As a member of Hitchin Tilehouse Rotary Club, I have been involved for the past 2 years as a marshal out on the course. The thing that has struck me is that all of the runners are so enthusiastic and really appreciate a bit of morale support when you cheer them along.
I spoke with Tim Ray, who is the Race Director.
Q1. How long has the hard half marathon been running and who organises it?
That's a good question - the race first started back in the 1980's when running was a more specialist and unusual activity but then it had a break of 10 years until we resurrected it in 2012 as part of Olympics year. So we've been running it for 3 years
Q2. Has it always been run for charity and who chooses which charity each year? What is the charity this year?
No I don't think it was originally but I'm sure Tony Osborne will correct if I'm wrong, Tony was the organiser of the last of the original races back in 2003.
It's now organised by Tilehouse Rotary and we use the event to raise money to help a local charity and this year it's Cancer Hair Care. I must stress that a runner can run for their own cause and many do. In fact last year I think the race supported 10-12 charities directly and indirectly.
Q3. Why is it called Hitchin ‘Hard’ half marathon?!
Because its hilly and not a flat course and it includes Offley Holes hill on the way to Preston. The original course was harder as the final quarter mile was up Hollow Lane to finish near the Girls School.
Q4. Who can enter?
Anyone can enter as long as you can complete the course in 2.5 hours or less. (We have this time limit as we have to vacate the Priory by early afternoon.) The majority of entrants are local and not part of a running club. I'm quite surprised how many runners there actually are! About 2/3 of this years entrants have not run the race before.
Q5. What’s the most difficult aspect of organising such an event?
The hardest bit is making sure we have enough marshals. We organise the race under UK Athletics rules and each junction and turn needs to be sign posted and marshalled so the runners can concentrate on running which is what they have come to do.
Q6. How do you get volunteers and what do you need volunteers for?
We get volunteers from all sorts of places - our club members, then friends and family and friends of friends so if if you are interested let us know. We can never have too many.
Q7. What help/support do you need from local businesses?
As an example one local business is sponsoring the water, we have to provide at least 5 water stations: A quality sports drink and bar for each runner at the finish; mementos to go in the "goody bag" - and don't forget we also need something for the children finishing the fun run; money is always helpful in return for a banner or your name on the water stations or mile markers for example. This all means more can go to charity. Rotary takes nothing out of this.
Q8. What sorts of items do you need help with?
Well we use a large quantity of emergency tape to mark out the fun run and some road paint and road pins; It's a sunday morning so if someone wants to provide a decent cup of coffee that would be good too! And a van to drop off the water!
Q9. How can the people and businesses in Hitchin support the event?
The best way is to get behind the family Fun run which is known as the Wig Run because of the link with Cancer Hair Care. This really is an event for everyone and anyone and you get to run a 0.5K course around the Priory grounds. Buy a wig, join in and have fun...whilst Dad or Mum run 13.1 miles!
Q10. What does the race director have to do?
Good question again - basically I'm the person accountable to UK Athletics for ensuring the event meets their standards and to the Rotary Club for ensuring the event raises funds for charity. But really I just want to make sure that everyone can run a good and safe race and all the fun runners have a great time and want to come back next year.
Q11. Do you run yourself? Why did you get involved?
I have never been a runner except when playing football and some might have disagreed even then! It seemed really important to get this race going again in the Olympic year and to make sure it continued. It's Hitchin's race after all.
Q12. What’s the best thing about the Hard Half Marathon?
Personally - reading the feedback on Runners World and the like as you get almost immediate comment on how well you've done and so far we've had some fantastic feedback. Its a small, friendly boutique type of race, a bit like the town. Thank you Hitchin!
So if having read this, it's spurred you onto getting involved, either as a runner (you can enter HERE) or as a marshal - please do volunteer, it's a fun morning out and it's for a really great cause. If you would like some more information please drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org