Andy Palmer: Race Director of White Star Running and, essentially, a living legend.
Bjorn & Nick: Founders of BADRAT (Bridgwater And District Road And Trail) runners.
From our point of view as runners who love a challenge, well run and fun local events are a key part of our running calendar. Yes, we both tackle traditional, ‘serious’ road races and train hard for them, but trail events run by local events organisers who create run, slightly nutty, rural events over some beautiful landscapes and terrains are always our go-to to re-discover the joy of running and the fun of doing things differently.
Re-discover the joy, I hear you say?! We find that challenges of rigorous training schemes can occasionally take the shine off of running – we do it for the end goal and the target pace, but there is so much more to running than that for us. That’s why BADRAT is, well, BADRAT.
Sometimes you need to do something different. You need to turn up in a field full of friendly people, run in an event where it often feels like making it back alive is an achievement in itself, enjoy great company, coffee, fresh food and beverages generally of an alcoholic nature. Oh, and incredible medals, an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere and an event in general that just makes you want to come back again, and again.
White Star Running do this. They do mad events. They do beauty, scenery, landscapes. They do challenge, measured by the goat-o-meter (go on, take a look!). They do humour, welcome, love stations. They do Gin – lots of gin.
WSR have cracked trail running in Dorset, introducing concepts such as the frolic (a great way of running landmark distances over trail in a fun way and with time on your side as part of a team), basing events on relationships with local organisations, landowners and businesses which makes them genuinely special. They get that runners vary in their aims and cater for them all – some want to have a nice run, some want a challenge, some want a PB – you can do all these things at a WSR event.
So, now we have finished the ‘why we love these guys’ bit, why do we think these sort of events are important for local running clubs such as ours? Why are we so keen to develop relationships with organisations such as WSR? Well, we’ll tell you….
They’re fun and inclusive. When we do club runs we aim to help people develop their running; be it technique, speed, new terrains, new challenges and more. Sometimes it’s nice to take the opportunity to put what you have earned to good use, to take part in an event where you can bask in the glory of your hard learned and earned achievements. This is why we link up with organisations such as WSR. We want our members to be able to revel in their achievements, but have fun in doing so and feel like their achievements (which are a very personal thing, and vary in form) are as incredible as they should be.
A relationship with a good events company such as WSR opens up opportunities to attend events as a group. Yes, they are great events in their own right, but we know how incredible an event feels when you have fellow club members running at the same time, shouting you on, giving encouragement, welcoming you over the finish line or lap point, celebrating your successes, taking photos, all sorts! This is something Andy has welcomed, and we can’t wait to get a group over to a run once they are back on again!
We love supporting local businesses, and businesses with a great ethic. WSR run events with support local locations and businesses, and this comes across in spades. When you attend these events there will be local food traders, local coffee suppliers, and prizes/rewards which are local. Local beers, local ciders. This is a reflection of their commitment to all things local, and very much reflects BADRAT’s ethos of supporting local businesses to us too. So, you can run these events and feel good about doing so, as well as enjoying the events themselves.
We endorse and look to get members involved in good events. Events which are well planned, well supported, well managed. We don’t want to signpost or take members to events which don’t live up to what they should do, or don’t look after our members when there. WSR do this in a way few others do. Andy also supports local running clubs, and BADRAT have benefitted from his wealth of knowledge and advice, and we hope that comes across in all we do too.
Trail. This point is simple – these trails are ace! Spectacular scenery, breath-taking beauty, unending undulations (our alliterative descriptions run out here, but we tried!). We have some incredible trail and off-tarmac running routes locally in Bridgwater and District, but sometimes a change of scenery is great, and with WSR the scenery is great!
Above are just a few of the core reasons why local trail events, in specific (in this case) those WSR run, are such an asset to us as a club and by extension to our members. We can’t wait to take a group or two over to events (albeit likely in 2021 now!) so we can introduce you to an experience you will not forget for all the right reasons.
We had the amazing opportunity to ask Andy a few questions to help add to some of our above points, and it is with great excitement that we can share these below….
Q. What are the most important considerations for you when planning an event?
A. The first thing you look at when planning a route is……parking. Sadly that’s true, I have 101 great routes but not enough parking. All those factors are really important in equal degrees
A race is a layer upon layer of many considerations.
I suppose a decent route is the most important. You can have the best medal and goody bag in the world but if the route is a bit meh…the race may well die on its feet.
A good safe start and finish area and parking are a must. Then once you have route in place start getting the people like landowners and other onboard. It is surprisingly easy to do just go shake their hand say hello and tell the landowner your plans. The hard part is finding out who owns what land, it all takes time.
I always take a long look at a potential event and build around what we can and cant do. For example we can do an marathon and 20 at Larmer but an ultra would be hard because of roads and terrain and the onset of darkness. That said because of the road crossing anything below 7 miles is impossible
So every race has its own layout. That’s why we do not always have a certain distance structured immediately.
Q. What do you feel you gain from having local and/or club involvement with your events?
A. I cut my RD teeth in the club structure. Running clubs are the backbone of running in the UK. We work with clubs to offer them the things say another club or charity could not offer. Being a private company, we can be flexible with the way we work and promote us and them. So for example when we set up the Imperial series with Bournemouth AC and Lytchett Manor Striders, we knew they would have struggled promoting the series. We have flexibility and strength with our contacts nationally and with our social media reach.
We can offer group bookings, so for example several clubs say “we want to use X race as a club champ. Can we book 50 places?” You sure can.
Only a private race company can do that. Races run by committee are hamstrung by their own democracy. I know that doesn’t sound great in this current world climate, but running businesses aren’t the enemy some middle aged Twitter expert critics portray us to be. London Marathon, Great Run et al are all private companies. There’s no real difference between us. We just do trails in Dorset. Some running companies are in it purely for the cash. We aren’t, we do it because it’s fun.
So what do we get? Extra customers, sometimes leads to new venues, marshals and so on. We work with other races and clubs and companies so everyone can benefit.
Q. You use loads of local produce and liaise extensively with local communities when arranging events. Why is this so crucial? What does it bring to your events?
A. Like I said earlier it’s about layers. There’s a saying from the 60s “Help a brother out”. We want our runners to understand a sense of place when they come to Dorset, local beer, local produce, why would you want a packet of Digestives when you could try locally made biscuits?
If we can help local companies thrive that’s a good thing. Medals….hmmm. My mum said “if you are going to give them something make it worth while” There are plenty of themed races up and down the country. All our medals are relevant to where we run and designed locally. Unfortunately, they are not made locally (except out new wooden one WATCH THIS SPACE)
So Giants Head Marathon is picture of the Cerne Giant (poetic licence etc) because you run past it.
Q. More than just medals. From experience, you always look after your runners and do more than just provide a medal. Your medals are amazing and bold, there are generally buffs (muffs…whatever), beers, awards. You ensure achievement is acknowledged and praised. What difference do you feel this makes to the feel of your events and the subsequent engagement you get from WSR event runners?
A. Again, it’s about layers. People come to us a for a lot of reasons. To compete, to explore somewhere new, to go on the lash after the event, to able to run further than ever before, to meet friends and so on. I know I said we thought democracy is a handicap, but we also take what the runners say and need seriously.
If you choose one of our races as first marathon or half or a milestone I take that as a massive compliment. First marathons or 100th or first 10k or ultra or whatever are highly significant. So we try and give a bit back. For the actual event itself it makes a massive difference. People feel part of something. There are plenty of events where you can turn up and run then go home. “Being part” of the event as it were is what we do.
Q. Run Deep and stuff. You do so much more than 'just' organise races, tell us more! And again, explain to us how this is so important for you.
A. Run Deep and the clothing brand are part of what we do. They all work with another. Run Deep is a separate thing though - it is a journalistic endeavour that’s a bit more cerebral than other publications. I always wanted to write but my spelling is rubbish so decided to publish instead
We hope you have enjoyed this blog and Q&A. Where can you go from here? Well, find out more!
You can keep an eye on BADRAT runners blogs, events, runs and partnerships by involved with us and keeping tabs on our regularly updated content through our socials and our website
You can also always fire us questions or add comments too! We can’t wait to share some of the above with you over and above this blog by taking BADRAT groups to some of WSR’s awesome events.
Watch this space!