On 1 September 2019, the first Hampshire Road Race League event of 2019/20 at Overton, it was unimaginable that in mid-March 2020 we’d be lamenting the season that never will be writes Craig Weatherburn
A total of 105 blue-clad CoSARC runners finished the 5 mile race that day, where the phrase #seaofblue was well and truly coined.
51 CoSARC Ladies and 54 CoSARC Men (49 – 51% ratio) crossed the line constituting almost 20% of the 505 runners finishing the race. The startling comparison to the same race the preceding year revealed 11 Ladies and 25 Men (36 in total) making up just over 7% of the finishing field of 491. The clubs’ assault on the league title took off like train that day, with club chairman Stuart Holloway winning the race outright, but the real headline from that race was the sheer amount of CoSARC athletes taking part in their first ever ‘road race’ and for some, the furthest and fastest they had EVER run – with a notable contingent having only taken up the sport of running earlier in the year.
It is often said that the community feel and social acceptance within the club is infectious and that it makes one feel ‘part of something’. The endless work behind the scenes by the volunteers that run the club actively promotes inclusivity and a ‘fun’ element, striving to demonstrate that the sport and by extension, the club, is first and foremost a fun, social activity. The eye opening numbers and the party atmosphere at Overton played a huge part in highlighting the army of togetherness that the club harbours – many staying back near the finish line long after they’d completed their own race to cheer and applaud their fellow club members over the line – a feature that has become synonymous at all club road race events.
The following race later that month, the Solent Half Marathon, again saw a balanced ratio of 45 – 55% Ladies to men, a stark contrast to the corresponding fixture last season – a ratio of 30 – 70% Ladies to men, giving gravitas to the emerging statistics that there are now more females participating in the sport of running (50.24%) than Men – a meteoric rise from just 20% in 1986.
For the first time in history, the club entered the season with four Ladies and Men’s teams (A, B, C & D). The first three ladies to finish form the ‘A’ team, the next three form the ‘B’ team and so on, with the first and subsequent four males constituting the men’s ‘A to D teams’. Hayling 10 mile in November saw the third race in a row where all Ladies and Men’s teams were adequately filled with room to spare and all teams were sitting in the top four of their respective leagues https://www.salisbury-arc.org/post/hrrl-tables-update-report-1 By this point, the number total of CoSARC participant’s at all three races stood at 184 finishers, against the corresponding total the previous season of 101.
Gosport Half Marathon in late November, the fourth race of the season, saw 52 (21 Ladies, 31 Men) blue clad runners cross the line in an array of personal and course bests. 138 runners had finished at this stage last season. At the end of this race, the total stood at 236.
To put this into context, by the time 83 (35 Ladies, 47 Men) runners crossed the line at race number five at the Victory 5 mile, that 138 total runners figure from last season was matched by 138 Ladies outright. Adding on 180 Male finishers, we ended the year with 318 finishers compared to 192 at the same stage last season. Furthermore, the leagues again had all teams within the top four of their respective leagues (you can read the then update here)
Stubbington 10k and Ryde 10 mile proved to be the final races of the season (7 of the 12) with the Men’s A team on course to win the Championship out right. The ‘frozen tables can be viewed here for nostalgic purposes.
Over a year on and giving COVID no more space than this brief mention, and with HRRL season 2020/21 a non-starter, the recent HRRL AGM confirmed at least 10 HRRL races for the 2021/22 season and marks the much-needed return of the league to our racing calendar.
There is a handy download and keep fixture list available on our website (or HERE) and at the time of writing, entry is open for Lordshill 10k (19 September 2021) and Gosport Half (21 November 2021), with a lake of blue currently thronging the ranks in both. Look out on social media channels and club communications for the other races opening. They are always popular and fill up fast, thus it pays to get your entry in early.
It matters not if you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete; the races are not the sole domain of the fast and furious, and are open to public entry. If you think you’re too old and slow, the club is bringing back the Age Grade Championship (details to be released soon – look out for email and social media announcements) – Age Grade means, in its simplest form, that if two runners race from start to finish and cross the line at the same time, the older runner ‘wins’. More on Age Grading here.
There’s league points at stake too. For example, if 12 ladies enter a race, you can be the slowest runner in the race and come dead last, you will still score for the club.
So rally up affleets, enter the events, jump aboard the Fun Bus - they will be free this season (providing Boris lets them happen), swell the #seaofblue and be gripped by the FOMO.
Happy start lines...