It may only be a few months since the last of the results were logged for Run Garioch and the remains of the events village were packed up for another year, but already organisers are putting in the hours so one of the north-east’s biggest running events can return for another successful instalment in 2024.
The event has grown in size and reputation since it was first launched in 2006, with this year’s competition attracting more than 2,000 runners before the starting gun was fired.
Though more than half a year away, entries are already open for next year’s Run Garioch, which will take place on Sunday, May 12.
Competitions of this scale, however, are not the culmination of a few days – or even a few weeks – of work.
Logistics, costs, and admin begin many months in advance to make sure Run Garioch maintains its reputation not only as a successful running event, but also a community day where volunteer groups and sports clubs from Garioch and Inverurie can raise much-needed funds to continue supporting people.
Central to the organisation of the event is race manager Christine Appel who, as a committed runner herself, knows how events like Run Garioch can make a difference and offer runners of all abilities a clear goal to work towards.
She said: “We’re all very proud of what we do and we’re proud of the difference Run Garioch makes. Not everything goes to plan all the time on race day, but I think we all see the bigger picture of what we want to achieve.
“From my point of view, I might have the third super veteran female in the half marathon sending a letter to say, ‘I didn’t expect to win something, so thank you so much – I’ve never won anything in my life’. It’s seeing the individual cases that really makes a difference to all of us and keeps us going.”
But for all the aspects which are laid out so well by Mrs Appel and her team, weather does not fall into the ‘controllables’ column.
Run Garioch was pushed back two months from March to May this year in the hope runners would enjoy slightly more accommodating conditions, but to no avail. Not one to dwell on the negatives, Mrs Appel looks on the bright side.
“We can’t do much about the weather. The rain for the children’s race is always a problem, and we moved the event to May so we have better weather than March, only for it to be horrible again. I try and look at the positives. There was a very full tent for the kids’ prizegivings.”
Though an experienced race committee is mainly looking to finely tune some of intricacies of the event, Mrs Appel is always looking for areas to improve.
Next year, the half marathon will be accurately measured for the first time, joining the 5k and 10k in having an officially certified distance.
Entry fees will increase slightly, Mrs Appel added, owing largely to rising costs of extras like race t-shirts, medals, and marquee hire. Official timing, too, features heavily on the balance sheet.
“We don’t want to make it any harder for people to come along,” she said. “There were three to four years when we didn’t raise prices at all. It’s time that we have to, but not by much. It will be a pound or so per race – it’s not going to be a big difference.
“We’ve made t-shirts optional so it gives people the choice to buy one or not. We certainly feel we offer very good value – certainly within the race eco-system we feel we are a good choice.”
Dandara Homes and McWilliam Lippe Architects will return as key sponsors to support the event, allowing it a firm financial footing for the year ahead.
One change however, will be that the 5k event – previously available for those aged 13 and over – will now be open to those as young as 12, which Mrs Appel has said will bring an extra positive in 2024.
“I have been pushing for it because I am always asked by people if their children can run because they’re 11 and do the ParkRun,” she said.
“We always have to say, ‘I’m really sorry but 13 is the age’. Our concern is that we are not closed roads. ParkRun is great if it is fully closed and you are running with your parents, but it’s different on the roads.
“We also acknowledge the fact there are kids who want to push themselves more and the junior race may not be enough for them at 2k when they are used to running a park run every week, so we’ve made a compromise at 12 years old on race day.
“There are plenty of clubs out here who have some fantastic runners who would love to go up against some of the adults in the 5k and they will have that chance.”
In a climate where events are getting harder to finance, however, Mrs Appel is hopeful Run Garioch will continue to operate as an event off which other community organisations and charities can thrive.
“The fact that Run Garioch is still here is very important for people, and it is just the idea of coming back together as a community,” she said. “That is the main thing and people really appreciate that chance to come together in Inverurie and support each other.
“We have so many great local running clubs in the area that have developed over the year. It’s super to have a day where they can all be showcased on their own turf.”