Wroxham at 20: Race Director Interview

Wroxham 5k Series Director Nick Gurney discusses the 2016 series.

Wroxham 5k Series Director Nick Gurney discusses the 2016 series.

How long have you been race director and what do you like best about the role?

This is my second year as the race director. I remember coming back from a four week trip to Australia in 2014 and attending our committee meeting, despite being suffering badly from jetlag. Anyway I must have slept my way through the meeting because upon reading the minutes, it said I had agreed to direct the Wroxham races the following year. I can’t remember if that’s true or not, but I thought I would give it a go anyway. It’s only a set of three 5 kilometer races, after all. How hard could it be?

How long does it take to plan and organise the Wroxham 5k Series?

Planning for the race starts immediately after the third one finishes in July. You take stock of everything that has happened, what went well, what went badly, and think about how you can improve on this the following year. The dates for the series are then finalised at the Athletic Norfolk Road Running Committee meeting in November, as well as any County Championship / Leathes Prior Grand Prix activities.

After that there are lots of things that are done, most of which take a couple of months to secure. The venue needs to be booked (and you hope the dates you want are available), the race documentation needs to be completed for the race permit or any road closures, arrange chip timing, numbers, prizes, talking with potential sponsors, and arranging any other items that you’ll need for the race.

Then you open the race entry, set the prices, and cross your fingers that runners will support the series and enter the races.

You’re not just the director of the race on the night, there is at least six months of solid project management (fitted into a 40 hour working week, running and everything else we do) to ensure the series comes to life. I am very lucky that I have an extremely talented group of friends at the club, who have helped organise the race previously, and assist me in organising the races. Without them, I would really struggle.

What do you think makes the Wroxham 5k Series so popular?

I think there are three main factors – the race is relatively short in distance, therefore is over quite quickly for runners. It also means that it is more attractive to new runners, or those who don’t run long distance, as 5 kilometers is quite achievable, and you don’t need to be quick to complete the course. It’s on a Wednesday, so people can head over after they finish work – and they don’t have to be out of bed early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to do it.

Additionally one races is usually the Norfolk County Championship race for 5 kilometers, whilst another is the Leathes Prior Grand Prix race, so that gives the series some additional benefits to any prospective runners.

How did the Wroxham 5K series start?

Well last year the race started with an air horn. I haven’t decided yet what I will use this year.

Joking aside, I did speak to the race’s founder, Martin Yeomans about the origins of the series. That will be published on the website soon.

What do you most look forward to as Race Director on race night?

Seeing the last runner and the tail runner cross the finish line. By that point, everyone has completed the race, and hopefully, returned safely. You can then hand out all the awards that we have, and celebrate and congratulate runners on their performance.

What is your biggest challenge as Race Director?

The biggest challenge for me was adapting the race operations to accommodate the large turnout of runners we have. In 2014 we had on average 230 runners finish, so the race in 2015 was set up to accommodate that amount, plus a modest rise (10%) as I would be more actively advertising the race.

The reality was that we had 319 finish the first race, and the set-up we had at the finish line couldn’t cope, so runners couldn’t actually cross the line, as the finish funnel was not emptying quickly enough. Also, my mentality was slightly misplaced – I didn’t not appreciate the fact that, in a 5k, you’re going to have a of a lot of runners finish in a very short space of time.

We tinkered with the finish funnel for the second race, but again this didn’t work as we had 379 finish the second race, and the problem was even worse.

We introduced ChipTimingUK and widened the funnel as much as we could for the third race, and this had the desired effect, as runners were not being held in the funnel so their number could be manually recorded, and were free to leave immediately after they had finished.

This year looks to be even bigger than the last (at time of writing, we’ve sold 150 more series entries than we did last year, and we’ve still two weeks to go) so we are more prepared for this. ChipTimingUK will be doing chip to chip timing for all three races, the start has been moved out onto the main road and closed to traffic (therefore avoiding that sharp 90 degree left turn 100m into the race) and the funnel has been redesigned to accommodate the larger number of runners.

So fingers crossed, it will be alright on the night.

What type of runners are attracted by the 5k series?

I think the race appeals to all kinds of runners. Last year we had more than 100 runners finish in under 20 minutes, so the race has appeal to those targeting a sub-20 5k, targeting club standards and age category awards. It also has appeal to new runners, or casual runners, as the layout of the course and its slightly undulating nature make for a good introduction to a competitive 5 kilometer race. Also, the tea and cakes made by our club members are fantastic, so no doubt that drives attendance as well.

Lastly, any words of encouragement for all entered so far?

The course is fast and can yield some pretty good personal bests. The first 2.5k is slightly undulating with a gentle uphill start. Once runners make 3k, turning left out of Rectory Road onto Tunstead Road and past Wroxham Barns, the course is flat with a speedy downhill final 1k to the finish, so runners can really go for it then. Start steady and be prepared to go flat out on the last 2k.

 


The Wroxham 5k Series is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The dates of the three races are Wednesday 18th May, Wednesday 15th June and Wednesday 6th July. Race 2 is a Leathes Prior Grand Prix race, and Race 3 is the Norfolk County Championships Race for 5 kilometre distance.

For more information about the series, click here.