or fair to hold an event in such a badly affected area. Luckily, we managed to secure a new date straight away, and Mapperton Muddle 2023 will be held in March 2024.

We’ve also been opening entries for 2024 races from January to July – entries can be made here. Thank you to everyone who has entered so far. Giants Head Marathon, as expected, is filling up particularly fast with over 4/5ths of the places sold already. The Dog Start races at both Spring Larmer and Ox are not far behind either, and will likely sell out sooner rather than later.

We hope that you continue to support us in 2024 as Keep Running Rural and we can’t wait to see you at our events. All that’s left to say is HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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