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Run Anglia: What can we do to ensure every runner gets their chance?

Places for running events are often in high demand in East Anglia. Picture: Archant

Places for running events are often in high demand in East Anglia. Picture: Archant

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As the registration for events gets earlier and earlier Imogen Lees has a few ideas to ensure runners can run more of the races they want to

Action from the Southwold 10k - a race that is traditionally very hard to get a place for. Picture: ArchantAction from the Southwold 10k - a race that is traditionally very hard to get a place for. Picture: Archant

If you keep an eye on the local calendar, you’ll have spotted that events are opening for registration a long, long time before race day. Plus, popular races sell out insanely quickly.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic that running in East Anglia is going through a purple patch. More and more people want to take part in the sport we love; race attendances are skyrocketing and the calendar has really expanded.

However, this isn’t brilliant news if your target race has opened for registration and it’s still a fortnight from pay day.

Local race entry fees aren’t set at the daft levels of London 10kms or big city half-marathons, but many of us are working to stretched budgets and can’t find an extra £15 when the MOT’s due or the kids have done something outrageous like grow out of their school shoes (again).

Runners get on their way at the start of the City of Norwich Half Marathon. Picture: ArchantRunners get on their way at the start of the City of Norwich Half Marathon. Picture: Archant

It’s simply not fair that talented runners, attached to clubs or otherwise, are excluded because their chosen fixture has sold out by the time they’ve got a few spare quid. And what if you’ve bought your place well in advance but then get injured? Should you hang on to your entry and hope you’ll be fit (but risk losing the money), or try to transfer?

A few local clubs are happy to transfer places up until a week before the race. Other events operate a waiting list for returned places. We all know grabbing a place last-minute off your injured mate is a total no-no: if you are seriously hurt during the race, marshals will think you’re someone else – no good if you have specific medical needs. (And don’t get me started on people who run using a place assigned to someone of another gender and totally stuff up the results.)

In Norfolk, loads of us compete in the Sportlink Grand Prix road race series and try to run as many as possible.

But if you’ve not been able to afford to enter all your races as they open, what do you do if you’ve done better than you expected in early events – the Wymondham 20, perhaps – but then find the next few fixtures are sold out and don’t allow transfers or operate a waiting list? Unable to race, you just watch your name slide down the standings.

So what can we do to make sure that every runner who wants to enter a local race gets a chance? Here’s an idea – clubs loan runners the money. If you’re a talented club runner doing well in the Grand Prix, could you ask the committee to advance the entry fee? Hang on, though – what if you aren’t a club runner, or don’t even want to be in a club?

OK then, how about we bring a touch of discipline to the race calendar? If you knew that every local event would open for registration exactly two months before race day, it would help runners plan their finances. If every Grand Prix event offered transfers and waiting lists, that would aid those doing well in their age category.

Talking of the Grand Prix, what about a season ticket? A limited number could be available pre-season, perhaps only at the Sportlink shop – ideal Christmas presents! I can already hear this plan being shouted down... I totally understand that race entries are a vital source of club income and dividing the price of the season pass proportionately between relevant clubs could be an administrative nightmare. But there’s the germ of an idea there.

If you’re a deadly serious runner, I guess you already have a dedicated budget for race entries and jump online as soon as registration opens. But if you’re new to racing, or simply want to have a chance to compete, you may find the door is closed and you go off and do something else instead… and who knows what effect that will have on future races?

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