If you’ve been to a White Star Running event, then you’ll have seen our Race Director Andy. He’s the one with the megaphone at the start of the race shouting instructions and making sure everything goes off with a bang. In this blog, he talks about the early days of White Star Running (WSR) and what makes our races different to other trail running events.
My name is Andy and I organise races.
I’ve started this blog about what we do; Facebook and Instagram are great mediums, but they’re rather like rolling news. Details get lost. So, I’ll be writing a little about what we do and why we do things. More importantly, I’ll tell you about things that have happened, things that will happen, and the history of where we run and our fine county. Expect stories of rampant bulls, angry sheep, big puddles, ghosts, poachers and peacocks called Trevor.
White Star Running’s first-ever races were the Giants Head Marathon and Sydling Hill Race back in 2013. [You can read about how it all started here.]
Before White Star Running
White Star’s story starts long before the Giants Head Marathon. Back in the early Noughties I was a runner. I ran mainly distances of 10 miles and half-marathons, and enjoyed the club racing world for a while. Then I entered a race across Dorset: the Wessex Ridgeway Relay.
In this event, teams of 6 run two legs per person over a 62-mile course. Now, this course is over some of the toughest inland trail in the county. Racing twice in one day is very hard! But what’s this got to do with WSR?
Well, I discovered:
- My love of trails
- The most amazing scenery and villages in our fine county
After that, I also found race venues like Larmer Tree Gardens and Sydling St Nicholas. It sowed a seed of an idea to create some races. I ran a lot in those days. I did a couple of marathons on the road and ran the South Downs marathon organised by 2:09 events. I loved it. I thought, ‘I can do this too’.
So, in 2012, I convinced Gemma Wilton it would be a great idea to organise a trail running race. I’d been Race Director of the Poole Festival of Running for a couple of years, so it wasn’t ‘out of the blue’.
The rest is history…
Back to the present
Nine years down the line a lot has changed. People have come and gone. Times change. But we have always stuck to our goals: runners come first; have a laugh; help out friends and partners; and have a good time.
In the first year we had 300 runners. Now we have 14,000. We’re doing something right.
Someone called us ‘corporate’ the other day. They’re wrong. We’ve just got better at what we do.
You want corporate? There are companies out there that exude corporate. They live and breathe networking; they refer to the running world as the ‘industry’. If they could get away with wearing red braces like a ’80s Yuppie stockbroker, they would.
The problem with the ‘industry’ is that all the money is at the top. All the big brands and shoe companies suck the money up and none of it filters down. Sponsorship now goes to the ‘influencers’ rather than to sponsor races.
Yet races are a major part of the running world. In times of pandemic, we realise how much we’ve missed social gatherings like a trail race.
Happy to be different
Our events are more than a jaunt around the hills.
They’re a real mixed bunch. There’s something for everyone. We have elite athletes, people trying for their first marathon, or even running their 100th marathon and beyond. We have people new to running trying their first trail race, or old hands coming along to run with mates. Local clubs use our events for club championships.
We organise family-friendly races, Chaos races, Frolic relays, bell races, dog races, hard hilly races and pretty flat fast course races.
Now, I’m not going to lie: the pandemic hit us hard. Our last event was the Larmer Tree Races in March 2020. We have managed on a few virtual races… [‘Why, why, why, Delilah’ will forever be seared into my brain]. We’ve been kept afloat by people buying from www.whitestarclothing.co.uk, featuring some great designs by Dani Dixon Design.
Everyone has been great and supportive of a sport they love. Look at companies like Topshop and Animal – well-loved brands just gone. I don’t consider us a ‘brand’ though; we’re more a happy collective of people doing something they love. I consider us lucky.
Coming up in future blogs: a look forwards to the Summer and Winter Larmer events; a story of a bull called Dave; and a look at why Mexican Cows are a thing.