Runners at the ready for St Clare 20th anniversary fun run
PUBLISHED: 17:30 02 February 2014
Runners are at the ready to help make this year’s St Clare 10k Run the biggest and best yet as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.
From humble beginnings when it was set up in 1994, the sporting event now regularly attracts up to 600 entrants and has raised many thousands of pounds over the past two decades.
Liz Jones and son Matthew, a seasoned runner and tri athlete who came up with the original idea and devised the route back in 1994 which is still used today, was among the original organisers and remember the wonderful support the fun run received right from the very start.
Liz said: “So many people came to our aid and agreed to give up a Sunday morning for this new venture, to marshal the runners on the course, to give out water bottles, to provide medical support, to be timekeepers, to write down the results, to provide refreshments and to organise prizes.”
The inaugural event was a runaway success but was not without a few bumps in the road.
Liz recalled: “The timekeepers had difficulties clocking the runners in at the finish and the results all had to be analysed by hand then written up on a sheet pinned to the wall.
“This took a long time and there was some muttering among the runners who, understandably, just wanted to get home and have a shower! Needless to say the results were digitalised after that!”
In addition to raising vital funds for the Hospice, the event helped raise the profile of St Clare in those early days.
“A valuable outcome was the participation of local runners and their clubs and the subsequent raising of awareness of the Hospice amongst a new section of the community – the young and fit!” Liz said.
“I can remember people saying that before competing in the 10k run, they had no idea what the Hospice was or what it did.”
As the event became more established, many participants started using it as their final training run for the London Marathon, resulting in a change of date from September to March – even though that sometimes brought less friendly weather conditions.
Liz remembers that one year more than 200 runners had to shelter in the original Hospice farmhouse building from torrential rain before the race, all having to queue to use the two or three toilets available.
The 10k has also become more inclusive over the years and it has been great to see more and more wheelchair entrants speeding along the lanes, following the example of the first Paralympian who took part, Harlow athlete Noel Thatcher. The partially-sighted runner won the event in 2002 with a time of 32min 23sec, which qualified him for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
With the growth in numbers, Harlow Running Club stepped in to support the event, and remains an integral part of its continuing success.
“The event also attracted people who had never run before,” Liz added. “Many came for the fun of it and many came for other reasons, for as the Hospice grew, more people had personal knowledge of its work.
“These runners have always been the real heroes for me – for many it becomes a struggle by the time they are halfway round the course, but they are so determined to raise money for the Hospice they keep going.
“From these early days I’m happy to say the event has grown into a huge occasion and one in which both club runners and fun runners participate in great numbers. And with plenty of portaloos!”
“The event always marks the beginning of Spring for me. All the way round the route there are daffodils in hedgerows and gardens, new leaves on the trees and the sound of birds singing, the swish of the wheels of the lead biker and the amazingly fast and light wheelchairs, and the thud of hundreds of running shoes on the roadway.”
• Entry for the St Clare 10k at the hospice on Sunday, March 16 costs £12 in advance (£10 for affiliated runners) or £15 on the day. To register, call the fundraising team on 01279 773750 or visit stclarehospice.org.uk/10krun.html.