On Sunday 8th April one of the toughest and most picturesque running challenges of the year will take place. This ‘Brute of a Race’ starts in Exmouth and follows the beautiful Jurassic Coast section of the South West footpath eastward for 22 miles taking in Budleigh, Sidmouth Branscombe and Beer before finally arriving at the River Axe in Seaton.
As well as spectacular scenery runners are treated to over 4,000ft of ascent with numerous climbs as the trail switchbacks down to sea level and then up again along clifftop tracks through fields and woodland. The cliffs turn from red at Exmouth’s Orcombe Point to white at Beer Head, with beaches starting sandy and ending pebbly as runners head East along this iconic coastline.
This is truly a tough challenge, attracting runners from across the UK, many keen to test it against ‘The Grizzly’, which takes place the month before. Those who have completed both races know which hurts the most. Whilst the Grizzly may offer bogs and pebble beaches, the Exe to Axe offers climbs that make the legs scream and views that make the spirits soar.
‘It’s a race of highs and lows’ said organizer Paul Mitchell ‘and I’m not just talking about the landscape’. The first half of the run to Sidmouth eases competitors into the task with just the small matter of High Peak (515ft) and Peak Hill (512ft) to deal with. ‘We provide refreshments at Sidmouth to prepare them for second section’ grins Paul, ‘from Sidmouth to Seaton….well let’s just say it’s not for the unfit or fainthearted’.
Last year 275 competitors started the race and around 50 elected to run just the first half. This year the relay option for teams of 2-4 and an early start option for those who expect to take longer increases accessibility. ‘The winner managed it in under 3 hours last year’ said Paul ‘he was awesome. Some of the runners from our host club, Sidmouth, took over 5 hours – and they were awesome too!’
More detail and entry is via www.sientries.co.uk or www.sidmouthrunningclub.co.uk.
The Royal Welsh Trail Running Festival, Mid Wales
Set away in Builth Wells, Mid Wales, the challenging Royal Welsh Trail Running Festival promises a great day out for beginners and experienced trail runners alike. Stunning half marathon, 10K and 3K trail races take in the valleys, fields, woodland tracks and stunning forestry surrounding the Royal Welsh Showground.
In 2017, a record 1200 runners took to the trails - establishing the event, which hosted the Welsh Trail Half Marathon Championships, as one of the largest of its kind in the UK.
Incorporated into the Royal Welsh Spring Festival, which attracts 20,000 visitors annually - the race has the unique appeal of major event amenities (ample parking, an array of street food offerings, retailers, and live entertainment) coupled with remote and unspoiled trails – usually out of bounds to the public.
Steve Hughson, Chief Executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, who ran the 10K commented: “The Trail Running Festival is a great edition to the Spring Festival and I’m really happy to see that the numbers more than doubled from our inaugural event two years ago. It’s been wonderful to see so many spectators backing up the runners as they crossed the finish line.”
There were many victors on the day. The biggest prizes of the day went to Daniel Bodman of Aberdare Valley AAC, who led his club to the Welsh title. Bodman is the chairman of Aberdare Valley and was followed home by his club secretary Matthew Evans with Sarn Helen’s Sion Price taking third place.
Bodman said: “This is my first Welsh title and it’s a special day, especially as the club won the team title as well. It was a great course, and a perfect day for running.”
The women’s race was a triumph for Natasha Cockram of the Mickey Morris Racing Team. Recently returned from an American university and back to full fitness, she won in impressive style. She said: “This is only my second race back after a long period out with injury, and it felt good to be running again. I just hope I can carry on and maybe make the Welsh Championships on the track in Cardiff next month.”
Lauren Cooper of Parc Bryn Bach was second with Faye Johnson of Pontypool and District taking bronze. Emily Lagamarsino of San Domenico took third in the open race.
The 10k race turned into a birthday triumph for 17 year-old Thomas Jones of Carmarthen Harriers, who came home in 39:43 to win, with more than two minutes between him and David Richardson of Aberdare Valley in second. Roger Farrington, of Maldwyn Harriers was third. The Carmarthen Harrier’s victory made it a special day for the Jones’ family, his father, Brian, is the president of the Royal Welsh Show. The women’s 10k race was won by another Carmarthen Harrier Liz Tremlett with Pontypool & District athlete Samantha Toop in second and Cardiff AAC’s 16-year-old Laura Wright in third.
The race is returning in 2018 on Saturday 19th May, with camping packages available for those looking to make a weekend of it and enjoy everything the Spring Festival has to offer.
Event organisers Run 4 Wales, the team behind the Cardiff Half Marathon, Newport Wales Marathon and Velothon Wales – have confirmed a number of exciting changes as the event continues to grow; including chip timing, a new live-tracking smartphone app for spectators, registration pack postage and separate half marathon and 10k race starts. It looks like one not to be missed.
Entries start from just £15 and include a technical event tee, unique commemorative wooden finishers medal and goodies from event partners like Castell Howell Food, Wild Trail and Howies.
More information, and entries, are available at www.rwtrailrunningfestival.co.uk
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Xavier Thévenard, the UTMB King, comes back to take on the Transvulcania
Xavier Thévenard is the only runner in the world who has won all four big events in the UTMB programme: Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Courmayeur Champex Chamonix (CCC), Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) and Orsières Champex Chamoix (OCC) and now he has eyes on another prize.
Transvulcania is an event that the French athlete knows perfectly, but is yet to have won. Recent results, however, suggest that drought is about to end - he was 4th at UTMB 2017 (he already won this event in 2013 and 2015), 1st at the Marathon Du Mont-Blanc 2017 or 3rd at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 2017.
Thévenard, told us that he “loves to compete at the Transvulcania, because I enjoy the race route and all its beautiful landscapes”. He also added that “it is amazing how people host all runners and how excited and enthusiastic everyone is with the race”.
The Transvulcania in La Palma, Canary Islands, is a 74k ultra and it takes place on May 12. Further info can be found here.
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There has been an increasing focus recently on the level of waste generated by running events, across all distances and terrain types, writes James Elson. With the huge focus today on the generation of plastic waste and what we can be doing as a society on every level to reduce plastic usage, we are right to focus on our sport and bring our impact down to the lowest level possible.
There are two major issues that are worth looking in to with regards to plastic waste generated by events. Firstly, how much of that waste is cleared away or remains to litter the environment. Secondly, how much of that waste can simply be reduced or removed altogether, and what impact that has upon the organisation, the runner, the environment and surrounding community of landowners and residents.
The proliferation of waste from gel and bar wrappers, plastic cups and plastic water bottles can be frankly staggering at major road running events. Running anywhere north of 3 hour 30 pace at the London Marathon inevitably means wading through literally piles of plastic bottles that litter the road from kerb to kerb. Rubbish is discarded the length of the course with abandon, as it is assumed that it will all simply be collected at the end by the organisation.
Of course, in a road running event, access with a refuse vehicle and an appropriate team is generally pretty easy and it may well be the case that the majority of waste will be cleared, but some will of course make its way into the local environment.
This problem is much more difficult to control, more harmful to the environment and much more visually impactful in trail events. Generally speaking, if events provide feed stations, the shorter the distance and the more competitive it is, the more likely there is to be plastic waste. In a shorter race a runner is likely to come through, grab a cup of water and then try to throw the cup away instantly, hopefully in the bin but often on the ground. There is also the relatively high number of unfortunate incidents of runners taking a cup and then discarding it down the trail. Sometimes a runner thinks that hanging it on a branch, or on top of an existing pile of accumulating cups, is a better way of disposal. Of course, much of that ends up getting blown by the wind into the surrounding environment. Waste generally has to be collected by hand, and requires a lot of man hours at great cost to clear up.
The reduction or removal of plastic at events altogether has to be considered for races of all types and across all terrains. This responsibility falls to the organiser, but also the runners themselves and this an area I have personal experience with on both counts.
As an event organiser of ultra distance trail races, at Centurion Running we started providing paper or plastic cups at checkpoints seven years ago. One thing you might notice with experienced runners is that they come to a checkpoint, pick up a cup, drink and then ask a volunteer to top the cup back up. A new runner, or with a multi-sport/road running background will take cup after cup, stacking three or four cups worth of waste typically in under a minute. For an average checkpoint we would generate around one cup of waste per runner; some taking none, others taking three or four. For a race with 15 checkpoints, the amount of waste was simply staggering.
For many ultra-distance events, including our 50 or 100 milers, we have a mandatory kit list that every runner must have on them at all times. This is primarily for safety, but at the end of 2016 we elected to add a drinking cup to that gear list and stop providing cups out on the course. I should add that we didn’t pioneer the idea; the LDWA (Long Distance Walking Association) and other leading UK organisers like NAV4 Events have long mandated that runners and walkers carry their own cup. More recently, the UTMB events (widely considered the most high-profile ultras) also mandated the carrying of a cup and did away with disposable cups at most of their checkpoints.
What we have seen over the past year is universally positive feedback, at all ends of the spectrum, though we have learned some valuable lessons on how to set checkpoints and brief volunteers to cope better with runner requirements and the realities of doing away with cups. We’ve found:
- Zero runner complaints at having to purchase or carry a cup, across 2000 runners.
- Close to zero additional runner time spent at checkpoints: runners are coming in with their cup ready and taking what they need from a jug poured by a volunteer before moving on, rather than queueing at a table for a cup.
- Reduction in waste volume per event from 1800 litres to 800 litres. So previously we were generating 1000 litres of waste just from plastic and paper cups.
- Reduction in costs in the man hours spent handling waste, the number of refuse sacks purchased, fuel costs in transporting waste, commercial waste fees and most of all the cost of actually purchasing the cups and bottles in the first place.
In terms of what we advise runners to carry, we suggest either a soft flexible cup such as the Hydrapak SpeedCup for cold drinks, which can be stuffed into a pocket, belt or race vest, or a Light My Fire Pack-Up Cup which folds into itself with a plastic rim, allowing a hot drink to be taken safely. They also stand rigid, so a volunteer can stand the cup and use a spoon to make the drink.
For us as an organiser, providing more jugs and flasks so that drinks can be pre-made and poured quickly from runner to runner has also proved an important change.
In summary, from an organisational standpoint, moving to a cupless system has been nothing short of revolutionary. Most importantly, the negative environmental impact and carbon footprint of the events has been drastically reduced. We can do more, but this has been an important step in the right direction. Runners have reported zero negative impact on their race experience, and have universally seemed to be engaged and pleased to contribute to a reduced event impact.
I cannot recommend highly enough to any organiser to look at the benefits of running a cupless or bottle-less event. And for runners, even if running races that provide cups or bottles, to purchase and bring their own with them to reduce their own individual impact.
A nationwide series of #runanadtalk events, targeted at improving mental wellbeing through running, have been announced by England Athletics in support of ‘Time to Talk Day’ on Thursday February 1.
Taking place throughout the week of January 27 to February 2, the #runandtalk campaign encourages people to run a mile or further as they chat with friends, family, colleagues or other runners. This can be done at any time or location, or via one of the many events organised by local RunTogether groups, road running and athletics clubs. Local #runandtalk runs can be found via the MeetUp app or website.
Time to Talk Day, launched in 2014, brings the nation together to get talking and breaking any silence around mental health problems. Previous #runandtalk events took place in October 2017, in support of World Mental Health Day, with around 100 organised runs to support mental wellbeing through running.
Running has been shown to provide notable mental health benefits with an England Athletics survey, released in November, revealing that running in a group makes 90% of people happier and 74% of runners saying running is good for their mental wellbeing.
Despite all the mental health benefits of physical activity and running, those with mental health problems can find it difficult to get started for a number of reasons, from negative body image and lack of self-esteem through to practical reasons such as having no one to go with, or not knowing where to get started.
#runanadtalk is supported by mental health charity Mind and a network of over 420 volunteer England Athletics Mental Health Ambassadors. The volunteers are active in affiliated running clubs and registered running groups across England and support runners who are experiencing mental health problems. The support available includes helping people to start running, get back into running, or continue running, as well as to improve the mental wellbeing of their existing members.
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Currently, we're working on the latest edition - on sale Jan 4 - and it'll feature a fab spread on the OMM...Needless to say, working on such a feature got us thinking: what has been the greatest OMM so far in the 50 superb years it's been taking place. Here's how the argument has been going so far
1976 Galloway Highland
Galloway OMM had terrifyingly bad weather and only 30% finished. Event creator Gerry Charnley gives his famous quote to the BBC reporter, “it’s not a Sunday afternoon picnic.”
1998 Howgill Fells
An exceptionally hard event also known as the ‘Howling Howgills’. It was recorded online for the first time and OMM say they were the first UK event to do this.
2008 Lake District
Cancelled for the first time ever due to high winds, extreme rain and floods. Remarkably only one competitor was swept away by a swollen river and rescued from an island mid-torrent.
2017 Great Langdale 50th anniversary
Wild day one weather conditions forced many competitors to quit including last year’s 2nd placers Nic Barber and Jim Mann who, wearing super light kit in order to be competitive, knew that slowing down to look for a checkpoint would make them too cold to continue the race.
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