This is the message we never wanted to write. We have put our everything into White Star Running over the last nearly 18 months since Covid hit the UK, trying to stay afloat and keep planning the races that we’re so passionate about.
But, like many other event companies, we’re struggling. We’ve always had a policy of being honest with you, our runners, so this is how it is. We can’t keep going in 2021. We can no longer stay afloat if we carry on as we are. White Star Running is dangerously close to the brink as a business. We want to survive. We want to bring back races next year. We have a plan, but we need to make some huge sacrifices and changes.
The impact of Covid 2020/2021 on White Star Running
First, let us explain the situation. Spring Larmer 2020 went ahead as planned, a hugely successful season opener for us. Spring Larmer is always our first big race weekend. In a normal year, after Spring Larmer we easily fill half of all our entries for the rest of the year. In 2020, we projected 15,500 race entries across all our events in total. With Spring Larmer included, plus our virtual events, we had just 2,500 entries. As soon as Covid hit and the UK went into lockdown, a week after Spring Larmer, our entries collapsed. We had no races for the foreseeable, therefore no income. But our outgoings didn’t just stop – we have rents to pay, staff to pay, investments in medals and kit to fulfil, and numerous other financial commitments.
With your incredibly kind support in taking part in virtual races, transferring race entries to 2021 and shopping at White Star Clothing, we limped through 2020. We had to put key team members on furlough, and there was a little government business support. We made it through the year – just – but we knew that 2021 would be make or break. We needed races back in full swing to keep going.
2021 didn’t start as we hoped, with yet another lockdown and more races needing to be cancelled – for example Giant’s Head marathon, one of our biggest events, which we couldn’t put on safely given the small village community that we work with. We did, however, get back to races with the Ox Races, Weekend At The Races, Crafty Fox, Wedding Race, Cider Races and Summer Larmer. We’ve been absolutely overjoyed at being able to put these events on, and we know from feedback how much you’ve enjoyed them.
The problem is that a huge number of race places at these events were carried over from 2020, which doesn’t generate any new income. Yet we still had to pay for everything we needed to put on an event weekend, and to do so safely. Since the 2021 races opened for entries, we have had about 1/3 of the entries we need to be viable across all the races. Our new Summer Larmer event, for example, had 650 runners across all the distances; we would, in normal times, expect 1,500. Where we’d normally have 200 camping pitches, we had 73.
We absolutely understand, of course. Not everyone is ready to come back to races. It’s a weird time and there’s a lot of Covid about. This hesitancy in a return to racing is something that all race companies are experiencing, and we completely respect every runner and their own approach to a return to normality. Not only that, but as restrictions are easing people are making the most of it and getting away on breaks and holidays over the summer – well deserved and much needed! So, our summer races are much quieter as a result. We hoped to get back to 2019 race numbers, and we’re just not there yet. This is the impact that Covid has had – and it’s certainly not a situation that is unique to us.
What we’re doing now
At the end of the day, we have had two years of bills to pay, and not enough new income. We’re absolutely devastated, and we extend our heartfelt thanks and sympathy to the other businesses that this will affect as a result – our wonderful partners and suppliers. All the people we work with in Dorset and Wiltshire, the landowners, the farmers, the communities, the pubs, the manufacturers, our team…
So, what is actually happening? First, the Cranborne Races will be going ahead on 14th-15th August. These races are all planned, we have the medals, and the facilities are in place. There are some spaces left for this event and we will fit in as many people as we can – though our numbers are capped as we have the medals/goodies/race numbers etc. This will, however, be our last event of 2021. There is no possible way for us to host the rest of the 2021 schedule.
We know that this is incredibly late notice for the Dorset Invader races in particular. As well as our own situation, we are also very mindful of other considerations we need to make around this event. The Invader races were due to take part at a new venue in Longburton, and the wonderful Rob Harris was instrumental in building up this event. The races, parking and camping are all based on his family’s land, but sadly Rob has recently had both parents fall seriously ill. We really don’t want to impose over 500 runners on his doorstep at a time when his mum is recovering from cancer treatment and his father is in hospital. We wish Mr and Mrs Harris a complete and speedy recovery, and we also want to say just how very grateful we are to the whole Harris family and the people of Longburton for all their hard work towards this event. We are determined to return in 2022 to put on this event.
This is not an easy decision. We want to survive as a business, and we want to host our 2022 races as planned. We know we’re good at what we do – the races we have hosted this year have proved that. But we don’t have the necessary funds to put on any more events this year. At present, we are hoping that we can reopen for Spring Larmer 2022. We, as a team, are making our own sacrifices – cutting our working hours as thinly as possible, taking everything down to the bare bones. We are still reeling from this news ourselves.
However, there is only so much we can do, and now we turn to you, our wonderful runners, to ask for your support and understanding.
Entries for Dorset Invader and Run Jurassic 2021
For our next two events, we have all the gorgeous medals already. Therefore, we are offering everyone the chance to complete these events virtually to earn their goodies. We’ll send out more information about this soon. Opting to complete the events virtually is the best way of supporting us, as we don’t want these medals to go to waste. Entries will otherwise roll over to 2022, when we very much hope to bring the events back.
Entries for Dark Dash and Winter Larmer Races
We are hoping to be able to offer virtual options for these events too. We’re working on the details and will have more information as soon as we can. Entries will otherwise roll over to 2022.
We know that you may ask about refunds for race entries. The situation is this: if we refund entries to all entrants, White Star Running will collapse and it will be out of our hands. We are only saying this out of blunt honesty at the situation. For most races, costs have already been paid towards kit, medals, insurance, suppliers, permits, etc. We have a plan to get through to 2022, when we are very much hoping to bring back all the races, so you will have your race entry honoured if you chose not to take the virtual option.
How can you support White Star Running?
We know that this may have come as a shock to you. And we also anticipate that some of you may want to know how you can help – for which we are eternally and humbly grateful.
There are a few ways that you can help support White Star Running and help us return to events in 2022.
- If offered, opt for the virtual race option for your 2021 race entries. We hate waste and this way the lovely medals we have are being earned and rewarded to our runners.
- If you don’t have a race place, you can still enter our virtual races when they are live and earn a medal – we’ll send more information on how to enter soon. Spaces will be limited by the number of medals we have – we can’t get in any more.
- If you have a race ‘banked’ with us, you can opt to donate it back to White Star Running. We have hundreds and hundreds of entries banked and not assigned to any race, which is a huge amount of admin, and some of these banked entries are years old. Not sure if you have a banked entry? Log into Full On Sport, go to My Entries and look for an event called ‘Banked’ which will show as a random date in 2025. Email us on email@example.com (but please bear in mind that we no longer have a full team or full hours, so give us time to get back to you) to let us know that you want to release your banked entry back to us.
- Buy some goodies from the White Star Clothing online shop: www.whitestarclothing.co.uk. Your support of the shop means a lot to us – wearing our kit raises our profile when you’re out and about, as well as generating an income for us to put towards our 2022 return. We’re planning some great sales too, so you can pick up a bargain.
The final word
We’re all heartbroken by this and wish it was better news. We’ve poured so much work and time into keeping White Star Running going in 2021. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve enjoyed every minute of our events, and we wish more than anything that we could complete the 2021 race season. Not one member of the team wants to do this, but equally we want to be here in 2022 – we’re not ready to say goodbye just yet.
Thank you to all of you for all your support.
Andy and the WSR Team