Over the last couple of years, I’ve been involved with organising a handful of mile events. These have proved very popular.
This year, the future of such events looked uncertain as I wanted to distance them from parkrun. In previous events, we’d used parkrun equipment (with agreement from HQ) including parkrun barcodes and that made the fact that the mile events weren’t parkrun events a little confusing.
As I love these events, I suggested that the running club I belong to, Lordshill Road Runners, might want to hold the mile events but open them up to runners from other clubs and unaffiliated runners. This would ensure that the event would be covered by PLI etc. The committee agreed and I had a meeting with Chris Brown who’s on the committee to discuss how to get the event up and running.
Chris is really organised (possibly more so than myself) and took control of moving things forward. We decided to create a series of mile timed runs with the first event being a trial for LRR only. This would give us the opportunity to ensure the event and related processes worked. Having had several mile events before, we didn’t anticipate any issues though.
Having set some dates, I contacted Southampton City Council (SCC) to obtain permission to use the Common (where Southampton parkrun is held). We’d held one Magic Mile there and it had been well supported. When the parkrun courses were officially measured, Colin Goater, had also measured a N-shaped 1 mile course with Gareth Jones.
SCC were happy for us to use the Common but wanted to charge a per event fee. We hoped to get participants to make small donations to the RNLI (LRR’s nominated charity) and used that as a means of getting SCC to waive the charge. That approach worked. I also set about creating the necessary Risk Assessment and a document describing how, from my previous experience, the event should operate.
At about this time, we expanded the event team to include Irene Moreno Millan, Clare Satterly and Gary Painting.
Irene got busy organising volunteers for the first event and, as usual, several members came forward to offer their help.
Originally, we had discussed paper registration on the night and for the first event this would have probably been fine. However, as we expanded the number of participants, that would become difficult. About 10 days before the first event, I decided to have barcode pre-registration and started work on a website to allow participants to register and receive a link to a printable barcode similar to the one used for parkrun.
It has been a few years since I’d dabbled in PHP development and had to quickly find a free barcode library to allow me to programmatically generate individual barcodes. Fortunately, there are several. The one I chose was an extension to a PDF generation library.
I had already registered the magic-mile.co.uk domain name and set to work. Within a couple of hours one evening, I’d created the embryo of the site along with registration, barcode generation (with emailed notification) and a couple of informational pages.
I tentatively announced the website’s availability and registrations began to come in.
In order to hold the event, we needed some gadgets so I ordered some Junsd stopwatches and found a 2nd hand Opticon OPN2001 barcode scanner on eBay.
As we were using barcodes, I needed to generate position tokens too. Again, this proved easy with the PDF/barcode library. I created a couple of sets. The only complexity was cutting the all out and laminating each one. This was a slow process!!
I then started work on the file upload functionality of the website and results processing. This was pretty straightforward in PHP and I did a fair amount of testing of different scenarios. Results presentation came next. Again, this was simple enough.
I put together a document on the organisation of the first event and circulated to the team. A few minor amendments were made and we were ready for our first event. Well, almost. I had to purchase a first aid kit and create manual entry forms as well as put together a folder containing course maps, manual entry forms, spare position tokens, spare copies of runner barcodes as well as temporary barcodes for those that hadn’t registered. These barcodes included a ‘token’ which the runner could enter into a form on the website after the event to ‘post-register’ which would tie their result to them once they’d registered. I’d spent about 20 hours working on the website in total during the evenings and lunchtimes and although simple and little clunky and unattractive, it did the job.
The day of the first event arrived and Daniel and I made our way to the Common. It was unclear whether I’d get to run. However, Irene had suggested that Jim Davies would be happy to run with Daniel so I could try to beat my usual 7 minute finish time (I had finished in this time on every previous occasion we’d held a Magic Mile!) At first, Daniel was a little reluctant to run with someone but I talked him around fairly easily.
We arrived at the Common and were greeted by Chris, Irene, Gary and Gareth outside the Hawthorns. Before long, the LRR gazebo was up, volunteers and runners were arriving and Chris, as Run Director, was giving his briefing. Unfortunately, Chris was unable to run which meant our battle to the finish line was off!! 😦
There was lots of chat before the event officially started at 6:30pm and it was great to catch up with lots of people.
We’d decided to hold two ‘waves’; one for runners expecting to finish in 7 minutes and under and one for those expecting to finish in over 7 minutes.
Chris lead the first group of 19 runners to the start line (just north of the Cowherds pub) while we got ready for them to cross the finish line. My role was to hand out position tokens in the funnel and to then process the results.
Irene stationed herself so that she could see the runners as they approached the finish. After a little over 4 and a half minutes, she called out that they were approaching and that Jim was in first place.
Jim crossed the line in 5:01. A great effort there. The rest of the runners in the first wave crossed the line and I moved to the gazebo to process the results. All went well with the results download until I tried to process the results via the website. My Mifi dongle was out of juice. I’d accidentally left it switched on. I was a little gutted as it would have been great to have had the results on the website and emailed to the runners during the event.
Whilst the results were processed, the position tokens were collected and sorted ready for wave 2.
We were ready for wave 2 at 7pm and the runners headed for the start area. Daniel stuck close to Jim. It was funny to see him shadowing someone else!
We got to the start line and I positioned myself at the front, wished Daniel and Jim good luck and we were off.
The start of the mile course is uphill. Just before the start Jim had offered done great advice. You have to hit the hill hard as there’s no real opportunity to recover ground in the latter stages of the run. I took his advice and started picking off runner. I was soon in 2nd place and not far behind Steve Robinson in first place. After the first corner, you head across the Common downhill towards the Bellemoor entrance. I was still close to Steve and looked back to see Jim and Daniel.
By the time I got to the Bellemoor entrance I was beginning to flag a little. I was giving it my all and was unsure whether I could sustain it until the finish. We headed south towards the finish. It’s a 600m drag through the open area called The Flats and that 600m seemed a long way and far from flat! In fact, it’s not. There’s a very, very slight hint of an incline. No, really.
I still wasn’t too far behind Steve but there was no way I could close the gap. Just before I rounded the bend to the finish I saw Gary who shouted some encouragement about a sprint finish. More encouragement was received as I headed for the finish line. It was over. Thankfully!
I was shattered. I knew I couldn’t have given any more but forgot to stop my Garmin. I know I was sub 6:40 but not quite sure of my actual finish time. Going sub-7 was my target and I’d done it. My actual finish time was 6:38. An improvement of 22 seconds over my previous PB.
After a few minutes, I heard shouts for Daniel and he sprinted for the line and finished in 10:01!! An excellent effort. Many thanks to Jim for running with him and for giving me the opportunity to run fast. I was busy preparing for the results processing and watched Daniel’s finish from the gazebo
I downloaded all the data and we were ready to pack away. The event had run smoothly and we were ready to go. Chris as RD received a round of applause and the volunteers were all thanked.
When I got home, I quickly processed the results at just after 9:20pm and everyone should have received their result email at that time.
The results for the event are available at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk/results.php
It probably took close to 35 hours of my time to prepare for the event and yet, for all the runners, the event was over in 10 minutes or under. I love organising these events though!!
The feedback on the LRR page on FB was all pretty positive. Our first event had been a success. There are a few minor improvements to make before our next mile event where we open the event to other runners. 69 days to add capabilities to the magic-mile website. We have 2 more events this year (18th June and 13th August). Maybe next year we’ll have more events and add a league similar to the RR10 or CC6.
Manly thanks to the LRR Committee for agreeing to adopt the mile series, to Chris Brown for helping to organise it, to Irene for ensuring we had all volunteer roles covered and to the rest of the event team (Clare and Gary) for their hard work on the night. A great team delivered a great event.
I can’t wait for the next one!!